Sorry we’re a day late on the blog. We were so super excited to sit down with Chris Convissor that we lost our heads and forgot to bring the coffee. We’re here this morning to talk to Chris about her award-winning book, her time at the GCLS Writing Academy. We remembered to bring the coffee this time,
Welcome Chris! Let’s jump right in.
What inspired you to join the Writing Academy?
A lot of arm-twisting from Linda Kay Silva.
Yes. She was one of the first instructors. And she browbeat you?
It was worth it.
Your book from your academy days was the amazing book The Urn Carrier. Tell me how that came about.
The GCLS Writing Academy made it clear we’d be working on a book length work. I was thinking of myself as a short story writer, so I had planned a collection of short stories. When the assignment described a novel, my eyes bugged out. A mini panic set in. (Ed. Note. The academy now allows short story collections as the program’s work in progress.) I scrambled to revive an idea from years ago, but my heart wasn’t in it. On a Tuesday before the Saturday when 50 pages were due my mentors, I looked up and said, “I got nothin. So if you have something, hit me.” The very next morning, no shit, I woke with the germination of Urn. What would I do with this container when I pass on? Who would I entrust with whatever was left of me?” It took off from there. My mentors enjoyed the first 50 pages and asked for the rest.
I wrote back,” Can you give me two weeks?”
The raw Urn was done in 6-8 weeks. It basically wrote itself.
That’s huge. And what you didn’t mention is that you won a Goldie for that book. What was that moment like?
Un-freaking Believable. When the awards for debut author came and went, I thought that was my best, missed chance. When they announced Best Dramatic/General, Urn was the last book they announced, and then they did it twice. I thought, ”Why are they saying Urn twice?” Linda Kay Silva, and Carolyn Schwab, my girlfriend, were shaking me and clapping my back, shouting, “You won!”
You mentioned mentors. What’s that about?
My mentors—someone must have thought I needed two—were, Ann McMan and Lee Lynch. They were awesome, positive, constructive, acerbic, witty, and generous. I think I won the mentor lottery, however, looking back at that first class in the Academy, many of us succeeded in securing publishers, so that speaks to the quality of the Academy and all of our mentors.
It’s true. The mentoring portion is such an amazing part of this program. Do you have another book out now?
Saving Vincent debuted October of 2018. It’s a novella that is leading to In The Land, which I hope will be out this fall.
What’s In the Land?
In The Land is a novel set on an island in Michigan’s upper peninsula in 1979. It’s about 4 old ladies who cannot sleep at 3 in the morning, so they play cards, talk about all the injustices going on around them and then get into all sorts of mischief attempting to right wrongs.
That sounds awesome! Do you have any writing rituals to get you into the mood?
I write everything long hand. I like a black Pilot G-2 .07. I like to write first thing in the morning. My ritual is, “Show up.” Creative bursts come in the am, then I work off the computer in the afternoon.
Showing up to write is important. So is reading. What’s currently on your nightstand?
Stephen King’s On Writing, The Silence of the North by Olive Fredrickson, The Elements of Style, William Strunck Jr and EB White, To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee, Lez Talk A collection of short stories edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle, Before Happiness Shawn Achor, Utopia for Realists Rutger Bregman.
I just got Lez Talk and am looking forward to diving into the stories. And On Writing has some excellent writing advice. What advice would you give an emerging author?
Write, read, write and keep on reading and writing. Show up. Explore, live, adventure, take risks.
That’s fantastic advice. Have you ever been given any truly bad advice?
Plenty. Usually from folks still in their ego phase of life. The best test? If it doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. Let advice sit with you and if it doesn’t resonate, toss it. The good stuff percolates into your writing, at least that’s been my experience.
Pearls of wisdom. So if you could go back twenty years and do it all over again, knowing everything you’ve learned over the years, would you?
Oh hell no. I’m having way too much fun now.
Is there anything you want us to know that we haven’t asked?
Plenty. But you’ll have to read my books before you get to know the rest.
The GCLS Writing Academy is a yearlong intensive program for new or relatively new writers who have written at least part of a novel. In this course, students will learn the critical components of quality writing. The Writing Academy goes beyond craft of writing and takes students through all aspects of writing and publishing a novel.