The 2018 gritLIT Writing Contest has come and gone and we will be announcing our winners very soon, but before we do that, we’d like to bring you one more interview with our third contest judge, Kerry Clare.

Kerry has been writing, blogging, and teaching blogging for over 15 years, and her first novel, Mitzi Bytes, was published last year. We were thrilled to host Kerry at gritLIT last year, and equally thrilled to have her as a judge for this year’s writing contest. You can find out more about Kerry and her writing at her blog picklemethis.com.

Thanks once again to all our entrants and to our judges for their support of the gritLIT Writing Contest. Please stay tuned for the 2019 contest details, coming later this spring/summer.

1. Before you were a novelist, you were – and still are – a blogger. At last year’s gritLIT Festival I really enjoyed your workshop on blogging, and one of my main takeaways from that was your revelation that blogs are inherently messy. I may not have got that quote quite right, but it was inspiring to hear, and I wondered if you could elaborate a bit on the idea of messiness as it pertains to blogging, or writing in general, I suppose.

Messy is *real*—this is why I revere it. Messy is life, and noise, and complications, and messiness is what makes anything interesting anyway. Messiness is also process, which is what blogs are all about, a chance to show your work. And I love that, to be able to see a writer answering difficult questions, trying to figure things out. And as a writer, I am grateful for a space where I get to do those things. I know that my blog made me a writer—it taught me how to use my voice, look critically at my reading, and, most importantly, it taught me how to show up, which in writing can be one of the bigger challenges. Blogging also gave me the faith to conquer the first few imperfect (messy) drafts of my novel, not to worry too much about polish or perfection (both of which can be huge distractions from the bigger picture), but to focus on getting the book done.

2. Mitzi Bytes is a fun, sort-of-mystery novel but there are also deeper themes that are explored as the story moves along. Women’s friendships, honesty, secret – and not-so-secret – lives. There is a lot going on. Did you intend to explore those themes when you started the novel, or did they reveal themselves to you as you went along?

I started out with plot—this woman who has a secret blog who’s about to be found out—but in order to make the plot meaningful, I had to make the characters enacting it into rich and developed characters. I had to give my protagonist friends, and family, and a nemesis, a job, and a book club. And along the way, the world crept in, and the novel became a space for me to explore many of my fascinations, about female friendships, the lines between life online and off, issues about motherhood, and feminism, and literature. I really enjoyed the process of all of these pieces coming together, and have kind of transformed into one of those writers I used to think were lying when they told you that their novels wrote themselves.  

3. Our creative nonfiction/memoir writing contest deadline has passed, of course, but I wondered about your writing style. Are you a last-minute, procrastinator kind of writer, or do you have work submitted well before deadline?

Way before deadline! (Remember what I said before about blogging teaching me how important it is to show up to the writing desk?). Which has been really key my success as a freelance writer, I think, that I am reliable and responsible and get the job done. I also have small children and my work days are short, and there is always the chance of it all going awry—so I have to plan for all of this when scheduling my time.

4. We were so thrilled to have you as a judge for this year’s writing contest. Now that you’ve read through the short list and the winners have been chosen (and will be announced soon!) what was your impression of the works submitted?

I loved reading these pieces. Surely I have to say that? But the thing is that I actually mean it. Each of the pieces on the shortlist had something interesting to offer, and I really enjoyed reading them all.

5. Finally, can you let us know what’s next for you on the writing front? Will we hear more from Mitzi/Sarah do you think?

I’m at work on my new novel, which is called ASKING FOR A FRIEND, and about the progression of a friendship over decades. I wish I could say that it’s writing itself, but it’s not. Fortunately, I get to write it, and I am enjoying that process a lot.

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