Robert Ford–Interview

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

Although it sounds fun to have an office, shack or cave set up deliberately to facilitate writing, I don’t have one. So I write wherever I am, whenever I can. Which can be inconvenient.

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

Everything starts out on paper, in a notebook. Not too fussy about pens. Anything will do—pencils too. I’m better at having a notebook always to hand than I used to be, and rarely have to rely on old envelopes or margins of newspapers any more. A few redrafts and manglings usually take place in the pages of the notebook before it’s in a reasonable enough shape to be either written up on the computer or trashed. There’s always plenty of redrafting to be done from then on.

What is your routine for writing?

I don’t really have one. It just happens. Or doesn’t. Which is one of my greatest creative faults. Discipline, whilst not very cool, is indispensable. It helps to stir the soup regularly.

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

I’ve been trying to write creatively—poetry especially—ever since I can remember.

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

It may sound harsh, but I write for me. I’m happy to share, to put things out there, to see what people think. And to get feedback, which I usually try and take on board. But there’s no specific readership in mind.

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

What inspires me the most is that human life never ceases to be both inherently fascinating and ridiculous. We can be so beautiful, so cruel, so stupid. I suppose I feel the need to somehow reflect what I observe, and poetry has always seemed the most natural, obvious way. Photography too sometimes—although I’d also love to paint.

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

Mostly I walk, preferably by the ocean or in the mountains. It helps with the creative process, with the unblocking, but then so does taking the train through a city.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

That if it works properly—if you let it and don’t overthink things—then it just happens. Whether you want it to or not.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Just enjoy yourself. Be yourself. Don’t worry about being good.

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

Paul Lamb–Interview

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

The space I dedicate to writing is a spare bedroom in my house that has had the bed replaced with a desk and a comfortable chair. I do, however, keep pencil and paper at hand when I’m out for recording snippets that I might use later.

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

I do all of my fiction writing on my Mac. I find that I can work much more quickly this way to get first drafts down, especially when the ideas are flowing. Editing is easier this was as well. Nonetheless, I’ve kept a handwritten journal for more than three decades, and I have a favorite mechanical pencil that I reserve for this work.

What is your routine for writing?

I rise at an unholy hour on the weekends when the house is quiet so that I can enter the creative part of my mind undisturbed and let the work flow. I also always have a tall pitcher of iced tea— unsweetened, of course—beside me and I will usually finish it as I’m working. Generally, I can expect to get about three hours of work done before either the household wakes or my creativity is exhausted. I rarely try to do any creative writing during the week, though I often make copious notes then about whatever project I’m working on at the time.

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

I knew from an early age that I wanted to write, and I’ve been dedicated to it for my whole adult life. There were many years of apprentice work, and more than a decade passed between my first published short story and my second. But I seem to have found my voice through all of that effort and can reliably spin a tale that has a fair chance of being acceptable to an editor and finding its way into print.

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

I try to write what would be termed literary fiction, so discerning adults willing to put some thought, patience, and effort into appreciating a piece of fiction would be my likely audience. I don’t know these people, though. I let myself be my audience; I write the kinds of things I want to read.

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

I had several good mentors early in my writing life; that steered me onto the right course. And I’ve always loved to read, so the words seem to come easily to me. Of course, they still need polishing. I don’t tend to be blocked, or if I am, I don’t see it that way. I’m always thinking about stories and characters and how to develop them. In recent years my greatest inspiration is having found my great subject: the relationships between fathers and sons. I’ve written several dozen stories about this. I haven’t exhausted the subject yet.

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

For many years I could only squeeze my writing in between raising a family, earning a wage, and going to night school. But now that the children are gone and the debts are paid, I find myself bouncing grandchildren on my knee. I’ve also done a lot of running, a sport I only took up recently. No one was more amazed than I when I found myself crossing finish lines, including four marathons. Running has made several appearances in my stories. Other than that, you can generally find me in bookstores, libraries, or art museums.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

When it all comes together, when the words are flowing into the ideas that get it all exactly right. Those moments are infrequent; generally I have to struggle over every word and sentence, but sometimes I fall into that perfect place.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read widely and write ceaselessly. Don’t worry too much about things like grammar and punctuation. Find writers you like and read their stuff. Keep at it until you find your own voice, and never apologize. Only you can tell your stories.

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

 

Roger Sippl–Interview

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

I try to have a keyboard with me at all times, not just a smart phone, but a real keyboard. With that said, in a pinch I have written poems on my smartphone, and I have handwritten poems or fragments on paper, and then typed them in to a computer later. An idea for a poem can hit me anywhere, usually when my brain is not procedurally active in a way that needs intense focus, such as while driving and listening to music, or while taking a shower.

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

When I was in college, 45 years ago, I did keep a writing journal on my night stand and did find it useful, when I first woke up. Often, those poems would have something to do with dreams that I tried to remember upon waking. Now, I keep a laptop at my bedside and another one in my car, in addition to the computer at my desk. I keep everything in DropBox so I can get at it anytime, and all my machines always have the same stuff on them, because of the synchronization. Plus, it is all backed up all the time, as it is in the cloud.

What is your routine for writing?

I have to be “in the zone” to write poetry. Something has to strike me or be on my mind. Now, I have dozens of poems that were simply started, so I can “edit and revise” almost any time, and most of my “writing” time is spent doing that, sometimes changing poems quite a bit.

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

I started writing poetry when I was a freshman in college, in 1973. I was young and in love and many of my poems today come from notes I wrote back then. When the break up came a year or two later, I, coincidentally, had been diagnosed with Stage IIIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and then I had plenty to write about, faced with those two pieces of emotional adversity. Later, oddly, I went on to a successful career running software companies for four decades, some of them very successful, which was a completely different, but still intense, slice of life. Now that I have more time I am able to draw upon those experiences and the feelings I had to ignore at the time.

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

I think that is always a good question. A sideways way of answering it is to think about whose acceptance gives me the biggest thrill, when that acceptance comes. Often it is when a poem is accepted for publication, which is a big deal for me, since that means that someone who probably knows what they are talking about, poetry-wise, liked it. On the other hand, if someone I really like, who was perhaps an English major or an art major, thoughtfully likes a poem, that might be an ever better feeling—especially if it is someone who thought that I was not of interest to them before that reading my work, and after they want to hear what I think, about anything. But, of course, I have to like the poem myself. There are poems that I love that I have submitted over and over again, all to see rejection in return, but I love them anyway.

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

I don’t sit down to write if I have nothing to write about (i.e. am blocked), so one might say that “I don’t suffer from writer’s block.” I just have other things to do, including revising other poems that are in progress, an activity, which by its nature, is not blocked, because I am starting with something that at least at one time excited me. I start new poems only when an idea comes into my mind. I suppose it could be from a formal prompt, but I don’t think that often happens for me, other than being “prompted” by a billboard, the name of a city, the sound of rain on the roof or remembering a flight I took, and how I felt flying the plane (I am an amateur pilot.)

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

I currently sit on boards of directors for a living, and that interaction of people often starts a creative process. But I have flooded my life with experiences, intentionally, and I think more ideas come from times that I have put myself into a position where I might not have a unique point of view, but a rare one. I fly airplanes as an instrument-rated pilot. I have been a diver since I was thirteen, and have done over 2,000 dives, all over the world, swimming with just about every amazing sea creature man knows about. This includes rebreather diving and deep diving, where the deeper you go the darker it gets, and the more intense the narcotic of breathing compressed nitrogen takes effect. I also have played a great deal of high-stakes poker, and indeed I have been to Burning Man.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The high I get when I get a great idea and then am able to express it in an effective way.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

I advise writers to write. I don’t know much about writer’s block, because I am too busy to spend any time with it, but to those who have trouble with it I would suggest writing anyway. When I was in college and did have to write every day in that journal, I think it was not only productive, but it trained my mind to be always thinking of a creative way to look at whatever was happening, or whatever memory or thought I might be having. If you can dream and then write, or alter your consciousness, not necessarily with drugs, but just with experiences and doing different things or doing things differently, then I think you are more likely to be always busy writing or revising, and you’ll never be looking at a screen with nothing to do. Do things that get you “into the zone” which is when your best work will come—engage that right half of your brain that controls your left hand, and is more in touch with your subconscious, and let what is in there come out.

 

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

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.

Mary Hanrahan–Interview

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

I write every morning from my favorite spot at home. It looks out over our backyard and pond. I am surrounded by stacks of books and journals. Typically, my three dogs are snoozing somewhere near me. I love to write in parks or while hiking. I have a favorite tree in a park near my home that I sit under and write when the weather permits. If it is raining or snowing, I still go and park near it to work. I love the way the long branches curve and sweep over the ground.

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

I type everything into Word. After many revisions, I decide what to do with what I have. I like to take longer works and pull small poems out to use as needed. I am always looking for fragments to include in my mixed media paintings. I also use a calligraphy pen or a brush with Sumi ink when I am creating haiga or haiku. I have an old vintage typewriter I will pull out when I get bored. I also like to write on napkins and scraps of paper if I am out and need to jot my thought down. I like to mix it up because it’s fun and a great way to tap into my creativity.

What is your routine for writing?

I write every day regardless of what is going on in my life. My prime writing time is between 4am and 9am after I down two or three cups of decaf coffee.

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

I have been writing for over 20 years but didn’t start sending out my work seriously till 2017. It was during my graduate work as an MFA candidate that I decided to start submitting the work from my thesis. I started writing consistently in my twenties. The first poem I remember writing was at the age of 13. I have taken many breaks along the way but for the past six years I have made a slow and steady progression toward living a writer’s life.

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

Most often I write for those struggling with loss and grieving after trauma—hoping to connect on some level.

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

The natural world is the strongest source of inspiration for me. Words inspire as well. I will see a word and want to explore it, which leads to new ideas. If I am blocked, I go out into the forest or get my telescope out and look at the Moon. Sitting quietly while being in awe of the beauty all around us is a powerful cure for many things. Try it and see!

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

I have been painting for a long time. I am currently exploring Encaustic painting. I love the idea of working with a medium that is centuries old. I read and have an extensive book collection that grows despite all my efforts to contain it. I have been taking voice lessons for over five years just for fun. I sing mostly 40s tunes, and I only perform for my dogs because they get me.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The genesis of new ideas and creating something out of nothing.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Write everyday despite what is going on in your life. Even if life is falling apart—keep writing. It doesn’t have to come out of the gate finished and remember if you don’t write it down you might not be able to recover the thought later. Read extensively. Read across genres.

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

Leah Mueller–Interview

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

I always work at home, in solitude. I enjoy some green medicine, listen to music, and allow myself to free-associate for a while. Usually I just sit on my futon and type on my laptop until my eyes glaze over.

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

I rarely write anything in longhand, as my handwriting is so atrocious I can’t read it. I avoid writing on my phone, since I feel constrained by its small size. Laptops are perfect, as they allow for a free range of movement.

What is your routine for writing?

Routine? Ha! I try to write every day. Usually in the morning and early afternoon, but sometimes late at night. I have a lot of mundane tasks I have to do during the day, so I write whenever I can. Facebook is a huge distraction and takes up way too much of my time.

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

I started writing when I was a small child. A lot of it was gibberish, and/or journal entries, but as I got older, I began to write poetry and prose. At age 11, I wrote a series of tales about two boys in outer space. Their names were Eeech Plankpurt and Snortle Ductari, and they lived on the planet Lulu. I wish I still had those stories. I don’t think I could ever replicate them.

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

My ideal audience is whoever is willing to sit down and slog their way through one of my stories or poems. It helps if they’re not too conservative.

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

If I’m blocked, I just make myself write anyway. Some of my best stuff has come from that. Everything inspires me, especially heartbreak.

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

I do lots of other stuff. Too much stuff, really. I’m an astrologer/tarot reader/yoga and water aerobics instructor as well as a writer. I also love off-season travel, like Cleveland in March and Arizona in July.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the creative process is finally getting to finish a piece. Then I don’t have to think about it, until it’s time for editing. I edit obsessively.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

I have no advice for aspiring writers, really. Okay, a couple of things: 1). Don’t wait until you’re in your 50s, like I did. 2). Just fucking do it.

 

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

 

 

K.B. Holzman–Interview

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

I absolutely agree with Virginia Wolfe and have always carved out a room on my own. When the door is closed, LEAVE ME ALONE.

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

I can’t imagine writing on anything else but a computer at this point. My handwriting long ago became illegible, even to me.

What is your routine for writing?

I try to write every morning, although I often lay in bed the early hours before sunrise thinking through my stories. Walks can also be very useful in puzzling out what comes next.

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

I always wanted to write, and participated in the poetry scene in Manhattan in the 1970s. Recently, I returned to writing prose.

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

As an avid reader, my ideal writer is my fellow readers.

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

I have a great writing group which inspires me and, when all else fails, I rely on prompts. I have now participated in NaNoWriMo twice and, as a result, have two novels in the works.

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

Yoga, biking, and hiking.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I always try to remember that the act of writing is the greatest joy.  As Anne Lamott once said, publication is the crack but the true ecstasy is in process of creating.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Enjoy yourself!

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