On this episode of A Day in the Life we meet newbie alum (as she calls it) Annie Frazier Crandell, a Spring 2017 graduate. She is mostly a fiction writer (that’s what she studied at Spalding), but she also writes poetry and hopes to one day dabble in both Writing for Children and CNF. Annie lives in Central Florida where, she says, the air is almost always steam shower thick. It was great to hear from Annie and learn more about her writing process. I think you’ll all enjoy this interview because, as you can already see with a few quotes I give, she has a great voice that makes her writing so fun to read.
Now, let’s hear from Annie:
What are your favorite books?
Is there a word count limit to this thing? I think I’ll go for five books that have been hugely influential, just to whittle down the list a bit.
- Ellen Foster (Kaye Gibbons)
- Silk (Alessandro Baricco)
- David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
- The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
- Leaving Atlanta (Tayari Jones)
Do you hold a full-time job other than writing? What do you do?
I’m as busy as if I worked full-time, but it’s not the typical work setup. I manage my family’s small horse farm, but it’s a labor of love. For most of my life, I competed on the national hunter/jumper circuit. My horses, who helped raise me and got me through high school and college, are all over 20 years old at this point and I’m doing my best to give them as idyllic a retirement as I can. Also, I do editorial and social media work for my dad, who’s a writer. I’m now volunteering for the Spalding MFA Alumni Association by running the Twitter account and I’m working on creating a freelance social media consulting and management business. I mainly want to cater to writers, but I’m open to just about anything.
What part of writing do you like the most?
Language. And voice. I love when a storytelling voice comes to me, and I love shaping and molding that voice into something that one might consider meaningful.
Do you work with an outline or just wing it?
Been wingin’ it since ’03! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach, though. I always think I’ll find a way to be more efficient, but anything I write stems primarily from a voice or an image or both at once. It’s a process of layering for me, where voice and language are always (a-l-w-a-y-s) the base layer and the rest I have to build, slowly but surely—but only after I’ve hunted around and found the materials I’ll need. I wish I could pull a John Pipkin or a Rachel Harper and have the whole mechanism of story and plot and theme largely settled before I begin typing, but my writer’s mind stubbornly doesn’t work that way. That said, I have learned to outline extensively after a first solid draft is done (thanks, Rachel!), which I find incredibly helpful when dealing with the unwieldiness of a novel.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I do, to some extent. It’s usually related to not having time to take a breath and just exist in the world, which is so important to my creative process. When I’m blocked up, I try to find time for a solitary drive, even a short one, and I look for roads in my town I haven’t driven before. Seeing new sights and being alone in the landscape brings the words back to me. Also, when I’m feeling drained of story, I try writing poems. Getting back to the language and to imagery helps rev me back up for fiction. I’m currently in a poetry phase right now, though it’s likely I’ll ditch most of those “poems” by eventually turning them into the sentences and paragraphs they truly want to be.
Do you listen to music while writing and, if so, what kind?
Usually I need something instrumental or nearly instrumental, meaning the singing is distorted or sparse and can sound to my brain like another instrument and not a voice—think Explosions in the Sky, Ratatat, that first Bon Iver album. But I also create Spotify playlists for characters, especially for my novel, so when I need to hear a character’s specific sound, I’ll listen to music with lyrics—for instance, Dolly Parton for one of my novel characters, Nirvana and early Weezer and Green Day for another.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Mostly I work on the farm and spend time with my husband and our cats, who all showed up in our lives at random and in need. I also probably spend a little too much time on social media, but the literary corner of Twitter is kind of a wonderful place to hang out. Plus,I’m trying to make it my job, so it’s not all wasted time!
Can you tell us about an upcoming project?
I’m about to dive back into my novel, which was my Spalding thesis. I plan to finish revising it and adding to it until it feels ready to send out to agents, hopefully sometime this coming spring. I’m also percolating a series of poems related to living on the farm. Who knows if that will go anywhere (or be anything people would want to read), but I can imagine it becoming a micro-chapbook (a term I learned from lovely literary Twitter), so I’m aiming myself at that right this minute. I’ve also got a handful of stories I’m working on—mostly flash fiction—that I hope to have ready to submit somewhat soon.
Where can we find your work?
For a full list of publications, head over to anniefrazier.com (I publish under my pre-marriage name). Recently, I had three pieces of fiction come out in the span of a few days. I had two flash pieces (“Nightmares” at Crack the Spine and “Slather” at CHEAP POP) and a longer short story, which I honed at Spring residency with Neela Vaswani and the best darn workshop crew ever assembled (“Serpentine,” at Still: The Journal).
What does your daily schedule look like?
My daily schedule is, sadly, pretty light on the writing at the moment and therefore probably not super interesting to an audience of fellow writers. But here goes anyway. I start my day by quickly checking on the social media accounts I currently manage, then I head down to the barn to feed the horses, tend to their old-age needs, clean stalls, scrub water buckets, etc. That ties me up from about 7:30am until 11am or noon.
Back at the house, I grab some breakfast and plan out the rest of my day. The past month, it’s been mostly editing furiously with a writer whose novel comes out next year. Then maybe, on a good day, I’ll find a few minutes to write. Not always doable at present. Fingers crossed I’m able to change that soon. I’m currently writing in little stolen snatches of time throughout the day—frequently on the whiteboard in the barn, which I then take photos of with my phone. I often find that my progress on any project is paused or halted by something else that requires my attention, so I don’t always get things done as quickly or smoothly as I hope to. But I feel like I’m using what I learned as a Spalding MFA student about writing even when it seems hard to write, so I’m glad about that.
What do you wear to write? Whatever I’ve got on. I know some folks like to curl up in PJ pants to write but attire isn’t one of the things I’m too specific about in my routine.
As for recent reading, I’ve been focusing on literary magazines and journals lately, both online and in print. It’s high time I settled with a nice thick novel, though.
Procrastination? Don’t get me started. I’m capable of procrastination inception, and any kind of distraction will do.
Advice for someone looking for a more productive routine? I’m probably the last person anybody should turn to for advice about that! Get back to me once the crazed post-grad days have subsided and maybe I’ll have some thoughts…
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Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, puppy, and son. She’s traveled to 65 countries solo, now taking the baby along. She blogs about family travel at A Wandering Scribbler while writing novels and binge-watching British TV.