by Patricia Grandjean
Apr 1, 2011
03:47 PMBox Office
Q&A: Luanne Rice
(page 2 of 3)
You first had a poem published—in the Hartford Courant—when you were only 11. What do you remember about that?
I remember assuming that all you had to do was write a poem and someone would print it! My mother submitted it. I was just this passionate, avid writer, and reader as well. I never wanted to be a writer; I never thought of it as an ambition. It was just who I was and what I did.
The poem appeared in Malcolm Johnson's column "The Singing World," which was just a wonderful place for poets. I'd read it all the time and be just touched and amazed by the poetry that appeared there. When I was 14, they reprinted the poem on a full page in the Courant’s Sunday magazine, with a photo of Constitution Plaza at Christmas—which is what the poem was about.
It's interesting because I'm reading Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford now, which is about Edna St. Vincent Millay—she was the oldest of three sisters; and had a mother who was a writer and a poet who submitted her early work for publication. I just had such recognition reading and thinking what that must have been like for my mother. My mother was a writer too, and she originally submitted her own poem to the newspaper at the same time she submitted mine. When the magazine reprinted it, she told me, “You know, I also sent a poem about Constitution Plaza at Christmas, but they chose yours because it was so good.” I don't think I realized until much later how poignant that was. It actually pains me to say it, because it makes me think about what a writer she was and how she really gave it up to be mother to the three of us. She was very torn between her life as an artist and her life as a mother. But she chose to be more the mother than the writer.
I was going to ask what the biggest challenge of writing is for you, and whether you think women writers have challenges that are different from men's.
I grew up with a woman who . . . I would fall asleep every night to the sound of her typewriter. When she was finished with what she had to do, the last thing she did was to write, to work on her own poems and short stories. That made such a deep impression on me. I'm the type of writer who makes it not only the first thing of my day, but in some ways the only thing. I'm not sure how conscious a choice it was with me, not to be a mother.
It's funny . . . recently, previews began on this play that I'm involved with—it's at the Geffen Playhouse, called In Mother Words. I'm the stepmother in it; I wrote a piece called "My Almost Family." It addresses how I never had children of my own. I just feel that you have to give everything to something. I don't seem to be someone who can split that up. So, I've given everything to writing, and I don't regret that—I don't have my own children; I have nieces and stepchildren I adore. But I get up in the morning and go straight to my work. I've always done that. Probably, one of my biggest challenges is the Internet was invented. I really love the solitude and continuity of going straight from your dreams to your work of fiction that's underway. But it's hard now, because there's the temptation to check email and Facebook. For a while that really got in my way, but I've gotten back into my normal routine.
The thing about being a woman writer—it's sort of inescapable—I feel like we get characterized, we get pigeonholed in "women's fiction." I don't object to it; I feel as if . . . I mean, I've talked about it with other women writer friends, we feel we write what we write, not with a particular audience in mind. I feel lucky that many women readers have found me and I speak to them.
I imagine being put into a niche is frustrating.
I try not to let it be. I have this outlook that's worked for me, which is to keep everything between me and the page. I don't read reviews; my publishers don't send them to me. I don't want to know about marketing strategies. I feel like all I want to do is write. There's a great book I read when I was pretty young called The Writer on Her Work. There's an essay in it by Mary Gordon about how women are categorized as "watercolor painters" and men are categorized as "important" oil painters.
Interesting she should use those distinctions, because some of the most important male artists were watercolor Impressionists. So the lines are blurred in reality.