Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Process Project: Tyrese L. Coleman!

If you're not yet familiar with the Process Project, check us out here!

Meet Tyrese L. Coleman!

Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, and lawyer. She is also a master's student with the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, PANK Magazine Online, the Tahoma Literary Review, Quaint Magazine, and elsewhere. Follow on Twitter @tylachelleco or her blog, Clever Title Pending, at www.tyresecoleman.blogspot.com.

And now, for the questions...

What is your main genre of writing?

I spend most of my time drafting what I like to consider "literary fiction." I have dabbled in young adult, even wrote a whole YA novel before I started graduate school. But, as anyone who has written anything and then gone to a Master's program afterwards, you realize that how you wrote before "learning how to write" is nothing like how you write once you've "learned" how to do it. So, my YA novel is sitting on an electronic MS Word shelf collecting imaginary dust. I tend to write short stories now, however, it appears that what I am most successful at getting published are my pieces of creative non-fiction.

​What is your writing routine like?

Before I can get into the answer to this question, let me explain a few details of my life -- paint a picture, so to speak. I am a licensed attorney who does not practice, but works full-time for the federal government. I am married to a Historian. We have twin soon-to-be two-year old boys. And I have a four-year old Bassador (Basset Hound and Labrador) named Luna. I am also currently a student with the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.

Here is an example of my day-to-day schedule and when I find a time and place to write:
  • 6-9am: shower, get kids up and down for breakfast, take care of dog, drop off kids, and get to work
  • 9am-5:30pm: BS with co-workers, eat breakfast, surf internet, turn up PANDORA (usually listening to Sam Cooke or some other soul station) and in between working on what I get paid to work on, I dip into the always-active open screen to my short story/personal essay/workshop critique/online journal/blog/duotrope/etc etc
  • 5:30-7pm: grab kids, make dinner, feed kids, put them to bed (oh, and maybe say hello to my husband...can't forget him)
  • 7pm-10pm: write and/or read, homework, and sometimes, very rarely, watch TV.
I think the above is evidence of my adult ADHD and short attention span than anything else, but it is also evidence that you can fit time to write into any schedule, no matter how tiring it is. Writing is my default, it is what I am doing when I am not doing anything else.

When you are preparing to write a new story, what kinds of techniques or methods do you use to organize your ideas?

Recently, I've been seeing success in my works of creative non-fiction and have decided to continue using my past real-life experiences as impetuous for new material, whether it be fiction or more non-fiction. This could change, but its what I am up to right now.

When I start any new piece, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, I generally focus on a particular memory or sensation, not so much an event. For example, the feeling of having an aunt comb your hair or riding on the handlebars of a bike. I find sensory details much more interesting than actual events. I write down what is happening in that moment, how the character or myself felt, and then proceed with "what happens next." Sometimes that intro is kept in the story, but often times it is taken out because it doesn't fit with the final piece, but it always leads somewhere.

Where the process differs between fiction and non-fiction, for me, is the pace in which I then proceed to work. With my non-fiction, I find that I can complete a first draft in one sitting. This is because the "story" has already happened, I am just documenting it.

However, it can take weeks for me to finish a short story draft. In some instances, I know exactly what I want to do with a story, but because of a lack of writing time, I may not be able to finish it all within a reasonable amount of time. So, I will go through and bullet point the main plot points and then write everything out as I go along. Other times, I may draft it out on a piece of paper, making notes and corrections.

Other times, I brainstorm. The best thing about working in an office are co-workers. When I am stumped on what should happen next in a story, I confer with one of my co-workers and talk about the story out loud with her. She gives me her opinions and thoughts, but mostly, the exercise allows me to let out what I've had boxed up in my brain since I first got the idea. It really helps to think about a story, characters, plot, theme, etc., out loud in able to voice what the story really is about.

While you are working on a piece, do you have any particular way that you structure your work?

As I mention above, if it is fiction, I will bullet point plot points or major thematic elements that I definitely want to include or I will write them down on a piece of paper and keep it with me, often going back and making more notes. I find that when I start writing with no idea as to what I want to have happen, i.e. "letting the story figure itself out," I end up not finishing. So, I am now trying to employ some of type of methodology where I determine at least one major plot and/or thematic point that holds the whole piece together. Then I write on through to those particular "scenes." Sometimes, those ideas change as I write. The story may have started off as one thing, but the characters I have written have taken it off somewhere else. At some point, I reevaluate and determine if what I've written is consistent with what I want to have happen.

I keep everything in Dropbox so that I can access my documents anywhere. Because I often write at work, at home and over and across several different computers, I find Dropbox to be one of the best ways to get to my work whenever I feel like working on it. Inside Dropbox, I have several different folders for the different types of writing I do. And, I save drafts with a date at the end so that I can see which one is the latest right away.

​When it's time to revise your work, do you have any particular methods that you use to help you through the process? ​
Revision...oh boy.

So, I like to revise first by printing off a draft and line editing. I will shred my draft to bits and question as much as I can via that printed document. Then I go back, make the edits, and repeat. I cannot "revise" on a computer screen. Revising on a computer screen is what I consider drafting the story, as I tend to revise what I previously wrote in a draft over and over again until the draft is complete. I print the draft only when its complete, never before. I don't know why...probably for similar reasons sports players grow mustaches during play-offs, superstition, I guess.

After that point, and especially since I started the program, the story gets workshopped or read by someone else before I move on. After workshop, generally there is a larger revision that may include cutting and adding significant portions of the story and reevaluating what is working and what isn't. Again, the printer is cut off. It is not until I address these issues that I start the second revision process. After that, I print and go through line by line, word by word until my eyes bleed or I start dreaming about my characters trying to attack me with Elmo shaped forks and then realize those aren't my characters, but my children instead.

And most importantly: why do you write?

​I write because it makes me happy. Simple as that. It is the one indulgence in my life that I allow myself to obsess over. I don't want to call it a "hobby," because the word "hobby" does not connote the seriousness in which I take my writing. However, I cannot call it "work" because, to me, "work" involves getting paid, and there isn't too much of that happening.

But, writing is my way of life -- getting life, seeing life, enjoying life, loving life, understanding life, making it through life. When I write, I feel the most like "me." Not Tyrese the employee, the wife, the mother, the fur-mom, the friend. I am just me, enjoying life, when I write. That's why I do it. Simple.

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I want to thank Tyrese for the wonderful answers and inspiration! We are so happy she was able to add to the Process Project,. I loved seeing the life of a real-life writer who does it all! Thanks, Tyrese!!!

Check out some of her work here!
Follow her on Twitter at @tylachelleco 
And read her blog at www.tyresecoleman.blogspot.com.

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