An Interview with Writer Lucie Witt
Welcome to another installment of These My Nominated Bitches! Today's bitch was nominated by my friend, and fellow bitch, Katie Stone. Take it away, Katie!
When I first met Lucie in law school, I knew I HAD to be friends with the big-mouthed liberal who regularly dropped colorful F-bombs with her soft spoken voice. I'm still not sure why she asked me to be in her study group, but we instantly became best friends. We both hate being lawyers and love to drink coffee and write essays and fiction (she is infinitely more experienced and talented than I am), and we've known each other through heartbreak, trauma, pregnancy and babies, and countless cups of coffee. It's hard to even put into words how badass Lucie is, so I'll just say this: I am thankful every single day that the universe led to me my person (our poor husbands live in fear that we'll ditch them to raise our babies together in a commune in the woods... and they probably aren't being paranoid). Meet my favorite bitch, Lucie! -- Katie
What is your job title and where do you work?
I have multiple jobs: attorney, adjunct professor (on special topics related to gender and the law), and writer (those are not listed in order of preference). I’ll focus on the one I love the most: writer. My fiction work is represented by literary agent extraordinaire, Caitie Flum of Liza Dawson Associates. My nonfiction work is published in Catapult and Bust.
When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?
Being a writer and pursuing a career as a published writer are two wildly different things. I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. Pursuing a career as a published writer came much later in life.
I grew up an avid reader, and on at least some level, I knew actual humans wrote the stories I consumed. As a child I wrote knockoffs of my favorite books (hey, Sweet Valley Twins). In high school I wrote a lot of bad poetry, and as an undergrad I played around with some short stories and the beginnings of a few novels. It took a long time – until I was 26 – before I started considering being a published writer as a thing I could actually do. I grew up in a low-income family where having a practical job (whether it was bartending or working a 9-5) took precedence. As far as I knew being a writer or an artist was something for trust fund kids, not someone who had student loans and came from generational poverty. At some point I realized I could do both, and I kept writing books until I found one that landed me my literary agent in 2016, about six years after I finished my first novel and started researching publishing.
But I still have a day job. And a night job.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
Persevere. It’s the single most important trait I can think of in writing and publishing. Finish the project you’re working on, and if it doesn’t sell, start on the next.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?
Persevere, but give yourself some grace. I am not one of those writers who beats myself up if I don’t write every day. My day job gets busy, I teach a new course, and my kids have a week with school events and practices and tough homework (I have four kids, which makes things hectic more often than not). Sometimes the writing just doesn’t happen for days or even weeks (occasionally months). That used to really stress me out, and when I would finally sit down to write again, that built up stress deteriorated my writing process. Now I accept the breaks as part of my reality. I don’t bring the same baggage to my writing time, and I use the down time I’m not writing to let my ideas breathe and gain new insight on whatever project I’m currently working on. When I do come back it’s with fresh eyes and a clear head.
What would you do with 2 more hours a day?
I should say write.
I would honestly probably sleep more. I usually sleep 5-6 hours a night and I know that’s not enough.
What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?
I feel most successful as a writer when someone tells me my words changed the way they felt or thought about something in the world, that my writing made them feel seen, or that I made them cry (insert evil writer laugh).
I am most proud of my ability to ruthlessly revise and start over when needed.
How do you decompress at the end of the work day?
I’m not great at decompressing – that’s something I really need to work on. I usually go, go, go until I crash. When I am intentional about decompressing, I’ll take a walk (I’m trying to get back into running, but can’t claim that just yet) and read before bed.
Or I spend too much time scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, which is technically decompressing but isn’t great for my mental state.
What’s a fear that keeps you up at night?
I deal with anxiety issues so there is no singular fear – it’s more a constant loop of fears playing over in my head. The current presidential administration does something horrifying daily (or multiple times a day). I have Black children and a Black husband in an anti-Black country. I have crushing student loan debt. Nuclear War. Climate change.
Writing specific fears are also numerous. My book will never sell. My book will sell, and it will tank. Everyone will hate my books. I’ll mess up a character in one of my books and cause harm to a reader that character is supposed to represent. And on and on …
What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?
That having an idea for a book is the same thing as writing a book.
What does self care look like in your life?
Self-care is carving out intentional time for myself and saying no to things: making time for nurturing friendships with the women in my life, for hiking and walks, for reading books, and saying no to awesome things I would love to do because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Disengaging with social media, and, for set periods of time (have to stay informed long-term), the news is also critical.
What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?
When I’m really stuck I’ll usually organize or clean something around the house. Whatever I was trying to sort out will usually come to me if I give it a little space.
I also try to remember that I’ve hit the wall before, and I always find a way over.
Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?
There are honestly too many to name but I’ll try.
Almost all the people who have read my books and offered critique over the years, helping me grow as a writer, are women. Another writer friend has been absolutely critical in helping me develop my craft as a nonfiction writer and generous with her time and feedback. The first editor to ever accept one of my essay pitches and help me turn the seed of an idea into something fully developed was a woman.
A lot of people aren’t familiar with how literary agents work, but essentially they agree to represent your work and they pitch your book to editors at publishing houses. When the book sells, they take a commission. That means they can spend years working on your behalf before they see a cent. I’m endlessly grateful my literary agent, Caitie Flum, saw something in my writing worth taking that risk on, and she is a tireless advocate on behalf of my writing (also cool – she works at a literary agency founded by a woman, that employees all women agents).
Reading the works of other women writers, especially Black women, has been instrumental to developing my world view, my critical thinking, and helping me see things from a perspective beyond my own. My writing would be considerably lesser if it wasn’t for their example and influence.
Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?
This is hard because my favorite shows shift – I get extremely addicted to certain shows and then I move on. I’m currently obsessed with Game of Thrones and NEED to know how it will end (2019? Really?). Season two of Master of None really did live up to the hype. Long term favorites that I’ll watch again and again – Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars. I’m also currently loving Insecure and need to know when Atlanta is coming back for Season two.
I’m addicted to salt and vinegar chips and most sweets (honestly, I’m not even that picky). And while it’s not a snack, lattes are basically my favorite thing on earth (sorry, husband and kids).
All photos courtesy of Lucie Witt