National Writing Project

Author's Corner: Summer Institute Story Turns into First Novel

Date: January 19, 2011

Summary: Maryland Writing Project teacher-consultant Leslie Goetsch discusses her first novel, Back Creek, and explains how writing and teaching are intertwined in her writing process.


Leslie Goetsch
Leslie Goetsch

Leslie Goetsch attended her first invitational summer institute in 1984 at the Maryland Writing Project, where she now serves as the special projects coordinator and directs the Student Writers' Workshop.

She was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council grant to develop her first novel, Back Creek (Bancroft Press, 2008), about 18-year-old Grace Barnett, who witnesses a strange boating accident that propels a series of life-shaping events.

Goetsch, who is at work on her second novel, currently lives in Baltimore with her husband and two children.

What was your inspiration to write Back Creek?

The idea began with a story I wrote in my Maryland Writing Project invitational summer institute writing group. I wrote a fiction story about a real guy who lived across the creek from my parents in Tidewater, Virginia. The images of the creek and the characters stuck with me and would not leave me alone until I started putting them on paper.

What is your writing process—especially since you have to write and teach?

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what works for me as a writer, but I know I have to write every day and the only consistent time I have found to dedicate to my writing is first thing in the morning. My goal is to sit down every morning and write for at least an hour. If I have more time, I will use it, but I try to commit to that time each day. I do a good deal of prewriting in my head, and so when I actually get down to putting words on the screen I can write pretty steadily.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?

Leslie Goetsch

Back Creek
Bancroft Press, 2008, 240 pages

That someone else might actually want to read it! I also learned how valuable a writing group can be and how important it is to not tie up your ego when submitting your work to possible agents and publishers.

Does teaching others about writing inspire or challenge you about your own writing?

I find teaching about writing serves as a constant stimulus for my own writing. I always write alongside my students, and our shared struggles and successes inspire all of us to keep on writing.

Has your involvement with the Writing Project influenced your writing in any way?

It was only through the "forced" opportunity to write and to be part of a writing group during the invitational summer institute that I discovered the beginnings of the confidence and, subsequently, the urge to make writing fiction an essential part of my life.

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