Hosted by Patricia Dunn and Christopher Messer

We writers are a tenacious lot.  Despite work, our social lives, family ties, and all the other intricacies that make up our lives we still choose to throw these things aside once a day (if we are lucky) to sit down and develop our craft.  Why do we do this?  What drives us?  Why do we keep at it even when those close to us hover over our desks asking that unbearable question, “can’t you write later?”

The answers are innumerable.  Why do I write?  I write because I love stories.  I write because I want to change lives.  I write to remember.  I write because I must.  Each person is different and every answer is a story in itself.  We have created this space so that writers may have the opportunity to answer this question in their own original voices.  This blog will be updated every Monday with a new answer from a different writer.

What makes us keep turning these words into sentences, these sentences into paragraphs, these paragraphs into compositions?  Why I write… I’m excited to read the stories behind the stories.


Why I Write – Olivia Worden

Olivia 2I write to fill in the blanks. I write to fill up the silences. I write to remove the hands that have been placed over my mouth. I write to compose the face of my biological mother. I write because when I was three, a woman fell out of a fifth story window at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her camera took off the ear of the man who stood beside me and the weight of her body broke my father’s feet. The woman survived. I stopped going to parades. And that’s why I write. I write to choose a side, to shame my absentee father and polish the pedestal my mother stands on. I write because my grandfather’s youngest brother was a poet, who kept his poems in tea tins and never married the woman from Australia, a woman who refused to return with him to Ireland to live with his mother. I write to keep from screaming. I write to scream. I write to tell strangers that I am American. I write to tell them to stop speaking slowly. I write to tell them that I can write “good” English. I write to stop having nightmares. I write so I can walk upright, instead of sideways. I write to practice breathing underwater. I write to force myself to take inventory of all my ugly parts. I write so my left eye stops twitching. I write to reach you. And I write to push you away. I write because something has shattered and I want to put it back together. I write because it is all I know. I write because, perhaps, there is something left to be written.

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Why I Write – Laurel Clark

ClarkI write because I want to remember.

I was born in St. Louis Missouri on July 23 in the wonderful year 1998 when my parents suddenly realized they were parents! I grew up within the affection of my wonderful mother and father. Their love has consistently soaked through every memory I can scrape together from my first four years of life before my cunning and glamorous younger sister was born and all the years that followed after.

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Why I Write – Ellen Bregman

2015 Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship at Sarah Lawrence College Honorable Mention

2012-08-19_Ellen @ Central Park-the Pool (2)I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t write anything besides an email, a thank-you note, or maybe a business letter, for more than 30 years. I knew I liked to write — once. I won a prize in the We Are The Flag essay contest in the 5th grade, and I was Editorial Editor of the Taylor Allderdice High School Foreword. In college I published a piece on The Rocky Horror Picture Show (yes, it was the late 70’s) in the Detroit News. I kept a journal and scribbled away for my Creative Writing class. My professor encouraged me to enter the Hopwood Contest, which I lost.

English?  Journalism?  My parents were not impressed. They threatened to withhold my tuition unless I majored in something “practical,” so I put down my pen.

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Why I Write – Erin Robinson-Lis


Lis Family PortraitI write because I relish the blank page. While some people see a blank page and feel fear, loathing, intimidation, frustration and the like, to me, a blank page signals the art of the possible. It’s the chance to create something new, take a well-worn topic and turn it on its head, dig deeper to make the reader think, feel and act differently. That’s what I’ve done in business writing and now in my first novel.

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Why I Write – Kathy Gevlin


kmgI write to figure out what it is I think.  About things that happened to me or people I know, about people, about the passage of time.  I write to understand and process – sometimes just to find –my own emotions.  When I can locate them, I can begin to better understand others, I think.   When I get it the words right (which isn’t often) I feel it.  I feel that I have somehow reincarnated that lost parent or lover or friend who I never understood.  And then I say huh, I think I get you now.   It is a very cool feeling.

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Why I Write – Suki van Djik


sukipicI write because I don’t have any choice not to. When I’m sad, when I’m overwhelmed, when I need to make sense of the world – it leads me straight to the page. I started by playing “town” in grade school, writing scenes for a collection of invented characters, moved on to horribly overwrought poetry in middle school and have written novels since high school.

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Why I write?

By Ines Rodrigues

inesI always had dreams of becoming a writer, but not even my prolific imagination could have pictured me doing it in a language that is not my native Portuguese. I had to move from Brazil to New York and wait ten years, until the point where I was dreaming and cursing in English, just to start calling myself a writer. Why didn’t I start writing fiction while I was still in Brazil? Of course, I found all the possible excuses, pretending the call didn’t exist: I partied, traveled and dated a lot, avoiding silence and concentration in my free time. I could always write later, in the next year, decade, or in the next lifetime. I worked as a journalist to exercise my fingers, always eager to find a keyboard to type the words that were longing to escape the confinement of my own thoughts.

I’ve always been passionate about different languages, places and people. They ignited something inside me I couldn’t quite identify; I always wanted to write when I was on the move. I traveled as much my pockets and my time allowed me to. I fell in love with Italy when I was still a child and lived there in my twenties. I thought I was going to marry an Italian guy and stay there forever, but I ended up returning to Brazil, just in time to meet my future Irish husband in São Paulo. That short work assignment became a three-year stay. We later moved to New York, where I had my children, and was then forced to face reality.

Stuck in a suburban house, raising kids, and distant from my bohemian life in South America, I was compelled to grow up and plan the rest of my life. I started teaching languages because the hours were great. I took care of my family almost full time, but there was still a little room in my mind for reading and dreaming. I started to realize there were a lot of people writing and publishing, and that was not a work of fiction as I had always imagined.

I started to take writing classes online, being too ashamed of showing my foreign face and accent in a classroom. What would people think of me? Who’s that pretentious Brazilian woman with all those grammatical mistakes on her pages? What is she thinking? She has a lot of nerve…coming here to write in English…although the more I wrote and learned about the craft the more I wanted to do it. I couldn’t spend a day without thinking about writing. Finally I decided to take a weekend workshop, and then another, and another.

In the fall of 2010, I was sitting around my dining room table, in front of my laptop, with papers scattered all over. My kids were both in elementary school full time, and I had to start doing something. My husband had recommended the safety of a secretarial job, teaching in a public school, or going back to college. I instead wanted to jump into a semester of a fiction writing course. I had a novel in my mind and I had to learn how to discipline myself to write it. Of course I was scared. ”They won’t accept me because I am Brazilian,” I thought.

I called my best friend to commiserate. He didn’t any waste time.

“Sign up immediately!”

He stayed on the phone while I registered online. “I want to make sure you don’t bury your head in the ground again,” he said.

A week later I was starting my novel. I met teachers, friends, and amazing writers who became guardian angels of my craft. I never stopped. My kids still point out my (not so bad now) grammar mistakes and call me “Gloria,” referring to Sofia Vergara’s Colombian character in Modern Family. I reply, saying that all I want is to have her looks… In three years my first novel was done and I felt proud of my accent. As soon as I finish this post I am starting the second one.

ines1Ines Rodrigues is a Brazilian writer and Italian teacher, living in Westchester, NY with an Irish husband, two American children and two American cats. Her favorite authors are Gabriel Garcìa Marquez, Claudio Magris and Orhan Pamuk. She is currently seeking publication for her first novel, Days of Bossa Nova, a family saga set in her hometown, São Paulo. Her fiction work has been included in public readings at Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY) and at the Journée du Monde in Paris, France. She wrote non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines such as Elle and Marie Claire in Brazil, and short stories for the website Webamigos (2002-2003). Her writer’s blog is www.aplaceinmymind.weebly.com.

Why I Write

By Catherine Bell
Rush of Shadows

As I write, I cycle through different stages of motivation and reward. It’s never easy, but as long as I keep going, I’m happy, which is why I call myself a writer.

Catherine BellA memory inspires me, or an event or anecdote. It’s just an idea, or feeling, but if it has emotional resonance and promises human complications, I’m in. At this stage I write notes everywhere: at work, around the house, the car. I wake up at night and put things down. Eventually I sit at the computer and transcribe the notes, adding to them as I go along, listening with my mind’s ear, letting whatever there is pour out. The story so far is intriguing, barely seen. It’s as if I’m swimming in the ocean and my foot brushes something. Soft? Hard? Alive? How big? Do I dare bring it up and look? Is it nothing after all? A beautiful stone? The key to all the world?

I will have a lot to learn to imagine the story properly. Outer research with Wikipedia and history books. Inner research putting characters in situations, asking them questions. Research is easier than writing, and I never know enough, so it’s tempting to go on forever, but at some point I have to stop. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to find a source that shines such a bright, authentic light on my story that I know I can write the truth. With Rush of Shadows, it was Robert F. Heizer’s The Destruction of California Indians: 19th century letters and newspaper accounts full of unmediated attitude, compiled with the grave indignation of the editor. The light went on.

In my notes are dialogue scraps, fragmentary places, splinters of time. I have so much. I have nothing.   No real scenes. No order. No plot until I know what the characters will do. No characters until events define them. So, jump in anywhere, riding the feeling of being seized, fascinated, absorbed. The piece will outgrow its first dozen conceptions anyway and be structured and restructured many times.   After years of work on Rush of Shadows, exploring the different ways people saw a situation, I decided it couldn’t be told in one voice. This meant so much more work! I remember the exact, traumatic, thrilling spot on a hiking trail in Nova Scotia where I realized we had to hear Sam’s voice directly, and Law’s voice.

The hands-off stage is always more important than I think. Sanity means recognizing when I’ve worked so long and hard that I can’t see what I’m doing any more. Bitter as it is, I put the story aside and let the unconscious mind take over. Patience is part of craft. When I pick the story up again with fresh eyes, the reward is seeing that it’s still imperfect, embarrassing even, but still worth working on, with one or two new ideas just coming to mind. In this way, I write many drafts, laying down revisions like layers of paint, until, I hope, you don’t see the shabby places, sketchy characters, ramshackle methods and half-baked ideas I started with.

I share my work with a writers’ group, less for praise or advice than for information. How did you take it? Did this work for you? Was that a problem? A community of mutually vulnerable and exacting writers is beyond price. If they like something, I’m energized, and if they don’t, even more so. I’ve got something to mull over that may make the story better. Reader reactions are often surprising. I once sent out a story I’d struggled with for years and finally brought to perfection, only to hear from an editor that he liked it but it didn’t come together at the end. Wounded and fed up, I quit bothering. Later I saw what he meant, a version of what I’d worried about myself, and revised yet again. I’ve lived long enough now to see that story published, a prize-winner. That’s motivation for you.

Finishing is dicey, because the work is never perfect, never done. Toward the end, as if prose were poetry, I read it aloud. The pleasure of the right sound is better than money. It’s like work in a darkroom – precise and technical but emotional and meaningful as well. Your negative’s pristine, your focus sharp, you’ve checked the temperature of the developer solution and calibrated the exposure time to the second. Now you stand back and watch the image rise up in the pan, never less than miraculous. Sometimes I think, Did I write this? I wouldn’t have thought I could, if I didn’t know I had. Something bigger than me has been at work, and I’ve had the good luck to be part of it.