I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by author Patricia Steffy, who shares...
ELF: What scares you the most or makes you the happiest about writing?
PS: Oh, boy! Trepidation follows me throughout the writing process. I'm nervous about the concept. I'll second guess characters. I'll wonder if the subtext is clear. I love dense dialogue, but I know that others can prefer it always to be zippy. At least 10 times during the process, I'll question the entire project.
But nothing puts me more on edge than sharing the work with an audience. It takes me forever to actually send out my work even to friends (or perhaps especially to friends because I'll see them again and anonymous critics are … well, largely people I'll never meet). Sharing the work is a leap of faith I have to make to move forward. It's vital to enhancing my craft. It's critical if this is how I want to earn my living. And yet, sharing the work always feels like stepping off a cliff, even when previous versions or projects have been well-received.
It strikes me as something close to irony then that one of my biggest joys is having an audience connect with my writing. While I always try to please myself first when declaring a project ready for the world, I cannot deny that hearing people laugh, seeing the tears or watching people recognize themselves in a character or story, is an incredible feeling.
The experience is also different every time the work is shared with a different audience. Anyone who has sent work out to readers can tell you that if you ask for critiques from six different people, you will get six different responses. Readers will react differently to the essays in My Letter to Fear depending on where they are with their lives. Some essays will simply resonate more than others because of the backgrounds, ages, and experiences of the reader. And I love that!
The same has been true with live audiences. I've been lucky enough to have My Letter to Fear performed in two staged readings. The first was when it was just a small collection of essays and the second was after the collection was published. The actresses and audiences in both cases had very positive reactions, but what they reacted to and how they reacted, changed. Some things came across as funnier. Some emotional moments hit the audience harder. It's unpredictable but thrilling none-the-less. You can see clips from the second reading here if you are curious: http://www.patriciasteffy.com/showcase/
It's hard for me to imagine a time where I won't be scared during the writing process. Maybe that does change as more work is completed and released, or maybe it is the second guessing that keeps me on my toes as I go. The one thing I do know is that the fear won't stop me from trying to reach people with the stories – mine, or in the case of My Letter to Fear the stories of others.
My Letter to Fear
by Patricia Steffy
by Patricia Steffy
Over the course of two years, Steffy conducted interviews with the fabulous women around her and their equally fantastic friends. She put no restrictions on age, or ethnicity. They just needed to be willing to answer some questions. The questions covered a variety of topics, including aging, body image, abuse, rape, addiction, confidence, loss, beauty myths, and fear. Steffy asked them about the expectations they had for their lives when they were very young versus their current realities as adults. She asked them to tell her the best things about themselves (a question which was surprisingly difficult for people to answer) and the worst things. Those answers—the funny, the heartbreaking, and the hysterical—and her own experiences became the basis for these essays.
Like most young girls, I was once told that everyone is good at something. All you have to do is find the one thing you are absolutely passionate about and make it your own. Once you do that, or so I was told, life would unfold according to plan.
Question: what happens when the one thing you are good at is worrying? Because I'm really, really good at that.
I once got into a heated discussion with an ex because he thought worrying was a ridiculous waste of time, and this astounded me. Of course worrying is useful! Without worry, you don't plan for every possible contingency. Without worry, you can't possibly cheat Murphy's Law, Destiny and the Fates. With worry, you might just pull one over on them.
I worry about everything. I can do it anywhere and at any time. Ninety-eight percent of my brain can be thoroughly engaged, but that shifty two percent is secretly trying to figure out what to do in case of an earthquake, flood, famine, poverty or the cancellation of my favorite television show. ...
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Pieces from My Letter to Fear were featured in a one-night only special showcase event. The showcase was directed by Danielle Turchiano and featured readings from Nikki DeLoach (Awkward.), Lesley Fera (Pretty Little Liars), Stevie Lynn Jones (Crisis), Jen Lilley (Days of Our Lives), Roma Maffia (Pretty Little Liars), Dennisha Pratt (The Sunny Side Up Show), and Carla Renata (Hart of Dixie). You can see excerpts from the readings here: http://www.patriciasteffy.com/showcase/
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The tour dates can be found here