Visiting with Natalie Serber

by Claire Guyton

What inspired your story “Shout Her Lovely Name”?

Fear. All that can go wrong and how to make sense of it.

All writers have favorite words we have to guard against over-using. What are yours?

Any words to do with dental hygiene. I don’t know why, but it seems dental care is my default mode. When I don’t know what a character will do next, I give her a toothbrush. I’ve come to recognize toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss as my miner’s canary—they are words that indicate I’ve momentarily lost my way. Perhaps they are my writerly equivalent to twiddling my thumbs until I find my way again.

Tell us about your writing process—either generally or specifically with regard to the birth and development of this story.

I start each writing session by re-reading and revising recent pages, then moving forward into new work. It is the equivalent (oops, maybe ‘equivalent’ is my overused word?) of wading into a lake until the bottom drops away. I’ve been working on a novel which is told from multiple points of view, and that has been a gift because it feels like I have several projects going on at once, several voices. Periodically I take a vacation from it. Recently I took a month off and wrote a long story about a woman and her therapist called “Developmental Blah, Blah” and that was a lark. “Shout Her Lovely Name” was also written as a novel vacation. The diversions refresh me and I return to the longer project invigorated. For me, revision is the fun part. Once I have a draft, as I now do with the novel, the continued act of discovery is a pleasure, like getting to know a good friend better.

What does your writing space look like?

I write at a college library. I like the quiet, the people working and sleeping around me, the respectful whispering—as if we all are engaged in important work.



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