Books

the story behind the book | kate tuttle

Julianna Baggott talks writing — fast and slow

david wilson for the boston

Novelist, essayist, and poet, Julianna Baggott is impressively prolific, publishing a book just about every year — all while raising four children and working as a professor of creative writing.

Her latest novel, “Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders,” represents a departure from her usual authorial speed. A book whose plot and characters span a century, it required years of research.

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Baggott remembered the first interview she conducted for the novel: “The kid I was pregnant with at the time is now an 18-year-old,” she said.

The book, whose main character is a reclusive matriarch and well-known author with a few secrets, concerns motherhood, daughters, teaching, and writing (among many, many other things). “It represents an evolution of obsessions,” Baggott said, “an evolution of my aesthetic aspirations, and really me kind of in collaboration with myself over many years, which is not a very efficient way to write a novel,” she laughed.

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Still, Baggott said, this is one of her best books, “a much more textured novel, because it has so many layers.”

Best of all, she added, her mother loves it. “This is my mother’s favorite book of mine,” Baggott said. “There are large parts of her that are in this book. She’s a brilliant storyteller in her own right, very funny. She really formed me as a writer.”

Of her overprotective but inspiring mother, Baggott said, “she was a helicopter parent before there were helicopter parents.”

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Completing “Harriet Wolf’’ was a lengthy task, but Baggott, who has taught at Holy Cross since 2014, jumped right into the next one. She has a new book coming out this month, “All of Us and Everything,” under the pen name Bridget Asher.

Baggott will read Thursday as part of the Worcester Public Library’s Celebration of Authors, a gala to support the library, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the White Room in the Crompton Collective, 138 Green St., Worcester. Tickets are $100 and include food and drink. Festive attire requested.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.
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