University of Denver Writers Workshop Readers Circle:
An Interview with Tricia Lott Williford
DU: Tricia, tell us how you manage your schedule. How do you maintain your blog (with thousands of daily readers), work on your book manuscript, and manage your home and the needs of two little boys?
Tricia: I keep lots of lists. I keep lists of lists. I have a spiral notebook with me always, and it’s quite literally my brain on paper. When I have an idea for a blog post, I jot it down. When a quick and sacred memory pops into my mind that I want to include in the book, I jot it down. I also use this method to remind myself of grocery items and overdue library books and parent/teacher conferences. It’s one big jumble of information. As for time management, I don’t really have that figured out yet. Both of the boys are in school now, so theoretically, I should have more freedom now, right? I haven’t figured that out yet. I just do what needs done right now. I just do the next thing. That’s ultimately all I’ve done for the last year and a half: I just do the next thing. And it’s pure bliss when ‘the next thing’ is 2000 words toward my book manuscript.
DU: Talk to us about this book you’re working on.
Tricia: Originally, I was planning to write about my first year as a widow, of all the things I overcame on a daily basis as I pieced myself—and my life—back together. But my editors suggested that this book would be too sad for too long, that reads are not willing to voluntarily submit themselves to that kind of mental and emotional journey. So I kind of tore the book apart and started over. Now it begins with this story of the day I got my tattoo, and it jumps around chronologically—before he died, after he died, and the triumph and tragic beauty sprinkled all throughout. It’s no longer a widow’s story. Now, it’s a story about rebirth, a memoir about overcoming the worst thing possible.
DU: Some people have said that your grief seems easier than others, that your tragedy is less somehow, since you’re able to write about it.
Tricia: You know, I really don’t see any point in comparing degrees of crisis. Crisis is crisis; loss is loss. There is no more or less. There is only the deep consuming hole, the void of being left behind. My crisis is different from other people’s, but that’s all it is: different. I would, however, like to clarify: it isn’t easier because I can write about it. I write because that’s how I process, live, work, think. So I needed to write to make any sense of this at all, to bring any order to my days. That doesn’t mean it was easier. It means it’s what I needed to do to breathe again.
DU: Do you ever struggle to convey the truth of what happened? Is it difficult to be authentic with your emotions before an audience you don’t know?
Tricia: I struggle to convey the darkness of the swallowing grief. There are really no words for it. And maybe that’s why my writing might make the grief seem easier—because the truth is unspeakable. No matter what I could write, the hurt felt deeper. So I struggle with letting that go, knowing that no matter what, I’ll never say it exactly the way it happened.
As for authenticity, I think one of the greatest gifts in this journey is the blog. I had already been writing to an unknown audience for five years before Robb died. So when my life fell apart, the blogging was nearly the only thing that hadn’t changed. I sat down at my computer and wrote again, beginning with, “Well, something has happened. Here’s where we are now.” And my readers blessed me. They joined me in the journey, and they shared my story with their friends and family, their friends of family, their friends of friends. And they keep reading, joining me over a cup of coffee each day.
DU: How do you feel about this level of celebrity you live with now?
Tricia: Is that what this is? Is this a level of celebrity? I don’t know—it’s all so new to me. I was interviewed for a Denver magazine recently, and the journalist wanted to know about Denver’s new and famous author. And I thought, “Denver has a new and famous author? Who is it? I’d love to read her stuff!” Then it occurred to me: he’s talking about me. Oh my goodness. He’s calling me Denver’s new and famous author. That’s so crazy to me.
DU: How do you manage this high profile in your daily life?
Tricia: Oh, I’m the same girl. I’m a mom, and I take my kids to football practice and painting lessons. We go to the bakery after school for the best cookies in the world. I write every morning at Starbucks, and I follow the same traffic patterns and visit the same places that have always been part of my every day. The difference now is that the people around me recognize me, they know my story, and they recognize my kids. I don’t think about all that very much, or it could really distract me—either I would begin to write for them, or I would stop writing all together. So I just do my do, and I meet lots of new people along the way. People who know a whole lot about me.
DU: You have signed a two-book contract. What will the second book be about?
Tricia: In my contract, it’s called “Untitled Work #2.” That’s publisher lingo for “we’ll wait and see what she wants to write about.” So, I don’t know—really, I don’t know at all. I’ve got my hands full writing this first one. So I’ll give this all I’ve got, and then we’ll see what emerges next. Anne Lamott is the brilliant voice that whispers to me, Always write your best stuff, and there will always be more. So I’m not saving any of my best for the next book—I’m giving it to this one. And I’m banking on more of my best for the second one.
DU: What do you want your readers to think and feel after they read your book, And Life Comes Back?
Tricia: I’d like for them to find hope and truth. I hope they’ll know they can survive the worst possible thing, and I hope they’ll feel equipped to walk alongside others in their crises. I hope they laugh. I hope they love better, harder, more. And I hope they say, “That was a damn good book. I’d like to buy one for all my friends.”