a crack up

Virginia Evans

recently completed her Masters of Philosophy in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin. The Irish Times published her essay, The Winter Place and the Dublin-based literary magazine Sonder published her short story, Fields and Fields of Poppies.


A Crack Up

written by Virginia Evans

Virginia Evans wrote the first draft of her novel in 61 days. Seven days a week, she was at her desk with coffee by 5:00 am. She wrote 98,000 words while working three part-time jobs, with two children at home under age four. Then she defied the odds and managed to secure a literary agent. All of that turned out to be the easy part.

This candid essay is a fascinating glimpse into the process of writing, re-writing, and the strain of trying to please someone else. Recounting events that nearly destroyed her, Virginia opens up about her literary “crack up,” rooted in a lack of confidence in her writing.

The title is derived from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essay, The Crack Up, which she references in this story.

© 2019 Virginia Evans  | Recording © 2021 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

In the morning, we sat around with family wedding hangovers drinking coffee and eating donuts. I was thinking about Mother-in-law, a working-class girl of the sixties, hiding from Charles Manson with her future husband’s wealthy family.

I sent queries describing the story to a few agents I had researched. My son was turning four. The basement kept flooding, and we’d discovered there were rats in the crawl space when I watched one scurry by in the middle of the afternoon.

The first night of my insomnia, I figured the decaf coffee I’d ordered that afternoon at Starbucks had been accidentally made with caffeine. I was up until 4:00 am. My alarm went off at half-past four. I got up to work on the draft.

The pages narrating my novel hung over the windows, a flimsy stained glass lifting gently whenever the door opened. One by one, I brought the pages down to the floor, filled in the right side of each page with changes, growth, development, and linkages.

Virgina Evans recently completed her Masters of Philosophy in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin. The Irish Times published her essay, The Winter Place and the Dublin-based literary magazine Sonder published her short story, Fields and Fields of Poppies.

Q&A with Virginia

Tell us about your story...

For my Masters course, I had to write a personal essay. For months I toyed with ideas about my family and upbringing, but on several occasions I got into conversations with my advisor about what had happened to the novel I’d finished a few years previous.

I was cagey in my responses, and he said he sensed I was ashamed about it. I tried to avoid the topic, but he dug in and unearthed the story of what had happened with my literary agent. I hadn’t cried in years, but I cried then, and he was quiet for a while. And then he said, “that’s your essay.”

What was the inspiration for this story?

The events in this essay destroyed me at a foundational level, and when I emerged from that period of my life, I shut it all up in a cellar and closed the hatch. I hadn’t ever opened it up, and I knew I needed to face it all again and try to make sense of what happened and move on.

When I was writing the essay, I forced myself to re-read old emails, drafts of the novel, and journals. It was painful, but it needed to be done!

Like opening a rotten wound so it can breathe. It was necessary for me to make peace with what happened, and the essay gave me a way to do it thoroughly and completely.

What have you read recently that you loved?

 I only just finished reading The Color Purple,  by Alice Walker with my international book club, and I was undone. I loved the way she wrote the bond of sisters, and I loved the way she wrote a story about all these sides and angles and crevices of love. The best book I read in 2020 was Stoner, by John Williams, but I can’t shake The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante either.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

 I have lots of pleasures (coffee and wine, reading instead of cleaning, TV, monthly massages, buying books) but I can’t say I feel guilty about any of them.

What fact(s) about you would most surprise people?

I don’t like eating out.

What's the best thing to happen to you recently?

My husband got a cush new job after a long, long wait, and he’s just delighted. It’s lovely to see him this way.

Tomorrow, I absolutely refuse to...

..hit the third snooze.

Who / What maeks you laugh?

My daughter is the funniest person I’ve ever met. Ted Lasso (HBO TV series), too.

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