The Magnolia Review: Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
KR Rosman: I’ll work anywhere. When my son was young, I would take a clipboard and printed copies to Discovery Park where he would play in a giant sand pit for an hour or two. He’d get deep into his imagination, and I would get deep in mine. When he was a little older, he’d make small boats to sail on the tide into Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park, while I sat on a big rock and wrote. I prefer those places to coffee houses or my kitchen table. I’ve also used the steering wheel of my car.
TMR: What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?
KR: I often start with a notebook that I call my Book of Lies, then I might pull something from that to turn into a story, with a first draft on the computer. Then I print that with wide margins, and rewrite it again by hand. I often rewrite it again onto a new computer file. The first draft is always by hand, and another draft is typically by hand as well. I like the process of feeling myself write the words. I also like having something with me if I go camping or on a road trip, without lugging the computer. Writing long hand also keeps me off the internet, which makes me more efficient with my time.
TMR: What is your routine for writing?
KR: I’m in a teacher training program, so I can no longer be fussy about a routine. It’s grab it when you can get it sort of stuff. But even with a tight schedule, I have time for something. Right now I’m trying to turn a notebook that is closely related to my life into stories, and I’m finding that process to be very complicated. I think I’m too close to the material. I’ve allowed myself to not stick that close to the truth, to change people and compress time, just fool around and not worry about making the stories successful. It’s the only way I can write right now.
TMR: How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
KR: I used to write Black Stallion (Walter Farley) fan fiction, before there was an internet to invent such a thing. I don’t have any of it saved, but I remember how much I enjoyed writing those stories, and reading them to whoever would listen. From that age through my mid-twenties, I really didn’t want to be a writer as much as I wanted to work with horses (hunters and jumpers) and do a little writing on the side. But a couple of injuries caused me to change course, and then there was a time in my life where I didn’t want to write, even though that was my degree, because I couldn’t work with horses due to the injuries. So I quit my good paying job at Costco (good paying for Montana) and traveled. I came back broke and no longer in a relationship, and without any horses or a job. I was a long way from my family, as well as my mentors who were my riding instructor and his wife. I lived in a small town in Montana, on the other side of the mountains from where I was raised, but close to where my mom was raised. Then my old riding instructor had a heart attack and his wife had a stroke. They were like grandparents to me, and I didn’t have enough money to visit them. I took a job for the town newspaper (which paid even less than the job I had waiting tables) and found out what it meant to write in order to give people information. That’s when I started to write. I was twenty-eight.
TMR: Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
KR: I live in Seattle now, and though I love it here, I haven’t gotten used to it yet. It’s been over fifteen years since I’ve moved, and it feels as much like home as any other place, but I don’t entirely fit in. I think a lot of people feel that way here. It’s called the Seattle freeze and it’s as stupid as a macchiato that fits in a pint glass. But I think that’s often my subject matter, people who don’t fit into their communities or their families, or wherever. My intended audience is someone in that family or community with a willingness to see the subject matter from another point of view. I like to take things and look at it from a different angle, and I want my readers to do the same.
TMR: What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
KR: Lately I turned to Lucia Berlin to fix a story. I loved her collection A Manual for Cleaning Women. I see parallels of my life in her stories, though I don’t drink in the way people in her stories do. I did have to take a job cleaning houses a couple of summers ago, in order to put money in the bank to return to school. Most of the clients were considerate, but it was frustrating, tiresome work. After the first cathartic week (I had separated from my husband), I needed her stories to carry me through. So I return to her collection when I feel I can’t write a thing. I mark up sticky notes and put them in the book because I have so many thoughts about the stories, I know the margins will never do.
TMR: What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
KR: My old injuries have healed, but the Seattle commute and the cost of lessons make returning to riding horses prohibitive. I take long walks with my dog and I garden. I also sew when I have time, or feel the need to be creative and complete something. Sometimes I think I want to take up pole dancing or circus arts, but I know I don’t have time for that, or the arm strength. I learned to sing last spring, and play the guitar. I’m not good at either, but I enjoy both. I also like to camp, and follow the Mariners. I hope to sail again. I think I’d like a twenty-footer for the summer months.
TMR: What is your favorite part of the creative process?
KR: When I have a lock on the story and a sense of where it is going. That’s when I begin to push the sentences into the right places. I can sit for an hour on a paragraph, or hours with the story in its entirety. It’s that feeling that makes all the effort worthwhile.
TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
KR: Read. Read what you love and mark it up so you know why you love it. Then read what someone else loves but you don’t, and try to see it as the other reader sees it. Those two ways of reading will anchor you through workshops and rejection. You have to know what you love to read and why. If you do that, you’ll be more confident to play a little and take chances with your writing, and I think we learn more when we take chances.
Check out KR’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.