Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I really enjoyed reading last year’s community novel, Capital City Capers, as it came to life week by week. I wanted to be a part of this year’s project so that I could add my part to a collaborative work, and take part in the fun of watching it come together.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy?
I think that this year’s premise is very intriguing! At this point in the writing, our characters still have a lot of developing to do, but I like Ronni, and her friend Pete, very much. Already Julia is my favorite character, and I can’t wait to see what she reveals. The challenges of these characters are in trying to know them when we come from very different places. I understand Ronni’s dedication to scholarship, but anthropology is a field that I have touched base with only in a survey course. Julia is coming to us from a long way in the past, no doubt with a very different perspective on life than a woman of our age. It will be interesting to see how these two women interact in order to shed light on a fascinating period in American history.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
The chapter before mine was written very strongly! My first reaction, to be honest, was something like: “What did I get myself into?”
Of course, having a strong and interesting chapter to spring from was a lift for my own writing, and I was definitely grateful after my initial panic to have such a great lead to follow.
What is your favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?
I am particularly happy to have turned Pete into a librarian! I think that there are a lot of great possibilities for his character, and the partnership that seems to be springing up between Ronni and Pete. I am also pleased to have taken the two into a local bar and grill, Speck’s, which I hope will get all kinds of folks to try out those great burgers.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
Well, I do want Ronni to break it off with Charles, I admit it! I want Julia to really illuminate her history, and to help Ronni understand herself better, in the process. I want to see a bar scene set in Lawrence. And jazz. Much more jazz!
How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?
I think that after reading chapter 2, it seemed pretty obvious to me that Ronni and Pete’s dinner break would be a great opportunity for character development. I wanted to use my chapter to share a little more information about Ronni’s academic goals, and to hint at what drives her. I also wanted to get to know Pete a little better, and to let Ronni soften up towards him a bit more. That said, there were little bursts of inspiration that kept the writing exciting for me as I went. For instance, Ronni’s enthusiasm about Carry Nation and Kansas women, and how that revealed a little about herself and her goals.
What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?
I had the great experience with this project of sitting down to write with a deadline ahead of me. I learned that having a deadline is a great way to get motivated!
What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?
I have been writing as long as I can remember, but for many years I focused exclusively on journaling and poetry. I also have a lot of experience with academic writing, because I was an English major and have worked as a writing tutor for many years. In the last couple of years I’ve really put a lot more time into fiction, but I have never written a collaborative work. It was very different for me to pick up someone else’s thread and premise and just roll with it! It was, in some ways, amazingly freeing. I enjoyed the writing process itself very much, and found that I didn’t overthink my writing as I often do when shaping up my own ideas.
What did you like best about being involved in the Community Novel Project?
Getting to know others who are passionate about writing in my community!
Miranda Ericsson Kendall was born in the Ozarks of Missouri, but she has lived in Topeka, Kansas, for 20 years. She graduated from Highland Park High School, and earned her degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Washburn University. She is a joyful mom with two bright children and one pug-terrier mix, and loves to be outside enjoying the beauty of Kansas with them whenever possible. She is often caught reading science fiction, poetry, or children’s picture books. Dogs, unicorns, and history are some of her favorite inspirations.