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Interview: Jenny Wortman—What a Writer Wants

by Laura I. Miller

With the weather approaching the 70s this week, you’re probably scrambling to book a few more ski weekends or to nail down your spring-break plans. We get it. But if you want to whip that draft into shape before summer (or in time for your juried workshop at Lit Fest), then today’s the day to get that class on the books! The next round of Lighthouse workshops won’t start until August.

Jenny Wortman

Jenny Wortman

Jenny Wortman knows all about distractions and how Lighthouse can help you reach your writing goals. Designed to be uber-flexible and work with any schedule, the Online Advanced Fiction Workshop she’ll be teaching this March might be just what you need to move your writing project forward amidst all the temptation and greenery.

In addition to editing fiction for the Colorado Review, Jenny has had stories published in the North American Review, the Massachusetts Review, the Southeast Review, Confrontation, and PANK. We’re thrilled to have her on board!

What current projects (writing or otherwise) are you most excited about?

I’m collaborating with visual artist Judith Cassel-Mamet for the upcoming Lighthouse/Art Students League of Denver See & Say exhibit. She’s designed a nifty book format that we’re using to retell Little Red Riding Hood. Neither Judith nor I are big fans of the tale, but that’s precisely why we chose it; we wondered what our aversion to the story would inspire. I realized that Red Riding Hood’s stupidity has always bothered me, so I’m writing a monologue for her that reframes her apparent idiocy. Judith’s visuals for the project are inventive and stunning; I’m excited to see this work in its final form!

I’m also revising an essay about David Foster Wallace and depression that I read at Lighthouse last year. I mostly write fiction; creative nonfiction’s relatively new for me. So I don’t expect much from myself, which is freeing, and makes even writing about depression kind of fun.

How do you write? Do you have any rituals or routines?

I write carefully and carelessly, switching between the two. I’m a slow, vigilant writer; sometimes my vigilance paralyzes me. When that happens, I leave my manuscript behind and write furiously on a separate page to generate raw material—kind of a satellite rough draft. Then I bring the new content to my manuscript and refine it there.

As for rituals or routines, I like to run before I write. But that doesn’t always happen. Does wasting time on Facebook before I start writing count as a ritual?

What would you be if you weren’t a writer?

Probably something else that doesn’t pay the bills: a singer/songwriter or an underemployed English lit PhD. To be a bit more practical, maybe I’d pursue a full-time editing career; right now I edit in various capacities and like it a lot.

What most excites you about Lighthouse?

I was a Lighthouse member long before I became an instructor, so my affection for Lighthouse runs deep: a whole lot excites me! The visiting writers, of course, are phenomenal: it’s hard not to get excited about George Saunders, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Steve Almond, Kazuo Ishiguro, and the like. Lighthouse’s regular faculty is top-notch, and the students are a dream. But what I might love most about Lighthouse is the culture, its blend of moral support, critical rigor, and good laughs. What more could a writer want?

If you could pin your personality to an object what would it be and why?

A frequently used roller skate, because skating makes me ridiculously happy and I don’t do it enough.

Jenny will be teaching the Online Advanced Fiction Workshop starting March 30. Stayed tuned here for more lightning interviews with new instructors joining us in the spring!

Laura I. Miller is Lighthouse’s Program Assistant. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona where she served as co-editor-in-chief of Sonora Review and managing editor of Fairy Tale Review. She also teaches occasional workshops at Denver Writes and contributes to the Books section of Bustle.

About Lighthouse Writers Workshop

Lighthouse Writers Workshop is the literary center for writers, readers, and literary gadabouts in the Rocky Mountain region.

5 comments on “Interview: Jenny Wortman—What a Writer Wants

  1. bravelycreative
    March 16, 2015

    Reblogged this on bravelycreative and commented:
    Not only is Jenny Wortman a great writer, but she’s also a master teacher. She has that unique ability to immediately identify that allusive problem in your story you’ve been struggling with yet unable to identify yourself—what I call the writing “curse.” Online classes allow anyone anywhere to take Lighthouse classes, and I recommend this class for any fiction writer at any stage in their career. I will be taking this particular class so I look forward to reading your work. Oh, and this is a great interview as well! Thank you, Laura Miller and Lighthouse!

    • Jenny W.
      March 16, 2015

      Thank you, Lynn! I’m over the moon about having you in the class. I didn’t want to pressure you while you were still deciding, but now I can say a big hooray!

  2. EmilyS
    March 16, 2015

    ‘The apparent idiocy of Little Red Riding Hood’ made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that, Jenny. –Signed, Another Slow Writer

    • Jenny W.
      March 16, 2015

      We should form a slow writers’ club. I want to follow that with a clever quip, but it’s taking me too long to think of one.

      • EmilyS
        March 16, 2015


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This entry was posted on March 16, 2015 by in The Scoop, Writing and tagged , , , , , .

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