Juno is the author of Queer Sex, Trans Power and Gender Explorers, as well as the writer of many other opinion pieces and essays on gender identity. They’re a former teacher and a recognised trans activist. We asked them about their writing process and what inspires them to write.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
By writing, writing something, anything. Look around you and describe the room. Make lists, I make lots of lists – every place I remember from my childhood, every flower I want in my garden, the words my dad said when he was angry/happy/sad. Don’t try to write a book or a chapter or even a paragraph if you have a block but write words, words that matter and words that don’t. If you feel like writing sentences do but again don’t try to make them be anything. ENJOY WORDS and remember why it is you want to write (because hopefully you love words).
Could you describe your own writing process? What motivates you?
I write all the time in notebooks, on my phone, I email myself lines/words/ideas/titles constantly and transcribe the emails into a document the next morning. If I’m setting out to write a book I try to have a really clear vision of a point A and B. Where am I going and why and then most importantly is it an idea that someone else would want to read? Just because something feels interesting to you unless it has universal appeal it might feel like treading water for the reader. So, my process is one of writing copious notes/sections etc and then discarding much of that until I have a skeleton and then I think of the reader and how to take them on the journey through, for example, a set of interviews. Put yourself in but don’t centre yourself. Centre the person who you really hope, deep down, will read and love your book.
What books have inspired you or helped you through a difficult time in your life?
Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, almost any book by Joan Didion (especially The White Album & Miami) she describes with beautifully louche detail, Crudo by Olivia Laing is superb – the pace is brilliantly handled and Gender Trouble by Judith Butler always kicks my mind into gear. If I’m truly honest though the books that get me through difficult times as opposed to inspire me are art books and books about artist houses and studios – looking at images of Ghost Ranch the house that Georgia O’Keefe lived and worked in inspires me to rest and try to find comfort before moving on. That’s important, just because you’re a writer it doesn’t mean all the answers you need will be in words.
What kinds of experiences would you love to read about in the submissions?
I want to read new takes on existing dynamics, not just sad stories of facing difficulties but stories that weave difficulties and joy into new spaces and new ideas. I want to read about tenderness and intimacy, the small spaces and not pointless political social media fights. That stuff doesn’t allow us in. I want to read about domestic detail – where were you when this or that happened, who noticed, who saw, how did it impact them. I want to read about the experiences of the bystanders, and the people who surround the event.
What makes a story come alive for you?
Domestic and historical detail that surrounds an engaging narrative, if fiction, pace and at least some kind of likeability. Even in Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble which is a tough nonfiction read there is likeability around the central idea of performance. It becomes accessible in a seemingly inaccessible text.
Could you share any words of advice for writers at the start of their writing journey?
Enjoy writing but don’t ever think of yourself as a writer because that gets in the way as you start out. Think of yourself as an explorer, that’s much more fun.
Thanks for sharing your advice, Juno!
If you’re feeling inspired, why not enter our Writing Prize? Read how to submit you story, here:
You can follow Juno on Twitter, here.