What Now?

The project did not reach the goal of $6,000 for printing two issues of The Magnolia Review. However, I am working on finalizing Plan B, and all of my backers will be the first to know about this new option. Thank you for your support of this crazy project and dream of mine. Someday there will be print issues of The Magnolia Review. This is just part of the journey toward that dream. Stay tuned for some better news, and Happy November!

–Suzanna Anderson

Toti O’Brien–Interview

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

How did you guess? Yes, I work in public spaces, as it comes to the creative process. They are various and unpredictable (the spaces), as I always carry a tiny notebook along. I can start scribbling whenever the occasion presents itself. Line at the post office. Transportation. My car, if I have arrived earlier for a commitment. A bench, anywhere. Doctor waiting rooms. Hospital waiting rooms (how many of those…)

I said: “as it comes to the creative process.” I review, of course, on a computer, mostly at home.

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

I mentioned a tiny notebook. Hopefully it is at hand. Luckily, I seem to have developed the ability of finding anything writable-upon. I am amazed at the variety of matter that might work. Surfaces don’t need to be clear. I can write between lines, around lines, on top of them. As for the tracing instrument, everything goes. I confess having tried a lip liner, once, with poor results. So… I write by hand, yes, and I review on a computer. Two completely different processes.

What is your routine for writing?

There really isn’t one. But I have few “unwritten writing rules.” One is embedded in my previous answers: the first drafts inevitably occur in the open—interstitial, impromptu, spontaneous, free. Two—if something comes to mind I feel I should (or would like to) write, I have a deal with myself: yes, I will. No excuse. That seed will go into the ground. That thing, whatever it is, will be laid on paper, always. The third unwritten rule is that I devote time to review, rewrite, polish drafts, submit, edit, take care of all publishing practices, as often as possibly—daily is the ideal, and I rarely skip a day. Meaning a night, because the time I devote to such practice is nocturnal.

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

As a child. Which means I have done it for a lifetime. But I have immigrated twice, each time settling in a new language, and restarting from zero. Each new beginning took decades of adjustments.

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

This is a fascinating question. For a long time I have “perceived” an audience I semi-consciously tried to reach as I wrote. I suppose it was banally made of those people I have loved the most, and somehow I have missed to reach in depth, or they haven’t responded to my wish of mutual understanding (relatives untimely passed or unavailable, failed relationships, teachers/mentors inaccessible or gone). Of course, that doesn’t make a crowd. Just a couple of souls from which I’d have liked to get a nod back. Through the years, these hidden interlocutors have vanished—and I like it better this way. When I write, now, it is like sealing a message in a bottle—for the unknown person who will enjoy what I have to say. I can’t wait to meet that person, yet waiting is exhilarating, and serene.

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

I could describe what inspires me to write as “emergency.” Something (anything) that breaks the surface of my usual perceptions, insistently comes to mind, keeps whispering in my ear, demands for attention. Usually, a bizarre feeling, bizarre association of ideas, curious pattern of events. Like a knot that needs unraveling. Like a path in the woods I want to follow to see where it goes.

I don’t experience blocks. Not really. As I said, my writing is spontaneous and intermittent, though frequent. I’d continue on a piece because there is more to say, whenever there is more to say. If I pick up my text—wherever interrupted—and read it afresh, there will be certainly some corrections to make. As I make them and read over, something will follow. Even a little bit. Some things are irresistibly drafted—they pour out unstoppably. Some things accrete slowly. I don’t fret over them. They will bloom eventually. Nothing, ever, remains unfinished.

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

I am an artist and crafter, a professional dancer, singer, and musician. I have always done all these things for my living. They are my curse and my blessing.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The end, of course. The moment when, by magic, something is in front of me that didn’t exist before. Like when you smell the pie in the oven, and it has risen, and it is golden brown.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

I am not too much of an advicer, alas.

But I could say: you know what you do, and why you do it.

Trust your contents, let them dig their own riverbed. Never harness them, never force them.

Try to never double-guess yourself.

Never listen for a single second to any negative comment you might receive, no matter how authoritative the dispenser.

Take all positive comments with a grain of salt.

Go on.

 

Check out Toti’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

Volume 5, Issue 1 Theme

The issue will be available January 2019.

The optional theme is Lost and Found. See the Submit tab for details on how to submit. We accept photography, art, comics, creative nonfiction, fiction, flash fiction, experimental work, and poetry.

For poetry, I would love to see more Blackout and Cross out poems. For examples, check out these books: Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon, A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel by Tom Phillips, The ms of m y kin by Janet Holmes, Bukowski Erasure Poetry Anthology: A Collection of Poems Based on the Writings of Charles Bukowski by Melanie Villines, A Little White Shadow by Mary Ruefle, Mornings Like This: Found Poems by Annie Dillard, Nets by Jen Bervin, and Of Lamb by Matthea Harvey. Please submit the original and the typed version. And for fiction, creative nonfiction, and art, photography, and comics, please interpret this theme how you will, or see if you can do something new and unique with this found poetry method.

Trivia about Volume 4, Issue 2

5 artists submitted 5 comics, 2 creative nonfiction writers submitted 2 creative nonfiction pieces, 30 writers submitted 33 pieces of fiction, and 34 poets submitted 136 poems.

Volume 4, Issue 2 will be available soon.

Mara Cohen–Interview

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

My desk faces a lovely view out my window, but my chair is uncomfortable. I should probably replace it, but I like that it matches the desk. It’s a classic case of style versus comfort.

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

I do most of my writing on my 2010 MacBook Pro. I’m thinking of a younger, sleeker, lighter-weight model. Maybe she and I will venture out to coffee shops. I live in Los Angeles, so maybe people will see me typing away on my sleek, new laptop and assume I’m writing a screenplay. Maybe Jessica Chastain would play me.

What is your routine for writing?

Writing is generally agonizing for me, so I try to make it a routine like brushing my teeth or going to the gym. And I try to do it after those two things on most days, at least during the week.

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

I’m not one of those writers who say they can’t remember a time before they started writing. I do recall in the 1st grade I loved to pull out laminated images from magazines that were kept in a box in the classroom and dictating a story about those images to a teacher’s aide. I wrote for the student newspaper when I was in high school. That was followed by a dry spell when it comes to writing, except the sterile scholarly articles I published as a professor, which I don’t consider to be “real writing.” I missed having a job title after leaving my profession, so I started saying I was a writer. Then I had to live up to that title.

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

I don’t necessarily have an intended audience when I sit down to write, but it’s a great feeling when people have a reaction to something I’ve published.

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

Often I’m inspired by something I’ve read or some conversation sparks an idea. Then later something comes to me while I’m walking my dog or taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I’m a firm believer in the importance of good oral hygiene.

When I feel blocked — pretty much every time I sit down to write — I chew lots of gum. I don’t know if the gum helps with the writer’s block, but it satisfies my urge to get up to check what’s good to eat in my kitchen. I do lots of that too.

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

I’m playing in the genre of memoir so in a way I’m always writing. When I’m going somewhere with my daughter or talking with my mom on the phone, it’s all my life and that’s material.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I love bouncing ideas around and sharing work in progress with my writer friends.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Writing can be an isolating activity, so it’s nice to be part of a writers’ group that can provide camaraderie.

Check out Mara’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

Volume 4, Issue 1

Phoenix Rising 12 X 12 Clayboard jpeg

Volume 4 Issue 1 is available here as a PDF: The Magnolia Review Volume 4 Issue 1.

Contributors: Charles Joseph Albert, Meredith Bailey, Susan P. Blevins, Doug Bolling, Adam Levon Brown, Sally Bunch, Antonia Clark, Mara Cohen, Ann Colcord, Tony Concannon, Sandy Coomer, Barbara Daniels, Maureen Daniels, Chris Dungey, Robert Ford, Cynthia Gallaher, D.G. Geis, Jessica Gigot, Ben Groner III, Mary Hanrahan, K.B. Holzman, Jamie Houghton, Mark Hudson, Steven Jakobi, Brian K. Kerley, Lauren Klocinski, Laurie Kolp, Paul Lamb, Sean J. Mahoney, Bridget Malley, Todd Mercer, Anthony J. Mohr, Wilda Morris, Leah Mueller, Don Noel, Toti O’Brien, Richard King Perkins II, Scarlett Peterson, Greg Rappleye, Ruben Rodriguez, John Rodzvilla, Valerie Ruberto, David Anthony Sam, Hilary Sideris, Roger Sippl, Steve Slavin, Spencer Smith, and Christopher Woods

Reviews: Magic for Unlucky Girls by A.A. Balaskovits, Twenty-One by D. Victoria BonAnno, Wet Radio and other poems by Goirick Brahmachari, Two Towns Over by Darren C. Demaree, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson, and Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapakse.

Winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award: to be announced

Toti O’Brien

Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician, and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Apt, Aji Magazine, The Spectacle, and The Goldman Review.

Dog Days, Volume 4, Issue 1
Interview