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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.

Henry Hitz–Interview

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

I have a study, or a man-cave, in my house where I do almost all of my writing, though I also have a piece of land in the Santa Cruz mountains where I go for inspiration.

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

I’ve been writing using a computer (first WordStar, then WordPerfect, now MSWord) since I bought an Osborne back in 1981.

What is your routine for writing?

I don’t have a rigid routine. Generally I write on weekends, stoke up on caffeine Saturday morning and write away. I make sure I have a piece to read at my weekly writer’s group.

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

I wrote my first story when I was 8 years old. It was called “Fate and Pearl Harbor.” I’ve written off and on ever since, but seriously since high school.

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

It varies from piece to piece. My first novel, White Knight, was written for the progressive community of San Francisco. My second novel, Supremacy, was written for both people into politics and into the kink community. The novel I am currently finishing, Squirrels in the Wall, was written for people who care about the planet and humans’ relationship with nature, as well as people interested in the nature of death.

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

Reading inspires me. The Castle, Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple are three voices that have influenced my writing. I am primarily motivated by an obsessive need to understand the f-ing universe and explain that understanding to my fellow humans.

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

I’m an activist and political organizer when I’m not writing. I read. I watch the great stuff on TV (Handmaid’s Tale, Chi, Peaky Blinders). I obsess about kinky sex, lol.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The process itself when it is flowing. Allowing my all too vivid imagination to run away with me.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

There’s no such thing as talent. Talent is a myth designed by our oppressive society to exclude the vast majority of voices from our cultural conversation. Everyone has a story to tell that is profound and profoundly different from anyone else’s, and if you just keep trying to tell it, sooner or later it will be told just the way you want it to be, regardless of whether anyone reads it or not. Finding your voice is the same thing as finding yourself. Expressing ourselves is what we are here for in order to connect with others. It’s all about connection. Reality inheres in the connection between us.  Also, join a writer’s group.

 

Check out Henry’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2, and his story “Turtle Bay,” was nominated for the Pushcart.

 

Holly Day–Interview

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

I work at home mostly—I have a very tiny cramped office I write in during the winter (because it has a heater in it) and I recently turned my son’s former bedroom into another office, which has a window looking out into the back yard that’s turning out to be more distracting than I’d hoped.

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

I sometimes write by hand, but I mostly just write on my computer.

What is your routine for writing?

Wake up, do an hour or so of market research and submitting material, get my daughter ready for school, then write for the next 4-5 hours (until my daughter comes home from school).

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

Unofficially, I’ve been writing poetry and fiction since I was 4. Officially, I’ve been writing for publication since I was 15 (going on 32 years now).

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

Initially, I always write for myself, and then the question of audience comes later.

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

I’ve been writing for so long now that just the act of sitting at my desk inspires me to write. I worked as a journalist and a technical writer for a long time, so I didn’t have the luxury of being blocked—I always had intense deadlines to meet, so every moment I wasn’t writing was a moment dragging me closer to poverty. I maintain those same sort of deadlines for myself with fiction and poetry now, so I don’t really think about writer’s block.

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

I do a lot of handicrafts, like needlepoint and beadwork. When it’s nice out, I love to play in my garden. My husband and I write hiking and history books together, and a lot of our research involves big, long, wonderful walks through parks and the city, which I also love.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I love all of it. I love stumbling into a story or poem and feeling it grow into something separate from me. I love the moment after finishing something when I wonder, “How did this come about?” I love watching pages and pages fill up while I’m working on a book or a longer piece. It’s all wonderful.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Be persistent. Approach writing with joy.

 

Check out Holly’s work in Volume 3, Issue 1, and Volume 4, Issue 2. Two of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart, “Fred, Half Dead, Beethoven In His Head” in Volume 3, Issue 1, and “The Patch of Tulips I Never Planted” in Volume 4, Issue 2.

 

Congratulations, Sarah A. Etlinger!

Check out Sarah A. Etlinger‘s poetry collection, NEVER ONE FOR PROMISES, available here. Her poems are available in Volume 4, Issue 2, and “Two Fools” was nominated for a Pushcart.

2018 Pushcart Nominations

The Magnolia Review Pushcart Nominations for 2018:

Ellie White–Interview

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

It varies. Sometimes, I am able to work at home. Other times, I have to make myself go somewhere like the library or a coffee shop. It really depends on how difficult it is for me write at the time. If I’m in a period of inspiration, it’s no problem for me to write at home. If I’m struggling to create new work, home is too comfortable. It’s too easy to get distracted there. I have to force myself into a public space where I am less comfortable to get anything done.

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

When I started writing, I usually wrote by hand. I spent a lot of time at various writing groups, open mics, etc. and my laptop was very heavy to carry around. Now that laptops are much lighter, and I usually write alone, I type everything.

What is your routine for writing?

To be honest, I don’t have one. I write when I feel like writing, and if I don’t, I work on other creative projects. If it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve written, I’ll push myself to write a few new pieces. But I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who writes every day. My writing comes in spurts.

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

I started writing in the fall of 2010, so about 7 years now. I always joke that I was peer pressured into becoming a poet because I used to attend poetry slams as a spectator, and a group of poets convinced me to attend their writing group, and then they convinced me to get on the mic, and so began my journey. I slammed for about 2 years, took a few workshop classes in undergrad, and then got accepted into an MFA program. I sometimes think about trying to slam again now that grad school is done.

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

I’ve asked myself this question a lot. Ultimately, I think I am writing for anyone who may feel alone or misunderstood in their feelings. I write a lot about trauma, but I like to think that I write from a place of hope. My hope doesn’t necessarily look the way some people think it should. When you experience trauma, going back to “normal” afterwards isn’t really an option. You are different. The world looks different to you. There are times when you truly feel haunted by shit. But you are still alive in your little haunted house. So, I often write about living with my various ghosts.

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

I find inspiration in the strangest things. Roadkill has inspired a number of my recent poems, as have some of the not-so-sexy realities of having sex. Life is messy, and I guess I find the mess inspiring. When I can’t write in my primary genre, which is poetry, I usually turn to something else. I sometimes write nonfiction. I also have a comic called “Uterus & Ellie.” I’m terrible at making comics since I can’t draw or use graphic design software worth a damn. But I have fun with it. I recently made a collage type thing because I’m blocked. It’s weird looking. I think I’ll hang it on the wall.

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

Well there’s the comic I just mentioned. Besides that, and my thrilling day job in insurance, about all I do is try to exercise enough to counteract my horrible diet. Around the time I turned 30, I started freaking out about my cardiovascular health. I ran outdoors for about 18 months, and then my knee started giving out about 5 months ago and it hasn’t healed. So, no more running. I was swimming for a bit, but then I developed a rare skin condition. So, no more swimming. I just joined a gym, so we’ll see how that goes.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I love writing the endings of my poems. I’ve got a thing for endings. I like for them to be unexpected, and I get really excited when I come up with something super creepy.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

This is difficult because I never set out to become a writer. It just sort of happened and I ran with it. So, “run with it” maybe? Also, don’t freak out and think you’re not a writer anymore if you go through a period in your life where you don’t write much. Don’t let the people who have their daily writing routine set in stone make you feel like that is the only way to do this. Being a writer looks different for everybody. Do it on your terms, not someone else’s.

Check out Ellie’s work (Pushcart nomination) in Volume 3 Issue 2.