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Day One: After a two-and-a-half hour drive from my Mom’s house in Floyd, Virginia, I’m here! Oh. My. Gosh. It’s gorgeous and wonderful and I’m so thrilled to be here. I drove in, walked to the place where they said my packet would be waiting for me, saw my name on the envelope, and promptly started crying, because it meant that it wasn’t a mistake after all. (I hadn’t realized until that moment that I was waiting for someone to tell me my acceptance had been a mistake.) I read all through the packet, but couldn’t find my room anywhere on the map. I was walking all around looking for it, and I found the grounds guy and said, “Can you tell me where WS11 is?” He smiled big and said, “You’ve got the Queen’s Suite.” He showed it to me and I have the most marvelous, large, wonderful room, right next door to the resident artists…my studio is part of my room, I have my own bathroom…so I started crying all over again and called and left a semi-incoherent message on my mom’s answering machine, babbling and blubbering. The weather is fabulous and it’s time for me to get to work, lucky, lucky, lucky girl. Day Two: Today was good. I got a full night’s sleep last night. Comfortable bed, good temperature, no noise. I woke up just before 8am and breakfast goes until nine, so I showered quick and hustled down there. The table I picked was rather quiet, but the next table over was having a wonderful time. I was still full from the delicious dinner the night before and so only had yogurt and coffee and then went back to the room to work. (I am definitely going to go home weighing more than when I arrived.) After breakfast I got to work. First reading over my notes and then editing yesterday’s work. It was slow and sort of dispiriting and so I sat in the sun and read some more notes hoping for inspiration. Finally, I hit my stride just before lunch, so I went to the buffet and took a plate back to my room and kept working. Then I read and took a nap and wrote some more. So far, I have produced 3,000 words today (3,000 ugly, unkempt words, but still, words). I was very optimistically hoping to make it to 5,000 by end-of-business. I may yet. With the nap, I think I can keep going late. There’s a documentary film showing at 9pm that I want to see, though. I think it is called “Cropsey.” I’ll report back on it...

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I’m interviewed at the Press 53 blog for the new year. Thank you Christine Norris! http://press53.tumblr.com/post/39928859763/5-questions-3-facts   P53: What is your favorite color, and what does that color mean to you? MA: Green is my favorite color. It always has been, even as a little girl when pink or purple were most often the favorites of my peers. I remember at least one adult trying to tell me that green couldn’t be my favorite color—that little girls liked pink. I also remember thinking, “Are adults really that stupid? My favorite color is my favorite color. Duh.” Yes, I was stubborn, even then. Green is so beautiful to me. The soft, lime, baby-green of new leaves in spring, the deep green of a pine forest that keeps its color all winter, even the fuzzy algae green in a stagnant summer pond just totally speaks to me. Ironically, I don’t wear green much because it doesn’t flatter me at all (my skin has sort of a greenish tinge and the extra green just pushes me over the edge into Nausea-Glam). But I adore it on others. P53: When did you first really feel like a writer? MA: I’m a writer?? Just kidding. But also not. Because it’s hard for me (most days) to feel like a (capital W) Writer, whatever that entails. I’m also a breather, and a sleeper, and an eater, but nobody makes much of those activities. And writing ranks right up there with breathing, eating, and sleeping on my list of Things To Do Today. Anyway, I’m being glib, but I guess my point is that we all write, even if it’s only a grocery list, right? So anyone can “be a writer,” especially in this day and age. I guess a more accurate question might be, “When did I first start to think like a writer?” Because I totally do. Writing is how I process the world. It allows me to pull back from things that confuse me,that I don’t understand, or even that hurt me…and take a calm, collected look at the whole evolution of the thing. It allows me to get in the heads of people I don’t like. It allows me to take an upsetting event and write a different outcome into existence. It allows me the snappy repartee that I’m never capable of in the living moment. Anyway, I probably started to think like a writer as soon as I learned to write. I always understood that stories were not the real world…but I also understood that they created their own world that felt as real to me as the real world. And...

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Big thanks to the fabulous Ellen Meister for tagging me in this latest writer’s meme. I am so looking forward to reading her forthcoming novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker which has been described as “wickedly funny and surprisingly poignant.”   And now, on with the questions for me: What is the working title of your book? Bones of an Inland Sea Where did the idea come from for the book? From the late–and much admired–literary agent Wendy Weil. For years, I’ve been a fan of the work she represented: Anthony Doerr, Andrea Barrett, Molly Gloss, Rita Mae Brown, Alice Walker, Fannie Flagg, and most recently Heidi Durrow. I sent her my first collection and even though she passed on it, she said she would love to see a linked collection that focused on my marine ecology experiences. (I co-founded a study abroad marine ecology program in Dominica, West Indies, and that was in my bio. She was very observant.) I started working on Bones of an Inland Sea that very same day. What genre does your book fall under? I would say it’s literary. I’m calling the manuscript a “composite novel” because many of the stories work alone, but they do interweave extensively and are meant to be read and appreciated as a whole. Other works I would also call “composite novels” would be The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. These are all books I greatly admire. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, my. Too complex a question for this non-moviegoer. How about instead I say who I would like to illustrate the cover of my book? I’d love to use a photo collage by Matthew Chase-Daniel. I adore his work. Maybe something like the image below–one that captures the essence of many smaller perspectives combining to make a more complete image of the whole: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? (Pardon me, please, but I’m going to use the two-sentence description from my query letter.) In BONES OF AN INLAND SEA we come to know passionate and restless Leslie Baxter through the secret lives of a host of characters whose paths intersect with hers, over many years, in locales as varied as the Sinai desert, a tsunami-torn reef in Thailand, Bikini Atoll after the atomic testing, and a futurist island utopia run by a dangerous charismatic leader. Written in a bold and inventive array of styles, Akers captures the longing we all feel for family, home, and a...

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Today I have a letter to Mitt Romney up at We Represent the 47 Percent. In general, I don’t push my politics on people. I feel that who I vote for is a fairly private matter between me and the election booth. But the recent video of Mitt Romney speaking to donors just about did me in. And when that happens, I write to keep from jumping out a window. Thanks for...

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Okay, so I was a little bit intimidated, interviewing one of my very favorite authors, but Tony Doerr turned out to be gracious and generous and wise. Here’s a link to his outstanding interview at the r.kv.r.y. blog: Clicky Mary Akers: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me today. I loved your short story “Oranges” that appears in our July issue. It’s such a beautiful, wistful story and I really admire how you grapple with decades of time in what is quite a short story. The next-to-last paragraph reads: “In the morning he’ll stand up in front of his seventh-graders. ‘History is memory,’ he’ll say. ‘It’s knowing that the birds who come coursing over your backyard are traveling paths ten thousand years older than you. It’s knowing that the clouds coming over the desert today will come over this desert a thousand years from now. It’s knowing that the eyes of the ones who have gone before us will someday reappear as the eyes of our children.’” This idea of history-as-memory is lovely. It’s also what I’d like to focus on today, if you’re game, and since your most recent book is titled MEMORY WALL, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you are. In your writing, you often travel freely through time–forward, backward, into the future, and even into the pre-human past. This gives your stories such a sweeping feel, such a massive, monolithic presence. Does this style come naturally to you, or do you have to give yourself permission to take those leaps? Do you do it confidently? Or only with sweaty palms and trembling? Anthony Doerr: Thank you, Mary!  Thanks even more so for being a promoter and protector of literary work. Okay, time-travel in fiction.  Let’s see.  I do everything with sweaty palms and trembling, unfortunately.  But I take heart from the folks who have risked failure before me. The first Alice Munro short story I ever read was “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and it includes these lines: “He tells me how the Great Lakes came to be. All where Lake Huron is now, he says, used to be flat land, a wide flat plain. Then came the ice, creeping down from the North, pushing deep into the low places … And then the ice went back, shrank back towards the North Pole where it came from, and left its fingers of ice in the deep places it had gouged, and ice turned to lakes and there they were today. They were new, as time went … The tiny share we have of time appalls me, though my father seems to regard it with tranquility.”...

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