Sarah A. Etlinger–Interview

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

I work mostly in public spaces, my local coffee shop (which should be a national treasure!) and sometimes at home. But since I drive a lot for work, I often write in my head while I’m driving and use my voice recorder on my phone to record the ideas.

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

As I stated above, I sometimes use the voice recorder function on my phone to record ideas while driving. But if I’m not driving, I get ideas and jot them in the memo pad of my phone. Sometimes I will use a notebook or my laptop.

For the actual writing, I do tend to write on my laptop—but if I’m revising, or need to work something out, I will use pen and paper (often one of the pair of purple Moleskine notebooks I bought when I decided to take this poetry thing seriously!).  Occasionally I will write in the notebooks to start from, but it’s rarer and rarer these days.

My favorite writing utensil is, and has been since I was 16, Pilot Precise V5 Rolling ball extra fine liquid -ink pens in various colors. Second choice is PaperMate Flair marker pens. If I MUST I will use UniBall liquid ink, and if I am REALLY REALLY desperate, traditional ballpoint pens. But that has to be a dire writing emergency! Before you all start thinking I’ve lost my marbles—I like the feel that these pens have on the page and in my hands; I like the ease of writing with them, and I love color. 😊

What is your routine for writing?

My writing routine varies by the week or by the day, since I have a full-time, demanding professor job, a 3-year old at home, a husband, dog, and a home to run. But when I do write it takes one of two forms: writing (where I often look at what I’ve written in my notes, or getting out the laptop and clicking away), or revising. I sometimes revise on my own; sometimes in response to feedback. I have a few readers and I work with a coach/mentor on a regular basis.

The revising routine varies, of course, depending on my time and on the extent of the revisions, or even how I’m feeling! I never write with my own music on; being in the coffee shop, though, there’s always ambient music playing and conversations, which for some reason I can tune out there but never at home!

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

I’ve been writing almost as long as I can remember, though it has often come in fits and starts. But I’ve always been interested in, and “good at” language. I love turns of phrase, and I like sounds of letters and syllables; I love words. Love everything about them, and always have!

In 6th and 7th grade I wrote short stories and poetry almost constantly; in high school I did some. I even did a final project on fiction writing my senior year of college, and intended to minor in Creative Writing (along with a traditional English Lit major) in college. My alma mater, Skidmore College (which is the best school in the world and changed my life profoundly), phased out the major and minor, I think, when I got there, so though I took a couple classes, I couldn’t. I also decided, on the first day of 8th grade, I wanted a PhD in literature so I could teach English—which set my path more academically than creatively. (I’ve since earned the PhD in Rhetoric and Composition and absolutely love teaching first-year students how to write academic pieces).

The creative writing classes I took in college were lovely, but it ruined my ability to really write for a while, because –as is often the case with 20-year olds—I didn’t want to revise my work and I didn’t think poetry could be revised. So the feedback shut me off. It wasn’t until late college that I found my voice again.

However, since graduate school, I didn’t write at all. One poem on October 23, 2007, for a man I was dating’s birthday—and not a single (creative/poetic) word again until July of 2016, when my first poem in that time, now titled “Crossroads” (and can be found in the inaugural issue of Brine) came to me while driving through Elkhart, Indiana. The poem seemed to descend the heatwaves, and I chanted it in my head for the remaining 3.5 hours home. Then the floodgates opened and I couldn’t (can’t!) stop.

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

My ideal/ intended audience is anyone who likes rich imagistic poetry or who appreciates a real voice in poetry. I’m not an experimental poet, and I don’t do things just to do them. Sometimes, of course, I get lines/phrases/ideas/images out of thin air; or someone says things to me and I like them (moral of the story, folks: I might put what you say in my work. Watch out! 😉). I write for me, as is expected, but I’m increasingly writing for women, I think, who want a different view on what women’s poetry can be. I’m not afraid, anymore, of saying what needs to be said.

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

The world inspires me, though I have tended towards particular themes that have cropped up as I develop a body of work. I’m interested in male/female relationships and love; the interaction between nature and our emotions/experience; mythology, and, though I am an atheist, religious concerns from both my Jewish (secular, reform) background, and my mother’s Catholic roots. But, as I stated before, I sometimes just get phrases that clatter around in my head, or someone says something interesting. For instance, a dear friend of mine said, once, in a conversation about their favorite poets, “Neruda when I want to remember” and that struck me—so it wound up in my poem “The Timekeeper.” So, I never know what I’m going to discover; and I don’t write on assignment. I can’t—I need the muse.

If I’m blocked, I revise or put it away. I have to just let it percolate. Something always comes.

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

I cook, read, and teach, of course. I’m also about to have my fourth semester of piano lessons with a delightful and feisty, 81-year-old piano teacher. I spend time with my family, of course; going on excursions to fairs and zoos and museums and other kid-friendly adventures.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part is getting inspired. Turning that inspiration into something, even if it’s not very good. Seeing the feeling or idea or image or thought turn into something else with live arms stretching into all kinds of nooks and crannies. And, of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it when someone says they liked my work!

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Can I just write a book about this? Advice, from 15 years of teaching writing to undergraduates, and from my own, hard-won lessons:
1. Do it whenever you can. Sit and write. Don’t stop.
2. Don’t judge it—just let it be. It can always be shaped and changed and altered. But don’t let that stop you. Just write it down. No one has to see it.
3. That said, get readers. Good readers, whom you trust and love and respect. You can control the feedback, too—ask for specific things—but find readers who love you, and can provide support. Sometimes, don’t guide the feedback. Just get their thoughts. And sometimes take it, and sometimes don’t. Just get it from people who have your back—it’s YOUR work, and your voice. You won’t hone a voice if you’re always crowding it out.
4. It will take a bit to find your voice. And your voice will change. But let it come out anyway, and don’t let things get in the way.
5. Be brave. Be unafraid to say what you need to say, how you need to say it. It might change, but be brave. Say it.
6. Don’t throw anything out. Ever. Keep it.  (No, seriously. Don’t throw it out.)
7. You will have fallow periods—this was the hardest thing I had to learn, and I still get freaked out when nothing is coming. Enjoy the fallow periods. Embrace them.
8. Don’t throw anything out. Ever.

Check out Sarah’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2. Her poem, “Two Fools,” was nominated for a Pushcart. A review of her collection, Never One For Promises, is available in Volume 5, Issue 1.

Volume 5, Issue 1 is Here!

The issue was published January 16, 2019. The sample is available here as a PDF to download.

The full PDF issue is available here from PayPal for $2, to help with funding contributor copies and mailing costs.

Volume 5, Issue 1 PDF

The full issue of The Magnolia Review, Volume 5, Issue 1.

$2.00

The optional theme is Lost and Found.

Contributors: Sudeep Adhikari, Charles Joseph Albert, Rey Armenteros, Jan Ball, Gary Beck, Susan P. Blevins, Michael K. Brantley, Judith Alexander Brice, Alexandra Brinkman, Frank De Canio, Aidan Coleman, Daniel de Culla, Lydia A. Cyrus, Nathan Dennis, Deborah H. Doolittle, Steven Goff, Dave Gregory, John Grey, Jack D. Harvey, Kevin Haslam, Michael Paul Hogan, Erica Michaels Hollander, Mark Hudson, Heikki Huotari, Nancy Byrne Iannucci, Jayant Kashyap, Wade McCullough, Don McLellan, Todd Mercer, Daniel Edward Moore, Donají Olmedo, Simon Perchik, Zachary A. Philips, Mari Posa, Eric Rasmussen, David Anthony Sam, J.B. Santillan, Marygrace Schumann, Sydnee Smailes, Ruben E. Smith, William L. Spencer, Penn Stewart, Lisa Stice, Ash Strange, Lee Triplett, Mitchell Waldman, Thomas Wattie, Richard Weaver, Theresa Williams, and Bill Wolak.

Reviews: Blunt Force by Gary Beck, The Remission of Order by Gary Beck, Overhead from Longing by Judith Alexander Brice, Bombing the Thinker by Darren C. Demaree, Lady, You Shot Me by Darren C. Demaree, Never One for Promises by Sarah A. Etlinger, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, Mark the Dwarf by Jack D. Harvey, The Frayed Edge of Memory by James Croal Jackson, Mishigamaa by Robert Krantz, Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove, I Exist. Therefore I Am by Shirani Rajapakse, Final Inventory by David Anthony Sam, and Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running With My Dog Brought Me Back From the Brink by Nita Sweeney.

Winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award: Nathan Dennis, for “Meditations on Creation.” Selected by Aretha Lemon.

Charles W. Brice–Interview

Creative space: My wife, the poet Judy Brice, and I are lucky enough to have two homes: one in Pittsburgh and one on Walloon Lake in Petoskey, MI. In Pittsburgh I have a wonderful garret on our third floor where I work and in Petoskey I have a second-floor study that looks out on the lake. The truth is, however, I can write anywhere: bookstores, cars, libraries, coffee houses, hotel rooms, park benches—anywhere.

Writing materials: Most of the time I write in a notebook that I keep in my back pocket. So I usually write the rough drafts of my poems by hand. I edit as I get them into the computer and then edit some more. I love my Pilot G-2 10 ink pens and hate to write with anything else.

Writing Routine: I read in the morning, poetry, novels, nonfiction, whatever, then, after lunch, go to my study and write all day. That’s not quite true: I consider submitting part of my writing day. Usually I’ll start something new or edit existing poems (some poems go through 30 edits), but always finish the day with submitting to at least one venue.

Writing, how long? I wrote poems in college but when I met my wife, Judy, I read some of her poetry and stopped writing myself for about twenty years. Her work was so good that I thought I’d be better off not writing anymore. I shouldn’t have done that, but it’s the truth. I started writing fiction again about 20 years ago. I got a few stories published but found that people really enjoyed my poems and they started getting published frequently so…I became a poet.

Audience: My first audience is my wife, Judy, then our son, Ariel, then my best and closest friends. I always have someone in mind when I write. Even though writing is a solitary process, it’s a relational process for me. I love to get my work published because I love to have people read it. It’s a special boon for me when I meet someone new because of my work. That’s happened when people have read my work on Facebook. I love it!

Inspiration: Reading other poets really inspires me, in fact, I’ve got this crazy idea that the worth of a particular poet I’m reading is directly proportional to the number of poems I get inspired to write while reading her/his work. I’m blessed, I’m never blocked. I think this is because, years ago, when I was in college, I had an English prof named Bernie Beaver who taught us that “anything can be a poem.” That piece of advice has been so helpful to me, Another teacher of mine, Jack Ridl, says that out of ten poems he’s written only one might be publishable, but the other nine were worth it. That’s a liberating thought, one that has helped me write about anything, anywhere! I’m also a member of a terrific writing group at our public library. I get a poem a week out of that group.

Other things I do: On my third floor in Pittsburgh sits the exact drum set that Ringo Starr played in the Beatles—a Ludwig Oyster Pearl drum set with Zildjian cymbals. I love playing them. I was in a rock band and a soul band when a young guy and have recently taken up jazz drumming. Also, I love taking long walks with my dog Mugsi. She’s a sweetie!

Favorite Part of Creative Process: I love editing—tinkering around with the original draft. I think of it as sculpting, getting the poem into a particular shape usually dictated, eventually, by the poem itself rather than by some design of mine. I agree with Billy Collins who says that the best part of the writing process is being surprised by what comes up in the poem, especially the ending.

Advice to writers: Get rid of your inner critic! When you hear that voice say, “it’s crap,” or “you’re no good,” give it the inner finger and write. Find your own writing rhythm. I write every day, and I’ve got friends who tell me that I’m so disciplined. I’m not disciplined! I love what I do and that’s what feels right for me. If you write only when the muse arrives, then that’s great. My wife writes only when the mood hits, and she’s a tremendous poet. Also, if you don’t want to submit your work, that’s fine. There’s no law that you have to, but if you want to publish your work, you’ve got to get it out there. You can’t catch fish if you ain’t got no bait, as the old blues song goes. Make submitting part of your normal writing day. Don’t take rejection personally. Wear rejection like a medal on your chest! It means you’re trying your best. Read like mad and eventually you’ll find your own voice. If you have a book, market it like crazy! The books don’t sell themselves! People who feel that marketing is somehow beneath them get what they deserve—few sales. They also are often the ones who whine that no one reads poetry anymore.

Check out Charles’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2, and the review of Mnemosyne’s Hand: Poems in Volume 4, Issue 2

Mishigamaa by Robert Krantz

Krantz submitted to the first issue of The Magnolia Review. His poems are magnetic and show poetic mastery. His language builds strong and lasting images. His chosen language sounds a melodious music to read aloud, a rhythm that you have to play to completion.

In “Pearl,” the speaker begins with, “I remember the wheat fields / of Iowa and the photograph / of you I took with me, / and how neither ever really ended.” The speaker continues, “We ate and loved / much in that decade, / collided with stars, / authored myths / and stuffed our age-spotted hands / into denim pockets.” The image and sound carries through the lines, building to the final image of “The half shells we find on beaches / were once a thing joined together, / breathing, and grinding / new pearls into place.” The poem builds like a pearl, with the images stringing together into a cohesive piece.

Laundry can be boring. The speaker reflects on his fellow laundry-doers in “Load,” where “The bachelors in the laundromat / spill their words / like bleach / on black clothes, / speak of condos / and alimonies— / thick humidities turning.” The clothes transform into more, they are “damp thoughts” as they wash, and they “…breathe[s] / restless poems / into my blues and grays. / Soon this summer rain / will end, volume of water / striking pavement / will knob itself silent.” Krantz ends the poem with a moment that draws the reader back to the reality of the laundromat, “The cash machine, / against the flecked wall, / reminds me to change.”

The collection ends with “Pathfinder,” about a hatchet and its story. It shares the story of two boys cutting down a tree and of a sibling wrestling game gone awry.

Overall, Krantz’s poems are musical and full of images that inspire looking at mundane events in a new and interesting way. I look forward to reading more of Krantz’s work.

Check out Robert‘s work in Volume 1, Issue 1, and a review of Gargoyles in Volume 2, Issue 2.

Sarah A. Etlinger

Sarah A. Etlinger is an English professor who lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her family. Her work can be found on “The Poetry Professors” podcast, Episode 107. Other interests include travel, cooking, and music.

Geraniums 1, Geraniums 2, Two Fools (Pushcart Nomination), Standing in Front of the Montreal Japanese Gardens, Pears, and Ash Wednesday, Volume 4, Issue 2
Book Release, Never One For Promises

Jack D. Harvey

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, The Magnolia Review, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other online and in print poetry magazines over the years. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

Cape Horn, Volume 3, Issue 2
Interview
Book Release, Mark the Dwarf
Kicking Against the Goads, Loneliness, Birth Month, and Six Mile Pond, Volume 4, Issue 2
Review, Volume 5, Issue 1
Angelic Hearts, Clown, Little Liza, Enter the Apocalypse, and Ravishment of the Holy Wisdom, Volume 5, Issue 1

Robert Krantz

Robert Krantz was born and raised in western New York. He studied Creative Writing and English Literature at both Niagara County Community College, New York, and the University of Akron, Ohio. He is currently a M.F.A. candidate at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. Robert has published a chapbook of poetry and prose, Leg Brace Legato, available at Amazon. His work has appeared in Akros Review, Bare Fiction, Bitterzoet, East Coast Literary Review, and Poetry Quarterly. Check out his website here.

arwen, Volume 1, Issue 1
Review of Gargoyles in Volume 2, Issue 2
Review of Mishigamaa