Since novelist and nonfiction writer Zan Romanoff just joined our roster over the summer, we wanted to do a Q&A to help the WWLA community get acquainted with her. Once you read her answers below, feel free to snap up one of the few spots left in her Mixed Levels Nonfiction workshop starting October 17 in Hancock Park.
WWLA: While you've been writing nonfiction for some time, last term was your first time teaching for WWLA. What was your experience like? What did you find most surprising? What did you find most exciting?
ZR: It was so fun! This is actually my first year as a full-time freelance writer, so it's easy to start feeling a little burnout-y when all you do is write all day. I was anxious that teaching might contribute to that, but it was truly the opposite: gathering with people who were enthusiastic about writing once a week helped remind me of what's interesting and exciting about the practice—all the different places it can take you and the ways it can help you to think about and see the world.
WWLA: You've published nonfiction in a number of different venues from Bon Appetit to The New Republic. How did you get started writing for websites and magazines?
ZR: My mom is a writer, so I grew up scribbling—I've been writing journals and stories and blogs forever. For a long time, I looked at writing as a skill that I could use to help other people out: my best friend was an editor at a college newspaper, and when someone didn't turn in a column, I volunteered to write about an episode of Project Runway that had just aired. (What's up, 2006.) I did stuff like that—writing for various college publications, or unpaid websites, and my own Tumblr—for a long time before a piece I'd written for a zine ended up on The Paris Review Daily, and a couple of agents got in touch to ask if I had a book proposal. I could not have been more stunned. It took a lot of years to transition from working as an event planner to writing full-time, but that planted the seed that I was maybe good enough to think about writing professionally, on my own terms—not just when someone else gave me permission to do it.
WWLA: What are you looking forward to in this fall's Mixed Levels Nonfiction workshop? What will a typical workshop meeting look like?
ZR: I'm looking forward to reading students' work—I learned how to write by reading, and I still feel like reading and critiquing on a regular basis makes everyone's work much, much stronger. Because I'm so focused on reading as a necessary skill for writers, I usually start class with a quick check-in about how everyone's doing and what (if anything) they read that week. It helps us get to know one another, opens up all kinds of interesting discussion topics (from love of our pets to stories about viral tales of cheddar cheese and butternut squash to sighing over proper text etiquette), and helps remind students that stories are everywhere—the trick is to teach yourself to recognize them.