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Jody Hobbs Hesler

Alumna, 1985

Jody Hobbs Hesler attended the Workshop in fiction in 1985.

Where are you living and what brought you there?

I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. My husband’s graduate work in engineering brought us here. Since then, he has started a company, located here in town.

Where are you working and what do you enjoy about it?

Mine is not a traditional career path. Instead, I have morphed my role as at-home parent into professional writer as my children have aged. While staying at home with them, I have completed three novels; the third is the one I hope to finalize and ready for market within the next several months. My short fiction appears in Valparaiso Fiction Review, Prime Number, Pearl, some local contest prize anthologies, and other places. Charlottesville Family Magazine publishes my feature articles regularly, and my book reviews appear or are pending at [PANK], The Georgia Review, Buffalo Almanack, and At the Margins.

Not everyone gets the luxury to devote their time to this pursuit; making a living on one’s writing alone is a very difficult prospect. So one thing I love about what I do is, simply, that I get to do it. Beyond that, I am my own boss; I define my own goals and set my own hours; and I can travel with my work. What would make me love this work even more would be the reward of a book contract after I finish revising my latest novel.

What do you find yourself most often reading/listening to lately and why?

Part of my job as a writer is to be a reader. I try to read a book a week and keep a journal of my reactions to each one. Much of what I read is contemporary, but I also read yesterday’s and yesteryear’s work, to give me the widest possible scope as a reader and writer.

Recent favorites: everything by William Gay; most of Larry Brown, especially his short story collection Big Bad Love; Marilynn Robinson’s Housekeeping; Mavis Gallant’s work, especially her novella Green Water, Green Sky. For most of these works, it’s the narrative voice that thrills me. In Gallant, it’s sheer beauty of language.

Formative books: Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway; Harriette Arnow’s The Dollmaker; everything by Dawn Powell, especially her memoir; Mary McCarthy’s The Group and The Charmed Life, among others; everything by Edith Wharton; Anais Nin’s earliest diaries; and more. Always more.

What are you working on right now and what does it represent in the larger body of your artistic accomplishments?

Much of my writing uses narrative voice, but the novel I’m revising right now is more lyrical than narrative. It aims to be beautiful.

Also on the docket are revisions of several short stories. Lately, I am trying to have many of my plots turn on ideas of mercy and tenderness.

What are your publications, performances, albums, and/or achievements that seem most important to you at this point in time?

The next one. I think the most important achievement is always the next one.

How would you characterize the influence of your YWW experience in your life?

The YWW was one of my first experiences with an actual workshop setting. I still remember when my instructor told us to expect 100 rejections for every acceptance. His frankness helped me begin to understand the nature of this world. If only he had been wrong!

The YWW was also a mini-immersion in the artistic life and an early chance to self-identify as a writer. I think most of us (writers, artists, etc) feel like square pegs in round holes, so having a community and owning this aspect of our identities help fuel our energy for the work.

What’s the best advice you can give a Young Writer (in general or in your specific genre)?

If you love it, keep at it. Don’t do it for the money. (Hardly any of us can.) Don’t do it for the glory. (There’s a lot of finely crafted but mediocre literature out there. We really don’t need more of that.) Do it for the passion of it.

If you’re serious, then read and write as much as you can. And, don’t forget, live your life, too. Where else will your ideas come from?