Friday, February 15, 2013

The Words of Bill Stevens & the Art of Guim Tio

I'm going to try something new on the blog. I'd like to have some conversations with artists and writers to dig a little deeper, beyond the obvious questions about their most recent publication or artwork, and see if we can uncover some clues to creativity. How does it work? When does it strike? Can we feed it and guide it in a productive direction? Can it be learned or cultivated? These questions occur to me as I continue in my constant struggle to balance all the different pieces of my life. I want to learn to embrace my creativity and give it more weight in my life. I chose Bill Stevens as my first victim, because he has personally been a creative inspiration to me. I met him at SouthWest Writers and we hit it off. We began to chat about writing and related topics. We became friends.

As we lunched for the first time together, he kept me entertained with rowdy stories from his rather tumultuous life. He spoke clearly and practically about the process of writing. I loved every second of it! I'd been having a particularly discouraging week from a creative perspective. My day job was sucking gigantic chunks of time and energy from my life. I felt at odds with what made me happy and I was frustrated. I wanted to be in my studio, alternatively writing and painting. I'm going to reveal the depth of my dysfunction here, but I actually felt a little short of breath thinking about it. How would I ever have time to accomplish my creative goals while toiling for the man? Why was life so unfair? I have mentioned it before, but I came late to my creative pursuits and I frequently feel cheated by some cosmic force because of it.

I left that lunch rejuvenated and reinvigorated and this is the case every time I see him . Bill is a force to be reckoned with. I was lucky enough to read his novel The Promise of America. It's fabulous. You can read my review on Amazon or Goodreads. This man is so engaged with the writing process, so helpful and generous to those of us still struggling, that I just had to get his thoughts on creativity.

Here they are, in the words of Bill Stevens:

My classical education (Andover and Yale) force fed me the mechanics of literary fiction, from Homer to Falkner. I never thought of being creative and making a living deterred any writing attempt - though I am a dedicated movie fan, and life observer with a wicked memory. I wrote a novel in the 70’s because I was broke. It was not publishable.
          My life has been interesting, sometimes terrifying. Alcoholism, multiple marriages, and financial ups and downs have been commonplace. I did learn that I’m a good storyteller - though verbose - and by the turn of the century I felt a story coming on. Maybe that’s the first point: don’t try to write literary fiction unless you have a story to tell… and they don’t rise mysteriously from the sea.
          I had written extensive expository non-fiction and the like. What deterred me from a novel was that I had stopped pleasure reading - a no no for authors - until I realized that I think and remember in terms of scenes and feelings, like movies. “The Promise of America”, the first book in a trilogy, is continuing scenes in my head.
          I went to work for TSA in Chicago in 2002- schlepping 70# bags. I had free time on breaks and began to flesh out a book -three generations of an Irish family’s adventures in America. I have an excellent memory so that the entire plot was pretty well thought out before I wrote a word, and I filled ten notebooks in two years. Here is the second point. Write what you know, and know yourself. I like to say that I published “Promise” before I became a writer; it’s a good read, but flawed. Before I began “Came the Fall,” I watch Eugene O’Neill’s plays to learn how he stripped his characters and himself bare.
          Rewrites for me are the hardest part. I did more than ten with “Promise’ and am into my third with “Came.” Fortunately my wife is a professional editor; we’re close to the final edit of “Came.” Conventional wisdom says “Go to writing groups,” and I think a bit helps. But it’s my work. If you want to write potboilers for potential profit, join the crowd. But I want to write a literary classic. My way. If you think that literary classic means easy reading, try out William Kennedy’s “The Ink Truck, or Joyce or, god forbid, Faulkner. There is a fine line here that every writer confronts. Just be consistent in your decision.
          I write because I have to. It’s really a pain in the ass, throwing my life topsy turvy. I fall in love with the women, admire the men, and sometimes have to beat myself to get to the computer. I write a bit and play solitaire, write a bit and play solitaire, write a bit… But Damn! It is fun!

Thank you so much, Bill, for sharing your story with us. Can't wait for the next book. Keep 'em coming!

I would also like to share the art of Guim Tio, a brand-new featured artist - just added today to the growing library of Featured Artists at Ink & Alchemy. As always, you can check my FB page or website for more detailed information regarding the program. Click here or on any of the artworks to check out Guim's blog.

I have only one thing to say regarding podcasts - be patient,  they're coming!


  1. So excited about you joining Dana! How fun! Wish I lived closer so I could go see it. Love the new conversations you have with creatives too. I really enjoyed reading the thoughts of Bill Stevens.

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying it, Carin. Especially because I plan on asking you to participate in my new Creatives on Creating Series. :)

    I'm pretty excited about the upcoming exhibit as well. Dana & I met when she came to ABQ to participate in a workshop with Juliana Coles. We ended up sitting next to each other for the weekend, and have been friends ever since. She's a bundle of creative energy!


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