What inspired you to write your novel?

The Butcher’s Apprentice began as a short story for a 2019 writing workshop. I grew up in a rural area near a butcher who slaughtered and processed the local beef and pigs. I was fascinated about what went on in his barn because my family raised and ate our own small livestock. In the original short story, I explored an unlikely relationship between a hungry girl and a German butcher, and how they save one another, in a way, from both the literal and metaphorical starvation of the boxed and canned foods, and the two-working-parent trends of the 1970s. I expanded and outlined it to novel-form and completed the first draft while helping my children home-school during the first year of the pandemic. The story was a needed escape. In late 2021, I finished the second draft and the initial chapters began winning local and international recognition. This year, I’m at work on the third draft. I’m proud that portions of this story were written and workshopped at The Writing Salon.

How has growing up on a farm shaped your creative life?

My family and I ate from grocery stores, but we also raised, grew and preserved much of our own homegrown food. The thriftiness and pragmatism of my parents—the children of farmers and laborers who lived through the Depression and World War II—was passed on to me. When you have animals and plants that require tending and harvesting, there aren’t many vacations. Farm life gave me the ability to push through discomfort and get a job done. I’m not easily disgusted. I think showing up for my livestock and spending time in a garden at a young age helps me show up for my writing in a uniquely disciplined and focused way. I paid attention to, not only the cute animals and wildlife found in a rural area, but the ones many people find repugnant, that co-exist with livestock and gardens: slugs, reptiles, bugs, fungi. Many of my childhood photos include animals. They were my friends, food, education, and pets, so non-human characters almost always appear in my stories. Just like a farm, my writing needs tending.

How have your classes at The Writing Salon helped you grow as a writer?

The generous instructors at The Writing Salon encouraged my imperfect, early work. They fueled my confidence and motivation to write almost every day. From Junse Kim’s “Intro to Fiction”, where I got my first big ideas about the elements and structure of story, to Kathy Garlick’s “Round Robin” daily writes and workshops, to Jessica Litwak’s holistic dialogue class, I’ve learned and applied new concepts for almost six years. I can see and articulate how my writing has changed over time. I’d say my most significant growth has been in the area of character, and coming to trust and rely on them to help me tell the story. I’ve also progressed thanks to reading the first draft work of other writers in various multi-week workshops, and through giving and receiving feedback in numerous sessions of “Round Robin”. The availability and flexibility of The Writing Salon’s classes have allowed me to pick and choose specific areas of craft on which to focus right when I’m in need of them. As a new writer, I needed intro classes; now, as a more experienced writer, I seek advanced opportunities. The Writing Salon offers the full range.

What writing projects are you looking forward to in the coming months?

While writing The Butcher’s Apprentice, I’ve also written short stories and essays. One of these has developed into something that suspiciously resembles another novel. Most of my fiction is set in the 1960s and 70s, and germinated as a result of the extensive historical research I’ve done for The Butcher’s Apprentice and prior work. Visiting these other eras has been a welcome break from the realities of the modern world. It’s been fun to reacquaint with rotary dial phones, phone books, record players, muscle cars, and the music of 1978. And, no cell phones back then! I’m eager to continue writing those times.

I’ve also stumbled upon an intriguing historical figure from WWII and the Manhattan Project. I’d love to reimagine his story. I’d like to publish the growing collection of grotesque stories that await my revision. But, for now, I’m trying to stay focused on the novel-at-hand. Revising and submitting other work has taken second priority to completing the current draft of The Butcher’s Apprentice.

Wendy A. Warren’s short fiction and essays have appeared in HerStryHare’s Paw Literary JournalBirdland Journal, and elsewhere. Her novel-in-progress, The Butcher’s Apprentice, won the 2021 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest, and was longlisted for the 2021 Grindstone International Novel Prize. Wendy is the founder of WriteGuide.online for new and emerging fiction writers, and a local writers’ critique group. She volunteers her time at writing conferences, and is a Young Author’s Week instructor. She took her first creative writing class at The Writing Salon in 2016. Wendy lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and two children.

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