Dawn Tripp

How did you become a writer?

I’ve always written. From the time I was a child, writing is how I make sense of the world.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Seamus Heaney, Carole Maso and Fred Leebron were key teachers in my twenties. My editor Kate Medina has been a guiding force in the evolution of my art and my understanding of how story works on the page. The most critical influences on my work have been the books I’ve read, two failed novels I have written, and my husband and a few close friends who read my work when it is still unfinished. Their time, care and insights create a meaningful space, which allows me to take greater risks and to be more ruthless with my own work.

The writers I adore who have had significant impact on my life and writing mind: Anne Carson, Edna O’Brien, Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Yasunari Kawabata, William Faulkner, William Butler Yeats, W.S. Merwin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Michael Ondaatje, Anne Michaels, T.S. Eliot, Ovid, Sappho.

When and where do you write? 

The simple answer to this question is that I write when my sons are in school, but the more complete answer is that if a story burns in me, I write when I need to – whether I am washing the dishes, picking the boys up at school, running the beach, or folding the laundry, there’s always a separate corner of my mind where I am working through some dimension of a character’s struggle or the unexpected turns in a story.

What are you working on now? 

Another historical novel. Like my most recent novel, Georgia, it’s a novel about a strong woman but the nature of her history is allowing me to build a more nuanced and experimental story – with shifts in voice, place, time and point of view. This is something I originally wanted to do in Georgia, but O’Keeffe’s voice was so driving, singular, and direct, it demanded a different form.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Only when I am not writing what I need to write. If I am experiencing writer’s block, it’s because there is something I need to write out of my system – it could be personal or it could relate to a dynamic in the story I’m working on – but whenever I am at odds with the page, there’s a good reason for that, and I need to sit with it and write into it, until my mind clarifies.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Write the thing you have to write, the story you are on fire for, the one that breaks your heart that only you can tell. No matter how many books you've written – each time, the key is to get back to that singular place where it is just you - you, the heartbreak, and the fire - alone in the room. 

Dawn Tripp is the author of Georgia, a novel of Georgia O’Keeffe. A national bestseller, Georgia as been described as “complex and original” by the New York Times Book Review and “magical and provocative” by USA Today. Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, Tripp is the author of three previous novels: Moon Tide, The Season of Open Water, and Game of Secrets. Her essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, The Rumpus, Psychology Today, and NPR. She graduated from Harvard and lives in Massachusetts.