In her recent post about time, Jamie wrote, “Time. It’s what we writers fight for. Without it, we have no hope of bringing our written creations to life. We need time to study, time to read, time to ponder, time to dream, and of course – time to write.”
My neighbor Vincent Panella writes. He’s arranged his entire adult life around writing. “When I’m writing, I’m happy,” he says. “When I’m not writing I’m not happy.”
Vincent wrote his first novel when he was twenty-three, while he was in the army. “I drank six pots of coffee a day and the book poured out of me. But my writing was better than my characters, I didn’t have any knowledge of form.”
He burned the manuscript –and wrote five more novels – or maybe six; he’s lost count. At one point, he had an agent; at another, he sold a novel to Simon & Schuster, but they never published the book. “I’ve had a lot of near successes,” he says – and he keeps writing.
After graduating from the Iowa Workshop in 1971, Panella spent a year as a reporter for a daily paper – a job he loved for what he learned, but it kept him too busy with daily deadlines to write fiction. He switched to jobs teaching writing at law schools in Iowa and Florida before landing in Vermont.
Despite growing up in Queens, Panella found life in New York City too distracting for writing. “You create a world you inhabit and you think about it all the time,” he says. In the course of his career, he has written in a closet, in a small cabin, and in now in a comfortable outbuilding on his Vermont farm. Even when he was teaching, Panella started every day in the studio building beside his old farmhouse, where he writes by hand. “I don’t turn the computer on until later in the day. I try not to check email until I finish writing.”
Cutter’s Island (Chicago Review Press) came out in 2009 to critical success. In 2010, Panella self- published Lost Hearts, a collection of short stories, also to great reviews. While he’s glad he brought the stories out, he says, “I don’t have the energy for that any more. It’s too much of a hustle, and I just want to write.”
Now 75, Panella is currently concentrating on novellas and short stories. His novella Canada can be read on line at wipsjournal.com. He’s now more concerned about writing than selling his work. He says, “I have more stories to write than I have time and more work than I can really accomplish, and I think that’s a good thing.”