Deborah Batterman is a fiction writer, essayist, and teaching artist. A story from her debut collection, Shoes Hair Nails was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies as well as various print and online journals, and a selection of her essays, Because My Name is Mother, is now available as an e-book. She recently finished a novel, Dancing into the Sun. Website/blog: www.deborahbatterman.com. Facebook page: deborah.batterman.
How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?
September will mark my third year as a member. Basically I had begun developing relationships with different writers online via blogs and writing communities. I’d already published my short story collection, and I was looking for that give-and-take of ideas between writers as well as affiliations that might enhance my presence. That’s about when I discovered WNBA. It immediately felt like a great fit – an organization focused on women in the world of publishing but also with a broader view re: the place of books in our lives.
From an author’s perspective, what are some of the advantages of being a part of an organization like the WNBA?
First, there’s the sense of community – a very welcoming one at that. Then there are the really wonderful programs the chapter puts together – everything from strategies for marketing on Facebook to tips from literary agents to panels of writers reading from their work and talking about their processes. Speaking of interesting programs, I’m really looking forward to the one at the New York Public Library on ‘Why Children’s Books Matter,’ just for the pure pleasure of seeing the exhibition and learning a thing or two.
Congratulations on All Mine placing in the First Annual WNBA Writing Contest! What was the experience like? Will you enter next year’s contest?
Thank you. It’s pretty exciting to place in a national contest—maybe even more gratifying since it’s the first for WNBA. The process was very user-friendly and, yes, if I have a story or two that falls within the word count next year, and if I’m not excluded as a result of having a winning entry this year, I’ll certainly consider entering.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw ideas from real life?
The stories I write often begin with an image, or a first line that pops into my head. Sometimes it’s an item in the news that captures my attention. All Mine, for example, grew out of a news story about a string of art thefts from museums in Europe. One man was behind the thefts, and how he got away with it —not to mention the roles his girlfriend and his mother played in helping him steal and hide the art—had me thinking there was good material for fiction here. The very notion that someone could take possession of a portrait because of his fascination with her beauty, and her eyes in particular—and that he got away with stealing so much art so easily—completely intrigued me. A story started to form around this triangle—man/girlfriend/mother. If it’s not something in the news that grabs me, it’s something I see—pairs of shoes lined up on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, a girl sitting on a seat in beauty salon with no idea that her mother has walked out on her, a man who thinks he can jolt the dementia out of his father by taking him to Las Vegas.
I’m always fascinated by authors who say that characters live inside their heads and can take over the narrative. How true is that for you?
Absolutely. My best moments in a story occur when a character does something I did not know he or she would do.
Any future projects in the works?
Well, I’m thinking about compiling another short story collection, as well as a book of essays derived from my blog posts. And there’s another novel brewing, but I don’t want to plunge in untll I have an agent/editor for the one I recently finished.
What’s your take on the rise in the popularity of self-publishing vs. traditional? Would you consider becoming a hybrid author?
The publishing world is in a state of flux—that’s a given. So the question for any writer these days is which way to go: Do I take everything into my own hands via self-publishing, with the array of packagers, etc., now available? Do I hold fast to a traditional route, hoping to find the right agent/editor/publishing house? Self-publishing is a good thing in that it allows a writer to take over the means of production and distribution. It’s not a good thing when it tempts writers to put their work out at least one draft too soon, just because it’s so easy to do it. Some middle ground is needed, and that might be a hybrid publishing paradigm where, conceptually speaking, a writer’s work is vetted by editors even if she’s the one doing the financing. Would I consider that? Maybe. More to the point—as the market becomes glutted with self-published books, I think the role of agents and editors stands to become more important than ever. So nothing would make me happier right now than finding an agent who appreciates/understands my work and gets my novel into the hands of the right editor.
What’s your favorite word and why?
I can’t say I have one favorite word, but I’ll give you the first one that popped into my head as I began thinking about this: bittersweet.
What are you currently reading? Any great recommendations for our members?
Right now I’m alternating between The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. I recently finished Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie, which had a very powerful impact on me as a writer. It’s an important book that speaks to the times we’re living in and what it means to be able to freely tell our stories.