Today at Quotable Tuesday, I am so pleased to visit with my friend and author J. L. Powers. I first met Jessica at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was her first semester. I was assigned to her as a mentor which basically meant she could ask me any darn question and I provided a helpful answer. Only she didn’t need any mentoring or ask any questions. She was already the author of The Confessional (Knopf, 2007 and the editor of Labor Pains and Birth Stories (Catalyst Book Press, 2009). Instead, I got to know a kind and energetic woman with a writer’s soul. When I asked her (via email) what quote sustains her as a writer, I imagined her smiling that smile in the picture, thinking for a moment to find just the right answer and then saying, “The quote that keeps me going the most right now was offered to me by another writing mom last fall. I was making an appearance at a book festival and she was in the audience. She asked me how I do it all—teaching, writing, book promoting, mothering, editor/publicist for my own small press. I said, “I don’t know. I don’t do it all very well, I can tell you that much.”
“The truth is, I feel overwhelmed much of the time. This is a new feeling for me, since before becoming a mother, I used to pile on the projects and it never got old. Now I still pile on the projects but it’s become impossible since my time for completing them is very limited.
“She came up to me afterwards and told me that she’d just started a full-time job as a tenure-track professor at a community college. I looked at her sympathetically—those jobs are not for the weak. She said when she started, she’d been afraid of what would happen to her writing, since most of the other professors in the department had been writers when they started teaching there and basically hadn’t written since they became full-time. There was one huge exception, though, a poet we both knew—Lawrence Welsh. She said she’d been sitting in her office the first day of her new job and Larry had dropped by. She asked him how he did it, since he’s published something like eight books of poetry since becoming a full-time professor. Here’s what he said:
“Do just a little bit of everything every day. Do a little bit of writing, do a little bit of grading, do a little committee work.”
“I love that advice. It was advice I really needed at just the right time. Now that’s what I try to keep in mind—balance, perspective. And I make sure to make some time for writing—just a little bit—every single day.”
And so she does. Her second book This Thing Called the Future (Cinco Puntos Press) came out in 2011 and was named Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. This month, a book she edited That Mad Game: Growing Up in a Warzone, Essays from Around the World (Cinco Puntos) is coming out. Thank you, Jessica, for taking time and doing this ‘little bit’ with us.