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.

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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.

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.

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:

Winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award for Volume 4, Issue 2

I would like to thank Suzanna for giving me this opportunity. She should be proud of this issue and all the strong voices that it captures. Some of my favorite pieces are “Turtle Bay” by Henry Hintz, “Punk 4 a Day” by Diane Hoffman, the poems of Holly Day, Chuck Thompson, GTimothy Gordon, and Sarah A. Etlinger. If it were not for my first choice, “Two Fools” by Sarah A. Etlinger would be my winner because to its tightness, sharpness, and grace of language.

 

However, I find the excerpt of Theresa WilliamsFrom The Diary of Lea Knight to be the undeniable centerpiece of this issue. In this excerpt, Williams balances a combined feeling of prose and poetry in her writing. Her line work is crisp when called for and chaotic when necessary. In the best way possible, the notebook presentation of Williams’ project brings to mind Lynda Barry’s Syllabus, while the dark, real philosophizing evokes Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother? The work also takes me to old folktales, like Cinderella, that showcase familial catastrophes by an unhinged parent onto an innocent child, and the ensuing existential crises people feel under the force of an oppressive thumb. I think this slice of From The Diary of Lea Knight is a fascinating piece of sequential art, and I cannot wait to see more of it once it is inevitably published.

 

 

 

Dom Fonce is an undergrad English major at Youngstown State University. He’s been published in fiction, poetry, comics, and journalism. Some of his work can be found at Calliope of the University of Mount Union, Penguin Review, the Jambar, and the forthcoming summer 2017 issue of 3Elements Review. Collaborated with Vincent Butka (penciller), Jared Burton (inker and colorist), and Kaleena Spackman (letterer).

Volume 4, Issue 2 is Here!

The issue is available as a PDF: TMR Volume 4 Issue 2.

The optional theme is comics, be it drawn in sequential images or just plain funny.

Contributors: Gershon Ben-Avraham, Susan P. Blevins, Mela Blust, Charles W. Brice, Aria Callaham, Joan Colby, Holly Day, Darren C. Demaree, Adam Durso, Kelcey Parker Ervick, Sarah A. Etlinger, GTimothy Gordon, John Grey, Jack D. Harvey, Aloura Hattendorf, Henry Hitz, Diane Hoffman, A.J. Huffman, Phil Huffy, James Croal Jackson, Lonnie James, Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer, Matthew J. Kreglow, Claire Martin, Megan Miazgowicz, Jennifer Davis Michael, Paul Mills, TJ Neathery, Simon Perchik, Steven B. Rosenfeld, David Anthony Sam, William L. Spencer, David Spicer, Chuck Thompson, Dennis Trujillo, Bess Vanrenen, Maryfrances Wagner, Michael Whelan, Theresa Williams, and Kelsey Zimmerman.

Reviews: Hold Me Gorilla Monsoon by Colette Arrand, Auri by Auri, Internet Yearnings by Gary Beck, Mnemosyne’s Hand: Poems by Charles W. Brice, Her Secret Husband by Abbey Faith, The Future by From Ashes to NewBurn Site In Bloom by Jamie HoughtonRookland by Jesse Minkert, Beach Dweller Manifesto by Leah MuellerGhost Matter by Jade RamseyHeavenly Whispers by Roger SipplPermanent Change of Station by Lisa Stice, and i’m fine: A Haiku Collection About Mental Illness by Jamie Winters.

Winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award: Theresa Williams, for “From The Diary of Lea Knight,” chosen by Dom Fonce.

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