Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of the young adult novels Invisible Fault Lines (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016) and Fingerprints of You (Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012). Her short stories have been published in various literary magazines including FiveChapters, the New Orleans Review, the Greensboro Review, and America Fiction: Best Previously Unpublished Stories by Emerging Authors. She has received awards or fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, VCCA, Hedgebrook, Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Key West Literary Seminar. She was the 2012 D.H. Lawrence Fellow and was awarded the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize in 2010. She holds an MFA in fiction from California State University, Long Beach and currently lives in Charlottesville, Va. She is a member of the University of Nebraska low-residency MFA Writing Program faculty and also teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Goochland County High School and the non-profit organization WriterHouse.
A Behind the Scenes Q & A
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?
A: According to my family, I’ve been telling stories since I could talk, and as a child I’d spend hours narrating intricate plots and dramas for my stuffed animals. But my first memories of writing began when I was about seven years old – my parents took ballroom dancing lessons once a week, and they’d often bring me along. It was during those classes that I wrote my first “book”. I still have it tucked away in my desk at my childhood home, folded and stapled together with my name printed in pencil across the front of the construction paper cover.
Q: WHAT IS A TYPICAL WRITING DAY FOR YOU?
A: To be honest, since the birth of my son there is no “typical writing day” to speak of. Each day is different depending on my teaching schedule and his toddler-life-changing-every-day schedule. On a good day, I write during his naps and try to work for at least a few hours before turning on the Internet, checking email, or logging onto Facebook or Twitter. On the best days, I might work in the morning before he wakes -- my brain is clearer then, and it’s easier to connect with my characters before I invite any real-world chatter into my headspace. I write first drafts on my computer, but I always keep a journal with me wherever I go, and I use it for story and character notes, keeping book lists, eavesdropping in public places, and research. That journal gives me courage when it’s time to write, because I always know it’s filled with literary bits and pieces I can mine when I’m beginning new work. When I’m traveling without my son or working at a residency and have longer stretches of time to work, I break up my writing hours by reading or hiking, as I find that the best thing I can do for my fiction when I’m feeling stuck is to return to literary work for inspiration and the outdoors for fresh air.
Q: WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
A: My favorite place to brainstorm is on the back of my husband’s motorcycle. I’ve never driven one myself, but I absolutely love to ride and find it’s a fantastic place to clear my head and work out plot lines and character details. (Photo 3, Caption: The Blue Ridge Parkway, VA – pull from old website) In terms of actually writing, though, when I’m working on first draft material, I tend to be more productive in new places and, before my son was born, often attended writing residencies where I could become fully engaged with the imaginary lives I’m creating on the page. I’ve received a number of residency fellowships, and, as a result, I’ve been able to work for weeks at a time in a variety of locations such as Key West, New York, Vermont, and Whidbey Island. These days I write at home while he sleeps or in coffee shops when he’s playing at a friend’s or staying with a babysitter.
Q: WHAT DISTRACTS YOU WHEN YOU WRITE?
A: My son and my husband. Reading from that ever-growing stack of books by my nightstand. Researching teaching opportunities or writing programs where I could potentially work. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, and my dog Berkeley when she’s itching to play outdoors.