Buffy Shutt–Interview

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

Buffy Shutt: I do most of my writing in a room I call my studio, but which is technically one-third of the pool house. It has lots of windows and there is lavender growing under the facing window. I spend my downtime wondering whether I should get up and water it. Then I tell myself that lavender loves being dry so stop looking for an excuse to get up. I sit at a small white desk, more like an old-fashioned vanity that my daughter bought when she went to college. I am afraid one day she is going to say she wants it for her apartment. She’ll take it away, and I won’t be able to write anymore.  I also have a stand-up desk next to this table. I try to write standing as much as possible since I have totally bought into sitting is the new smoking.

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

I love the idea of writing by hand using a beautiful fountain pen, but I have terrible penmanship and sometimes I can’t read my own writing. I use my laptop and phone. I was tied to my phone, as many of us are, when I worked full-time in the corporate world; a time when you might say that the phone used me. Now I use it! I use it to capture my stray thoughts, first lines and ideas by writing emails to myself. I usually have the phone on or near me so I am my own most constant correspondent—the perfect pen pal except that when I read what I wrote I’m sometimes not exactly sure what I meant, they read like fragments from a dream.

What is your routine for writing?

I start writing in the morning, break for lunch and if things are going well; go back for an afternoon session, finishing up around 6:30. (But not every day cause life intervenes but maybe four out of seven). I try to work on two stories at a time. I let them compete for my attention. If one story lets me down, I make the other one my best friend and let it curry my favor. I guess I am so competitive I’ve created a process to keep a rivalry going with myself.

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

I think I wrote my first story when I was ten. I feel like I have been writing all my life, but I interpret the notion of writing broadly.  My definition is either infinitely sensible or an elaborate defense for not always writing fiction. Writing might be journaling, emailing “letters” to my friends, writing work-related memos to convince the higher-ups of a good idea or to get funding, or drafting big presentations where concise bullet points might make all the difference in getting a green light. Writing is a tool that can be put to use for lots of different purposes—all (maybe most) legit.

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

I write for my best friend. She is my not-so-secret audience. She is also my first reader. I trust that her comments will help me write the story I want to write and not the one she wishes she could read.

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

Reading inspires me.  Hearing live music or seeing dance or theatre performances also inspires me. Movies inspire me, too. My son is a sculptor and I have become more and more interested in and inspired by the visual arts. Blocked? I take a walk. And walk some more. I complain to my husband, who is also a writer (Peter Seth, his recent novel is What It Was Like) and very sympathetic. I busy myself knocking a few things off my on-going, Virgo forged to-do list. I start something new—bam! off the cuff! flying blind!—with no real idea of where it might lead me.

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

I practice yoga four times a week. I meditate. I take courses at a local college with two friends. I love sports and watch a lot of baseball and basketball. Both big distractions but I love it. And I spend time with my grandson who has opened a world of possibility to me and reminds me to be in the present moment, a headspace writers need to cultivate.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I have two favorite parts: getting something to a point where I’m not afraid to share it and having a reader respond to it—favorably, I hope, but any response at all is welcome and good.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read omnivorously. Don’t slack on the revising part. Revise relentlessly. Join/start a writers’ group. Being a part of a small writers’ group has been a source of tremendous support for me. First, you have to show up with something to read; second, you have to listen to what your friend-editors are saying, and third, you get to spend time talking about writing with other writers which brings home the sublime realization: Hey, I’m a writer!

Check out Buffy’s story, winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award, in Volume 3, Issue 2!



Announcing The Magnolia Review Ink Award for Volume 4, Issue 1

Thank you, Suzanna, for this wonderful opportunity. Each issue of The Magnolia Review is a beautiful selection of prose, poetry and art, and so I knew from the beginning that choosing one piece for the Ink Award would be difficult. Generally, my favorite works of literature and art make me think about them at odd times in a day, send their words or visuals to my mind when I’m driving or walking my dog or trying to fall asleep. I would return to reread those pieces in Volume 4, Issue 1 that did just that, then I let them travel with me again throughout my day. Repeat. Repeat. Maybe it’s because my life as a military spouse is often about change (moving, trainings, deployments, friends leaving) and maybe because my daughter will start kindergarten in the fall, the pieces that stood out most to me were those about transitions and change. In the end, there were certain phrasings and images I couldn’t shake from my head: “[t]he long roads of us,” “[m]ade feast from the leftovers of fields,” “backtracked on roads now strangered.” I also love how this poem ends with the word “end” although it continues to raise questions and encourages the reader to continue asking questions. And so, I have selected “Journey” by Doug Bolling as the winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award.

Lisa Stice is a poet/mother/military spouse, the author of a poetry collection Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She volunteers as a mentor with the Veterans Writing Project, as an associate poetry editor with 1932 Quarterly, and as a contributor for The Military Spouse Book Review. She received a BA in English literature from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) and an MFA in creative writing and literary arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage. While it is difficult to say where home is, she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. You can learn more about her publications at https://lisastice.wordpress.com/.

Volume 4, Issue 1

Phoenix Rising 12 X 12 Clayboard jpeg

Volume 4 Issue 1 is available here as a PDF: The Magnolia Review Volume 4 Issue 1.

Contributors: Charles Joseph Albert, Meredith Bailey, Susan P. Blevins, Doug Bolling, Adam Levon Brown, Sally Bunch, Antonia Clark, Mara Cohen, Ann Colcord, Tony Concannon, Sandy Coomer, Barbara Daniels, Maureen Daniels, Chris Dungey, Robert Ford, Cynthia Gallaher, D.G. Geis, Jessica Gigot, Ben Groner III, Mary Hanrahan, K.B. Holzman, Jamie Houghton, Mark Hudson, Steven Jakobi, Brian K. Kerley, Lauren Klocinski, Laurie Kolp, Paul Lamb, Sean J. Mahoney, Bridget Malley, Todd Mercer, Anthony J. Mohr, Wilda Morris, Leah Mueller, Don Noel, Toti O’Brien, Richard King Perkins II, Scarlett Peterson, Greg Rappleye, Ruben Rodriguez, John Rodzvilla, Valerie Ruberto, David Anthony Sam, Hilary Sideris, Roger Sippl, Steve Slavin, Spencer Smith, and Christopher Woods

Reviews: Magic for Unlucky Girls by A.A. Balaskovits, Twenty-One by D. Victoria BonAnno, Wet Radio and other poems by Goirick Brahmachari, Two Towns Over by Darren C. Demaree, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson, and Chant of a Million Women by Shirani Rajapakse.

Winner of The Magnolia Review Ink Award: to be announced

Announcing The Magnolia Review Ink Award for Volume 3 Issue 2

When I was kindly asked by Suzanna to be the judge for the ink award for the Volume 3 Issue 2 of the Magnolia Review I replied, I’ll give it a go. I thought picking a winner would be easy enough. Sure, I’d have a winner in no time. But as I read the first piece, a concrete poem, “Early Spring in the Woods” by Wilda Morris, I realised picking a winner wouldn’t be so easy.
I continued to read with the theme balloons featuring strongly. The writing interspersed with Leah Givens‘ beautiful colour photographs of balloons. I continued to read. Who would have thought balloons would bring up so much? There were notable reads like the comic, “The Book Harvest” (Dom Fonce, writer; Vincent Butka, penciller; Jared Burton, inker and colorist; and Kaleena Spackman, letterer), complete with word balloons. The haunting “Ghosts” by Rachel Edford. “First Day” by Bill Trippe had me invested in the characters and bursting out laughing. “Hypnophobia2 #1357″ by Ellie White shocked and lingered.
But the one piece of writing that really struck me was “Breakthismf.com.” The story never loses sight of what it’s about, broken, complex characters. “Breakthismf.com” really engaged me as a reader, paying wonderful attention to detail and character. At times it is not what is said but implied that works so well. It’s full of humour and at the same time, the story never loses sight of real life and the people in it. 
So yes, drumroll please, the Magnolia Review Ink Award goes to Buffy Shutt for “Breakthismf.com.” An excellent, thought-provoking piece of writing! Thanks to Buffy for such an engaging read and thanks to all the authors for putting their writing out there for us to read. Thank you for such a good issue.
Taidgh Lynch is a poet from the South West of Ireland. When he is not attending the MFA in Writing programme at the University of Saskatchewan, he likes to eat sushi, cycle, and go to gigs. His absolute all time favourite writer is Elisabeth Bishop. Find his writing in Bare Hands Poetry,The Poetry Bus, and Boyne Berries.
Read the Volume 3 Issue 2 here.

Kirie Pedersen–Interview

The Magnolia Review: Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.

Kirie Pedersen: I work in a 10×12 foot hut I call Eagle Cottage because bald eagles nest nearby, and they cackle as I write. Eagle Cottage was repurposed from a 1924 schoolhouse that was being demolished. If away from home, I write wherever I am and however I can: in the cramped corner of a rented room, a tent, or a bench outside in the sun.

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

KP: Eagle Cottage is lined with journals, poetry, plays, novels, short stories, and books on writing craft. Close beside me are jars of colored pencils and fountain pens. My preferred pencils are the Japanese Ito-ya and American Palamino Blackwing 602. If you’re an addict for writing materials, as I am, I suggest checking out Johny at pencilrevolution.com. I also love cartridge ink pens. I write in notebooks and confess to scraps of paper tucked into small wooden boxes beside my writing perch in Eagle Cottage. I’ve always liked to type, and do so on my laptop.

TMR: What is your routine for writing?

KP: I’m up at dawn, downing coffee before I get out of bed. After early morning bonding with my husband, also a writer, I head to Eagle Cottage along a path through the trees. Before I start writing, I read a poem out loud. I just finished Words for the Wind by Theodore Roethke, and now it’s Czeslaw Milosz New and Collected Poems (1931-2001). I write in forty-minute increments. I set my phone alarm on the other side of the cottage, so I’m forced to move. No matter how hard it is to start writing every single day, once I start, I enter a time warp. I call these forty-minute increments “ticks,” which I jot in a notebook in Roman Numeral form, and at the end of every week and month, I report my ticks to my Artist Chicken.

What on earth is an Artist Chicken?

An Artist Chicken, since you ask, is an art partner. My Artist Chicken is Norwegian-American fiber artist Lise Solvang. Lise and I check in every week to talk about our artist goals. If we’re in the same town, we talk while hiking; otherwise we meet by phone. We alternate who goes first, and when the other is speaking, we don’t interrupt or comment. Our purpose isn’t to critique each other’s work, but to support each other for completing artistic goals. Siri named us. After Lise and I attended a workshop on goal-setting, where we learned how important an art-partner can be, we decided to formalize our hiking chats. “This is to confirm a weekly artist check-in,” I voice texted Lise. When I noticed the correction, I thought “Artist Chicken” made perfect sense. Lise raises chickens and ducks, and they watch her as she works. Their search for sustenance juxtaposed with perching and producing, the threats from predators, and their complex communications provide the perfect analogy for the creative life.

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

KP: As recorded by my mother in my baby book, as a toddler I was telling her “talking dreams.” “The little voice talks to me, Mommy, and gives me the dream,” is how she describes it. My mother was a writer and my father an artist, so I progressed to drawing picture-stories, and then to actual writing. I didn’t really know how to interact with other kids, but I received early praise for writing, so I just kept going.

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

KP: When I was a child, my parents and five siblings were my “first readers,” and I’d force them to sit around on the beach or at a picnic table as I read my latest work. Later, my parents would go over a piece, Dad tearing it to bits and Mom praising, and then I’d stay up all night rewriting. When I started publishing (“send it out,” my mother’s refrain) once the story, article, essay, or poem was “taken,” it was as if I hadn’t written it at all. When I read my own work, I still wonder who wrote it.

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

KP: It’s hard for me to get the clutter of talking-story out of my head. If in a public place, I am recording ideas based on what I overhear. When I’m walking on forest or desert paths with my dogs, stories or essays “write themselves.” My block isn’t about writing, but for sending work out. One trick is to treat submissions as play, using brightly-colored pens and pencils, Semi-Kolon boxes, notecards and clips to trick my inner five-year old into this “game.” Another is to treat submissions as work, as in I show up for jobs for forty or sixty hours a week, so why not show up for myself? It helps that I have to report to my Artist Chicken. Who never judges or condemns.

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

KP: I am crazy over wildlife and read guidebooks on natural history: types of plants, trees, mammals, sea life, birds, snakes, and insects. On walks and hikes, I encounter some of these in the wild, and I like to know their names. When I’m in a new town, city or country, I learn everything I can about the culture, language, architecture, and history. I was actually hired to guide hikes in a town I’d only visited for less than a year. Besides walking alone with my dog, my favorite activity is to walk one-on-one with a friend.

The quiet joy of my life is reading. I prefer reading hard copy, but I also maintain a database of around 500 magazines, and over the space of, say, a year, I read them all. I also follow and support fellow writers. Two favorite blogs are Becky Fuch’s Review Review and, from Britain, DoveGreyReader Scribbles, about books, gardens, and textile arts.

TMR: What is your favorite part of the creative process?

KP: The motion and magic of pencil or pen on paper, or fingers on keys. I believe writing begins as a form of play; perhaps the child who loves listening to stories or reading and then creating stories of her own. She carves figures onto the wall of the cave, even in secret that no one will ever see. The little voice talks to me, Mommy, and gives me the dream.

TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?


Show Up:

Writing is about showing up for myself. Writing is how I make sense of the world. If writing (or drawing, painting, throwing pots, weaving, singing, or dance) is how one figures stuff out, she needs to continue for as long as the act kindles some kind of joy.


On the other side of that right-brained act, though, is showing one’s art and self to the world. For me, being seen was the scary part. I’d spend years on a book, send it to one place, and if declined, that was the end of that. I’ve met so many talented writers who spent years in incredible graduate programs, and then met once with an agent or publisher, and that was the end of the writing life for them.

Set Goals:

I love the darkest days of the year because that’s when I take time to reflect. What do I want to accomplish in one year, or three, or ten? If I were to die painlessly in six months, how would I live until then? What are my guiding principles? Without thinking much, I write lists, set them aside, and then revisit. Every year, I select ten or twenty goals, and then boil those down to the top three. If writing’s my top goal, I examine each day to carve out, at least, fifteen or forty minutes. I become accountable for how I want to live.

Practice “cool loneliness:”

I’ve wasted plenty of time creating drama and caretaking others, whether they asked me or not. Now I step back and observe my thoughts and behavior. I keep my drama on the page, including the drama of comparing. If I can’t have what she has, I won’t write at all. If he’s mean to me, I’ll strike back. But how can I become better at what I love if I never try?

Read and play; play and read:

Read literary magazines. Read books. Support independent bookstores. Find colored pencils or pens and draw a picture story. Celebrate every day in some small or big way. Despite witnessing (and battling) great evil in World War II Warsaw, Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz instructs: “…have a beautiful time/As long as time is time at all.

Check out Kirie’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1, which won The Magnolia Review Ink Award.


Volume 3, Issue 1 is here!

Check out our newest issue, Volume 3, Issue 1. Click here: the-magnolia-review-volume-3-issue-1-january-2017

Contributors: Arthur Davis, Bibhu Padhi, Cathy Whittaker, Charlene Langfur, Devon Balwit, Doug Bolling, Frances Howard-Snyder, Guinotte Wise, Harindh Kaur, Holly Day, J.P. Sheridan, Jared Pearce, JC Reilly, John McKernan, Julia D. McGuinness, Kirie Pedersen, KR Rosman, Lisa Stice, Lynn White, Marie-Andree Auclair, Marjorie Bloom, Richard Weaver, S.F. Wright, Samantha Chasse, Sarah Bigham, Simon Perchik, Steven Allan Porter, Zebulon Huset, Tommy Dean, and Todd Mercer

Check out the winner of the first The Magnolia Review Ink Award!