Volume 6, Issue 1–Delay

The Magnolia Review apologizes for the delay of Volume 6, Issue 1. The issue will be available by February 15 at the latest. We will update the blog when the issue is available. Thank you for your patience.

–The Magnolia Review Editors

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I write primarily in the Nook of my bedroom looking out on a hill and four thin pines I pretend I own, although it’s really just the back of my condo. I find I write particularly well when I go away to a remote airbnb or retreat. I dream of finding a more permanent, isolated writer’s space, maybe a cabin or shed in the woods. 

I also enjoy writing in coffeehouses. One of my favorite things to do with friends is to meet to “parallel work,” which largely means to hang out and ignore each other between smiles and short conversations. Not all of my friends enjoy this pastime. 

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I primarily type on my laptop although I love pens, especially colored, erasable gel pens these days for outlines and notes.

What is your routine for writing?

I’d like to say I wake up early every morning and write; that is usually my plan and sometimes a habit, but my routine is more typically random. I’m typing these responses at 3:00 am after drafting a poem. I see nights like this as writing between two naps.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I started most of my creative writing after college, when I began identifying as a writer. I lived what I considered a good writer’s life–traveling and collecting experiences, but not spending enough time writing or editing. I rarely wrote when my children were little, but started writing seriously in 2015. My children, now 11 and 16, are supportive, which helps inspire me.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I know that I’m supposed to have an audience in mind, but I don’t. I have faith that most of what I put out there needs to be read by someone, but I don’t usually imagine who that might be. I write primarily for myself. At times, I might write something as a gift to someone, but even then, it’s my wanting to capture feelings, ideas, and phrases primarily to study, understand, or celebrate for myself.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I’m a better person when I write. It’s how I process the world and it helps keep me centered. So any manner of hardship or crisis inspires me to write. As Philip Roth said, “Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.” With that said, when life is too chaotic or rushed, it’s hard to find the mental space and stillness to write. At those times, things that help include a day off, a walk in the woods, and a good scented candle.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I paint a few pictures every summer to enter in the county fair. I sometimes imagine I’ll keep it up year round, but never carve out time for it. I play guitar. I’ve been playing on and off for years, but got serious with it last spring and am nearing competent now. I’m working on writing songs too.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the creative process might be the window-staring. Also, it’s wildly satisfying when I struggle with a piece and think it may be one to give up on, but stick it out and Voila! It comes together. Usually my writing is slow and steady, and I have more than my share of work I’ve trashed, but sometimes it comes together in the end. How it does sometimes astounds even me. And sometimes it’s easy, the work just writes itself, which calls to mind all sorts of mysterious notions I enjoy musing about.

I always feel grateful to be writing, even when it’s not going well, even when it’s difficult. I never take for granted the time and space and presence of mind writing requires. It’s all a great luxury.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

When I reflect on why I produced so little in my 20s, despite having lots of time, I conclude that I cared too much about what other people thought and took feedback poorly. I now regularly seek feedback, and it consistently improves my work, but I don’t take it too seriously. So I guess that would be my advice to aspiring writers, not to take any of it too seriously–criticisms, expectations, yourself. They’re only words after all, easily deleted, trashed, or erased.  

Check out Kristin‘s work in Volume 6, Issue 1.

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut has been a featured poet at local readings including Words Out Loud at Glen Echo, Evil Grin in Annapolis, DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry, and Third Thursday Poetry Reading in Takoma Park. Kristin participates in local poetry and prose writing workshops and open mics, in addition to reading, hiking, teaching, playing guitar, and enjoying time with her children. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Nightingale and Sparrow, Bourgeon, and Mojave He[Art] Review among others.

Midlife Legacy, Path of Lightning, Teacher Training, Change Takes Energy, Whispers Enough, and The One There Behind Me, Volume 6, Issue 1

Interview

Jennifer Makowsky–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I usually write at home in a chair that’s situated in front of a row of windows that go from floor to ceiling. It’s an odd place to write since it’s in the living room and there is foot traffic around, but I can’t resist the light coming in.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I write on my laptop. Once upon a time, I wrote in notebooks, but I have become a slave to the keyboard over the years.

What is your routine for writing?

I get up at 5:30 every morning to write before I go to work. The early hour is my opportunity to write before anyone else is up, before the bad news of the world has had a chance to seep in, and I still feel somewhat connected to a dream state. But none of this happens until I get my coffee, of course.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing? 

I started writing as a kid. My first story was about my dog.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I guess I would say anyone who has wrestled with feeling like they’re misunderstood, an outsider, or aren’t good enough.  

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Nature, music, and books inspire me most. Also people. The world is chock full of so many characters.

If I’m blocked I just vomit words on the page and take it from there. I think the most important part of creating anything is not being afraid of making a mess before making it into something palatable. I’d say I embrace my shitty first drafts.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I have a piano I toy with. I’m also a teacher, which allows for a lot of creativity.

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

Watching something take shape after the initial word vomit–that point when you realize there’s something coming together in that mess you’ve just made.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Keep at it. I meet so many people who say they used to write. You don’t have to be good at first. You just have to do it and do it a lot.

Check out Jennifer‘s work in Volume 6, Issue 1.

Jennifer Makowsky

Jennifer Makowsky received her MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Portland Review, Gargoyle, 2 Bridges Review, Pamplemousse, The Matador Review, and others. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she teaches English to adult refugees at Pima Community College. 

Tiny Rescues, What I Can’t Touch, and Bodies of Water, Volume 6, Issue 1

Interview

Susan Taylor Chehak–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I work at home, and always have. Now my children are grown and I have more time for that, but I don’t always use that time as wisely as I might. I have a desk in an office with windows that look out onto mountain peaks and forest land, but my desk faces a blank wall and I try to keep my gaze inward rather than looking up. I’ve created writing spaces in closets and basements and all kinds of dark places, and that has always worked best for me.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I handwrite the first drafts of my stories, outlining them first, spending a good while developing my stories before I put pen (Unibal Deluxe Micro pen w/ black ink—I buy them by the box) to paper (plain brown cardboard-covered narrow-ruled 7.5×10″ Moleskine notebooks). I let that draft fester for a week or more before typing it up on my laptop. And then spend several weeks editing and polishing, with more festering time between workdays to keep it fresh every time I go back to the page. Sometimes I use a device called a FreeWrite typewriter to create a first draft (this is usually what I do with novels), which is like the original word-processers that we used back in the day, where you didn’t have a full screen, just a keyboard and about two horizontal inches of screen that showed the last few words typed. This thing sends the draft up to a folder in my Dropbox as I type, so I can’t do any editing or double-thinking, just have to spill it out, as I do with handwritten pages. To me, the ability to make a mess is important to really get down to the intuitive, gut-felt writing, before I go back in and clean it all up later. This is how the voice of the narrative begins to emerge for me, too.

What is your routine for writing?

I am an early riser and compose handwritten drafts when I first get up before dawn, only a few pages every morning. Then later in the day, usually mornings, I’ll be drafting on the FreeWrite or working on previously drafted work, editing and polishing, cleaning up the messes I’ve made… or simply dreaming up new stories, outlining and working out sequences and scenes. Afternoons are spent reading and gathering information for whatever it is I’ve been working on. Somewhere in there I’ll go out into the forest and mull over all that I’ve been dreaming up. I call that taking “long walks in deep woods with big dogs.”

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

My grandfather “published” my first story 60 years ago, when I was 9 years old—by making mimeograph copies and distributing them to my family—and I’ve been writing one thing or another, pretty consistently, ever since.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I don’t think of an audience when I am writing. I write for the piece itself. I spend a lot of time examining the messes I make to see what they’re asking of me, what they’re telling me, what I need to do to turn them into something that has some meaning or some beauty or some something that will make them seem whole and in some way complete.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I’m inspired by the people I talk to, the stories they tell me, the situations I see, the feelings that overwhelm me. When something disturbs me or someone I know, when I see pain or grief or confusion, my impulse is to use it somehow, to do what I can to turn it into art. I feel I might be able to find some redemption that way. When I’m blocked (which is rarely anymore) I go out into the world, either into the forest or onto the street or into the city…it doesn’t really matter where. A change of scenery makes everything look new and marvelous to me again. If I can’t get out, I go inward: meditation, reading, watching TV and movies, looking at art. I also like to strike up conversations with strangers, to get myself out of myself when I’m feeling stuck.

What other things do you do besides writing?

I always have a lot of projects in the works to keep me busy. I knit sweaters and socks and blankets and mittens and washcloths and hats. I design and sew skirts and pants and shorts for myself. I play with embroidery, weaving, cross stitch, almost any kind of textile work that I can do with my hands. I have a small art studio where I draw and paint and build sculptures and collage, and I’m learning to play guitar and piano. I hike in summer and snowshoe in winter and practice Transcendental Meditation and Kundalini yoga year round.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The moments when whatever I’m working on speaks to me and I understand what I need to do to make it work, to turn it into what it will become. This almost always comes as a beautiful surprise to me, as if it were someone else who created the thing in the first place. Also, when I’ve just finished something and I can look at it and say, “That’s done,” and then move on to something new. I am always learning. I am always failing and starting over, making mistakes and fixing them, running into walls and picking myself back up again, finding another way around or another way in or another way out. For me, the creative process is a never-ending adventure. Where I get stuck, really, is afterward, when I have to figure out how to get whatever I’ve created out into the world. I’m not very good at that at all, and so I generally leave it to others to do it for me. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Write all the time. Read everything. Go deep into your own self and your own imagination and dreams and listen to what your unconscious is telling you. Open up your eyes, your heart, your mind, your windows and your doors, and let the world come on in, too. Then turn your experiences into art.

Check out Susan‘s work in Volume 6, Issue 1.

Susan Taylor Chehak

Susan Taylor Chehak is the author of several novels, including The Great Disappointment, Smithereens, The Story of Annie D., and Harmony. Her most recent publications include two collections of short stories, This Is That and It’s Not About the Dog, and a novel, The Minor Apocalypse of Meena Krejci. Her work has appeared in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hawaii Pacific Review, Ragazine, The Minnesota Review, Moon City Review, Ducts, Crack the Spine, Pennsylvania English, The Chariton Review, Jet Fuel Review, Sliver of Stone, Limestone, The Literary Nest, and The Coachella Review.

Undoing/Undone, Volume 6, Issue 1

Interview