Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Elizabeth Letts (page 4)
 Talking with
Elizabeth Letts
page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4

How did you “learn” how to write a novel? Any classes/courses?
I did take some creative writing classes in college, like the one I mentioned, but in retrospect, I don’t think they helped me very much. People are different, and some seem to benefit from explicit instruction, but I’m more the intuitive type, and thinking too much about the process tends to make me self-conscious. But I have always been a voracious reader, and I think that’s how I learned to write a novel. When I sat down to write, I just wrote. When I got stuck, I pulled novels off my shelf and tried to figure out how other writers had done it. I avoided “how-to” writing books as well. Sometimes I worry that if I get too technical about how I do what I do that I won’t be able to do it anymore.
I’ve found Backspace,* our online writers’ forum, to be a valuable source of writers’ information and camaraderie. How about you?
I’m surprised at the extent to which the Internet writing community has been helpful to me. I was someone who really looked askance at the Internet, but writers are so isolated that it allows us to make friends, and to swap information which helps us make better decisions. Up through the time I sold my novel, I didn’t know any other writers — I had one friend who was a “writing buddy” but she was as new to the process as I was. Now I have a number of writer friends, and I’ve met many of them through Backspace ( You really don’t need connections to get an agent, but once you’re at the agented stage it is extremely helpful to be able to compare notes with other people who are going through the same thing.
What, for you, is the toughest aspect of writing?
   I think the most difficult aspect of writing for me is to stop writing — to get the characters and their story out of my head and to come back to the present. I do a lot of thinking about the story at odd moments, when I’m washing dishes, or driving the car pool. I get totally distracted, drive past my exit or something like that. Then my kids always yell, “Snap out of it, Mom.”
And the most rewarding?
   The most rewarding part, by far, is in the telling itself, of setting out to tell a story and knowing that I got to the end.
You’ve just submitted a second novel to NAL. What’s next for you?
My second novel, tentatively titled Family Planning, is currently in the editing stages and is due out from NAL sometime next year. I’m also in the development stage for ideas for my third novel, and am working on a children’s middle grade reader set in Morocco.
   Well, thanks for all this great information Elizabeth, and I’ll see you over at Backspace. I’ll be the one wearing the fuzzy slippers
Thanks, Terez. Tell people to come say hi at as well.
* Backspace — — an Internet-based writers' site, hosts discussion forums, a guest speaker program in which agents, acquisitions editors, and bestselling authors conduct online question and answer sessions with the group, and offers articles and advice from agents and other publishing professionals on its homepages. Backspace has attracted the support and participation of many best-selling authors and top publishing professionals, and was recently named one of Writer's Digests "101 Best Websites for Writers."
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