Repost: Katharine Britton: The Art of Learning When to Breathe

I met Katharine Britton at a book signing for her first published novel, Her Sister’s Keeper, and was struck by her air of serenity, which was the more impressive when I read the book and saw that her characters have deep, not to say painful,  emotional lives. So when I read a recent post of hers about her writing process, I asked if I could reprint it here.

Katharine is  a member of the League of Vermont Writers and PEN New England. She teaches writing at Colby-Sawyer College, and is an instructor at The Writer’s Center. Her second novel, Little Island, will be published in Fall, 2013 and you can find her on Twitter and Facebook

I like her description of what she does in her spare time: When not at her desk, Katharine can often be found in her Norwich garden, waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing, after-the-fact.

Here’s the beginning of the article:

I like sentences. I like words. I have always liked stringing words into sentences, and then shuffling them around to see how the meaning changes. There is a spiritual component to writing. Stringing enough words together to create a novel that someone will want to buy is an act of faith.

The English word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath,” and so I decided to subtitle this piece, The Art of Learning When to Breathe, because learning when to breathe was perhaps the most important spiritual lesson I have learned since pursuing a career in writing.

Anne Lindbergh describes the writing process so poetically in “Gift from the Sea.” She says that when one sits down to write, one must wait to see what “chance treasures the easy unconscious rollers of the mind might toss up.” Neither the sea (nor the page) reward those “who are too anxious, too greedy, too impatient.” This is wise advice. Writing, perhaps particularly a novel because of its length and complexity, requires…read more here

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