With The 7am Novelist, Author Michelle Hoover Embarks On A 50-Day Writing Challenge This October — And You're Invited!
Have you ever just wanted to do something that might lighten all the bad news?
When my mother died in January, she had been a writer too, publishing poems, essays, and plays. She’d worked on a novel for more than thirty years. But she didn’t have the connections. And as an older writer, having renewed her love of writing at the age of sixty, she had a difficult time being taken seriously. At the end of her life, when she barely left her small room at a senior living facility fenced in by the pandemic, I helped her self-publish her novel. It’s a beautiful book. An honest, endearing, often riveting book. Milk Without Honey has since won accolades from Forward Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and others. For many months before she died, she was able to hold the book in her hands and reread it as if it was something new. But she didn’t have a chance to bask in the glow of a well-attended reading among family and friends. She wasn’t able to witness first-hand the public’s gushing response. I had helped her, but my help came too late.
What does a book matter to a life?
I don’t have the answer. Does writing grant us immortality or at least the immortality of our loved ones, a way for us to hold onto someone? Is it worth the time, sweat, and trees? Does it promote empathy? Educate? Entertain? Does it—simply and without fanfare—give us something beautiful? Something greater than ourselves to think about?
Not all novels do. In fact, very few even come close. But I still believe in novels, especially the ones that attempt to transcend the paper they’re written on for any and all of the reasons above.
Late last spring, after I’d emerged from that underwater place I had been, the political situation again reared its ugly head—in a way that felt more personal than ever. It was the same others had been experiencing for months, years, decades. And what could I do? I tend to like to fix things. It’s my greatest and worst attribute. The world isn’t fixable, but I still believe we’re here to do something, whatever we can, even if our efforts come to less than nothing. Call me naïve. Call me annoyingly earnest. So be it. I decided to redirect my frustrations through my skill set. I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching writing for twenty-seven years, most recently through the GrubStreet Novel Incubator program that I co-founded and still lead a dozen years later. I love what I do. And I know some of the most talented and generous writers and teachers out there. I’ve seen too many writers struggling alone, writers with talent, drive, and phenomenal stories, but they often lack access, self-confidence, time, and headspace. Writers like my mother. After so much division and disease, why not try to bring people together again? Give them a sense of—if not outright accomplishment—at least something that feels like a step in the right direction?
I plan to grab hold of the imperfection necessary for early writing. There’s something pared down and intimate about the crack of dawn, something simple and expressive that I hope to grab hold of.
At the end of August, I turned 50, so I decided to do a 50-day writing challenge. Crazy, I know. And to make it even harder on myself, I decided to launch each of those fifty days with a live webinar every morning at 7am EST. I wanted to get folks back in their writing chairs, to forge a sense of community and purpose at the start of their day. I’m not a morning person. I usually wake up a good half past the hour. So I plan to be in my pajamas, with bed head and a foggy brain. I plan to grab hold of the imperfection necessary for early writing. There’s something pared down and intimate about the crack of dawn, something simple and expressive that I hope to grab hold of. I call the challenge crazy making, though it will likely be crazy making for me alone and hopefully energizing for everyone else.
Do you want to join? Register for the live webinar, watch the webinar recording, or listen to the same in our ongoing podcast on your own schedule. I’ve already got an incredible crew of writers helping out, from those who are struggling with their first books to the best of our teachers and literary stars. We’ll be focusing on first drafts of novels, but there will be something for everyone at any stage, and not just for novelists, but for story and essay writers, memoirists, screen writers, and poets too. Check out 7amnovelist.substack.com for how to join, as well as updates on our schedule, and take part in what I hope becomes a lively community. For our schedule so far, click here.
Michelle Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program. She is a 2014 NEA Fellow and has been a Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and a winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her debut novel, The Quickening, was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, was a Finalist for the Indies Choice Debut of 2010 and Forward Magazine's Best Literary Book of 2010, and is a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award "Must Read" pick. Her second novel, Bottomland, is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection and a 2016 Mass Book "Must Read." For more, go to www.michelle-hoover.com.See other articles by Michelle Hoover