Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public places, etc.
I live on a 15-acre property in a rural part of New York state. I spend a lot of time in the woods and it is during my forays that I jot down ideas in a small notebook. I have a small office (my wife calls it a “man cave,” although we both spend a lot of time in there) and I like to go there late at night when everyone is asleep.
What kind of materials do you use?
My motto is: “happiness is a handful of sharp pencils.” I prefer wooden pencils and a legal pad. Then I use Word for transcribing and storing the hand-written work.
What is your routine for writing?
I do most of my writing in the winter because I spend my time outdoors when weather permits. I scribble ideas on paper and write in my head. Sometimes I have to interrupt what I’m doing and sit down to write but, generally, most of it is already worked out in my mind. I don’t like routine and I don’t set a specific time aside every day for writing.
How long have you been writing? When did you start?
I spent most of my professional life as a biology professor. As such, I have done a lot of scientific/non-fiction writing, starting with my dissertation. In the 1990s I lived in Massachusetts, and I started writing a regular nature-oriented column in a regional newspaper. I put creative writing aside for a number of years, but in the back of my mind I had this idea that wanted to write a book of short nature stories for the non-scientist. Key to that was the concept that the stories had to be no more than 3-8 pages long and non-technical, so as to keep the interest of the reader. I hope to have accomplished that in my two self-published books, Giorgio the ‘Possum and Other Stories from Nature, and Birds, Bats, Bugs, Beaver, Bacteria: Lessons from Nature. I came to poetry late in life and have been writing poems for only a few years. I find poetry to be very liberating compared to other forms of expression because it allows me to use imagery and language that are not always suitable for other types of writing.
Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
I have always enjoyed writing in a simple, straightforward manner, so that anyone reading any of my work wouldn’t have to sit and scratch their head about the meaning of my work. In poetry, I admire the writings of Wendell Berry, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg, among many others. In fiction, my characters struggle with the imperfect human experience that we all face at one time or another. In my non-fiction writings, I hope to target an educated and curious, but not necessarily scientifically savvy, audience that is interested in the natural world and its protection and preservation.
What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
I like to share with people. More often than not, the same thoughts and feelings that bubble to the surface of my consciousness are also the same ones that occur to others. We are social animals and the one thing that we MAY be able to do better than other life forms is the capacity for a variety of ways to communicate. Let’s share with one another: paint, sculpt, play music, write!
When I encounter a creative block, I don’t fight it. It usually works itself out subconsciously if I am patient.
What other things you do besides writing?
I like to garden and recently became a master gardener to help people with planting problems. I also do other volunteer work: meals-on-wheels, and have done several tours of work after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and, most recently in Louisiana and Texas. I love to read and try my hand at photography. For sport, I play racquetball.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I am always amazed when an idea comes to my head that I can work into a story or a poem. I have written many short stories that no publisher has been interested in, but I love them because their characters are always people who have some sort of problem or conflict to work through. They are people who are dear to me.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Every one of us is a story teller and writer. Sit down, take out a piece of paper and a sharp pencil J and write. Write for yourself and you will also write for others. There may be a few writers who were born with the talent to pen something extraordinary, but even those are not always understood or are sought after in their lifetime. For most of us, it is a leap of faith to write. So, be bold, be adventurous, be creative, and be happy.
Check out Steven’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.