Absorbing, elegant and intimate, Heidi Diehl‘s debut novel, Lifelines (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2019), follows the lives of several characters moving back and forth between places and times – Germany and Oregon and the early 1970s and the early 21st century. We travel with Louise, an American artist, as well as a small group of her family members and loved ones as they contemplate art, creativity, and truth, each in his or her own way. Pleasingly nonlinear, the novel allows access to different characters’ perspectives at irregular intervals. While stories about artists often reveal the act or aftermath of creating, through her characters Heidi reveals the various subtle or surprising seeds of inspiration that artists can happen upon. In addition to a theme of pathways, Heidi embraces the concept of simultaneity, of everything happening at once – zeitgleich, in German – and in the final chapter, this comes to fruition in a satisfying kaleidoscopic convergence.
Heidi is an adjunct lecturer and assistant director of the freshman composition program at Brooklyn College where she teaches expository and creative writing. In this episode, we talk about the origins of Lifelines and how the long and messy process of writing her own fiction helps Heidi identify with her students who often struggle with the practice. She also teaches graduate students who are new to teaching writing and highly recommends John Bean’s Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom.
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