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.

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Mela Blust–Interview

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

I usually work at home, as I tend to become distracted elsewhere. However, I jot down a verse or line on scrap paper occasionally whilst out and about, if it comes to me.

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

I typically type when I write, unless I am out for the day and happen to think of something I want to record. I do have a connection with old typewriters, though.

What is your routine for writing?

I can feel when I need to write. Poetry is very cathartic, for me, and I can basically resign myself to an entire day writing because I need that release.

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

I started writing in the third grade. I entered a poetry contest and won. I have never stopped.

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

I mostly write for myself, but I also write for my daughter.

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

I am inspired by emotion. If I’m blocked, I let it take its course. It will come eventually.

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

I am an artist as well. I sculpt, paint, make jewelry, and pose for painting classes.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

When it is finished, whatever I have created, and it is beautiful to behold.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Be determined. Never give up. If you are relentless, you can reach your dreams. I did.

 

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

 

Diane Hoffman–Interview

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

I try to work in public spaces because I find at home to be too distracting. I also try to switch up the environment I work in because I find I tend to be more creative or just willing to write or draw whatever.

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

I like a fine tipped pen for making my lines, something like uniball. I recently have gotten into watercolor and marker more, but my go to tends to be colored pencil or just ink pens. I also love working with acrylic paint, but that’s not something I’ve ever used for comics.

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

I hate sketching first so I tend to nix that step if I think I can get away with it. For comics I tend to use one of those blue sketch pencils that won’t show the marks once the piece is scanned. But I hate sketching, I just want to draw something once and be done with it.

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

My mom grew up wanting to be an animator, so from a young age she has always pushed me to make art. I think around seven was when I started to actually care more about the art I was making. I started making comics around that age just for myself.

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

I try to make art for more of an older audience that likes to laugh or poke fun at things. I also just kind of make it for myself and what I think would be funny.

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

Getting out of my comfort zone for sure helps me create more. Also being sad is usually when I’ve come up with some of my best ideas, although sadness and misery isn’t really ideal. If I’m blocked I usually take a long walk to clear my mind, and maybe settle down at a new location and start again.

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

I’m a filmmaker, I like to direct, write, and edit. I’m also invested in the improv comedy scene. I’m moving to Manhattan in June, and I’m hoping to explore that scene more.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Being done! Having a thing to call my own!

I also like coming up with the idea, that part is kinda easy. I like making outlines and working out logistics when I’m writing fiction. It’s the executing part I’m not too fond of.

What is your advice to aspiring artists?

I’ve said it already, but get out of your comfort zone. Go somewhere new, try something new.

 

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

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.

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:

Charles W. Brice–Interview

Creative space: My wife, the poet Judy Brice, and I are lucky enough to have two homes: one in Pittsburgh and one on Walloon Lake in Petoskey, MI. In Pittsburgh I have a wonderful garret on our third floor where I work and in Petoskey I have a second-floor study that looks out on the lake. The truth is, however, I can write anywhere: bookstores, cars, libraries, coffee houses, hotel rooms, park benches—anywhere.

Writing materials: Most of the time I write in a notebook that I keep in my back pocket. So I usually write the rough drafts of my poems by hand. I edit as I get them into the computer and then edit some more. I love my Pilot G-2 10 ink pens and hate to write with anything else.

Writing Routine: I read in the morning, poetry, novels, nonfiction, whatever, then, after lunch, go to my study and write all day. That’s not quite true: I consider submitting part of my writing day. Usually I’ll start something new or edit existing poems (some poems go through 30 edits), but always finish the day with submitting to at least one venue.

Writing, how long? I wrote poems in college but when I met my wife, Judy, I read some of her poetry and stopped writing myself for about twenty years. Her work was so good that I thought I’d be better off not writing anymore. I shouldn’t have done that, but it’s the truth. I started writing fiction again about 20 years ago. I got a few stories published but found that people really enjoyed my poems and they started getting published frequently so…I became a poet.

Audience: My first audience is my wife, Judy, then our son, Ariel, then my best and closest friends. I always have someone in mind when I write. Even though writing is a solitary process, it’s a relational process for me. I love to get my work published because I love to have people read it. It’s a special boon for me when I meet someone new because of my work. That’s happened when people have read my work on Facebook. I love it!

Inspiration: Reading other poets really inspires me, in fact, I’ve got this crazy idea that the worth of a particular poet I’m reading is directly proportional to the number of poems I get inspired to write while reading her/his work. I’m blessed, I’m never blocked. I think this is because, years ago, when I was in college, I had an English prof named Bernie Beaver who taught us that “anything can be a poem.” That piece of advice has been so helpful to me, Another teacher of mine, Jack Ridl, says that out of ten poems he’s written only one might be publishable, but the other nine were worth it. That’s a liberating thought, one that has helped me write about anything, anywhere! I’m also a member of a terrific writing group at our public library. I get a poem a week out of that group.

Other things I do: On my third floor in Pittsburgh sits the exact drum set that Ringo Starr played in the Beatles—a Ludwig Oyster Pearl drum set with Zildjian cymbals. I love playing them. I was in a rock band and a soul band when a young guy and have recently taken up jazz drumming. Also, I love taking long walks with my dog Mugsi. She’s a sweetie!

Favorite Part of Creative Process: I love editing—tinkering around with the original draft. I think of it as sculpting, getting the poem into a particular shape usually dictated, eventually, by the poem itself rather than by some design of mine. I agree with Billy Collins who says that the best part of the writing process is being surprised by what comes up in the poem, especially the ending.

Advice to writers: Get rid of your inner critic! When you hear that voice say, “it’s crap,” or “you’re no good,” give it the inner finger and write. Find your own writing rhythm. I write every day, and I’ve got friends who tell me that I’m so disciplined. I’m not disciplined! I love what I do and that’s what feels right for me. If you write only when the muse arrives, then that’s great. My wife writes only when the mood hits, and she’s a tremendous poet. Also, if you don’t want to submit your work, that’s fine. There’s no law that you have to, but if you want to publish your work, you’ve got to get it out there. You can’t catch fish if you ain’t got no bait, as the old blues song goes. Make submitting part of your normal writing day. Don’t take rejection personally. Wear rejection like a medal on your chest! It means you’re trying your best. Read like mad and eventually you’ll find your own voice. If you have a book, market it like crazy! The books don’t sell themselves! People who feel that marketing is somehow beneath them get what they deserve—few sales. They also are often the ones who whine that no one reads poetry anymore.

Check out Charles’s work in Volume 4, Issue 2, and the review of Mnemosyne’s Hand: Poems in Volume 4, Issue 2