Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sandra Scofield

Publishing seven widely acclaimed novels is a feat in itself, but Sandra Scofield’s accomplishment is accentuated by the fact that she did not begin to write novels until she was 40-years-old. Since her first publication in 1988 (Gringa),which won the New American Writing Award, Sandra has been a finalist for the National Book Award and received the American Book Award (Beyond Deserving). Her work has also repeatedly appeared on the NYT’s New and Notable lists.

In 2005, Sandra decided to try her hand at writing a memoir.

Here is what she has to say about making the switch:

Q: You found writing memoir to be quite different, then, from writing fiction?

A: Much more than I ever imagined! It’s much harder to impose order. You think, well, I’ve got all this “material,” I won’t have to invent. What you forget is that invention has many faces. First of all, memories are fallible and fragmentary and they float in pictures more than in story, so you do have to invent, in the sense that you have to find a way to put things together coherently. But you don’t know how to put them together if you don’t know what they mean. You have to figure out what the images are telling you; how they connect to events. I kept seeing this picture of myself on a bus in October 1958, running away from the nuns in Fort Worth to go back to my mother in Odessa. I knew it was significant, though that particular image never appears in the book. What it told me was that my desperation to return to her was part of the sinew of my story: She had been declining, I was losing her, because I wasn’t with her. That gave me the key to seeing my whole childhood. I thought I was my mother’s prop.

Secondly, in memoir you’re stuck with a story your history gives you. You don’t have the license to invent in the old, fictional way: you can’t leap to making up things to fill the holes or change the shape of an event. You don’t alter chronology to make a dramatic arc tighter. At least I don’t think you do. What you do instead is dig deeper, into whatever artifacts you have, or you go to the library, or you just confess that you are making a best guess. Readers accept that. I think it makes them trust you. And it teaches you new ways to fashion a story.

To read more of this interview click here to visit Sandra's website.

Becoming Catholic was one of my mother’s notions. A “notion” set her apart from her hard-working kin; it was an impulse that sprang from eccentricity, a torque in her self-perception. She didn’t seem to know who she was.” —Occasions of Sin

“Scofield makes vivid the repressive 1950s, especially for Catholics, specifically for women...a deeply reflective and heartrending account conveying all that is lost when a child loses her mother.” —Booklist

Sandra is a regular Staff Member at the Community of Writers and she also teaches in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

Her craft book gets at the heart of one of the most challenging aspects of writing fiction:

I found all of her seven novels on the AbeBooks website

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I have enjoyed putting together our little bookstore up in Squaw Valley over the past four years. We love our bookstore and it has been your support that makes it all possible, so Thank You!

I have received many requests for an online SVCW Bookstore. Some who miss us when they are away, and others who are just tired of lugging all those hardcovers around on airplanes. There are also those writers who are honest about being broke and needing to purchase books at Amazon's discounted prices. As fellow writers, we understand your pain!

For these reasons I thought it would be fun to try our hand at a SVCW Books and Authors blog. I will track down our authors and past participants and post their books, news, reviews and information and link our SVCW books to Amazon. Ten percent of every book purchased through our blog will help support the bookstore. I am looking forward to building an online archive of the outstanding collection of books represented by authors who frequent the Community of Writers.

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