witter Chat with 5 Under 35 Honoree Claire Vaye Watkins
Thursday, November 1, 2012, 2:00-3:00pm


National Book Foundation @nationalbook: Welcome to our Twitter chat with 5 Under 35 honoree @clairevaye. Thanks for being with us, Claire!

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @nationalbook My pleasure! Hi everyone.

National Book Foundation @nationalbook: I’ll ask the first question to get the conversation going, and then I’ll open it up for others to ask their questions.

National Book Foundation @nationalbook: Did you always know that your first book would be a story collection? When did you start writing the stories in Battleborn?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: I started the book @ the MFA program at Ohio State. I was there to learn and stories seemed the way to do that.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @nationalbook & I read mostly stories then, so it seemed natural. Also I was afraid of trying a novel. Thus, 1st book=stories.

Jonathan Fiedler @jfieds2: @clairevaye Your stories have such an amazing sense of "place." How do you think place informs plot? @nationalbook

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @jfieds2 For me, they're inseparable. I can't tell what will happen unless I know what it's happening.

Zoraida @zlikeinzorro: @clairevaye I outline the whole novel first otherwise I lose track of my plots. what is your writing process like?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @zlikeinzorro I outline, too. Have learned not to be too loyal to an outline though. I let myself wander & go back to outline when ideas dry up

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @zlikeinzorro Also do a ton of research in there. That's one of my favorite parts.

Stephanie Ziegler @BOOKSBYSTEPH: Do you think you are ready to try your hand at a novel next?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @BOOKSBYSTEPH I'm trying a novel now, but cannot attest to any readiness. It's a scary process.

Ruben Quesdada @rubenquesada: @clairevaye #5u35chat I'd like to ask how attending writing residency programs contribute to your writing process. What is the take away?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @rubenquesada my MFA program def made me a better writer. MFAs cannot perhaps give you something to say, but can help you say it.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @rubenquesada also gave me time, $$, and access to education & resources, of which I would have otherwise had none.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @rubenquesada that's the best counterargument I can think of for MFA programs supposedly homogenizing the world of letters

Jonathan Fiedler @jfieds2:@clairevaye adding to @rubenquesada ? re being a student, has teaching (1st yr full time, right?) helped you write in new ways?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @jfieds2 the pressure on my time has made me stop being so precious about where and when I write.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye:@jfieds2 teaching has also forced me to interrogate old saws: why IS showing better thn telling? What's so BAD abt sentimentality?

Stephanie Ziegler @BOOKSBYSTEPH: For some people it's easy to write a novel, for others it's scary...what makes you scared when your stories are a hit?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @BOOKSBYSTEPH that's kind of you. But writing 1 good thing doesn't cut much mustard w/ the next project, right?

Brittany Wilmes @bwilmes: @clairevaye Did your MFA prgrm give you dependable readers to whom you can send work and trust that you'll receive good feedback?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @bwilmes yes, for sure! gave me brilliant readers. also gave me best friends of my life & the hot guy I live with. not too shabby.

Casey Guerin @CaseyGuerin: @clairevaye What's your research process?

Casey Guerin @CaseyGuerin: Also when you wrote the stories for Battleborn, did you try to fit them for the collection or did you wrote first & add later?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @CaseyGuerin I try to find primary sources from my characters' world: breast feeding message boards, letters from 49ers back home,

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @CaseyGuerin for "Past Perfect..." spent hours watching documentaries about brothels. The best: Pleasure For Sale, a must see!

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @CaseyGuerin at first I just wrote, but then some MFAers, incl Donald Ray Pollock, noticed they were linked by Nevada

Stephanie Ziegler @BOOKSBYSTEPH: I'm a reader, not a writer, what is the MFA program?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @BOOKSBYSTEPH Good on you, Steph. MFA= Master of Fine Arts, the graduate degree in creative writing. Mine was 3 years @ Ohio State

Brittany Wilmes @bwilmes: @clairevaye What was your relationship to your work like before your MFA program? How has it changed?

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @bwilmes I am tougher on myself now. I can hear the voices of my readers & teachers saying "Really? That move?"

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @bwilmes OSU gave a better BS detector. I have a better sense of my ideal reader, and find myself writing for that person now.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: This Twitter chat is brought to you by Gordon Gee, apparently.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @bwilmes Also, leaving NV made me realize what a wonderful, bizarre place it is, helped me see the stories there.

Shilpa @ShilpaRaikar: What time do you start writing? Do you have a regimented schedule when you write? What is it? @clairevaye

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @ShilpaRaikar I try to write in the morning, before the doubt and ennui settle in.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @ShilpaRaikar I would not describe it as regimented though. Consistent, I hope. Smtimes best thing I can do is chill out about it.

Shilpa @ShilpaRaikar: @clairevaye That is so great to hear. I think too it's important to go off the beaten track even for a while, to gain inspiration.

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @ShilpaRaikar Most def. If you hold the reins too tight nothing exciting will happen.

Shilpa @ShilpaRaikar: @clairevaye Beautifully said Claire. Thanks for your inspiring words.

National Book Foundation @nationalbook: That brings us to the end of our chat. Thank you, Claire, for being with us today, and congrats again on the 5 Under 35 selection!

Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye: @nationalbook Thanks for having me, Internet!

about Claire Vaye Watkins

Claire Vaye WatkinsClaire Vaye Watkins was born in Death Valley and raised in the Mojave Desert. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Claire earned her MFA from Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow. She teaches creative writing at Bucknell University and the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, and is the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of The Mojave School, a nonprofit creative writing camp for rural Nevadans. Battleborn is her first book.
Photo credit: Lily Glass
> clairevayewatkins.com
> Twitter: @clairevaye