Day 9: 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Ericka Lutz

by @thewritermama on May 9, 2012 · 30 comments

I became acquainted with Ericka through Literary Mama. Whenever I read her work, I always felt like there was a fire inside of it. And this was never more true than her account of her husband’s sudden and horrifying death in the wilderness. I was so moved by Ericka’s writing around the time of her husband’s death. Partly because of the excellent writing and partly because of such an intimate, compelling account of such a personal tragedy. I was bawling by the time I finished reading. (You’ve been warned, here’s the link.)

Since reading this piece, I have been impressed by the steady stream of creative work that just seems to pour out of Ericka. I was so impressed that I invited her to be on one of my AWP panels, and I discovered that she is not only an impressive talent herself, she’s also a patient and grounded writing teacher.

So without further ado, please help me welcome Ericka!

About Ericka Lutz

Ericka Lutz is the author of eight books, most recently her first novel, The Edge of Maybe. Her writing also appears in many literary magazines, journals, and anthologies. She teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and performs her solo shows around the San Francisco Bay Area. She lives in Oakland, California, the city from which she draws much of her inspiration.

About The Edge of Maybe

What makes a family a family? And what do we owe the people in our lives? Adam and Kira Glazer live a Northern California liberal lifestyle, entering middle age with politically correct values, an obsession with gourmet organic food, and no idea what has happened to their punk rock, adventurous youth. Then, a shocking reminder of the past lands on their doorstep. Adam, Kira, and their 13-year-old daughter Polly take on freeways, yoga classes and junk food, face dark truths and blood secrets, and drive — alone and together — all the way to The Edge of Maybe.

The Very Short Interview

When did you know for sure that you were a writer and that writing would be a major energy focus in your life?

My creativity was encouraged from an early age with drama/music/art lessons. My mother was a dancer, my father a jeweler and sculptor, my grandmother a well-esteemed writer, and my godmother a Tony-award winning choreographer. But, still, there wasn’t much encouragement for me to write. In our family we divvied up the talents: I was supposed to be the actress, my sister the dancer, my cousin the poet, etc. But I defied that, and I always wrote (as well as performed) – poems and journals, mostly. When I was 29 I spent a year in therapy, in crisis, talking mostly about my desire to write (and my relationship with my family – not unrelated). I came out of that year determined to make writing a major focus in my life, and began writing my first (unpublished) novel. That was a long time ago.

Who has always been behind your writing career and who helped pull you up the ladder of success?

I didn’t study writing formally and I withdrew from the only college writing class I ever took (because I didn’t like the teacher’s response to a story I turned in). That said, I’ve felt mentored since I was eighteen by Alix Kates Shulman, even when years go by without us seeing each other. I’ve studied privately with Masha Hamilton, Tom Jenks, and a few other great teachers. But mostly, my writer friends, writing group buddies, and my long time writing partner and I have pulled each other up. It’s less a ladder and more a cliff, in my experience, and we’re all roped together.

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your book (or books) from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work.

I often hear how much my writing – both fiction and non-fiction – sounds like listening to me talk. I take this as a compliment on my writer’s voice.  I also hear the words “honest” and “courageous” a lot. I don’t feel particularly brave. I just try – in both my fiction and non-fiction – to tell the truth as I know it. Oh, and I hear “page turner,” about my novel The Edge of Maybe. A lot of people pretend to be annoyed that I’ve kept them from getting a good night’s sleep: “I just couldn’t put it down!” This makes me happy.

And Now, Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You remember how this works right?

I ask you a question. You answer in the comments for your chance to win a book each day.

Please just respond once, even if you make a typo. ;)

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! I hope to see you here every day this month. Bring your friends!

Here’s a question inspired by my keynote at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference. I would like Lela Davidson to share her answer with everyone. Let’s see if we can persuade her to come on over. 😉

When you were 9-11 years old, what did you love to do? Was there any activity you could just completely lose yourself in for hours and hours? Were you alone, with others, or both? Tell us about this activity and then consider if and how this passion still informs your life today. (If you need inspiration, what this short video first.)

Ready, set, comment!

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  • My dad built floor to ceiling shelves in the garage, with doors attached. The shelves were wide enough that I could sit comfortably on the top shelf, where the light from the garage peeked over the door. The only girl, with four brothers, that top shelf was my safe place. I stocked it with blankets, pillows, and a flashlight. I would climb up there with a book, a a package of graham crackers, and a jar of marshmallow fluff, and hide out for hours.

  • Edith

    I was 9 years old when I discovered that there was another way, that life wasn’t all dark scowls, forbidding silences, and hiding in corners. At first I used to watch, always from a distance even if I could simply reach out my hand and touch her. I thought I knew what she was thinking, how she felt as she stared out the kitchen window, unseeing, unmoving, as if she had become a real life and blood incarnation of the statue she used to kneel in front of to pray. It was then that I found a sort of freedom for us both – a book of psalms for her, and a torn and discarded copy of Jane Eyre for me. Charlotte Bronte introduced me to a new way of looking upon those I looked upon. She taught me to read people with new eyes, new understanding. I haven’t stopped reading since! And the Book of Psalms? – well I guess that did pretty much the same for my mother. She hasn’t stopped reading them since then either! 🙂

  • When I was 10, I entered the school cake decorating contest and won. I’ve always loved to cook and to bake, and it’s been mostly a solitary endeavor. Until I became a mom. Now I encourage my kids into the kitchen as often as I can, letting them fetch ingredients, measure and stir. I hope they grow up knowing how to combine ingredients and loving the process of cooking from scratch. It’s always been a retreat for me.

  • I always loved to write, but my love for the art of it really emerged at around age 10. When I  wasn’t in school, riding my bike, or taking hula lessons, I was writing. I wrote complete “novels”, which consisted of multiple composition books–I filled every single page. I still have these so-called novels tucked away in a storage bin.  At the time my best friend embarked on this adventure with me and we would swap stories and critique them. I found my long-lost friend on facebook last year and she was really proud that 15 years later I am still writing.

  • ML Gomes

    Between the ages of 9-11 my favorite pastime was reading. I loved mysteries- Nancy Drew etc. Until the age of six I was an only child, a solitary child, over protected with few opportunities to mingle with kids out side of family members. Learning to enjoy my own company was a habit that was developed at a young age. I was shy and still can be, but I had a curiosity that wouldn’t quit. At eleven years old, in my search to discover who I am, I became a researcher.  Everything I learned by the time I turned eleven ultimately became the driving force to put my story on paper. The documents that brought me to this point still surround me today. My book is in the final stages but the search that brought me to this point is still unfinished.

  • Amy Simon

    Our family had some woods behind our house. My brother and I would disappear back there for hours. We had different areas named different things – some more creative than others (“Pricker Forest”). We ould climb trees, jump over streams and have a blast until Mom whistled us home. I’m not sure if this affects me today. We live in a fairly open subdivision, but I’d love to be in a more woodsy area. I suppose the feeding of my imagination and creativity helped me with writing novels.

  • Trisha

    I had my nose in a book during those years. Or I was alphabetizing my books, or arranging them by series! My Mom called me a little librarian. My favorites were The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins! 

  • MaribethPGraham

    I absolutely loved making up my own lyrics to popular songs. I still can remember a few. I would sit on my front porch for hours singing my songs. I think it was the first indicator of my passion for writing. Currently I write middle-grade and ya novels but there are a few songs I have written tucked away. One of them was even recorded for me which I thought was oh so cool.

  • Merle

    As a nine year old, I spent countless hours designing the home I’d live in if life and money allowed it. Inspired by a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water,” I tried to recreate the future home where I’d feel grounded and secure. Armed with a retro 60s cocktail dolly, my barbie collection, kleenex boxes, and greenery, I worked on the home where I’d feel anchored and safe.

  • Trisha

    When I was 9-11 years old, I had my nose in a book . . . constantly. Every home video of holiday celebrations with family would include a shot of me, in a corner, reading a book. If I wasn’t reading, I was organizing my books, whether that was alphabetically, by series title, so on. My mother called me her little librarian. 

  • I was not yet 10 when I began composing oral stories. I rode and rode my bicycle while doing so, from one end to the other of a long circle driveway. I know this is so because we left that farm to move to a different one in the February after I turned 10 in November. Probably the summer that I was 9 I really hit my stride. It happened after supper on warm summer nights while my parents and three younger sisters were in the house. No doubt doing so fueled my desire to start writing an entry a night onto the pages of a 1954 Week-At-A-Glance calendar like my mother had done starting in 1929. 

  • JLMay63

    I absolutely loved to explore our club on the lake. It was a
    boating club, fit with boat docks, hills, beach, fishing area, club house and
    large grounds to play in and explore. A highlight was helping Dad set up for
    the annual summer fairs we held there each year.  There were ice cream socials, fish fries,
    chicken fries, all adorned with dunk tanks, balloon dart games, penny throws
    and of the course the mysterious man who would guess your weight or age…and
    he was good at it!

  • ConnieReadBurris

    I was a nine year old bookworm and how appropriate when my last name was Read! On Saturdays during my teenage years my Mom would ask me to run the vacuum while she went to the grocery store. I’d haul the vacuum to the middle of the family room, plug it in, and plop down in the nearest chair to read, all the while keeping an eye out the window. The minute Mom pulled in the driveway I would spring into action and she’d be greeted with the sound of the vacuum.  🙂

  • When I was 9 (in 1970,) my family moved to a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Our new backyard abutted a deep wooded ravine, complete with a creek at the bottom. Mostly, the ravine was used by builders–still actively building the suburb–to dispose of their construction waste. Using this construction waste,  my dad helped me build a treehouse, its platform between three trees. For three years, I spent every moment possible in that treehouse, playing pirates with my best neighborhood friend, Tommy (I was a serious tom-boy) but more often alone, reading for hours on end: Laura Ingalls Wilder, all the Black Beauty series, the Stormy series, the Flicka series, every book my school library carried on Indian tribes of the Great Plains. A couple times, I even snuck out of the house at night to sleep in that treehouse–much to my parents’ disapproval.

  • I was a voracious reader and steadily worked my way through everything from light preteen novels (The Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High were favorites) to literary fiction like Anne of Green Gables. I was zooming through book after book and my room was filling up with stacks of them; eventually my mom told me she wasn’t buying any more. That’s when I discovered the library. Our town had just built a gorgeous new library, and it was heaven. Aisle after aisle of all the books I could ever want, and a quiet haven for reading away from my noisy younger siblings! I spent hours reading at the library, and it’s still one of my favorite spots to take my kids (or just sneak away by myself for a precious hour or two!).

  • Mar Junge

    When I was 9 years old we moved from Pennsylvania to California, leaving behind the two things I loved most – my dog and my Grandfather, who had raised me. Imagine an alcoholic father and a stressed-out mother driving cross country in an old station wagon with four kids. For five days I played alone in the rear-facing seat with my Barbie and Ken, making up complex stories for them to act out. They got engaged in Cheyenne, Wyoming and married in Reno, Nevada, the wedding capitol of the world! Being totally absorbed in my stories helped me ignore my parents arguing, my baby sister crying and my 5-year-old brother fighting with my 4-year-old sister. I learned firsthand how a good tale can help you escape from reality. I’ve been a storyteller ever since.

  • At that age I spent a lot of time down the street from my house on the stubby drive of a utility building next to our neighborhood park. The brick wall of the building made a perfect backstop for hitting a tennis ball against. I’d practice tennis there for hours, all the time narrating stories in my head of wild adventures and daring rescues, boarding schools and prairie log homes. Occasionally I’d actually find someone to walk the hundred feet over to the tennis courts to play. But mostly I was content to just hit that ball against the wall and think of the interesting characters in my head.

  • drummeyd

    I know my answer will not be unique.  Of course it was reading!  What 9-11 introverted girl didn’t love reading?  In fourth grade, I had a wonderful teacher,
    Mrs. LeCau.  If I finished my work on
    time, she let me quietly sit in a corner and read as much as I liked.  She steered me toward interesting books above
    my grade level, like Calico Captive,
    which I read over and over.

    Today, I still love cracking open a new book, its adventures
    still untold.  As difficult as it can be
    to find time to read, I still do, almost every day, usually just before I close
    my eyes.  And just like that girl in
    fourth grade, I long to write books like the ones I read, books that will
    inspire others’ dreams and take them beyond their  four walls. 


  • Heather L. Lee

    Between the ages of 9 and 11, I read… and read…. and read. I read on the couch, in one of two favorite trees or on my “reading rock” by the shore of the lake during the summer.  I prefered Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew and collected them with the help of my parents.  They were sold at the drugstore, displayed in spiralling wire racks. I wrote in my diary – first the one with the special little lock.  Later I used notebooks for journals and filled other notebooks with stories and tried to write a play with enough characters to accomodate my entire class.

  • Kim

     I was writing!  I  had a close friend, Nancy, and we would write stories about each other in our favorite TV shows!  Didn’t know back then it was called fanfiction!  Back then it was The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Laredo, and Garrison’s Gorillas.  This activity framed my life for the next 15 years.  I wrote constantly, anything and everything.  Poetry, children’s books, short stories, novellas.  Once I got married and had a child I let this new life consume me until just recently, when I heard of NaNoWriMo and got involved and now I am writing again.  Constantly.

  • Kristine Strange

    Going outside and digging. I had 8 siblings, so I was never alone. We dug forts, caves, made mud pies, etc. Any creative adventure outside was a perfect day in my youth. As an adult I’m constantly outside gardening and it keeps the spirits happy for everyone. Being outdoors as a kid has helped me grow my imagination and keep level headed with emotions by being one with nature

  • When I was 9 to 11 years old, I loved to read, and I loved to daydream. I still do. Of course now that I’m older and have more responsibilities, the time that I have for indulging in these luxuries has been severely curtailed. I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, and when I do, it is more likely to be nonfiction than a fiction book I can lose myself in for hours. But I still daydream, and I write, any chance I have. I like nothing better than to weave the events of the day into a story or a poem.

  • Bet

    When I was that age my favorite consisted of wandering in
    and exploring the woods, mostly alone.  I
    would sometimes build little huts out of saplings, large sticks, and pine
    needles. I would occasionally hunt squirrels with my .410 rifle.  Today I still enjoy rambling in nature and I
    enjoy it most when I am alone. I don’t ever carry a rifle, but sometimes I
    kayak instead of walking. I find it refreshing for my body, but even more for
    my soul.

  • Lorraine Wilde

    My favorite thing to do as a kid was to go on long exploratory bike rides. I grew up in a small town and this was back in the days when a kid could ride their bike to the next town and no one thought it was strange. I wandered down country roads, mostly alone, and often surprised my friends by showing up for a play date. Now that I’m an adult, I get my kids out on their bikes as much as possible, and we explore our neighborhood with the same fresh eyes, imagining the people that live in the strange, interesting houses, wondering who drinks tea in the magic flower gardens we pass. I still think the best way to experience a place is on a bike.

  • christinakatz

    Samantha just read a middle grade novel called, “It’s Raining Cupcakes” by Lisa Schroeder about a girl who enters a baking contest. File that away for later. 🙂

  • christinakatz

    I can relate to this, Judy. For me, I used to crawl up to the top shelf of the hall closet. I wasn’t really trying to get away from anyone, I just liked having my own tiny, cozy space. 🙂

  • christinakatz

    Hi Trisha,
    Please make sure your comments are 50 words or more to qualify to enter the drawing. 🙂

  • christinakatz

    Great. Thanks!

  • Pingback: Day 9, 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway Winner!()

  • christinakatz

    Congrats, Barbara! You are the winner.

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