Lindsey Crittenden celebrates her tenth year on Mechanics' Institute's Board of Trustees. Since 2018, Lindsey has served as president. She is the author of two published books,The Water Will Hold You: a skeptic learns to pray and The View From Below: stories, as well as numerous short stories, articles and essays. A San Francisco-based writer, Lindsey has taught at the high-school, community college, and continuing adult education level. She currently teaches memoir and fiction writing at the Writers Grotto. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, reading, hiking, and traveling. You can connect with Lindsey at [email protected].
Since you came to the Mechanics' Institute Board of Trustees in 2010, what keeps you energized about MI?
The members who come to MI to pursue individual passions and interests.
From social media, you clearly love and use libraries. Growing up, what is your earliest memory of the library?
Elementary school, where we spent time choosing books and reading them. I also recall hiding out from PE class by finding a cozy corner in the library to read. Much more my style than dodgeball.
Do you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction? What do you find most challenging as a writer?
I love writing both. I don’t have a preference. For me, the first element in writing a new piece is voice, and that voice usually tells me whether it’s fictionalized or not. I’m also not a big believer in genre distinctions -- there’s a lot of room in creative writing for hybrids. In terms of “most challenging,” keeping going during the dry spells and doubts, which will come. Trust the process.
What authors have influenced your own work?
I have such a hard time with this question! But here goes: Alice Adams, Alice Munro, Jane Smiley, have all influenced my short stories in ways subtle and not-so. In terms of memoir, I love the memoirs of Vivian Gornick and Tobias Wolff, say, but I don’t think anyone would find their influence in my work. In some ways, I imagine the writers I loved as a child (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Zilpha Keatly Snyder, Maurice Sendak) shaped me most of all, though in ways “off the page.”
Are you working on anything for publication now?
I’m looking for representation for my novel and have a few short stories out on submission.
What advice would you give to writers who are just starting their career?
To be patient. To not get hung up on publication: sure, we all want it, but making it your main goal is a road to misery. There’s a lot of rejection in this business, and a lot of satisfaction in finding audiences in ways you might not initially think of, which may not always translate into major publication success. Write for the love of writing, not to get published.
You have a lifelong love of swimming. Have you ever been a competitive swimmer? What is it that attracts you to the water?
I’m smiling as I write this because the idea of me doing any athletic activity competitively amuses me. I love water because it’s the one place I’m not a klutz. I’m eternally grateful to my parents for those early swim lessons.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about you?
I love meeting MI members and hearing what brings them and keeps them here.