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.

Joan Colby–Interview

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

I work anywhere a poem strikes, which is occasionally dangerous if I’m driving. It’s important to capture a poem in the moment, like photographing a bird before it flies away.

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

I write first drafts longhand revising as I write so the end result may be rather a scribbled crossed out mess. I let that draft cool for a while—days, weeks, sometimes months—and do a final (maybe) revision when I type it into the computer. There may be other revisions, all of which I keep as versions 1, 2, 3, etc. As for a favorite utensil, I favor a ball point pen that is not about to run short of ink.

What is your routine for writing?

I can’t say I have a routine, as I write poetry on the fly. For stories, essays, reports, et al, I set aside a period of time where I won’t be disturbed. Again, first draft is in longhand, final revisions are typed.

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

I’ve been writing all my life from the time as a small child writing little stories (poetry came a bit later) so let’s say well over 50 years.

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

I don’t write for an audience when it comes to poetry or fiction. I write for myself with the objective of discovering something I didn’t previously know. That’s what makes the writing process exciting and compelling.

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

Inspiration might be a visual moment, something seen, or perhaps something remembered or heard, often something I have read. Generally poems pop into my head and writing them is akin to taking dictation. The best poems are not planned, but lead me on, sentence after sentence, or phrase after phrase. I don’t believe poems need to follow the grammatical rules that govern most prose. I never get blocked, rather I have too many ideas. I try not to overthink a vague idea as too much information can be death to the poem. When I taught creative writing, I often used prompts to help students get started and to thwart their tendency to focus solely on their own emotions. However, for myself I don’t think I’ve written many successful poems from a formal prompt, though sometimes I may pose a challenge to myself such as choosing at random five words from a dictionary and then using all five in every stanza of a five stanza poem.

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

Besides writing, I’m an omnivorous reader of all sorts of material: poetry, short stories, novels, essays, reviews, history, science, philosophy, nature, and so forth. I have had horses all my life and competed in horse shows and eventing. For years, I bred, raised, and trained Thoroughbred horses for the racetrack and as hunter-jumpers. Also, for nearly 40 years, I edited a monthly trade journal Illinois Racing News, which covered the breeders and trainers associations, racetracks, general equine information, and the political scene as it affected the industry. I also bred and trained German Shepherd Dogs, and currently have an 8 year old female GSD. I like camping, hiking, bird-watching, et al. As I live on a small farm, I have the opportunity to observe resident creatures such as deer, foxes, coyotes.

I would like to add that I feel it is important for writers to have interests beyond writing. Poems about poems can be insular and boring. Many of my poems feature horses, farming, nature, mythology, and so on. If your interest is baseball or knitting, use that in poems.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the process is completing a poem and finding out what it tells me. I enjoy the challenge of form, particularly the sestina, which affords opportunity for punning and other types of word play. The music inherent in poetry is important to me, and I find that many of my poems are replete with slant rhymes or particular rhythms that my unconscious inserts. Craft is a significant factor in the making of a poem.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read. For poets, read the classics, the canon, as well as contemporary poetry and don’t confine your reading to poetry, have a solid grounding in literature from Beowulf to Shakespeare to the latest acclaimed poet, like Ocean Vuong.

Write. Write a lot, it is the only way to discover your own authentic voice. Don’t be afraid to submit your work while you are learning to write. Every writer needs to master how to distance herself from her work so as to benefit from criticism, judge its value and handle rejection. It is helpful, in fact necessary, to join a community of writers either an in-person writers group on an on-line equivalent. Those in MFA programs are already in that position. Mentors can be helpful too, so having a professional connection with a writer you admire can be invaluable.  As a final tip: be sparing with adjectives and intensify verbs, which are the engines of language.

Check out Joan’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.

Daniel Edward Moore–Interview

Describe your creative space.

I have an office/library space in my home where I do most of my work, along with a place in the living room where after my morning meditation I work on poetry business, social networking, website, revisions and other tasks.

What kind of materials do you use?

I use my laptop mainly, but if I’m at a café or at work and get struck by something, I will certainly grab a pen and paper to keep the ideas fresh and hostage so to speak.

What is your routine for writing?

Early morning after my 4:00 am twenty minute meditation sit, I work on drafts in progress, do multiple submissions, answer emails from editors, read new books of poets I love, and mainly dig in for three hours before my work at the office begins.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for 25 years.

When did you start writing?

I began writing poetry in 1993.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience?

I don’t really have a specific audience in mind, unless it is folks who are drawn to work that deals with the politics of intimacy, sexuality, the body, religious and sexual trauma or all of the above.

Who do you write for?

Myself and the world.

What inspires you to write?

My own interior life/mediation experience/other poetry/ and everything I open my mind and heart to in the hope I can always translate that experience back to the world in a fresh and different poetic form

If you are blocked, what do you do?

I have no experience of that. I have Asperger’s syndrome, and a radically obsessive mind that I calmly and fiercely turn to poetry. It’s the same as breathing.

What other things do you do besides writing?

I work out, play guitar and enjoy being a Grandfather and husband.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

The pure joy of being powerless over what I call having, “the affliction.”

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read poetry. Listen to poetry. Find a community of poets and humble yourself to be mentored and loved through the trials and tribulations of poetry’s flames.

Check out Daniel’s work in Volume 5, Issue 1.

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.