RAISING MOTHERS: What inspired you to tell this story?
GRACE TALUSAN: I wrote this book out of an urgent desire to not be alone with my story. Over many years, I wrote short essays and pieces that eventually became my first book, THE BODY PAPERS, and it has been wonderful to connect with readers of my writing, but even before I had readers, I felt less alone from the act of writing itself. I also felt an ethical responsibility to tell the truth.
RAISING MOTHERS: What did you edit out of this book?
GRACE TALUSAN: Because I was writing memoir, I wanted to be careful when I was writing about other people, especially the children in my life. I would ask myself what was really necessary in order to tell my story. If I was going to reveal a detail about someone else, how did that work in service to the story I was telling? I also asked myself why I was telling a certain story. There were times when I realized that I was writing out of revenge because I was angry. I took out those parts. It’s good that I wrote them and showed them to a few trusted people, but they didn’t need to be in my book. Looking back, I’m really glad I didn’t include those parts.
RAISING MOTHERS: How did you know you were done? What did you discover about yourself upon completion?
GRACE TALUSAN: I have a sense that I’ve taken a piece as far as I can and now I need other eyes on it. I also have to be done because I’m usually writing against a deadline. If I didn’t have deadlines, I don’t think I’d ever finish anything.
RAISING MOTHERS: What was your agenting process like?
GRACE TALUSAN: I don’t really remember, but it was a process similar to other processes in my life where I ask around for referrals and talk to people who have worked with that person before.
RAISING MOTHERS: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
GRACE TALUSAN: I spend so much money in support of my writing, it’s hard to distinguish. Things like acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, and therapy therapy have been a part of my life for so long now and help keep me in the condition I need to be in order to write. As a category, I would say that spending money on me–treating myself well and giving myself what I need–is the best money I’ve spent as a writer.
RAISING MOTHERS: How many hours a day do you write? Break down your typical writing day.
GRACE TALUSAN: I do at least 40 minutes in the morning writing on Zoom with a friend. Depending on where I am in the academic year or the summer–my job outside of writing is teaching–I either have no other time to write or I have a few more sessions throughout the day.
RAISING MOTHERS: What are your top three tips to help develop your writing muscle?
GRACE TALUSAN: 1. Write regularly, even if that means once a month or once a day for a certain amount of time, whether that’s 5 minutes or 3 hours.
2. Read intentionally: Be choosy about what you’re reading and why you’re reading.
3. If you’re not actually writing, explore why in a journal or with trusted people in a curiously compassionate way. Maybe you don’t really want to write or maybe it’s that you don’t want to publish. Either way, it’s good to find out.
RAISING MOTHERS: What does literary success look like to you?
GRACE TALUSAN: The freedom to write what I want. Having my work taught in courses and shared among loved ones. What I dreamed of for THE BODY PAPERS was that it was the kind of book that someone finished reading and immediately thought of people they wanted to give the book to.
RAISING MOTHERS: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
GRACE TALUSAN: I am lucky that I am friends with many writers and often meet writers who I become new friends with. Having writer friends is wonderful because I feel less strange. I feel seen. They help me become a better writer because we talk about books and writing that we love. I also feel encouraged and inspired by them.
RAISING MOTHERS: Who are you writing for?
GRACE TALUSAN: I am writing primarily for myself. To entertain myself, to explore and express something. When I am finishing something to publish, I start thinking more about an audience and reader. Sometimes I think of a specific reader. For THE BODY PAPERS, I was thinking of my siblings and students–the generations born after me, but I also don’t want to pressure them to read my work. I am writing for myself mostly, but for those who my work speaks to in some way.
Author photo by Alonso Nicols
Grace Talusan (she/her) is the author of The Body Papers, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and the Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction. Her writing has been supported by the NEA, the Fulbright, US Artists, the Brother Thomas Fund, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University.