“Showing Up for the Work”: An Interview with Fiction Writer Rosalia Scalia

Rosalia Scalia is the author of the story collection, Stumbling Toward Grace (Unsolicited Press, November 2021) and a second, forthcoming collection.  Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Notre Dame Review, North Atlantic Review, The Portland Review, Oklahoma Review, and many others. She works a full-time job in public relations, while also managing a busy writing career. I’ve long been impressed by her ability to manage her time, and she was generous enough to share her thoughts with me about getting the writing done! Check out her website: www.RosaliaScalia.com or find her on Twitter @RScalia and Instagram @CityGirlRo.

  1. Tell me about your latest project. How did you get the idea? How long did it take to work on it? Did you hit any stumbling blocks along the way?

I have several projects in the works, which is typical for me. I started working on a father/daughter story in Jan 2021 and it was going to explore the impact of misinformation on an older white man—the father. The original idea began with the conflict between them centering on the mask and other misinformation. Then my mom became infected with COVID-19 and died and the entire story changed. It stopped being something that lived in my imagination to something that transformed the way I experienced and viewed a death from covid. This changed the story and I ended up dropping the political aspects of the original idea.

A second project is a novel-in progress with a cast of characters I have been working on for awhile. Both projects hit stumbling blocks. The short story with the father/daughter duo took me months to reimagine. The novel-in-progress: I printed the entire work out and read it and decided a different character needed to be the main character. The existing main character was causing the point of view to collapse into itself because this character lacked the experience and depth to tell the story the way it needed to be told. So back to the drawing board and this time, I am taking a different approach to the work.

Both projects are the ones that I am currently focusing on, though there are several others waiting in the wings.

  1. Tell me about your creative process. Do you write every day? In spurts? Take me from an idea to a first draft to a finished product.

I try to write daily. Admittedly, just after my mom died, it took months for me to regain my footing but now I am back on track with the daily discipline. When words do not come, I had been doing writing exercises that tackle the story from a different perspective.

I had been writing at night, after a full day of writing at work, but now I am writing in the mornings before work.

This is not to say that every day yields great words and wonderful sentences. It means that I am showing up for the work, even if I end up deleting whatever I wrote. Every day of showing up is progress, albeit small steps. Each story is different in the process. 

Some stories just want to be born and come forth in nearly a finished, polished way. Other stories require hard labor and they exact a pint of blood. They key is to keep working on those stories that demand hard labor. They end up being the best stories. 

  1. What are the things in your life that keep you busy and that potentially take you away from writing? How do you manage your time between this and your writing?

I have children and grandchildren, extended family, and a full-time job. All of that keeps me busy and all of it provides the potential to take me away from writing time. In the past, I had to guard writing time, no matter when I wrote. Daily discipline is a commitment. It takes commitment to write, regardless of the designed writing time, and that means making time to write, despite the distractions. I write in the mornings before work. 

  1. What specific tools do you consider essential in your writing career?

Necessities: my laptop, Word, connection to the web to research items for the story. Books remain an important tool. I can’t say enough about reading—everything!  I do use Scrivener to compile books but I write in Word. 

  1. Do you have a specific place you write? Or do you write wherever you are? 

I have an office, but if I have quiet time and a quiet place, where there are no people to distract me, I can write.

  1. How do you handle a writing slump or the dreaded “writer’s block”? 

Writing exercises. Word prompts. Mimicking the work of writers I admire.

  1. Do you have any specific rituals related to your writing? 

I have my water bottle handy and also hot tea. My ritual is that no matter where I ended the day before, I must start at the beginning and read the entire story til I get to the part where I ended so that I can continue. I know that everyone always says not to revise when you are getting down a first draft, but I can’t help myself. 

  1. Do you ever get overwhelmed or drained between your writing career and other responsibilities? How do you handle this feeling? 

There is always a tremendous burden when other responsibilities interfere with writing, It is as if a siren call is sounding and I must answer it. The feeling is always telling me I must get back to work and that is what I do, even if I write two sentences. 

  1. How would you advise someone beginning their writing career to stay on task, persevere, and be productive?

Set deadlines and word counts to achieve in a day’s work. 

Set a specific time to write and stick to it. This may mean saying NO to many invitations. I have declined a lot of invitations to social gatherings but I never say why. I just say, I have a previous commitment at that time. 

Form a writing group or community. Writing is solitary so other writers are important. It’s important to create your own tribe of scribes, of like- minded friends and colleagues. 

Persevere. Accept that every rejection is one step closer to an acceptance.

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