Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creative Writing: an Interview with Chris Woods

Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and in Chappell Hill, Texas. He recently completed a darkly comedic novel, HEARTS IN THE DARK, about a radio talk-show host. His photo essays
have appeared in Public Republic, Narrative Magazine, Glasgow Review, Best Fiction and Deep South. He shares a gallery with his wife Linda at Moonbird Hill Arts. I first met Chris via a creative writing class I took many years ago at Rice University Continuing Studies. Here is one of my favorite poems from Chris:

Edward Hopper’s Women

So easy to call them fragile,
but that is how they appear
their eyes fixed on something
still unnamed.
Moving and not.
Inside the wide world of a room.
Or through a window, staring into the void.

In the end, all that truly matters
is that they continue to gaze.
that their eyes have not yet closed
in private defeat, even if the world itself
has given up the cause.
Their faith is not in what they see,
but in what they seek.

Out there, beyond a world
always so very close to breaking.

How does teaching creative writing affect your own writing practice? I think it helps. Teaching keeps me involved with others who are being creative. It helps me to know how others work, what they write about, what is meaningful to them. Because I submit my own work, I am familiar with the writing markets. I share this information with my classes. In my mind, it is all connected.

I know you often assign writing exercises involving photographs. Do you write from visual images yourself? Personally, I find that a single image is seen and interpreted differently, and often quite distinctly, by each person. This is because we have different pasts, memories and life experiences. A visual image can awaken something inside us in a way that a written prompt cannot. When I am writing, I often begin with a visual, whether imaginative or simply something I have observed. It rarely fails to ignite the creative process. Images can dip into our subconscious.

You have had many plays produced. What has that been like? There are few more exciting things than to see one's characters come to life on stage. Different actors bring something new to a role, no matter how many times a playwright sees a work produced. I have learned much from actors and directors. I am thankful for the collaborative effort to produce theater. Most writing comes about in solitary confinement, so to speak, so to work with others on a play is completely different, and I think most rewarding.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your creative process. I do not write every day unless I am trying to complete a longer project. I write when the spirit moves. But I usually do something related to writing every day. It might be to make a submission, or to correspond with an editor. I make notes. I revise. I work on photographs. I keep my foot in the creative river. I am always reading, usually literary journals.

Who are your favorite writers? There are some writers that I have admired for many years. William Stafford comes easily to mind. I like the French existentialists, the Latin magic realists. In plays, I like the work of Harold Pinter most. I am also inspired by photographers and painters.

What's next for you? I am working on a collection of photographs and texts. The working title is "Ruralities" and the book is about life in the country. My wife Linda and I have had a place in the country for five years, and our lives have changed so much. I have been publishing photographs and various kinds of writing with the "Ruralities" theme, and I realize now that it might be good to collect them in book form.

Thank you, Chris!

Photo and text "At the end of every road..." by Christopher Woods

Photo of Chris by Linda Woods

1 comment:

Gail Storey said...

I very much enjoyed your interview with Chris Woods, a writer whose work I admire. It's great to hear of the many dimensions of Chris's creative life. And I loved his poem, "Edward Hopper's Women."