Writer Interview: Isabel Geary Phelps


1. When did you begin writing? What inspired you to start?

I began writing when I was really young. I wrote songs and stories when I was even five and six, some of which I still have and are adorably hilarious. I stopped writing through middle and high school, but took it back up in college as my major and am now in a graduate program for it. I was inspired to take it back up because I loved what reading good literature could do to my emotions and my thoughts. I wanted to be a part of that.

2. What was your first book/short story/other? What was it about, and when did you write it?

My first published story was a work of CNF called "Object Permanence" about my parents divorce and the new role I took up within my family during that time. I wrote this story when I was 18 and had it published that same year.

3. Share a 'turning point' in your life as a writer.

The greatest turning point in my life as a writer came when I was 20 and in my undergraduate program. We had an incredibly inspiring but also incredibly strict and at times nearly hurtful creative writing professor. He only acted this way, though, to begin toughening our skin, as submitting work leads to a number of rejections, and to get us to work harder because writers have to be so disciplined. He reached out to me about a story I submitted for his course saying he really enjoyed it and saw a lot of merit. We ended up working on my thesis novella together.

4. What projects are you working on now? 

I am currently working on a novel. I have 50,000 words and hope to finish it out this year during my grad program with another 20-30,000. It is about twins, one girl and one boy. Their father dies suddenly prior to the books beginning (chapter one is his funeral), and the story tracks their familial devolution. The boy falls in with a drug addict and the girl takes up with an older boyfriend, as their mother pulls away from the family she has left. At the end, the book finally finds them on the road to reconnection and recovery. I wanted to write a character driven story that would feel highly relatable to people living various different lives specifically because of the characters and their liveliness.

5. Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?

Writing a lot of bad writing is so important. Writers get so bogged down feeling like they can't put down anything that isn't finalized and perfect; they can't hit save or keep a scrap of paper with something terrible on it. You can! And you should! The more you write, the more bad stuff you'll have, but the more good stuff you'll have too. Write as much as you can, and work endlessly when inspired. The inspiring teacher I wrote about earlier, told us we have to start saying 'no'. If you are on a writing streak, cancel your plans. Writing needs to be given the priority and time and energy and respect it deserves.

6. What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a writer?

Procrastination and self doubt. I will go months without writing. It's devastating. It's like any other habit: the longer you go with out doing it, the harder it will be to begin again. And I am in a seemingly endless cycle of starting and stopping.

Find Isabel on Instagram!