Patrick Ross hosts an inspiring website, The Artists Road, which focuses on an “art-committed life.” Patrick and I met on Twitter, both, a few years ago, looking into low-residency MFA programs. Patrick’s book, A Memoir of the Artist’s Road will be released from Black Rose Writing. Read on to see how Patrick balances work, family, and art.
1. Your travel memoir, Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road by Black Rose Writing. How did you discover Black Rose Writing? When I decided to pursue an independent press for Committed I was a bit overwhelmed. There are so many small presses out there! But then I learned many of them only publish in certain niches and weren’t interested in a literary travel memoir. I found Black Rose Writing–which publishes a wide range of fiction and nonfiction–through a site called Perfect Pitch (myperfectpitch.com), which lists lots of publishers in various categories.
2. Where did your inspiration come from for this book? Was there a character that just had to be heard? Was there an event that inspired you to start writing? The inspiration to write this book is actually chronicled in the book. (A bit meta, I know.) The memoir tells the story of my return to an art-committed life after being inspired by artists I interviewed on a cross-country U.S. road trip. The idea of writing the book emerges as that narrative line progresses.
3. Does your background (in terms of job, family, geographic location, etc.) play into your writing? What kind of research went into your story? I’ve been a professional writer for about a quarter-century, mostly journalism and true storytelling. So writing creative nonfiction is a logical next step. Amazingly, prior to this memoir I hadn’t considered that path; I thought of creative writing as poetry and fiction. As for research, my passion right now is historical and biographical writing. I have an essay being published in the January issue of The Montreal Review that tells the story of the creation of the most expensive book of the 17th Century. That essay required a tremendous amount of research, as I tell the story not just of the father and son cartographers, but also their rivals and the culture and politics of the Amsterdam of their era.
4. Describe the genres in which you write (paranormal, contemporary, westerns, etc.) If write in more than one genre or area (poetry, non-fiction), do you have a different process when you’re writing different kinds of fiction or non-fiction? I mentioned how I’m shifting from memoir writing to historical and biographical CNF. I also write personal essays, like my award-winning September 12th, which in rather raw prose tells of my evacuation of the U.S. Capitol on September 11th, 2001, framed against a recent divorce and separation from my children. I find it far easier to tell the stories of long-dead historical figures than my own, however!
5. What is your mind set or process as you sit down to write? Do you have a playlist going? Do you need complete silence? Are you a 6 am writer or an 11 pm writer? I’m a 5 am writer. When I get home from my day job I’m creatively drained, so I start tapping that creativity before I go to work and before my family wakes up. I actually write my “first” drafts in my subconscious, while showering, shaving, and especially while I’m asleep. When I sit down to write it’s often like I’m just taking dictation. To be honest with you, sometimes it feels like cheating!
6. How do you balance writing with work and/or personal life? As best I can, I suppose. I have a wife and children who are very supportive of my creative pursuits. And while my day job often bleeds into nights and weekends, my boss allowed me to largely disconnect from email during three lengthy residencies in my low-residency MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. You need to have people in your lives who support your dreams.
7. Do you have any other projects you’re working on? I have another historical essay I’m looking to have published that chronicles our desire to achieve Heaven on Earth rather than gamble on an afterlife. In the New Year I anticipate taking that essay or the cartographer essay I mentioned earlier and crafting a book proposal to pitch to an agent, as I think both lend themselves to longer explorations. For now my focus is on book promotion, which isn’t as creatively rewarding but is important, I suppose.
8. Any words of advice for aspiring writers? I don’t accept the term “aspiring writer.” If you write, you’re a writer. You can be an “aspiring published author.” But most of what you write will not end up being published, especially in the form of whatever draft you just wrote. But you will have improved your craft a little in the process. Ernest Hemingway said that “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master.” I love that I’ve chosen a creative endeavor where perfection is impossible; it means I’ll always have room to improve.
9. Social media: Tell us where readers can find you (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, website) I just redesigned my website at www.patrick-ross.com. I’m active on Twitter @PatrickRWrites. I need to do more with my Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/patrickrosswriter, but if you visit me there I’ll say hello!
10. Book links: Tell us where to find your books! You can find everything you need at http://www.patrick-ross.com/#!committed/cvpl