The Real Writer is moi, writing instructor Chris Stewart. I cut through the myths and delusions about the writing process, while honoring your unique vision and voice. I mentor, teach, edit, critique, inspire, challenge--sometimes nag if you need it--always support, writers of all abilities.
The right client for me is someone who wants to have a writing practice and writing life. I help you define what that is--what you need--and help you develop and maintain it.
You should be passionate about writing, excited to learn some craft, celebrate both strengths and weaknesses (weaknesses point you in the right direction!), and have a sense of adventure and wonder. And I hope you love to read!
To share an overused, but apt, quote by Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” I do believe in this (you must be moved by something to move others).
That said, he adds, in an interview in the The Paris Review, "But another distinction I made is: however sad, no grievance, grief without grievance. How could I, how could anyone have a good time with what cost me too much agony, how could they? What do I want to communicate but what a hell of a good time I had writing it? The whole thing is performance and prowess and feats of association."
So don't be dramatic about the surprise and the tears. Don't think that your writing, as long as honest, does all the work for you. There is a certain artifice that plays a part as well. A certain showmanship that shapes and informs the material. This is why everything is fiction. Even the news is part fiction--what is and isn't highlighted, spun, developed, makes it so.
This is where craft comes in. And practice. Lots of practice.
You don't have to have written anything in the past or have a degree or have published anything to work with me. You can have a novel or nonfiction work or poetry manuscript you'd like to shop around to agents, submit to contests, or self publish, play with various forms of writing, or have a specific project in mind--perhaps a portfolio for a M.F.A. application, a story to submit to magazines, a poem for someone's birthday. Maybe you're just looking for a deeper and more lyrical way to journal.
As a writer, I've participated in and tried a lot of cool stuff that I share with you on this site--artist residencies, big name conferences (yes, Bread Loaf), meetings with agents and editors, collaborations with artists in other disciplines (I once wrote poems to be read during an aerial performance with trapezes and hoops), pilgrimages to authors' homes (two that stand out: the Brontë house in Haworth, England, followed by the six mile round trip trek out to the farmhouse that inspired Cathy's home in WUTHERING HEIGHTS and standing on the empty moors, listening to that fierce wind. This past year the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, which is indescribable. Anne wanted to be a novelist and had started a fictionalized account of her family's ordeal called THE SECRET ANNEX).
I've hosted/planned a six hour poetry and performance marathon, readings and panels at book festivals, and conferences. I've taught interesting classes (animations created from poems, flash fiction, ten minute plays, ekphrastic and visual poetry) and I'm always looking for new things to try. Recently, I read as part of an event at the Baltimore Book Festival where other artists (visual, performing) interpreted what was read. Check out the video of the musician/singer who responded to my poetry under the "Diary of a Writer" category.
I'm a moderator on a site that matches writers with agents (Author Salon), have supported and participated in New York Conferences that do same (Algonkian Conferences), am now the editor of a small press with a first novel prize (Del Sol Press), and have been a manuscript editor for over twenty years.
Three things you should know about me:
1) I am not kidding when I say I take your book on as if it were my own. I have spent hours on the phone brainstorming with writers about their characters and plot. Critique/revision can be fun and exciting. (Yes, you read that right. It's called "the creative process," and if you're not feeling thrilled, terrified, and sick to your stomach during it, you need to go deeper). I will give you a lot more time and effort than you paid for. If you email me six years later with a question, I will remember you and your book.
2) I am not a snob about quality of writing or subject, and will not be offended by whatever you write as long as it's earned, but I am also not your therapist or your girlfriend. I'm happy to be in the trenches with you, but trenches have boundaries.
3) I expect you to learn something--and want to as well. How to be a better editor of your own work. How to take risks. Elements of craft you're not using or need to use more effectively. What your limitations are. And I expect you to have a sense of humor and a healthy amount of objectivity as we explore these things.
Bonus Info: I am nice, funny, smart, and like dogs more than people. I have an amazing niece, two fabulous nephews and wonderful godchildren, belong to a kick ass literary arts community, and have lived in Baltimore for nearly 20 years because there is no place like it and we are making it better every day. I'm a real person, working writer, total goof, natural blonde, my first concert was Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins with my dad when I was eight years old, and my favorite book is MOBY DICK. Please be a real, nice person, too, and we'll work well together.
Thanks for reading!
And now for the serious bio stuff:
A former artist-in-residence with Creative Alliance in Baltimore, she has a M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing and poetry, is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Blackbird, The Cortland Review and other literary magazines. Her ten minute plays, Anesthesia (about where we 'go' under anesthesia--the surprising world and choices we find there), and Literary Land (inspired by Shannon Hale's novel AUSTENLAND, about what happens when one takes a 'literary' vacation and plays the role of a heroine in a novel) have been performed in showcases for local playwrights.
Chris has led workshops for the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins, and at Carver Center for Arts and Technology and The Baltimore Museum of Art, where her poetry, and that of participants, was recorded and added to the audio tour for the permanent collection.
Chris is also the Editor in Chief of Del Sol Press where she created its First Novel Prize, which was judged by award-winning novelist Madison Smartt Bell. Its inaugural winner THE SINGING SHIP will be published in 2017. The second and third place winners were offered agent representation and their novels are being shopped now. The 2017 contest will open in January, 2017 via Submittable. Check the Del Sol Press website for the announcement.
Interested in editing and/or critique services? Email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find specific information about her services here.