Each year before the conference, Pennwriters does a Q&A with its faculty. Below are the 2018 questions. Below is a copy of the interview from the Pennwriters Facebook page.
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Ramona: I write in a couple of different genres, but I’ll choose creative nonfiction. CNF is special because it allows me to write about real events with the freedom of a fiction writer. For example, I’ve published personal essays about surviving hurricanes as a child and also about the impact of drug abuse on my family, citing facts and figures but also sharing how the experience affected my world. CNF is unique in that allows a writer to smoothly place factual information in a personal story.
PW: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? Did you ever encounter a serious roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Ramona: I have a maddening and pushy internal editor, which is ironic for someone who works as an editor. If I am not careful, I can get mired in a scene that isn’t working and I stay there, grinding on the problem, rather than moving on and coming back to it. I have to make the concrete decision to let this poorly executed scene sit for a while. That can be tough.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?
Ramona: I have a home office for my editing work, but I find it difficult to do my creative writing in that spot. I have adopted the desk in the guest room for my writing, and I do have mementos, among them a cardinal ornament from my mother and a seashell from my mother-in-law. My two moms encourage me to tell stories. I am very much into establishing a regular writing routine, so I only sit in that chair, in that spot, when I want to write. That gives the signal to my body and brain that we’re here for that purpose only. So much of writing is a mind game, so I’ve learned to make that writing space work for me mentally as well as physically.
PW: What has been the most satisfying or significant project of your literary career?
Ramona: It’s a tie. A few years ago, I had the privilege of co-coordinating an anthology of poetry and prose by Delaware writers, through the Delaware Division of the Arts. The State of Delaware is very supportive of its artists, so that opportunity to give back—and to have a wonderful collection of work from my writing tribe—was a big gold star in my career. The second is contributing to and editing Into the Woods, a brand new anthology from the Mindful Writers Retreat authors.
PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?
Ramona: Give your writing the priority it deserves and develop a regular writing habit! Same time, same place every day is the optimum, but if you are a weekend writer or an after-the-day-job writer, choose a specific time to write and stick to it. Our stories are our legacies to the world, so it’s important to give writing its proper due.
PW: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Ramona: A very thick blank notebook, a pen that would never run dry, and a handheld blow torch. The last because I was never a Girl Scout so I don’t know how to start a fire by rubbing sticks, and I also like to be prepared for any crème brûlée emergencies.
PW: If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
Ramona: In the galleries of the US Capitol on August 18, 1920. That’s the day the 19th Amendment was finally ratified by Congress. I would love to witness women’s right to vote made the law of the land. Then I’d rush out and party with my sisters!
Conference Bio: Ramona DeFelice Long’s writing has appeared in numerous literary and regional publications, and she’s a multiple fellowship winner. She is an author, editor, and writing instructor. As an editor, she specializes in short story anthologies, crime novels, and women’s fiction.