Camille DeAngelis will be teaching our Intro to Creative Writing class. Camille is the author of the novels Mary Modern (Crown, 2007), Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker (Crown, 2010), and the forthcoming Bones & All (St. Martin’s Press, 2015). She’s also written a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland (Avalon, 2007). She received her B.A. from New York University in 2002 and her M.A. in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2005. She blogs about books, writing, travel, crafting, and veganism at Cometparty.com. (She’s also one of the Skillshare organizers!)
Give us the lowdown on who you are and what you do. Why do you write?
Thanks to my book-loving mother and grandmother, I’ve always been an enthusiastic reader. When I was nine I remember surveying my bookshelf one night looking for something I hadn’t already read, and it occurred to me that there was a real person behind each of the novels on my shelf, that I could write a book of my own someday. I made my first attempt when I was in college—I call it my “practice novel”—and because of that experience I was able to write a second novel that was “publishable.”
I write stories I myself would want to read. Of course, I can’t have the experience of tucking myself in for a delicious new novel, but I don’t mind. As its author, I get to experience the story in the richest sense: as I’m writing I still get to wonder what’s going to happen next, and as weird as it may sound, the affection I feel for my favorite characters runs almost as deep as what I feel for real-life loved ones.
As much as I love to write, though, I consider it a relatively small part of who I am. I try to live creatively in general, which for me means a daily yoga practice, art and craft (knitting, sewing, drawing), and vegan cooking and baking. I strongly believe that cutting all animal products out of my diet has sparked huge breakthroughs in my creative and spiritual life, and last year I became a certified vegan lifestyle coach to help others enjoy heightened creativity through compassionate eating. (This is something you can read more about on my website, if you’re so inclined.)
I moved to Chestnut Hill last April to take a part-time job at an ESL school called Kings College. I needed a fresh start and already had several good friends in the area (one of whom actually sent me the job posting), so the move fell into place too easily not to be fated! I spend quite a bit of time in Somerville, and I may very well move there once I’ve wrapped up my time at Kings.
As for community, over the spring and summer I would attend a poetry reading here and there (the U35 series, for instance, is always worth attending), but it wasn’t until the Boston Book Festival in October that I found out about the Writers’ Room. I’m a member there now, and though we go there to work there’s always the potential for a stimulating conversation over break-time coffee. I’m also a Grub Street member, and I’m looking forward to taking my first workshop there in 2014. Most of my writing friends are in New York, and I do hop on Megabus to go down for readings and parties sometimes, but I certainly don’t feel that New York is the best place for writers to live and work. Boston is my home now, and I’m looking forward to making more writer friends here in the coming months.
Your published novels, Mary Modern and Petty Magic, might be described as literary fantasy. How did you come to write in that genre?
The short answer is that I write fantasy because I get enough real life in real life. Someone once said to me, “I wouldn’t know how to identify with a scientist who clones her grandmother,” to which I replied, “Did you love your grandmother? Have you ever wondered what you were supposed to do with your life? Have you ever felt completely alone in the world?” It doesn’t matter where the story is set, or if the characters are even human. There is a collective range of experience and emotion that applies to all sentient beings, and you draw on that well of feeling every time you sit down to lose yourself in a good story.
We’re in a tender place when starting out on any creative endeavor, and I believe that my role as a writing teacher—facilitator, really—is to encourage you to honor any and all creative impulses, to use your intuition throughout that process, and to give you the space to recognize that you absolutely do have a unique contribution to make. Not everyone will publish a novel or see their poem in a literary journal, but everyone can experience joy through storytelling. After all, every one of us has been telling stories since we were old enough to speak!
Absolutely! You can apply the techniques and exercises I’ll cover in the Skillshare class to any form or genre. Even if you simply want to develop a daily journaling practice (which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone), I’ll offer plenty of inspiration to get you started—or, to be more accurate, I’ll show you how to inspire yourself. I’m a big believer in that mystical notion of the greatest teacher being the one you find within.