Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Rachel Barenbaum

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 Rachel Barenbaum author of A Bend in the Stars.

The spark of an idea comes from desire –  desire to live in and experience another world, another life, another love. Anyone brave enough to look this desire in the eye and commit it to paper is a writer. I don’t use brave lightly. That word has more weight to it than any other on this page because once desire is committed to paper it has a life of its own. Others can read, interpret and (here’s the terrifying part) judge. When I have trouble sitting down to write, I often think it’s because I’m not brave enough. How do I overcome my fear? I remind myself that no matter how terrible, clichéd or predictable it may be, a first pass is better than nothing. It can always be fixed. But, how? That’s the bigger, better question and for this I turn to Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” To do that, I read. And read. And read. I am a reader before a writer and when I sit down to fix a draft, I sit with characters and stories I love – but aren’t quite right. They are my dearest and oldest friends, closest confidantes and best inspiration. Without them, I’d be lost.

You can catch Rachel’s craft discussion, “Publishing Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Children's Books: Ask a Rockstar Editor” on Saturday, April 6th at 4:30pm at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.

Rachel is a graduate of GrubStreet's Novel Incubator. Her debut novel, A Bend in the Stars, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (May 2019). In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor. She has degrees from Harvard in Business, and Literature and Philosophy. She lives in Hanover, NH with her husband, three children, and dog named Zishe—after the folk hero who inspires many tales around their dinner table.

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