Diann Shope

It was hot – in the 90s – up there among the Ponderosa pines and the wild turkeys that daily skittered through the grounds.  At night we could hear the coyotes and see a zillion stars.  I was attending a month-long meditation retreat in the foothills outside Spokane, Washington.  We were silent all day and meditated five hours in the loft of the former farm’s converted barn.  Some creative activity was encouraged as a complement to the meditation, and painting wasn’t really doing it for me.  It crossed my mind that I could try some creative writing.  Wooosh!  All these stories came pouring out - I was flabbergasted!  In that month I wrote four stories (with a pen), and in the following months another nine (on the PC) – well over 100,000 words.

I had no goals, I was just writing for the joy of it.  Then I read Olive Kitteridge and realized I had the makings of a novel in the form of short stories linked by a central character.  In time, two novels emerged, and I wrote additional material to add to the shorter one.

What has been so amazing about this writing experience is the way it happens – it just comes.  There is, of course, some shaping and wondering about this and that and deleting and adding.  And some details are from my own experience.  But mostly I feel it’s coming through me, not from me.  It’s wonderful to hear that other writers have the same experience.  What’s even more amazing is how the characters say things that shed light on my life.  I’ll write something, and a few days or weeks later I realize there’s an insight that applies to personal events or issues.  How does that happen?  What a mystery!

I had a good grasp of the mechanics of writing, having had fine English teachers in high school (bless you, Miss Hayford, Miss Anderson, Mr. Stensland).  Working for the City of Seattle for 30 years, mostly in finance, I had lots of experience writing – correspondence, reports, issue papers, contracts, press releases, legislation.  Needless to say, fiction would have been totally inappropriate – bureaucrats aren’t supposed to make up stuff! 

But here I am now, retired, making up stuff, enjoying the writing, the revisions, the critique groups and classes, the conferences, the blogs about writing and the publishing business.  All this gets fitted in between my rowing and meditating, house projects, reading, and time spent with friends and family. 

We’ve lived in Seattle 45 years, having moved here shortly after we married.  We have pears, raspberries, blueberries and grapes in addition to the usual flora of an urban lot.  My husband is a marine surveyor; when he’s not surveying, he tends the house and garden and makes grape juice and wine. I make a lot of jam.  We’re lucky to have our two sons living in Seattle with their families – they eat up a lot of jam.

We travel – Romania and France in 2012, Ireland in 2010, France, Greece and Scotland earlier.  And we’ve been active in supporting Waldorf Education.

My degrees are in International Relations.  I attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and the University of Denver.

 

Favorites

Writers:  Jane Austen, Barbara Kingsolver, Tony Hillerman, Wallace Stegner

All Time Favorite Books (currently):  Pride and Prejudice (Austen), Animal Dreams (Kingsolver), Broken For You (Kallos), Beginner’s Greek (James Collins), The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Barbery)

I'm especially interested in books about people over sixty.  Here are some good ones:  The English Major, Jim Harrison; Julie and Romeo, Jeanne Ray; The Great Man, Kate Christensen; The Spectator Bird (National Book Award), Wallace Stegner; Olive Kitteridge (Pulitzer Prize), Elizabeth Strout; Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Deborah Moggach; The Love Ceiling, Walter’s Muse, The Reinvention of Albert Paugh, Jean Davies Okimoto; Everyman, Philip Roth; The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,  Rachel Joyce; Rules for Old Men Waiting, Peter Pouncey; Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf.

I’m looking for more titles.  Do you have some?  If so, please send them on the blog or email me: diannshope@gmail.com.

On a totally different topic:  The business of one of my sons is electric bike conversion kits.  If you want an electric bike, but don't want to pay that steep price, consider converting your own bike.  www.cleanrepublic.com