Interview with Author Dana de Greff on New Book, “Words and Wonder”

Author Dana de Greff smiles while on the Zoom call; her signature shoulder-length curls frame her face and bounce with equal excitement. She wears a brightly colored robe and sips freshly brewed tea. Ella’s black cat, Freda, jumps onto the white bookshelf behind her.

the former NewTimes contributor is gearing up to self-publish her first nonfiction work, Words and Wonder: A Guide to Becoming a Creative Writer. The 104-page book contains essays and prompts aimed at novice and established writers alike.

“I struggled so much when I was a beginner writer,” De Greff tells NewTimes. “I didn’t know what I was doing, and even though I read a ton of craft books, took a ton of creative writing workshops, and studied creative writing for many years, I still had so many moments where I felt lost and alone .”

words and wonder is De Greff sorting through her own experiences as a writer to inspire those who might find themselves in similar situations or stuck inspirationally. She initially had the idea for the book in 2020 when she realized she had a plethora of material on the subject of writing left over from the various workshops and classes she teaches.

There are so many myths [in the world of writing],” she says, “and that’s part of the reason why I wrote this book: to pull back the veil in a conversational way. The writer is not the person at the desk in the woods with a typewriter anymore. The writer is not the alcoholic. The writer is not the social outcast.”

The writer, essentially, is you. Whatever your experience or stage in life, if you want to be a writer, just start writing. It’s never too late, De Greff believes.

Hanging on the wall behind De Greff are various book covers and photographs. She turns and points to an image of Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison as a source of daily literary inspiration. A photo of Their Eyes Were Watching God author Zora Neale Hurston hangs near Morrison.

click to enlarge

words and wonder will be released March 29.

Photo courtesy of Dana de Greff

While Morrison and Hurston help fuel her creativity, De Greff says Anne Lamott’s essay, “Shitty First Drafts,” from Bird by Bird is a personal favorite and helped inspire words and wonder.

De Greff compares writing to training for an Olympic sport. There are days you don’t want to train, but consistency makes all the difference. “One of my biggest mistakes was only writing when I felt inspired,” she admits. “It has to be a habit. There are many days that I don’t feel like it, but I do it anyway. And that, for me, is part of the key to becoming a writer: doing it despite what you may be feeling.”

A small question-mark tattoo peeks through her teal and yellow sleeve as she takes another sip from her mug.

“I hope this book will give people the confidence they need to know that they can write, and it’s never too late to start writing and become a writer,” the Miami native says.

In addition to words and wonder, De Greff has a novel awaiting publication. She’s already at work on her second novel de ella, as well as a memoir about her experience de ella living for 14 months in Patagonia National Park in Chile.

“As I’ve gotten older as a writer, I’ve discovered that I’m the kind of writer who likes to have lots of different pots going,” she says and laughs. “The way that I work is that I write one draft, and then I put it away for a little bit, but I want to keep writing, so I start writing a different project.”

words and wonder is available now as an e-book; physical copies are due out March 29. To preorder, visit danadegreff.com.

Dana de Greff. 7 pm Thursday, March 31, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-4408; booksandbooks.com. Admission is free.

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