I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation. I did not write
nor did I try to write nor did I think about writing. I did get on a horse, I
did complete a 6 mile hike in the red rocks of northern Arizona, I did drink a
bit o’ wine.

Yesterday morning I was home again and busy with newspaper
and coffee and delighted to see a NY Times magazine article by Sarah Lyall about
the wonderful novelist Kate Atkinson. If you’ve not read it, please do so.
Here’s a quote from Atkinson that sent me free-falling out
of vacation mode and back into the writing life:
“It’s the nearest we’ll ever get to playing God, to suddenly
produce these fully formed creatures. It is a bit odd. Other aspects you work
out more—you rework sentences, you rework imagery. But not characters. They’re
not deciding their own fates, clearly, but once you have them, that unconscious
process is at work.” 
I was at first at odds with Atkinson’s claim about not
reworking characters, probably because I do rework characters—I have a lot of
exercises I do with them—and any student who has worked with me has likely been
ordered to do the same. But as I considered it more I thought, yeah—I’m not
changing them so much as finding out more about the character who has sprung to
life, sometimes unbidden. 
Then, according to Lyall, Atkinson “talked about her
characters as a means to an end, as if they were pawns in a board game.” 
“Pawns in a board game” is not only a cliché, but one that
suggests an emotional detachment I never feel when reading her novels; still,
it’s a useful image for a writer, I think. We do manipulate. We  move things
around. We play God.


Marsha Qualey is the author of several young adult novels, including Just Like That, Too Big of a Storm, One Night, and Close to a Killer. Her books have appeared on numerous best-of-the-year lists, including ALA Quick Picks, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, IRA Readers' Choice, New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age, and School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year.

Marsha retired from the Hamline MFAC faculty in 2017. 

Visit Marsha's website.