{Secret Library Podcast} Danielle Lazarin on the Revolutionary Act of Writing Women’s Stories

Danielle Lazarin didn’t realize she’d written a Feminist Collection of Stories.

Let me first say that I loved this collection. What struck me about Back Talk was how real the people inside the pages felt. Reading through the book, I was a bit surprised at how the critics had hailed it as a feminist collection, because it felt first and foremost like a collection of stories about women acting the way women actually act. But then it hit me, that is profoundly feminist because we come up against stereotypes in fiction all the time. Breaking them down is as feminist a choice as I can imagine.

In speaking with Danielle, she too admitted she hadn’t had a particular agenda in writing the stories, but that she had felt it was important to present women as they are in situations most fiction ignores. I loved this, and I loved how the stories forced me to confront my own bias and my own prejudice that comes from a lifetime of reading women portrayed as too emotional, irrational, or as other types that are easy to dismiss. As I read each of these stories, I saw the way I expected the plot to go, and then marveled at Danielle’s refusal to take the easy way out.

I adored both this book and this conversation. If you have ever written a female character, or ever plan to, you’ll find something to inspire you. Happy listening.

Listen Up on iTunes or Stitcher | Danielle’s Site | Back Talk | Instagram | Twitter

Discussed in Episode 89 with Danielle Lazarin

  • “You get to rework them over and over in a smaller time frame.” On the difference between the novel writing process and the short story writing process.
  • “There are pauses when you’re putting together a book of stories where you can celebrate what it is and the work you put into it, then kind of put it aside for a little while.”
  • Although creative writing is not seen as a practical degree, she’s still doing it.
  • “People are always saying Creative Writing’s not a practical degree. Yes it is! I did it twice.” On getting a BA and an MFA in Creative Writing.
  • We are trained on stories and so many people are told that they need to write a novel – but they’re very different skills.
  • Stories allow you to experiment. With novels you’re stuck in a cave working with the same characters and plot and point of view.
  • Stories allow you to play with voice and time frame. You will find your strengths and weaknesses.
  • They’re going to say “this” but you have to write what you want to write.
  • Don’t seek an agent until you know what your idea is.
  • The world of writing and the world of publishing are 2 different things (You have to work on a story that is true to you.)
  • Some people don’t want to write novels and some people always want to write novels.
  • How short stories seem ideal for the modern reader.
  • “Stories are intense and tiny. The more compressed something is the harder or more intimidating it is.” On comparing stories to poetry.
  • Reading is an investment.
  • “I’m a writer, I like suffering and darkness and hard things.” On the necessity of diving into the deep end of a story.
  • I want to be in this world for however long it takes me to read this book.
  • If you’re in a story collection and you don’t like the story you’re in, you can turn the page and go to a new story.
  • “I’ve written a lot of projects by pretending I’m not working on them.” On writing a lot of the stories while “cheating on” the novel writing process.
  • It’s all happening now, no one is calling me begging for a collection of SS, so I better just get on it.
  • “Don’t have kids to motivate your writing, but it’s helpful.” On how life experience and time constraints made her a better writer.
  • “We need more stories of women out in the world.” On pushing boundaries with stories and not censoring character feelings.
  • All the narratives we’ve been fed (of what a woman is like as a love interest or a mother) have been written and controlled by men.
  • It’s common for women to internalize thoughts and feelings and not act on them.
  • We’re all taught to question the basic thing of not wanting children, it becomes so scandalous.
  • It was very important to Danielle to write mothers that were normal people – the normal narrative of women in our society.
  • Poking holes in the commonly accepted narrative of what mothers and women are expected to be.
  • Getting feedback : we are so afraid of being told we aren’t quite there, so we sometimes scrap it.
  • If it’s bothering a lot of people, you should look into it and use it in a way that will eventually work to the effect that you want it to.
  • If they get fired up in a critique situation, it’s because they CARE.
  • Watching where the attention goes in your story to realize what matters or what needs the dial turned back a bit.
  • Writing makes you face your own conditioning
  • “The way to write something is to try not to write it.” On resisting the stories that are so deeply hers.
  • What is a book supposed to do? What do we expect it to do? We want to experience someone else’s life in someone else’s world. What makes it meaningful is that it’s a story we can relate to. (From Caroline)
  • The best books are those we go in looking for something and we come out with something completely different.
  • “You are writing to find out something you already know. You’re writing something you didn’t realize you knew.” On reading to learn things about ourselves.
  • Readers pick up on things in stories that Danielle wasn’t super conscious of when writing.
  • “It’s just between them and the page.” On space that readers make that has nothing to do with you.

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