It's March 20th. Which means, it's SPRING! But, who was counting? If only Ol' Man Winter knew this fact. He is throwing a mighty fit outside my house, right now. Seriously. It sounds like the house is about to lift off, Wizard of Oz style, and it's scaring my animals. Not me, though. I'm one tough cookie (eep!).
As long the roof stays over my head, I'd like to welcome Cinthia Ritchie to We Do Write.
Cinthia Ritchie is a former journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee who lives and runs mountains in Alaska.
She’s a recipient of two Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards, a Connie Boocheever Fellowship, residencies at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Hidden River Arts, the Brenda Ueland Prose Award, Memoir Prose Award, Sport Literate Essay Award, Northwest PEN Women Creative Nonfiction Award, Drexel Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award and Once Written Grand Prize Award.
Her work can be found in New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Memoir, Under the Sun, Literary Mama, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Breadcrumbs and Scabs, Third Wednesday, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart Press and over 30 other literary magazines and small presses.
Her debut novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb. 5 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.
Welcome to We Do Write, Cinthia. You have an impressive list of accomplishments. How long have you been writing?
Oh wow, I've been writing since I was about five years old. I used to write stories for my stuffed animals. I still remember jumping from my sister’s bed to my bed, the floor beneath us littered with scraps of my stories, which for some reason we pretended were crocodiles.
Yikes! I've heard those paper crocs are FAR worse than the real ones. Glad you and your sister survived.
Tell us about DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY. I have to admit, I am in love with your cover. So, what is the story about?
It’s a quirky Alaska story with oddball characters, the ghost of a Polish grandmother, a couple of ornery moose and a recipe for communion wafers. Here’s the official blurb:
Carla Richards is many things: an Alaska waitress who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income; a divorcee who can't quite detach from her ex-husband; and a single mom trying to support her gifted eight-year-old son, her pregnant sister and her babysitter-turned-resident-teenager.
She's one overdue bill away from completely losing control--when inspiration strikes in the form of a TV personality. Now she's scribbling away in a diary, flirting with an anthropologist, and baking up desserts with the ghost of her Polish grandmother.
Still, getting her life and dreams back on track is difficult. Is perfection really within reach? Or will she wind up with something even better?
Sounds like a really fun read. How did the idea of the story come to you?
I was a single mother working two jobs at the time and late at night I’d sit in the bathroom and read (the bathroom was the only place where I could get away from the cats). One night it hit me: There were very few books with single mother heroines. I decided to change that.
A few nights later while I was reading in the bathtub, I saw or imagined I saw, the ghost of my Polish grandmother. Ach, Pudel, she said, and just like that the story came to me.
As a single mother working two jobs myself, I LOVE the idea of a single mother heroine. We just don't get enough props, do we? With time stretched so thin, do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers to help you out, or do you self-edit?
I belong to a writing group and trust their opinions more than my own, yet mostly I self-edit. The process inevitably opens up untapped parts of my writing, and myself, and while this is sometimes painful, it’s always necessary.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I totally write by the seat of my pants. I don’t plan or outline. I sit down each night not knowing what will happen next, where my characters will take me. It’s what I love most about writing, the mystery and the revelations.
Amen, sister. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Sitting down each night and writing. I stall. I fold laundry, wash the dishes, brush the dog, floss my teeth (and I hate to floss my teeth). Writing is scary. It demands so much emotional energy, so much discipline and dedication. Mostly, it demands hope, and that’s not always an easy thing to muster.
And Amen to that, too! Getting started is such a challenge sometimes. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
Fizzy water. I don’t drink alcoholic or sugary beverages so I keep tall glasses of carbonated water at my desk. The bubbles perk me up.
Hmmm... I should try that instead of the gallons of coffee I consume. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I don’t know. Probably it sounds corny but I’m pretty happy with myself and my life at this point. Though it would be cool to fly.
Not corny at all. But, if you have an interest in flying, you should head on over to my house. I think it's about to be ripped from it's foundation and carried away. What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
Last summer I goggled “moose infatuation,” because when running, I had a young male moose trot after me. He wouldn’t leave me alone and, face it, he was quite a bit larger than me. His ears were all perked up and he looked so happy, almost as if he knew me. I veered off in the woods and hid in a grove of trees, and each time I peeked out, his ears perked up again, almost as if we were playing hide and seek. It was the oddest thing. The google search brought up recipes for moose stew and moose burgers—too funny!
Okay. Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: behavior, havoc, and vacuuming. I’d love to except, um, what is a vacuum again?
Vacuum? Hmm...I'm sorry. I can't help you with that one (but my dust bunnies are grateful for that, at least).
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
Running. I’m a long distance runner and I LOVE running. In the summers I’m always up on the mountain trails, dodging moose and bear scat. There’s nothing like running in the vast silence of wilderness. I can’t get enough of it.
Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
There are so many and I’m sure I’ll forget more than I remember: My partner, Mike. My sister, Candace. My mother, who is 78 and drove 30 miles into the city three times, anxiously waiting for my books to arrive. My friends, running buds and writing groupers: Ela, Susie, Sarana, Louise, David and Jonnie, Scooter and Roy, Deb, Lucian, Kris, Karen, Don, Holly, and the “other” Deb. And strangely, my dog, who is always there for me and doesn’t mind when I hug her smelly head and sob, when I’m stuck in the throes of writing agony.
Thanks for joining us today, Cinthia! It was a pleasure having you.
Cinthia Ritchie and her novel, DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY, can be found: