The Writing Process Blog Tour: Emilie Staat

Next Peauxdunquian up on the Writing Process Blog Tour is Emilie Staat!

What am I working on?
I’m finishing The Winter Circus, a novel I’ve been working on for about a decade, and a memoir about what Argentine tango is teaching me about my relationships and myself. The novel is in a much more “final” stage than the memoir, which is in the first, rough stage of its life.
 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s too easy for me to get obsessed with this question and I think it’s healthier not to worry about it until the work is closer to being published. That being said, my work owes a lot to traditions that have come before, of course. I read a lot and very widely.
 
There have been a handful of “circus novels” that have been published in the decade since I started writing The Winter Circus. But each of those books is different—from each other and from my novel. They each deal with a different era or aspect of circus culture. The Winter Circus explores the tension between circus life and “normal” life, between family and identity, stories and lies.
 
As for the memoir, since it’s in the rough draft stage, I’m still learning a lot about it and genre is far down the road. I didn’t really allow myself to do any reading or academic research into tango for the first few years I was learning the dance. I love research! But, I needed to get out of my head with tango and stay in my body as long as possible. I’m only just now starting to read “tango memoirs” (they exist!) and other books about various aspects of tango.
 
Why do I write what I do?
How much time do you have? How many words do I have? I’m not sure there’s a way to answer this in a non-flippant manner, except to get really dark. I’m obsessed. All artists are. There are moments, thoughts, relationships, images and characters that rotate incessantly in our heads. Sometimes we can get them out through art, sometimes we just re-work the obsession in another project, another form. I’ve written fiction, poetry, screenplays, essays, tried to write short stories, so I write in whatever form I’m called to at any particular moment.
 
How does my writing process work?
I’ve always felt compelled to fit my writing around my day job, so my process has been a response to whatever was paying the bills at the moment. It involves a lot of journaling and jotting down notes here and there, stealing time in the evenings, on weekends and vacations to stretch the notes out into beefier work, to edit. That’s part of why the novel has taken ten years to get to this point. Also, I was teaching myself how to write during that time. I’m currently spending a month at a residency called Soaring Gardens and part of what I’m figuring out while I’m here is what my process is without the daily grind. We’ll see what I learn.
 
Emilie Staat’s novel, The Winter Circus, is about an aerialist who grows up in the circus, runs away to New Orleans and learns the value of falling. She is also currently writing Tango Face, a memoir about what learning Argentine tango is teaching her about personhood, gender dynamics and relationships.
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