Regis Mile High MFA Faculty Spotlight: Sophfronia Scott
Sophfronia Scott was a writer and editor at Time and People before publishing her first novel, All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press). Her latest novel is Unforgivable Love (William Morrow). She’s also the author of an essay collection, Love’s Long Line, from Ohio State University Press’s Mad Creek Books and a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World, from Paraclete Press. Sophfronia lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut with her husband and son. Her website and blog can be found at www.Sophfronia.com
1. Tell us about your newest books.
I’m in the happy yet unusual position of having three books being published over a brief span: just five months. My novel Unforgivable Love, is a retelling of the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses set in 1940s Harlem. William Morrow/HarperCollins published it in September 2017. The book has captured a lot of positive media and reviews, so promoting it has been a fun ride.
The memoir I co-wrote with my 13-year-old son, This Child of Faith, came out from Paraclete Press in December. It’s the story of our family’s spiritual journey that began when we started attending an Episcopal church in 2011, and how that journey played a role in the aftermath of the mass shooting at my son’s school, Sandy Hook Elementary.
On February 11 The Ohio State University Press will publish my essay collection, Love’s Long Line, under its new literary imprint, Mad Creek Books. The title will be the latest in OSU’s 21st Century Essays series edited by David Lazar and Patrick Madden and I’m thrilled about that because Lazar and Madden are big names in the genre. They’re seeking to honor the essay form and I like to think they see my work as doing that.
People hear I have three books coming out and they tend to say, “You’ve been busy!” and I have been, but these books weren’t written all at once. When my literary agent began submitting Unforgivable Love to publishers I went back to work on the essay collection, which I had started while in graduate school. Once that was done and submitted I wrote the book proposal for This Child of Faith. The hard part was when all the projects came to fruition at the same time. There’s no way I could have expected that. The essay collection and the memoir were submitted months apart, but they were both accepted in September 2016. So I had to write the memoir while working on edits for the essay collection and also for the novel, which had sold earlier, in May.
2. What writing advice would you give to beginning writers?
I was just discussing this with my Mile High MFA workshop students: Creativity playdates are just as important as the time you schedule for writing. In fact, your writing time can be difficult and fruitless without them. If you find you spend much of your writing time staring wordless at the screen or blank page, you’re in need of a creativity playdate. Looking for a story idea? Ride the subway a few stops or go sit in a park and pay attention. Your next character might step on the train at West 66th Street, or stroll past you wearing a top hat and walking a fluffy Scottish terrier sporting blue booties on its paws. I know my writing eye is awakened every time I travel the 65 miles south to New York City and take in the energy and movement of a different environment. Suddenly my senses have new sights, sounds, and smells to process. It’s exciting.
I encourage you to schedule a creativity playdate at least once a month. If you can’t think of something to do, consider this—you want to excite your five senses. Try to come up with ideas addressing each one. For example:
---Smell: Explore perfume or incense shops; check out a store where you can sniff barrels of coffee beans, visit a florist.
---Touch: Go to high-end stores or fabric shops where you can run your hands over rich materials or beautiful furniture. Take a cue from your childhood and visit a petting zoo or an aquarium that features touch tanks of specimens to hold.
---Sight: Feast your eyes on works of art, or go on hikes to see spectacular views.
---Sound: Attend concerts, plays, musicals, or sit in a place with lots of people where you can pick up pieces of overheard conversation.
---Taste: Try a new cuisine by cooking a recipe you’ve never tried before or going to a different restaurant.
Really, you could do anything you want for your creativity playdate as long as you don’t forget to have fun!
3. What are you working on now?
I’m working on another novel of historical fiction. This one is set in various states (Louisiana, South Carolina, Ohio, New York) in Civil War era America. I’m also gathering string on pieces that I hope will become another essay collection. I like this rhythm of going back and forth between fiction and nonfiction so I figure I’ll just keep going with it.