• Staff Spotlight: Emily Gray Tedrowe

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments No comments

    Over the past few months we’ve been introducing you all to the wonderful consultants and coaches who help keep WriteByNight running like the smooth, well-oiled writers’ services machine it is. Next up in our Staff Spotlight series is Emily Gray Tedrowe.

    Emily, we are very pleased to note, recently sold her novel Blue Stars to St. Martin’s Press. In the following Q&A, you’ll learn about Emily’s influences, writing advice, and the time when she finished her novel while being barked at by a coffeeshop owner.


    Where are you from?

    New York City originally, now living in Chicago.


    Where did you study?

    Princeton University for a BA and New York University for a PhD – both in English literature.


    List some of your influences.

    If by influences we take to mean “writers I reread compulsively because I madly love their work,” I would say: John Updike, Carol Shields, Gustave Flaubert, Ann Beattie, Alice Munro, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Charles Baxter, Marcel Proust, Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster, Richard Ford, Laurie Colwin, and at least a dozen more escaping me at the moment.


    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    Standing back from the work after a draft is complete in order to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  I think there’s a natural resistance to this, especially when it comes to longer pieces of writing such as novels … but I know there’s no getting out of it.  Usually it’s only possible to see what the flaws are once you have a whole draft, and that’s when you have to suck it up and make whatever changes are needed in terms of structure or pacing or narrative arcs.  What’s helped me when I get to this stage: reads and comments (and commiseration) from other writers I trust; believing that the doing of revision is never as painful as the fear that comes before plunging in; long solo walks where I sort out different ideas and solutions and conceptions of the book.  Unfortunately, during those walks I tend to talk out loud.  To myself.


    What is your strangest writing experience?

    Finishing my novel Commuters in a crowded Chicago coffeeshop just at the moment the crabby owner rudely insisted I move from my table to accommodate a loud party of tourists.  Caught up in a feverish intensity of the end of the book, I went along without protest and literally typed the last sentences while perched on a saggy couch with other people’s dirty dishes strewn all around me.  And I couldn’t have been happier.


    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    Yesterday I finished Alys, Always by Harriet Lane; it’s a debut novel by a British writer who came up in London journalism so we know she’s got wit and sharpness to spare—how great is the magazine name Tatler, by the way?  Wouldn’t we all love to have that in our bios?—and this book was sly and assured and terrific.  It’s about what happens after a quiet provincial editor named Frances comes upon a car accident and comforts the dying driver, who happens to be the posh wife of a celebrated Amis/McEwan-type novelist … and how Frances seizes a pretty shocking opportunity … I can’t say any more because you just have to read it.  It’s fantastic.


    What’s the last movie you saw that was based on a book and how was it?

    “Oz, The Great and Powerful” (with my nine-year-old daughter).  How was it?  Well, as Dorothy tells Oz in the 1939 classic, “You oughta be ashamed of yourself!” Okay—it wasn’t that bad.  My daughter liked the sister witch characters and I’ll take James Franco in just about anything.


    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    Learn to love getting up early to write for an hour before your day starts.  Okay, maybe you don’t need to love it, but mastering that skill of being up and at your desk, coffee at hand, for at least an hour’s worth of quiet writing time (doesn’t count any internet surfing) is probably the best thing I think you can do for your career.  If you can regularly hit that, say, five out of seven mornings a week, you’ll have a huge advantage because consistency is a big part of it.  I know, I know, setting your alarm for 5:10 a.m. sounds ugly—and it is, at first.  But what I always tell newer writers is that there’s a secret.  Getting up early every morning is much, much easier than doing it once in a while.  And this is coming from someone who wrote her first novel as well as her first published novel (because those were two different things) one pre-dawn hour at a time, with a night-nursing infant and a night-waking toddler.  If you don’t have kids or a job or any daytime responsibilities then maybe this advice isn’t for you.  But if you do this is my best piece of advice. (I’m sorry!) One hour of pre-dawn writing, most mornings.


    Emily Tedrowe, consultant, coach and instructorEmily Gray Tedrowe (Chicago, Illinois) is the author of the forthcoming novel Blue Stars (St. Martin’s Press) and Commuters: A Novel (Harper Perennial), which was named an IndieBound Next Notable Book, an Entertainment Weekly “best book of the summer,” and a Target Breakout book.  Her short stories, one of which received an Illinois Arts Council award, have appeared in the Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row JournalFifty-Two Stories, Crab Orchard Review, and Other Voices, among other journals.  Emily has studied creativity coaching with Eric Maisel, and has taught writing at all levels, from high school to graduate students.  She has a particular interest in coaching writers who are parents and/or have busy day jobs, and specializes in how to fit writing into life’s constant demands.  Originally from New York, Emily now lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.


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