Maryfrances Wagner–Interview

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

I work at home.  I share an office with my husband, also a writer as well as a visual artist and drummer.  I sometimes wander off to other places to spread things out and get away from the interruptions of email.  I sometimes write when I take a walk or when I travel.  This is the time when I journal and jot down ideas and lines.  I always keep a small notebook in my purse for ideas and a notepad by my bed.  I like to mix things up a bit, but the revision stage always takes place at home.

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

I do both.  I usually start off writing in my journal.  Once a rough draft emerges, I like to see and feel how it works typed, the way it ends up.  I’ll tinker at the computer and then run off a copy to work on by hand again where I try to fine tune for style, sound, and detail.  Then back to the computer, and this can go on many times before I’m done.

What is your routine for writing?

I try to write some every day whether it’s brainstorming something new, working on a rough draft, revising, or compiling a book.  I also read every day and do research to be sure my details are right.  As an editor myself, I realize how important it is to read the magazines before I submit because so much depends on editorial taste.  I think many writers feel unnecessary rejection because they don’t do this first.

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

I have been writing all of my life.  As a child I started writing very bad poems.  My mother also wrote little poems for fun, so that’s probably what started me off, and then I found that I couldn’t stop.  I took creative writing classes to learn the craft, and my MA focused in creative writing poetry.  I still experiment with varying styles and keep finding new writers to read, so that I don’t always sound like the same song.

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

I try to write for a universal audience.  I want readers to be able to find themselves or relate to what I write about.  Of course, the hope of most poets is that we move the reader.  I always hope the reader will be moved in some way or think about what the lines mean beyond the literal.  My poetry is usually layered with meaning, but the reader does not have to understand every layer to understand the poem.

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

When I am blocked, I read my favorite writers—new material by them, and their work will often inspire me.  I read on subjects I’d like to turn into poems.  I take walks every morning on a trail with my dogs, and that’s reflective, good time to think and observe.  Sometimes I try an exercise to get me to put something on paper or journal on a topic for a few minutes.  I’ve taught workshops on Writers Block and have a variety of possible things the writer can do to help get going again.  Sometimes, though, it’s a matter of going out and living a little more so that you have new material.

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

Two other loves in my life are dogs and dancing.  I spend time with my dogs every day.  I also dance most days, but it’s no more than turning on some music and moving.  I also love and connect with nature.  If I hadn’t been an English major, I think I might have become a naturalist.  I have a number of nature poems.  I collage.  It’s also a good way to get my creative spirit going.  I have two journals full of collages.  Collaging is the opposite of writing poetry—I let the subconscious take over and don’t impose anything on the project.  I assemble jewelry to give as gifts.  I cook.  I feel as creative in a kitchen as I do at writing.  I view recipes as starts and think about ways to make the food taste better.  I also love to invent without any recipes.  I walk every day with my dogs, and I read.  I also co-edit I-70 Review and volunteer at The Writers Place, where I serve as the chair of the programming committee.  I teach writing workshops at all levels and ages, and I mentor writers and teachers.  I worked as a full-time teacher at both the high school and college level as well.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The period where a rough draft starts shaping up into a better poem through revisions.  Watching it turn into something is exciting.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read the best writers.  Decide who your favorites are and read their work.  Study what they do.  Read the magazines you aspire to publish in.  See what they publish.  Find a mentor or another writer who writes as well or better than you do and share your work.  Even better, find two or three of them.  When each is saying the same thing, you’ll know the problem of your work.  Take a good creative writing class or two at a university if you haven’t already.  Learn the craft.  Workshops here and there may give you support, useful information, and help you network, but they don’t necessarily make you a better writer because the time you get to spend is so limited.  A university class will force you to embrace writing for a long period of time on a daily basis.  That is very helpful.  I don’t think most writing groups work very well unless they are small and the members can stretch each other to better writing.  A random group of people results in conflicting feedback–although this can be useful in other ways too. You always want someone to help you grow, help you rethink how you see.  I also think that is true throughout a writer’s entire career.  We always need valued writers we trust who can help us grow and tell us the truth about a poem.

Check out Maryfrances’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2. Check out her latest book of poems, The Silence of Red Glass, and check out her website here.

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.

Claire Martin–Interview

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

If I’m sitting down to seriously edit and write, I’ve got to be alone in my home. I’m typically a highly social type, so I’ve learned that my best space for productivity is one where I’ve eliminated as many distractions as possible. Otherwise, my mind is quick to wander away from the page.

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

I like to kick off new stories with just a pen and paper. I know I’m ready to transition to writing on a keyboard when the story in my mind starts coming together faster than I can jot it in a notebook. Starting off by hand has always been a great place for me to play with scene before I really dig in.

What is your routine for writing?

I like to hunker down, especially if I’m writing through the night. I’ll turn off my phone and tidy up the space around whatever desk or table I’m posted at.

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

I recognized an excitement for storytelling in myself somewhere around age five, but didn’t actually begin writing creatively until I was fifteen. At nineteen, I finally started taking the work more seriously when I somewhat absentmindedly landed in a fiction writing undergraduate program. From there, it took off.

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

For me! I know I say this at risk of sounding cliché, but my work comes from a place of personal catharsis. I remember receiving positive responses to the first short story I wrote in college and thinking to myself, “wait, other people actually like this too?” During my editing process, I tend to take audience into consideration more than I do while writing. Ultimately, I hope to reach people who like to listen to their intuitions, emotions, and the dreams they have at night.

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

When I first moved to Chicago, I started taking long walks through the city to better get to know my area. I’ve heard that the French word dérive characterizes setting out on walks without a preset destination, just the intention of drifting. For my writing, the power of the dérive comes when the physical motion ignites my mental motion through actually walking, finding myself in surprising places, and observing others. It’s important to know when to step back from a piece and give it (and yourself) a little air.

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

If I hadn’t found writing when I did, I believe I would’ve gone into photography. I love collecting and restoring old cameras, and certain captured images can be excellent inspiration for story.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The actual act of writing can be both freeing and agonizing for me, so the process itself is a bit of a challenge. But when a story takes on a life of its own and I can begin to feel it come together, the process gets euphoric. So when I’ve completed an early draft of something that’s ready to be shared, accept feedback, and evolve, the difficulty of the process that helped me build it feels worthwhile. That’s really the sweet spot for me. A fresh first draft.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Trust your voice. If you’ve got a story, only you can tell it to its fullest integrity.

Check out Claire’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2.

Matthew J. Kreglow–Interview

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

It varies. Usually, when the creative mood strikes me, I’ll just write whatever comes to mind, regardless of where I am. I have plenty of writings on bar napkins from my snack bar job, and scribblings in permanent marker on blank label sheets from my warehousing job.

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

Generally, I like writing things by hand. There’s a specific pen brand and model I enjoy, mostly because of how the ink looks against the white of the page. If I don’t have access to these materials, I make do with what I can find, even if it means using crayons on construction paper.

What is your routine for writing?

Routine? What’s that?

Joking aside, I don’t have much of a set routine when it comes to my writing. Whenever I have down time during the day, I try to journal about pretty much anything, be it something I read or how I’m feeling during the day. I find it’s good to have some daily writing goals, but writers shouldn’t hold themselves so strictly to writing a certain amount of time each day. This tends to lead to burn out and makes the art of writing a chore rather than something fun and exciting. I know this because it happened to me for a while.

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

I’ve been writing for a very long time, ever since first grade, even though my handwriting was atrocious at that time. I remember my first book: The Adventures of Superdog. Essentially, I told my mother (to whom I owe so much for encouraging me in my writing) what happened in the story, she typed it out, and I did the illustrations. I had so much fun, I kept doing it.

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

I write for those who will read it. I tend not to gear my writing to a specific audience, as I’ve found that this is very restrictive and hobbles rather than assists the writing process. I like to write stories that I personally would love to read. Perhaps this means my writing will appeal to a very niche audience, but I don’t mind that. It’s better for you to write something because you enjoy writing about it rather than because it will sell many books.

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

This one is actually kind of tough, because there’s no one thing that inspires me to write. Sometimes it’s a single image from a film I’ve seen. Other times, it’s a painting I see or a photo I’ve taken. That’s why if I am blocked, I focus on other creative endeavors and table whatever I am writing for a while. Usually, that break is all I need to allow my brain to start cycling ideas again.

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

I enjoy going on excursions to local parks to photograph nature. I doodle in my notebooks sometimes as well. I love going to the local theater to take in a movie or checking out a whole stack of movies from the library and binge watching them.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Strangely enough, not so much the process of putting the idea on paper, but everything that comes before it. Coming up with the ideas for stories and poems and forming these abstractions into more concrete ideas is what I love most about writing. That, and seeing all that I’ve written after each writing session. There’s nothing more satisfying that paging through my notebook and seeing words in black ink against the white page.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Do it because you love it, not because you’re looking for glory, approval, wealth, or the myriad of other reasons people think writers write. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll never truly lose that creative spark. And don’t be ashamed if you aren’t able to put something down on paper every time—sometimes that spark needs some time and space to become vibrant again.

Check out Matthew’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2.

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.

 

David Spicer–Interview

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

I work in a spare bedroom surrounded by books and CDs. Much of the time my cat is with me.

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

I use the computer for most of my poems, but I often write in longhand.

What is your routine for writing?

I don’t have a set routine or ritual for writing. I write when the mood strikes me, which is often.

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

50 years. I started in high school.

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

No ideal audience. I don’t write for academics but for myself and for people who care to read what I write.

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

Anything that catches my fancy.  I’m rarely blocked. Sometimes I won’t write for a week or so, but usually I’m back in the chair before long.

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

I watch movies, listen to music, email other writers, read. I try to walk a lot, too.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Listening to that inner voice that says a poem is coming and then writing the first few lines. And then the revision part is as exciting, too. So I guess I like all parts.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Find a couple of trusted readers who believe in tough love and who push you in a kind way. Avoid abrasive critics.

 

Check out David’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2.

 

Lonnie James–Interview

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

My favorite creative space is in my home at night after most of the world has long been in bed. I find that I’m most creative at night, so in my living room in between 1am and 4am seems to be the time and space when I feel most comfortable. Honestly, I think it’s the isolation. However, I have done a great deal of work in a studio setting within my college experience with 20 other people in a room where I just sort of have to phase everything and everyone out. I may be there in body but my mind has long gone.

What kind of materials do you use? What mediums do you work in?

My favorite materials to use are Pilot G-2 Pens and India Ink. I’ve also really started to enjoy the use of charcoal. So, I’m sort of all over the place because I think I’m still finding myself as an artist—but what is definitively clear is that dark colors, and lots of use of ink is a very distinctive characteristic that seems to be at the center of my style and/or chosen aesthetic.

What is your routine for art? Do you always sketch first?

My routine for art is to use it as a catalyst for expression when I’m unable to communicate my feelings orally…which seems to be often. I hold a lot of things in, and I suffer from various mental illnesses such as PTSD and Depression. When I’m having bad days, my art becomes my lifeline. It gives me a constructive way of dealing with the feelings and thoughts I’m experiencing.

How long have you been making art? When did you start making art?

I started when I was young and gave it up because of a lack of value in what I was doing. I didn’t think I was any good or that people would care about what I was doing, so I stopped. My professor at BGSU, named Theresa Williams, reminded me what being a real artist was about. It’s not about recognition, or money, it’s about self-expression, self-exploration, and honesty. So I started again recently in college because I started to realize that there is a whole world of people who are open minded enough to appreciate things that I can create.

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

My intended audience has really only been me up to this point. I never really thought that anyone else would care to see it much. I’ve gotten to a point in my journey as an artist that I feel it’s important to create my art for myself, and if others appreciate it, great, but my intentions for art are really just get my feelings out there in the only way I know how. It just took on this medium with the guidance of people much wiser than myself who showed me that I could do this to heal myself.

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

My feelings are my biggest source of inspiration. Especially my sadness, and depression. I’ve come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be who I am artistically without my sadness and depression. It’s sort of tragic to say in a way, but I’m thankful in some ways for having a hard life because I’ve survived, and now I have so much fuel to create things. It’s a double edged sword though, because it’s not easy struggling. If I’m feeling blocked I listen to music and watch films. They inspire me and make me feel things that make me want to create something.

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

I’m a filmmaker, and a musician. I was in a Thrash Metal band for years, and then after that went south, I decided to go back to school for film. Now I have a real passion for creating films, and writing, as well as music. I’m also a big fan of video games. I don’t have as much time to play these days but I love to sit down and play a good Role Playing Game from time to time.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I think when I finish. (haha) Honestly the feeling I get when I’m done is such a relief and a sense of accomplishment that it has to be my favorite part. Other than finishing, my favorite is the moment your idea starts to really take shape. When you’re drawing and maybe at first you’re not really sure what you’re drawing, you’re just letting your hand free flow over the paper and then suddenly in the assortment and array of lines and shapes that you’ve created, you identify something coherent, and something that you didn’t think was possible. I love that “breaking ground on a new frontier” sort of feeling when I feel like I’m trekking into uncharted territory artistically. Every so often that happens, and I’m shocked at what I’ve accomplished.

What is your advice to aspiring artists?

I almost don’t feel qualified to give people advice. However, if I gave any advice at all, I’d say think outside of the box. Don’t always aspire to look exactly the way other people might do their work. I would also say don’t be afraid to really express yourself. Art isn’t always politically correct, and it’s not always about playing it safe. It’s ok not to stay within the lines, and it’s ok for something not to be perfect. Don’t allow the idea or aspiration of perfection lock you up like it has done to me. Just do something, anything. Put pen to paper. I highly suggest checking out Lynda Barry’s Syllabus because she comes up with some ways for anyone to make something even if you’re locked up and have creator’s block.

 

Check out Lonnie’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2.