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?

KP:

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.

Persist:

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.

 

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Julia D. McGuinness–Interview

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

Julia D. McGuinness: I work in different ways in different spaces. I love writing in coffee shops. There I can feel free to write in a playful, exploratory way, perhaps experimenting with ideas and writing spontaneously at the drafting stage. I can relax with the noise of life around me as it makes no demands on my personal attention.

When writing moves from drafting to crafting, I seek silence. This can be in the solitude of my study, overlooking our garden at home, and often with a quietly snoring cat in what used to be my easy chair.

I’m also privileged to live near Gladstone’s Residential Library in North Wales. The Library there is a beautiful, silent space. Since my Mother died early in 2016, I committed myself to making the time to spend a day there each week to read, reflect and write.  My only ‘rule’ is that what I do there does not have to justify itself by being directly useful to my working life (though in fact, nothing is wasted).

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

JDM: Personal writing and the first drafts of creative writing are always done by hand. Somehow the physical process keeps me close and connected to my material. I can scribble, cross things out and literally write in any direction. When a more settled structure emerges—say, a particular shape for a poem, I’ll transcribe the latest draft onto computer and complete the work onscreen.

My favourite writing  implement is my slimline turquoise and silver ballpoint pen. It feels elegant in my hand. Turquoise is my favourite colour—the perfect integrated blend of creative green and peaceful blue.

TMR: What is your routine for writing?

JDM: In my ideal world, I write in the morning and see clients or run workshops in the afternoon—what I call my ‘below the waterline’ and ‘above the waterline’ work. In practice, I write best in whatever uninterrupted blocks of time and space I can find. Committing to my non-negotiable Gladstone’s day keeps me anchored and disciplined in a weekly rhythm that prioritises writing.

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

JDM: I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. As a child I wrote stories for my younger brother and kept diaries for myself. Poetry became more important in teenage years as a way of expressing deep-felt emotion. I also created my own small magazine, which I called Check-In. I circulated it round relatives and family friends. Some of them did very well in my competitions, but the prizes weren’t very spectacular!

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

JDM: What a sensible, but difficult question!  I hope to engage any reader who is interested or wants to be informed, (depending on the sort of writing). It sounds embarrassingly selfish to say I write for myself, but the truth is I write because I want to. I love the alchemy of turning experience, thoughts and feelings into words that can become a bridge to link to others’ lives.

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

JDM: Inspiration starts when something arrests my attention. I describe it as the feeling when a piece of our clothing snags on a piece of barbed wire: You have to stop and take note. It might be something I’ve read; words spoken to me or overheard; a picture; heart-stirrings in response to beauty or loss.

If I’m blocked, I try to step back or change tack, rather than try too hard to bash away at the rock!  I might need a break, to write something different, or to seek some new stimulation and allows space to come back to a piece with a new perspective.

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

JDM: I enjoy time-out at the gym to re-balance by giving the body some attention and the mind a rest. It’s good to be out and about—we live near the historic city of Chester and some beautiful countryside.

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

JDM: I love the research and playing with possibilities; then I love crafting and honing what I’ve written. That middle bit, getting down to the first serious draft of words on the page, is the hardest!

TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?

JDM: Write foremost because you want to. Stay interested in reading and learning from others’ writing. Enjoy exploring and experimenting to find your own voice. Give yourself permission not to write perfectly, as otherwise you may feel inhibited about writing at all.

Check out Julia’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.

 

Marjorie Bloom–Interview

My true writing space is a small home office. A window to the left of my desk, just large enough to see daylight, sky, some green. I begin a new poem on lined 8 1/2 by 11, comfortable Cross pen in hand. Sometimes I transfer a poem to a large artist’s pad in order to visualize the poem  “larger.” After a few drafts, I usually move to my computer. Here I focus on revision. For a long time I was in love with the seminal emotions, imaginings, words and sounds of a poem; but now I practice “re-seeing” each aspect of craft, its configuration in the whole. I also read the poem aloud to hear the sounds it makes, over and over. It can take me several years to write some poems; these need time to evolve.

A small space in my home office is delineated by a rectangular rug and several folded blankets for meditation and Iyengar asana practice. This, too, demands focus and persistent work.  So I would say to an aspiring writer as I say to myself: persist. When in the stream of writer’s block, cut off from persistence, I feel uncomfortable. So I remind myself of two things. There is something else in life that I must tend to now. And the writing of poems— my great joy—will return.

Check out Marjorie’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.

 

JP Sheridan–Interview

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

JP Sheridan: I work at home in a room that serves as our library, my office, and a space to put the (mostly unused) treadmill. It’s yellow, and I have a calendar on the wall in front of me that I use to keep track of daily word counts.

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

JPS: I mainly type, but when I’m traveling I hand-write in a spiral-bound, large-format sketchbook. For whatever reason, I hate carrying a laptop around.

TMR: What is your routine for writing?

JPS: Up every morning at 4:15. Shower, coffee. In the chair by 5:00 AM. Write until 6:45. Try to get 500 words. Wake up the daughter. Wake up the wife. Eat oatmeal and watch cartoons.

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

JPS: I’ve been writing, off and on, as long as I can remember, but different things at different times: poetry, lyrics, silly little comics, finally fiction. I’ve been what one might call “seriously” writing fiction for about three or four years now. The Magnolia Review will be my 10th publication.

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

JPS: There are a few people in my life, from my present and from my past, who could make me quite satisfied by saying they enjoyed what I’ve written. I keep them to myself, because they’re like magic: once you reveal the secret, they lose all of their power.

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

JPS: Nothing inspires me to write. Writing for real is a serious, hard, daily grind. At times it’s all-consuming. Sometimes it turns me into a whiny crybaby. Seriously. It’s hard work. I want to get better at what I do, so I practice every day. If I’m blocked, I read. Reading, for a writer, is a cure-all.

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

JPS: I dance but not well, and the closest I every came to dying was on the golf course with my 15-year-old brother. So ixnay on that, too. I teach writing, and I hang with my family, and I take my dog for a walk. I spend a lot of time actively trying to think about something other than what I’m working on.

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

JPS: When I realize that the puzzle pieces I’ve been trying to cram together for the past two weeks actually kinda fit all of a sudden. It happens less often than one might think.

TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?

JPS: If you think you can write without a schedule, if you think it’ll work out without a routine, if you have no discipline about it, if you let doubt beat you, if you don’t put your butt in the chair and leave the phone in the kitchen, you are SUNK.

Check out JP’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.

 

JC Reilly–Interview

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

JC Reilly: I need to be super high-focused and distraction-free to write, so I try to write in quiet spaces, sometimes in the very back of the library where no one ventures, but usually in my room at home with a cat or two planted by my side.  (Cats can be distracting, especially when they sit on the keyboard, but I can deal.)  Often I’ll write at night because there’s no noise at all—plus at night, when it feels like I’m the only person in the world, I can work solely on my writing and not feel like there’s chores and quotidian stuff I should be doing.  It’s just me and my imagination.

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

JCR: I mainly use the computer to write—which makes me all kinds of a fraud since I tell my students to write on paper first—but I will often print out drafts—or partial drafts—and then write on the drafts by hand.  There’s something about the materiality of paper that I love—but there’s also a kind of permanence to it, so if I am writing first on the computer, I’m not really “committing” to the poem yet—it’s not an object in the world…yet.  It’s only when I print it out—and then take a pen to physically write on it—that a poem seems real.  After I physically write on the draft, I can go back and “fix” the draft in the computer.

TMR: What is your routine for writing?

JCR: I wish I had a true routine.  I know writers who get up at 4 a.m. and write until they have to get ready for work, and they do that every day.  I try to write in the afternoon (if I can find a quiet moment), or I write at night.  But I don’t write every day—maybe 4 or 5 days a week.  I do make try to read something significant every day—it’s important to be exposed to words—even if it’s not poetry.  Maybe it’s a biography or a mystery.  The point is to be connected to other writers—people who have put their work out in the world.  It’s inspiration.

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

JCR: My earliest memory of writing was two rhyming poems when I was 7.  My dad included them in a handwritten journal of poetry that he was writing for a friend at the time.  Then I wrote some silly sci-fi novels in my teens—which I’m glad to say are lost to the annals of time.  I didn’t get serious about writing until I took a creative writing class in college and found out that I was pretty good at writing.  I was also an English major, and I was reading all the greats (even if they were all dead, white men), so all these words were swimming around my head all the time—and I just felt like I wanted my own words to come into being.  And then I just never stopped writing.

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

JCR: I think anyone’s first audience always has to be herself.  If you’re not happy with what you’ve written, there’s no way that anyone else will be.  I try to write poems that balance the personal and the universal (of course “universality” is a myth), and I try to write stories that make me laugh.  Hopefully what I write will resonate with others.  I have a long-standing writing group with some colleagues at work, and it’s been amazingly helpful to have a kind of built-in audience like that—but the problem with being with a group for eight or so years is you begin to write for them—because you know what they’ll say, you’ll know how they’ll react—they’re in your head—so it’s good to break away at some point too.  I’ve really learned to trust my own instincts and voice.  I used to make more of the changes they suggested because I was less sure of myself.  But reaching a balance is important, and I feel that these days I’m achieving that.  (Our writing group has gone on hiatus in the last semester or so, so I’m relying more on my instincts.)

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

JCR: Reading other people’s work inspires me the most!  But when I’m blocked, I drag out the poetic forms book and work through them.  A few months ago, I felt just depleted.  I didn’t think I had anything worth saying.  So, I went on a villanelle binge—I knew I had to work the pattern and so it forced me to write.  But the beauty of a villanelle is, because there are repeating lines, you don’t have to write so much—and if you know the pattern, then you know where it has to end, and you can get in and get out in 19 lines.  And you’ve completed something.  It might not be great—I’ve written a ton of lame villanelles (and sonnets and sestinas…)—but at least it’s done.  Formal poetry is compelling in that way—you know how the form looks and works and it gives you a goal to write toward, and that gets me out of a block.

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

JCR: I play tennis—singles and doubles. This spring, I was fourth in a league with 140 players—it was the best I’d ever played.  I love tennis, and my coach tells me I have the best backhand at the whole tennis center.  He might be exaggerating, but it is a pretty good backhand.

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

JCR: The best part is feeling proud that I’ve created something that I want to share.  And when a journal takes one of my poems or stories, it’s absolutely as delicious as the moment of when your Mom gives you a mixing beater full of cake batter and tells you to have at it.

TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?

JCR: Read more.  Stay away from time-sucks like social media as much as you can and use the time instead to read books by people you love and to find new literary magazines to explore.  And write all you can—keep a journal or make lists or make erasures or work through forms like I do if you have blocks or if you need to be inspired.  Set the timer on your phone and for fifteen minutes every day (or so), be in the moment and write.  Writing is one of the best habits you can have—and it only gets better the more you do it!

Check out JC’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.

 

Jared Pearce–Interview

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

Jared Pearce: I write at home, usually.  I have a busy household, so I generally write from 5:00-6:00 in the morning when it’s quiet.  I keep the lights off.  Of course, if I see or hear or do something that connects a poem, I’ll build it right then.  Once, while driving across Arizona, I had an idea and dictated it to my co-pilot.  But generally it’s just me, at the dinner table, in the dark.

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

JP: I use a laptop computer, mostly, and type-out poems.  I do a fair amount of handwriting, though, too, when away from the machine.  In fact, I’ve got four-ish poems on scraps of paper on my desk waiting to be typed-up.  Since those poems are kind of out of my habit, we’ll see if they get electronified.

TMR: What is your routine for writing?

JP: I don’t know that my routine is all that startling: I see or hear or do or feel something that connects to something else I’ve seen or heard or done or felt and then there’s a poem.  Revisions come in two flavors: either all at once or in little chips.  When I know the idea’s good but the words stink, I often just crash the entire poem and start from scratch.  Sometimes, though, it’s just a matter of a little change here or there.

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

JP: I was fourteen when I wrote my first poem.  I had been out with my friends, miniature golfing.  I love the miniature golf.  When I got home I had this idea about how miniature golf was a metaphor for living and stayed up pretty late, in the dark, working on the poem.  No, it wasn’t very good, but I became interested in the idea of building a metaphor.

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

JP: I’m the first audience—that’s where the idea starts.  But as the poem is shaping, I understand that if the metaphor is going to work it has be unchained from my singular perception.  I like poems that are a little more accessible, that work to comment on and illuminate living without having to make either a grand gesture or drag me into a pile of language that just baffles me.  I like poems that tell stories, even if the stories are, in a way, incomplete.  My reader wants to hear a story and think about something.

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

JP: If I’m blocked, I write a stinky poem.  Then the next day, or even in the next few moments, I find that the subsequent poem is less stinky.  I’m inspired by everyday things.

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

JP: I don’t spend as much time as I need to be spending working on maintaining the old house in which I live.  I’m no construction guru, but I do like to work on the house.  I’ve been teaching myself to play the guitar.  I’m no great cook, but I’m often recruited to work in the garden.  I’ve been put in charge of the wisteria and the fruit trees.  The wisteria’s getting out of hand.  The fruit trees are coming along very well.  I like to play games, some video, some board, some party.  I like films and chocolate.

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

JP: Fitting the words to the concept is, I find, challenging and energizing, and my favorite part of the process is that moment, in composition or revision, where the lid on the poem fits snug, waiting for someone to come along and open it.

TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?

JP: Keep going.

Check out Jared’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.

 

Lynn White–Interview

I generally write at home using the computer. I usually write a first draft fairly quickly, then I edit and edit over a period of days, weeks or months! I have a small notebook in my bag to scribble in if I get an idea while out.

I started writing in my teens and have written from time to time since then, but especially over the last 5 years.

I don’t really think about my audience, though it’s important that I have one. I would like my work to reach a wide range of people. I’m often surprised by who likes a particular poem.

All sorts of things inspire me to write—people, places, events memories…Sometimes ideas flood in, others not, but I can usually write to a prompt.

I love to be in the open air. I like gardening and wildlife. I love dancing and rock and blues music.

I think any aspiring writer has to find their own path. Creative writing groups help some by giving prompts and confidence. It’s important to read and learn from the writing that you like. Then have a go and try submitting the pieces you like best.

Check out Lynn’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.