Wed 29 Feb 2012
I wrote poetry until I hit graduate school and saw how hard that would continue to be. The poets were really good, and all I could do was work an image. I found I was a better storyteller, in an imagistic sort of way. I’ll still write (and even more rarely publish) a poem now and then, but stories are where I live.
Michelle Reale:When did you start writing?
Donna Vitucci:4th grade
Michelle: Tell us about your writing process:
Donna: If it’s long work I’m engaged in, one day’s accomplishment might be as few as a couple paragraphs and as much as a couple pages. Each new day I read the draft from the beginning and fashion and whittle and edit and then write from where I left off. This works until the piece grows unwieldy at about a dozen to 15 pages. Then I only re-read/re-work the immediate few paragraphs prior to my last sentence. Re-reading and rewriting what’s been drafted from 1,2, 3 days before reorients me to the mood and place of the piece, gets me back into the heads of the characters.
Michelle:How do you keep motivated?
Donna:I don’t. If you have some advice, I’d love to hear.
Michelle:How has your writing changed over the years? How have you changed over the years?
Donna:I wrote poetry until I hit graduate school and saw how hard that would continue to be. The poets were really good, and all I could do was work an image. I found I was a better storyteller, in an imagistic sort of way. I’ll still write (and even more rarely publish) a poem now and then, but stories are where I live.
I used to think by now I’d have books published. I no longer think that’s going to happen. Or rather, I don’t bank on it. I have two marvelous sons and I look on them, their satisfaction in their lives and their adeptness in their careers, and I feel that is something I contributed to, something lasting I’ve had a part in shaping. I’m not so sure anymore that my stories, should any appear in book form, are going to make any kind of lasting mark in the world. I have severe doubts my novels will published, and I’ve kind of made my peace with that. Doesn’t mean I don’t lust after it. But I’m older now than I ever thought I’d be without a book in the world. It feels weird, but okay.
Michelle:In light of that, what kind of goals do you set for yourself then?
Donna:I try to make myself sit down at the computer and open a file every day. Sometimes nothing gets written. Sometime there’s only blather on the page. When I’m in the midst of a draft I’m happy and cookin’. I have something “to go to,” I’ve got a running start. These days, lately, I feel like I ain’t never gonna get off the ground.
Michelle:How often do you write?
Donna:For the longest time, like for the last 10 to 15 yrs, I would write every day. But I bought an historical house last April and have been working on it, whenever I’m NOT at work. At this point I want to take the time to enjoy my life—walking, biking, gardening, sitting in the courtyard with the cats. Besides work and the house rehab, there’s the every-day living with my love, and by that I mean really engaging with him. It may sound like heresy but stories (as in my writing them) don’t seem so critical to me right now. There’s real life, and it’s glorious.
Michelle:What triggers a story?
Donna:A line, a dream, reading history, reading a story, a snippet of a song, an impulse, a memory. Maybe a prompt, but prompts account for only about 15% of my finished stories.
Michelle:You write in both the long and short form. I find your writing is dreamy in a way, but grounded— evocative and mysterious—I love it!. Which form do you prefer and why?
Donna:Thank you for the evocative and mysterious. I would suggest that applies to my flash fiction and some short fiction. My longer work, especially my novels, are quite realistic and told in traditional form (maybe why I can’t get any of them published; the darlings at the moment seem to be the askance narrative, tales told at odd angles. I just tell stories of families and relationships. Period.) If I have to choose, I think I prefer longer work because I have a kingdom to inhabit and discover day after day.
Michelle:There is so much incredible flash fiction published and so many amazing publications publishing it. Name some of your favorite writers and publications.
Donna:Knee Jerk, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Juked, Smokelong.
Laura Ellen Scott, Roxane Gay, Bonnie Zobell, Ethel Rohan Michelle Reale, Rusty Barnes
Michelle: (blush)Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written and published?
Donna:For flash, I have a fondness for the ones that emerge almost all of a piece, at first pass, with barely any revision—of those I would have to say the tip top one I quite adore (still) appeared in Night Train: “The Tree That Girdles Itself.” A more traditional length story, published/printed in Another Chicago Magazine titled “After Cato,” holds a dear place in my heart because I felt in that story I was able to honor my uncle and his memory and parts of his difficult life, without ever dipping into sentimentality. That was a bar I had set for myself, and I felt I met it.
Michelle:What are you working on now?
Donna: A 250 word flash challenge.
Michelle: You know me so well! Throw this down , Donna, and use these words:
Candle, fickle, thrust, sagging, birchwood, jump-start, marriage, modern.
Heart, they said. Talk jangled and thrust into his ears. He could look if he wanted.
The nurse’s eyes shoved his lost sky back into view. Morphine jump-started what had been brilliant and abysmal a long forty years ago–his breath entwined with the bottle, a needle and a bag, every modern thing depleted, nothing but the candle with its staggering, fickle flame and the bubble of heat that ran across his skin, yelling bad bad fire.Don’t tell me I’m not strong. He lived a clean, lonely life forward.
Love then had been a pair of baggy sagging pants, a gangsta tripped by squalor, who fell on the knife in his coat. He’d once razored into birchwood Danny + Sue, then tattooed on his arm the choked angles of the letters, every serif a tongue, and his mouth a barren reservoir. The biscuit-y smell of hair, this nurse, as she bathed him, resurrected Suzie. A marriage of light and flesh at his tired bedside, kneading his heart. Here again, Dan at her mercy, in her hands his four chambers, and the rushing, the rushing away.
Michelle: Sublime, Donna, as I knew it would be. Thanks!
Donna D. Vitucci works as a development associate, raising funds for local non-profits. Her fiction and poems have appeared in dozens of literary magazines and journals including: Hawaii Review, Front Porch Journal, Another Chicago Magazine, Night Train, Storyglossia, Corium, andMeridian. Her novel manuscript, FEED MATERIALS, was judged a finalist for the Bellwether Prize, 2010.
Read Donna’s story “The Tree That Girds Itself” here.