Guest Post, Juli Henshaw: It’s Just A Decision

To become a writer, I first had to become an accountant. It was a decision, albeit an unconscious one, to conform to others’ expectations. After all, financial success through writing is rare.

Literal years later I realized if I’d succeeded in something I despised, Accounting, I could succeed in something I loved, Writing. However, this required I change my definition of success to exclude the financial component, and instead, focus on achievement. As an accountant then, I’d achieved success by obtaining the status of Certified Public Accountant. Thus, defying well-meaning advice, I promptly terminated my license and embarked on my writing apprenticeship.

It’s been 11 years. I’ve earned an MFA in Fiction and transitioned to Teaching. I’ve published four short stories, continued to circulate and revise others, and completed a novel (in final revision). But have I met my benchmark of success? During my apprenticeship, a wise professor advised, “It’s a long journey.” I wish I could say I’ve never looked back, never thought “what if,” but I have. Life consists of so many desires and distractions—decisions, really. How can one not question his/her course when its end is shrouded in uncertainty?

My desires are simple, if not idealistic: love of boyfriend/husband, family and friends, enough money to meet my needs (food, shelter, emergencies, and the unforeseen, for example, an attack of termites on my house), time to hike, and most importantly, time to pursue my passion, Writing.

Of course, my distractions are not simple, but complicated. In random order, they are my boyfriend, my aging mom (family), my income-producing jobs (yes, plural), and hiking, the great & beckoning outdoors.

Writer WritingI imagine other writers are and have been in similar circumstances when desires conflict with duties and passions. At various authors’ readings through the years, I’ve listened to solutions, the squeezing in of writing when it seems no time for such activity exists. I have learned, as writers must, from those who have preceded me, yet I struggle to achieve the balance it appears they have instituted.

I struggle weighing one distraction over another. All seem of equal significance. The boyfriend may not yet completely understand my need to write as a “must,” but nonetheless, he’s a treasure and time with him is as good as it gets. Mom has doctor appointments and errands, and while she is still independent, stubbornly so at times, she needs my assistance, my ability to drive, and truly, these are moments I will one day reflect upon as dear, time well-spent. The income-producing jobs pay recurring expenses that have been pared down to essential; they cannot be reduced further. One can only sacrifice access to cable once, and there are limits to turning the heat too low or the A/C too high. Oh, and did I mention the dog, Lucy? She, too, needs food and a roof over her head.

Then, there is hiking. Hiking is a “hatch” I can slip through in any moment of any day to escape that which needs escaping. Within the 60-mile radius of Phoenix, I can choose one of many city and county desert preserves and lose myself in the vast embrace of nature. I can look at the horizon, breathe deeply, and remember who I am, where I’ve been, what I have, and where I’m going. When I’m not writing, it’s nature that allows me to touch that which embodies writing, the soul.

It’s easy to compare one’s self to writers who have more time and/or resources. This, however, is unfair to those writers who similarly have desires and distractions unbeknownst to me. It is unfair to me because it belittles my ability to act for the benefit of myself. Life, when expanded beyond the individual’s perception of self, is a compilation of struggles to overcome obstacles to achieve desires. It’s a game of give and take, a mixture of joy and sorrow that equate to happiness. It is not an easy or short journey.

My distractions are particular, but common in the experience of life. If my eyes are closed to my role in determining my success or failure, then it is likely I will be pulled hither and thither amongst distractions that appeal to my need to satisfy. That is my obstacle.

I have often stated, “At the root of every problem, is a decision to be made.” To solve any problem, the first thing one must do is decide to do something. Once that first decision is made, others follow in due course. I decided after many years to pursue my passion, writing. This decision led to others, a change in career, in income, in resources. I determine what I sacrifice for my art. This freedom to decide remains in my hands alone. I am a writer—thus I must take action to pursue that reality.

My wise professor told his students, “Stay in the chair,” meaning, when the story gets dicey, stay with it, see where it goes. Preceding this gem, I add, “Sit in the chair.” The first decision I can make every day is to sit in my chair. Once there, it is second nature to place fingers to laptop keyboard and type. Then, I am not only a writer, I am writing.

Do your decisions support your writing or your distractions?

Interview with Cary Holladay

Cary Holladay grew up in Virginia. She is the author of five volumes of fiction, including A Fight in the Doctor’s Office (Miami UP 2008) and The Quick-Change Artist: Stories (Swallow Press / Ohio UP 2006). Her work has appeared in New Stories From the South: The Year’s Best. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the NEA.

She teaches at the University of Memphis, where she is Director of the River City Writers Series and a First Tennessee Professor.

Interview with Cary Holladay

Superstition Review: In your story, “Land of Lightning,” why did you decide to use Tinsley’s voice for the narrator?

Cary Holladay: Because Tinsley has lost so much—his wife, his marriage, his daughter. All of that grief has tested his strength of character and has brought him to a state of wondering—about being a husband, being a father, and what it means to send your daughter off to war.

SR: Burton Laughinghouse is a name and a character that really sticks out in the story. Why did you decide that the name would be fitting for him? How does it embody his character?

CH: “Laughinghouse” is a name I heard or read somewhere and was captivated by. I have a weakness for unusual names, but using them in a story can be risky, like a joke. The name embodies Burton Laughinghouse’s character in an ironic way; he’s playful but selfish, a disruptive force, a con man. His love of birds is real, but he exploits the people who befriend and assist him.

SR: There is an element of religion in the story when the characters speak of God, praying, and the devil being present in Glenna’s life or when the devil was asked to leave. What do you believe it brought to the story and what importance does religion have for the characters?

CH: It’s such a part of them that they feel the pull of its compass no matter what they do. Glenna, especially, feels the burden of her sin for having injured Ned Page. She feels guilt for being attracted to Burton Laughinghouse. Religion is part of the personal mystery that these characters carry with them.

SR: The incident with Glenna Dancy and Ned Page with the arrow was briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story but is really brought to life at the end. Tell us why you decided that this story would make for a perfect ending. What way did it tie the whole story together?

CH: That incident grew out of the fear I felt in high school archery class. A bow and arrow is a powerful, primitive, effective weapon. To aim and let that arrow fly at a living target is to pronounce a death sentence, or at least pose severe danger. The scene tied the story together because it expressed the contradictions in Glenna’s tormented inner self—her sexuality, her anger, her ego. She’s combative. Like Tinsley’s daughter who died in a helicopter accident in Iraq, Glenna has a warrior’s heart.

SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?

I’m finishing a collection of stories set in Virginia’s horse country and have begun writing a novel about the pirate Blackbeard. I’m reading buccaneer legends, lore, and history.

 

Launch of Issue 7: Fiction

Superstition Review Issue 7 has launched and to celebrate we will be featuring blog posts about our artists and authors. Today we will be highlighting a few of the talented fiction authors who are featured in Issue 7.

Aaron Michael Morales is an Associate Professor of English & Gender Studies at Indiana State University. His first novel, Drowning Tucson (2010)—cited by Esquireas “the bleakly human debut of the new Bukowski”—was named a “Top Five Fiction Debut” by Poets & Writers. Other books include a chapbook of short fiction, titled From Here You Can Almost See the End of the Desert (2008), and a textbook, The American Mashup (2011). He edits fiction for Grasslands Review and reviews books for Latino Poetry Review and Multicultural Review. He is completing his second novel, Eat Your Children. Read his fiction piece “A Shoebox. A Thimble. A Onesie” featured in issue 7. Aaron Morales’s Website

Samuel Kolawole’s fiction has appeared in Black Biro, Storytime, Authorme, Storymoja, Eastown fiction, forthcoming in jungle jim and elsewhere. His story collection The book of M is due to be out soon. A recipient of the Reading Bridges fellowship, Samuel lives in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria where he has begun work on his novel Olivia of Hustle House.
Read his fiction piece “Mud, if it Were Gold” featured in issue 7.

Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2010 he has been a finalist in fiction at Black Warrior Review and Mississippi Review and in poetry at Cloudbank and Mississippi Review. Read his fiction piece “Who the Hell Does He Think He Is?” in issue 7.

Terese Svoboda‘s sixth novel, Bohemian Girl, will be published next fall. Her fifth, Pirate Talk or Mermalade (2010), is “a strange and nastily beautiful book,”—The Millions. Read her fiction piece “Madonna in the Terminal” in issue 7. Terese Svoboda’s Website

 

 

 

The full magazine with featured art and artists can be found here. Check back tomorrow to read about the interviews featured in Issue 7.

Reminder: Alison Hawthorne Deming Reading This Wednesday

This coming Wednesday ASU will be hosting a reading by author, poet and professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, Alison Hawthorne Deming. The reading will take place at Arizona State University on the Tempe Campus in the Education Lecture Hall EDC Room 117 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Check out the Superstition Review Facebook page for full details.

Alison Hawthorne Deming is author of four poetry books, most recently Rope (Penguin Poets, 2009). This was preceded by Science and Other Poems, which won the Walt Whitman Award, The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence, and Genius Loci. She has published three nonfiction books, Temporary Homelands, The Edges of the Civilized World, and Writing the Sacred Into the Real. Among her awards are two NEA Fellowships, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, Bayer Award in Science Writing from Creative Nonfiction, Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod, and the Best Essay Gold GAMMA Award from the Magazine Association of the Southeast. She is Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona.

 

Meet The Interns: Mary Richardson

Mary Richardson is a sophomore at Arizona State University and is a student of the Barrett Honors College. She is pursuing a concurrent major in English Literature and European History. She is also a Fiction Reviewer for ASU’s Lux Literary Magazine. Her career aspirations are to work in editing/publishing or to be a professor.

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

I am the Reading Series Coordinator for the magazine, which means I organize readings events that display the works and talents of selected writers/poets.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

I’m really interested in publishing as a career possibility. Also, literature and poetry are very enriching for me, and I appreciate that this internship is centered around these subjects.

3. Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

I spend a majority of my time running, doing yoga, reading, or writing. It’s also very important to be with my close friends and family.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I would be very interested in the Content Coordinator position once I have more experience.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

Wuthering Heights has long been my favorite novel. I’m very intrigued by Emily Brontë’s use of language to present and develop the characters. I’m also interested in how she delves into the concepts of time, memory, and human nature.

6. What are you currently reading?

I recently began One Hundred Years of Solitude.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I really enjoy writing short stories. Right now I’m in the process of brainstorming a new one.

8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing my current hobbies and interests, while also pursuing new ones. I hope to be part of a community that appreciates the same aspects of life as I do.