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.

 

William L. Spencer–Interview

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

I have an office, I’ve always set things up so I have a space that is basically an office. This one contains a 6-foot table from Ikea, a 17” iMac and a fancy adjustable office chair I purchased (with the client’s money) for one of the industrial videos I wrote and directed. I’ve cobbled together a couple pieces so I can use the desk either seated or standing up.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type?

I touch type about 90 wpm, so that’s the usual. I have written fiction in bars, restaurants, Starbucks, and I sort of like to do that in a way, you can pick up so much when you look up: a gesture, an expression, the way her hair falls across her forehead and the sort of quizzical expression that sometimes flickers across her face. If I lived in New York or Paris or Barcelona I’d probably do it more often. On the other hand, it’s pretty damned convenient not to change out of your pajamas.

What is your routine for writing?

If I have something underway I’m serious about that I really want to get done, like the one (unpublishably pornographic) novel I’ve written, then I set a schedule: first thing in the morning, work for either three hours or 1,000 words, whichever comes first. Then that’s it. This allows the rest of the day to be remorse-free. I think if one doesn’t do something like this, then the free-floating guilt of never getting enough done seems to hover constantly overhead, like Pigpen’s cloud. And of course your sub-mind continues to mess with the story anyway, no matter what else you think you’re doing.

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

I’ve worked as a writer of one sort or another my whole life, so I figure I’ve probably written maybe four million words altogether. I discovered Joseph Conrad and Guy de Maupassant in the bound sets of books that came with the bookcase from my uncle’s furniture store when I was about 12, and that was probably the beginning of my downfall. I wrote for the high school paper and wrote a little in college, but I really began trying to figure out fiction when I was between jobs in the 1980s. My wife and I sold a weekly newspaper in Washington state, moved the family to San Diego, and I freelanced until I got a job writing promotional campaigns for television stations. I worked with a guy who went by Captain Buzzword, who called me Billy Blue Sky. The art director was Tommy Two Tone. A great many creative meetings took place at the Mexican restaurant we favored. (I should probably put this into a story, huh?)

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

Not long ago I ran across what Jeffrey Eugenides told The Paris Review, and it works for me, too: “…when you write, you should pretend you’re writing the best letter you ever wrote to the smartest friend you have. That way, you’ll never dumb things down. You won’t have to explain things that don’t need explaining. You’ll assume an intimacy and a natural shorthand, which is good because readers are smart and don’t wish to be condescended to. I think about the reader. I care about the reader. Not ‘audience.’ Not ‘readership.’ Just the reader.”

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

I get an idea, it just sort of bubbles up, maybe for a story, maybe for a beginning or an ending or a situation or a character and it feels like something drops into focus and I see a way into it or out of it. For example, with this story, “Schoolboy,” for some reason or other I was thinking about that particular time in my life, probably ruminating on regrets, which is a bad idea to start with unless you’re some sort of creative artist and doomed to this sort of stuff, and the feeling for the ending came to me, not all of it, just the very last last line that embodies it all. The beginning of the story, the crank calls, getting the unknown girl on the phone, all that is just as it happened at the time. The second part, going to meet the girl, that’s all fiction. I think the beginning of the story isn’t very strong, and it only picks up momentum when the narrator gets off the bus. Or to put it another way, my fiction is much more interesting than my life. Which strikes me as the way things should be.

If you Google “writer’s block” you get about five and a half million hits. A guy who knew a lot more about this stuff than I do once said to me, “There is a time of breathing in and a time of breathing out.” And, “It’s not a machine, it’s a fountain.”

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

I play golf once a week with my son, see as much of my grandchildren as I can. I try to get enough exercise, and of course I read. I participate at the online writing site Scribophile using another name identity.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

It used to be (like I’ve heard so many others say) “having written.” Writing is so damn hard. In the last few years, though, I’ve come to enjoy the process, messing around down there in the engine room, tinkering with things, changing out the pipes and valves, which I think is probably a healthier approach, though the grease and the spider webs can be annoying.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Let me be specific: Master your tools. If you don’t already, learn to touch type. You can do it in a week if that’s all you do that week. If you don’t know Microsoft Word top to bottom and a lot of the keyboard shortcuts, stop bitching about it and learn it. Read “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight Swain, memorize Strunk & White. Watch all of Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on YouTube and Jordan B. Peterson’s lectures on YouTube no matter what genre you’re interested in.

Keep in mind that making up a story entails both making up an author and making up an audience. That’s an interesting question for a writer to ask oneself when writing a story (or an interview): who am I being as author? Isn’t this story, like every story, a masquerade? Why do you believe your disguise is working? These are John Edgar Wideman’s ideas.

If you’re still young, figure out what you’re going to do for a day job that’s not going to turn you into somebody you don’t want to be.

And that’s enough of that.

 

Check out William’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2, and upcoming in Volume 5, Issue 1.

Trivia about Volume 4, Issue 2

5 artists submitted 5 comics, 2 creative nonfiction writers submitted 2 creative nonfiction pieces, 30 writers submitted 33 pieces of fiction, and 34 poets submitted 136 poems.

Volume 4, Issue 2 will be available soon.

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.

 

Paul Lamb

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.

Fire Sermon, Volume 4, Issue 1 (Pushcart Nomination)
Interview

Issue 4 is on its way!

For the fourth issue of The Magnolia Review, 9 artists submitted 50 pieces of art and photography, 8 creative nonfiction writers submitted 8 creative nonfiction pieces, 75 fiction writers submitted 78 stories, and 77 poets submitted 334 poems.

The Issue will be available on July 15.

Update: The issue has been delayed and will be available by the end of July. Apologies for the delay.