In Their Own Words: Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, was published in January of 2017.

We asked Kathleen what her writing process was like, and she responded with an interesting look at the inspiration behind the character of Lillian Boxfish. She will be visiting the AWM on April 11 at 5:30 p.m., so look below for some writing inspiration and come to the AWM to learn more about the novel. RSVP here!

There’s a phrase in Latin, Solvitur Ambulando, that means “it is solved by walking,” and walking is a crucial part of my writing process. I’m coming to the American Writers Museum to talk about Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, and Lillian herself adheres to this motto as well.

There’s something about the rhythmic and meditative tempo and motion of walking around that can help the mind figure things out, especially solutions to creative problems: a novel’s plot, a sticky aspect of revision, and so forth.

Walking can also provide more oblique remedies to various emotional, mental, or even physical quandaries just by giving the walker a little bit (or a lot) of space-time to approach a problem indirectly—like when you’re walking, you can’t really do any work, but you’re putting yourself in a state where when you return to whatever work you need to do, you are better equipped to get it done.

Walking also is a lot like reading—there are so many tiny details of a city or any landscape, really, that can only be taken in by foot. Like this pigeon decoration on a building I passed on a walk with one of my best friends last month in the North Park neighborhood:The detail and the golden bas relief are so mysterious and intriguing, at least to me: who made it? Why? When? What was the business that was there originally, and were doves an emblem thereof? Curiosity and mystery are both crucial parts of my writing process, as well. So even though I’m not working on a novel about this pigeon decoration, something about engaging with it imaginatively while on my walk was helpful to cultivating the brainspace and mindset that I find conducive to writing.

Whenever I get stuck in any sense of the word, I know I just need to go for a walk and some kind of unsticking is sure to follow.  Solvitur Ambulando.


Meet Kathleen and hear more about Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk on April 11 at 5:30 p.m. RSVP today.

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