The Magnolia Review Pushcart Nominations for 2018:
- Paul Lamb, “Fire Sermon,” Volume 4, Issue 1
- Anthony J. Mohr, “Crescent Drive,” Volume 4, Issue 1
- Ben Groner III, “Highways Like Frozen Rivers,” Volume 4, Issue 1
- Sarah A. Etlinger, “Two Fools,” Volume 4, Issue 2
- Henry Hitz, “Turtle Bay,” Volume 4, Issue 2
- Holly Day, “The Patch of Tulips I Never Planted,” Volume 4, Issue 2
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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.
Paul Lamb lives near Kansas City but escapes to the Missouri Ozarks whenever he can steal the chance. His stories have appeared in Aethlon, The Nassau Review, The Little Patuxent Review, Penduline Press, Bartleby Snopes, and others. He rarely strays far from his laptop, unless he is running, which he’s been doing a lot lately.