You Are Not What We Expected, a new collection of stories by School for Writers graduate Sidura Ludwig, wasn’t the book she expected it to be. Sidura told us a bit how she figured that out and how Humber helped her turn a collection of characters into a book.
Tell us about your book. How did it come about?
You Are Not What We Expected started out as a novel. I wrote pages and pages with, in retrospect, absolutely no idea where the story was going. Or even if there was a story. One day I sat back and realized I had hundreds of pages of nothing. It just wasn’t working.
At the time when I was first working on this book, I had a young family at home. My attention was so divided, I was having trouble reading novels, let alone writing one. But there was something about these characters that kept me from giving up entirely. I always loved reading and writing short fiction. So for this project I switched focus to short fiction because I needed to be able to start and finish a story. The more I dove in and out of these characters’ lives (and their neighbours’), the more I started to see the story unfolding as a linked collection.
How did you find the experience of working with your writing mentor? What insight into your writing did you gain through the mentorship process?
I was lucky to be paired with Jami Attenberg. She was both tough and encouraging—the perfect combination to push me to write outside of my comfort zone. Through Jami, I learned how to dig deep in my stories and write honestly about my characters’ experiences. I worked on knowing their motivations and letting those guide the story. What I appreciated most about the relationship was the role of accountability. I worked harder knowing she was on the other end waiting for my submission. The whole set up helped me to take my work seriously, even when I was playing around creatively and trying something new. Knowing I had a deadline made me make my writing a priority, and by working to that deadline, I managed to craft the first draft of this collection.
Photo credit: Katherine Fogler