Today’s Spotlight is author/editor Jordan Rosenfeld.
I have been following an online magazine for a while now: Sweatpants & Coffee.
Who doesn’t love those two things?
I must say that title caught my attention.
Then I read an essay she wrote, which was published on one I visit weekly:
Full Grown People.
After I read her there I decided to contact her, at her website, to see if she might agree to do an interview with me.
Lucky for me, she said yes, and here we are now.
Here is a sample of her writing, one of the most recent articles she has written:
And now I welcome Jordan.
K: What can you say about yourself? If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself a little first.
J: How funny is it that I draw a blank here? I guess most people know of me as the author of some books, two novels, some writing guides. I’m a writing teacher, as well as the mom of one 6 year-old boy and a teller of dirty jokes. I live in Northern California with my husband and son. I’m a born and bred Californian, in fact, though all my family hail from New York. Writing is the only thing I”m really good at and my one great love.
K: How long have you been writing?
J: In earnest, as in writing stories and such, since the age of 8. Yes, I still have those scribbled on binder pages and hundreds of journals. In pursuit of a career? About 20 years, since I was 20.
K: What education/training do you have in it? How important do you think formal education in something like writing is?
J: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Education is good and I never think you can go wrong learning more, but I have come to believe that the best education for writing is reading widely and writing a lot. Writing is a craft you learn best by doing it.
K: Do you think, to be a good writer, you must open up and reveal as much as you can?
J: I think if you’re writing non-fiction, essays or memoir, you must strive to tell the emotional truth and be as vulnerable as possible. That means that you don’t write from a position of judgment or blame, but rather look at your own part and experience. I don’t think “confessional” writing is particularly interesting, either, unless there’s a lot of strong craft involved–imagery, language, and a goal of the writing. A good essay or memoir should take the reader on a journey. In fiction, which is actually what I’ve written most of in my life, it’s much different–then, you’re crafting experiences through the eyes of a fictional character. In which case, you want to make sure you understand plot/story structure and keep your language interesting.
K: What do you think is the most important quality for any writer to have and why?
J: Persistence. I’ve written an entire book on it, forthcoming in April, called A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. Why? Because if you don’t persist through the many challenges of being a writer, you will give up, or feel depressed, or waste time. Life’s too short to feel sorry for yourself.
K: It can be very hard out there, with so many writers and material for readers to choose from. How would you advise a writer who is just starting out, to get the experience often required for literary magazines and online publications to give them a chance?
J: Read the places you want to be published. Really read them and try to understand their aesthetic. My success as a writer in placing pieces went up exponentially when I finally started doing this. Otherwise, it’s like any craft: practice your craft. Keep at it. Don’t hurry. Rushing something to publication is a form of self-sabotage.
K: Do you think writers must have a lot of struggles in their life to be good? Why or why not?
J: No. I think writers are often just people with a keen sense of observation, or born storytellers. Not all art comes from suffering.
K: Which do you prefer: fiction or non fiction? What do you like about both?
J: To read: I’m drawn most to fiction, which is my first love, which rescued me from difficult things as a child. As such I wrote mostly fiction, predominantly novels, for years. But in the past year I’ve been writing personal essay (and reading them) and have fallen in love with the form, so I’d have to say I love them both for different reasons. I like taking the messy raw materials of life and shaping them into a crafted essay that makes meaning of them. But I will always love a good page-turning story, to escape, to become another character, to travel to other worlds and places.
K: Can you explain a little about Sweatpants & Coffee and your role as Persistent Optimist over there?
J: We are an online magazine dedicated to inspiration and comfort in an often uncomfortable world. We share content that fits our mission. I pen a column called The Persistent Optimist, since I am a natural optimist, that tries to offer some of that optimism back to my readers.
K: What is your writing routine, if any? Do you work best on a deadline?
J: I am pretty self motivated, but I do work well under deadline, yes. My writing routine USED to be rise at 5:30 and write until 8 and then begin my paid work. But once my son was born 6.5 years ago that all changed. Now after my husband takes my son out the door to school around 7:20, I get to work on whatever is most pressing, be it paid work or my own fiction. When I start a fiction project, I write every day as is possible.
K: What tips would you offer a new writer? What is the best way to learn and to get your writing out there?
J: Write constantly. Read widely. Be open. Don’t wait for inspiration and don’t believe in writer’s block. Don’t assume you’re too talented or not talented enough–just keep writing. Persist. Love your writing practice. Ask questions and submit your work when it’s done, widely.
K: Have you had anyone in your own life, a mentor of any sort, who has taught you about writing or supported yours? Or have you been that for someone else?
How can this benefit a newer writer? What does the mentor get out of the relationship?
J: I have had many mentors in and out of school. I always gravitate to people who can teach me. It behooves the young or new writer to ask questions, be open to feedback and realize that others have already trailblazed the path.
K: How do you handle rejection in your writing?
J: I see it as a sign that I either need to go deeper into the piece that is rejected, or take it elsewhere. I used to have a thinner skin but quickly realized all that does is keep you from writing, so I got over myself. I mean, there are days, and occasional rejections that hurt worse than others, but overall, I’m okay
K: How do you think writing has changed with the growth of the internet and social media?
J: I don’t think writing itself has changed all that much, though trends and genres go in and out of popularity, but how authors have to market themselves has changed. Social media is necessary if an author wants to sell books or share online pieces.
K: What sorts of things are you working on now? What would you like to see happen in your writing in the future?
J: I’m working on half a dozen articles or essays and about to begin a new novel. I’d like to have a new agent soon and sell some novels.
K: What do you love about writing? What do you like least?
J: I love everything about writing: the thrill of new ideas, organizing information, the lure of language and creating imagery, the power of making meaning out of things with my own brain…I love using it to connect to others, and to calm and soothe my own brain and heart. I love revising and I love drafting new material. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t love except maybe trying to write to the specifications of someone else when I don’t quite know what they want.
I love all those things about writing too Jordan. Thank you.
While some things about writing are fairly universal, I learn something new each and every time I interview a writer who has something valuable to share.
For anything and everything Jordan (list of all blog posts, articles, essays, books, and courses offered), visit her website at:
Follow her on her author page, on Facebook:
And on Twitter: