Sunday, March 10, 2013

WYTOVICH LOCKS UP SNOW WHITE


PATIENT: DANIELLE MODAFFERI
ILLNESS: POISON APPLE 

When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?

I’m pretty sure I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. I was always a very gregarious kid and loved performing and entertaining for whoever would listen. (My poor parents!) In elementary school, I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher who urged me to participate in a writing competition. I entered with a silly fable about how flamingos came to be pink and I won the competition! And so began my love of writing. Since then I have become an avid poet. Poetry and writing has helped me through so much in my life as a very cathartic practice. It has been my creative outlet and my way to put my thoughts on to paper when I haven’t been able to speak the words aloud.

I tend to write Women’s Lit but am currently writing a Fantasy novel, which has been quite an experience moving from the realistic to the fantastical - a lot more longitude with what you can get away with. (When in doubt, blame it on magic! Haha!)

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?

Many of my ideas come from real life observations or situations that happen that I wish would have happened differently. I get to write the dialogue I might not have been brave enough to say myself or the apology I wish I’d given. It’s a chance for a redo. It’s also a way to life more than one life. By day, I am a teacher. I have a wonderfully supportive family. But writing gives me the opportunity to experience other lives, lives that I may never get a chance to live myself. Dangerous lives. Frightening encounters. Romantic fantasies. It’s an escape from the quotidian. It’s like exploring the “what if” question we often ask ourselves. Even though I am very happy with everything with which I am blessed, everyone wants to get away every once and a while.

What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?

In the past, I must admit, I never really stuck to a “normal” writing schedule per se. But due to monthly writing deadlines, amongst a very busy life schedule, I have really been trying to write small amounts everyday. It was quite an adjustment for me to write to a deadline because creativity, unfortunately, is not on tap. I used to just write whenever I felt inspired, but the luxury of time and inspiration doesn’t exist when pages are due. You have to train yourself to write in spite of distractions or momentary lapses in creativity.

Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?

I teach English Lit so I love balancing popular fiction and literary fiction. Exposure to what has worked in the past and what is selling at present keeps my mind open as a writer. In addition, as much as I love writing and reading Fiction, I actually do find myself reading a good amount of non-fiction and memoirs. As I mentioned, I pull inspiration from real life and I have found that “real-life”, in many instances, is far crazier than fiction! (At least in my life, that’s true!)

The author I most respect would undoubtedly be J.K. Rowling. Her accomplishment in writing one book better than the next in a series that forever changed a generation of readers is beyond inspiring. I confess I am a Harry Potter nerd to the core (and I have a totally geeky HP tattoo to prove it!). I am currently reading John Green, who is just awesome! He has a magical way of balancing the tragedy and comedy of life without it being melodramatic. His characters are real people and insightful. I am thoroughly enjoying his work.

And one of my favorite memoirists of all time is a woman named Jennifer Lancaster. If you don’t know if her, check her out. (Especially her book about her weight loss journey entitled Such a Pretty Fat. It is laugh-out-loud hysterical.) She is friggin’ hilarious. No seriously, I’m fairly certain that if ever given the chance, we’d be best friends. (And I’m also fairly certain that if she ever read that little confession, she’d have a restraining order in place before I could shout “NEW BESTIE!!”)

Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?

Though I love writing prose, I am a poet at heart. I like the brevity of poetry. It’s like the Kung-Fu of literature. Hiii-Yah! - A one-two punch of emotion that can feel like a blow to the gut with so few words. I feel like poetry’s been a pretty awesome sidekick through all my ups and downs. (PUN INTENDED! – Man, I am a sucker for a good pun much to the dismay of my students who just think my puns are corny.)

Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?

It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I need something inspirational like “Eye of the Tiger” which, if you are an onlooker, is utterly ridiculous. My brows furrow. Drips of sweat bead down my face. My lips draw into a tight line. And for those three minutes and thirty seconds, I am on fire. But then, I am pooped, and consequently, need to take a nap. So most often, I tend to write while listening to classical or instrumental music since if I write to songs with lyrics, I end up singing along, and then type out the lyrics instead of actual productive pages.

Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pancer?

Oh man I used to pants-it. I used to pants-the-hell out of my stories. I would start with a vague idea as to what direction I wanted to take it, but sometimes I didn’t and I just let it flow. I will admit that pants-ing it has turned out some scenes I never intended to write, but ended up being some of my favorites. But the trouble with that method, as I mentioned before, is that when creativity is not-a-flowin’, you’re sunk. So I’d sit there and stare and my computer blankly for awhile and when the words weren’t coming, I’d chalk it up to “writer’s block.” But days and days would pass without me writing anything and I knew that I had figure something else out.

What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?

Discipline. It really does take discipline and commitment to finish a work. When I started my MFA program at Seton Hill it was explained to me that once we chose a project idea for our thesis we were pretty much committed to sticking with it. My mentor explained that writers have a million new ideas every minute and if they changed every time they became inspired by another project or their current work in progress was getting to difficult that they would never finish anything. The program has taught me to slog through the tough parts no matter what. It takes discipline to turn out pages. It takes discipline to sit your butt in a chair and write when you don’t want to. And it takes discipline to finish what you started. Many people aspire to write a book. A good number may even start one. But significantly less will ever finish.

Current projects?

I am almost finished my first draft of my MFA thesis project entitled The Girl in the Glass Box, which is a fairytale retelling of Snow White. I wanted to tell everyone that the Disney version that we have all come to know and love is a watered down version of a very dark tale. Snow White has a lot to overcome and the story really paints her as a victim of circumstance – a girl trapped in her own life. (Hence, the title.) But she is really strong and overcomes a lot to find freedom. It is certainly an unconventional look at a familiar story. I’m curious as to how it will be received since readers will have a specific vision or a certain version in their minds before they even begin reading. So far, I’ve heard good things from critique groups and colleagues who’ve read it, so that’s promising!

How do you balance being an editor and being a writer? (Or double jobs, being a mom/dad, etc.- apply to your situation)

I’ll tell you what, it isn’t easy. I am a full-time high school teacher for which I advise several extra-curricular activities. I am a full-time graduate student with class expectations and writing deadlines that come fast and furiously. I have a second job as a part-time makeup artist for MAC cosmetics. And somewhere in there I attempt to balance a social life. (Sadly, this is the aspect that tends to fall by the wayside when I am pressed for time or am stressing out.) It’s hard, but thankfully I work best under pressure and need to be busy in order to be efficient with my time. I would say that the way I balance it roots back to discipline, which I am getting better with every day. And also some days you need to realize that you just can’t do it all; therefore, prioritizing is essential.

What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?

I teach at an all-girls school. I have two younger sisters. I have grown up in a supportive household where my parents raised me to know that I have no limitations put on me because of my sex. I, in turn, have always been an advocate of women as respectable individuals and independent thinkers. Therefore, I hope that my audience can expect from me strong female protagonists. This doesn’t mean combat-wearing, buzz-cut coiffed feminists. But it means that these women, though flawed (because hey, who isn’t?), are self-reliant. They will have encouraging people in their lives. Sure, they will need connections to others and passions that drive them, which will help them develop enriching and fulfilling lives, but at the end of the day, they are their own people. You will never see one of my heroines curl in the fetal position and die because life or love didn’t go her way. I want women to be inspired by my heroines’ strength.  

• Advice for aspiring writers?
 
Irving Azoff once said, "When it stops being fun, I'll stop doing it." THAT'S the greatest advice I can give. There are times when it will be difficult. But if you ever find that it no longer brings you joy, then why do it? I guess that's the cerebral advice. The more practical? Get yourself an AWESOME critique group who will be brutally honest, but supportive of your work.  The more you can critique/read the work of others and can receive reciprocal feedback, the more you will develop. Trust me. I feel that having a wonderful critique group, who is knowledgeable and whom I trust, has single-handedly been the aspect that has most shaped my writing and helped me to grow.


Author Bio:
 
 
Danielle is a MFA student at Seton Hill University in their Writing Popular Fiction program expecting to graduate January 2014.  She studied at the University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate degree, focusing her studies on French and English Literature.  She also lived for a period of time in Paris, France where she continued her study of the French language and culture at the Sorbonne.  She then attended the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education for Secondary Education.

She is currently working on a Fantasy fairytale re-write inspired by the Grimm's version of Snow White. Danielle also dabbles in writing romance and women's fiction, which coincides with her love of romantic comedies and movies of all kinds. 

Danielle has spent the last seven years teaching high school English (and French... ooh la la) and loving every minute of it! She excels in literary analysis and works to strengthen her students' capacity to see beyond what is written.  And, of course this goes without saying but as all writers should be, Danielle is an AVID reader and is not afraid or ashamed to admit that Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling) has singlehandedly changed her life! She aspires to leave such a legacy on the literary world as Rowling has for this generation and future generations to come. 

When not reading, writing, or teaching, there isn't time for much else (haha!) but Danielle has worked hard training to compete in Sprint Triathlons. She keeps her mind and body fit through swimming, biking, and running as often as she can in order to prepare for her next race. She works to challenge herself physically and considers each trial, tribulation, and success as research material for her writing. 

For daily musings and random nuggets of madness follow Danielle on Twitter @DaniMod115. The more the merrier!!