Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Amina Gautier

The Muse and the Marketplace 2019 kicks off on April 5th at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. This year’s theme is writing in a time of upheaval — whether such upheaval is personal, political, artistic, or all of the above. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2019 presenting authors to describe a time when it was impossible for them to write, but they wrote anyway. How did they do it? What did they write? Our next presenter in the series is Amina Gautier, author of At-Risk.

For me, there is no story without a scene, and there can be no scene without dialogue. So how does a writer create scenes when she has, essentially, lost her voice? That’s what happened to me. Some years ago, a difficult workplace-related situation caused months of personal upheaval that took away all of my fight. All of the passion, all of the fight, all of the energy that I would normally devote to the creation of my scenes went to defending myself and there was nothing left over for my fiction. I was zapped, drained, fizzed out, and it showed. My stories fell flat; my protagonists were passive; my stories lacked the profluence needed to keep them smoothly moving forward.

How do you get out of that? You cannot simply command your voice to return, but what I did—and what you can do—is (1) acknowledge that stories are mirrors held up to the author so that she may see herself and (2) write what you can in the meantime.

If you can’t write voice the way you wish then write setting, write description, write detail until it all comes back to you, write into the void, into the meantime, knowing that such writing is an act of faith, an act of love, an act of trust in yourself and the writer you are meant to be.

You can catch Amina’s craft discussion, “Fellowships, Residencies, Contests, and Grants, Oh My!” on Friday, April 5th at 2:15pm and “The Oversight Draft: From Manuscript to Publishable Draft” on Friday, April 5th at 3:45pm at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.

Amina Gautier, Ph.D., is the author of three award-winning short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award, The First Horizon Award, and the Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction Award. Now We Will Be Happy was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, the International Latino Book Award, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction Award, a National Silver Medal IPPY Award, and was a Finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize. The Loss of All Lost Things was awarded the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award, the International Latino Book Award, a National Silver Medal IPPY Award, was shortlisted for the SFC Literary Prize and the William Saroyan International Prize, and was a Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award, the Paterson Prize, the John Gardner Award, and the IndieFab Award.

Over one hundred of her stories have been published, appearing in Agni, Blackbird, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, and Quarterly West among other places. Gautier has received fellowships and residencies from The Carmago Foundation, The Château de Lavigny, Dora Maar/Brown Foundation, Disquiet International, Hawthornden, Kimbilio, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, Ucross, VCCA, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. For her body of work she has received the PEN/MALAMUD award.

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

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