Katie M. Flynn is Fiction Editor at the Indianola Review. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Carve, Flyway, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, and elsewhere. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice and holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco. Recently, she completed her first novel about love, revenge, and uploaded consciousness. When she’s not writing, she’s teaching herself classical guitar, nerding out over chess, or chasing her two kids through the wilds of San Francisco.
Today we are pleased to feature author Shawna Ervin as our 35th Authors Talk series contributor. Shawna discusses her writing process, which she says is defined by what it is not. It is not a formula and it is not easy. Though she doesn’t have the answer on how to have a successful writing process, she knows things to avoid.
She notes that “the problem with aiming for perfection is that failure looms around every corner.” She values freedom when writing, the ability to take time off and write when and how she wants. This can even be something like taking notes on her phone while grocery shopping. She finds it difficult to write “when I believe that only by my merit does an essay have merit,” and the piece “quickly falls apart.” Sometimes she finds it easiest to start with a blank page if she is really struggling on a piece. Though she doesn’t have the answer of how to have a successful writing process, she calls upon James Baldwin urging you to “go and question and make art.”
Shawna is a Pushcart nominee and has taught writing workshops for both adults and children. She is a member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, where she recently graduated from the Book Project, a two-year intensive mentoring program. She is working on a memoir about her experience in foster care and adopting two kids from South Korea. Recent publications include poetry in Forge, and prose in Moon City Review, Willow Review, Existere, The Delmarva Review, The Diverse Arts Project, and Sliver of Stone.
Today we are pleased to feature author Jonathan Louis Duckworth as our thirty fourth Authors Talk series contributor. Jonathan gives a brief history of his family which inspired him to write “Chanson de Louis.” Then he talks about his writing process and his choice of form. He notes that his essay is mainly about celebrating turn arounds, as his grandfather was buried in a cellar for three days because of a wartime rocket strike, but survived to live a long, wonderful life.
For a long time, Jonathan wanted to write this family story. First he thought of writing it as a poem, but then he decided it would work better as a lyrical essay. He interviewed his mother to get the facts for his essay. He calls his essay a fable because “fables are a matter of identity” that are so important to people, that it doesn’t matter if it is entirely true of not. At the end of his essay, he writes fiction when his grandfather meets von Braun.
Jonathan Louis Duckworth is an MFA student at Florida International University, where he serves as a reader and copy-editor for the Gulf Stream Magazine. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction appears in or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, Literary Orphans, Cha, Off the Coast, Superstition, and elsewhere. He is a dual-citizen with American and Belgian citizenship. Apart from his love of the written word, he also loves to cook, and hopes to start a cooking blog one day.
Today we are pleased to feature poet Patricia Clark as our thirty third Authors Talk series contributor. Patricia titles her Authors Talk “Lessons in Composition and Freedom.” She has five points which she hopes will serve as pieces of advice to writers. Three points relate directly to her three poems in issue 17.
Her first point is that there is more than one way to write a poem; be open to new ways of preceding. Her second piece of advice is to not think too much, or don’t plan out the poem; she used this method when she composed her poem, “Treatise on the Double Self.” Thirdly, Patricia suggests trying new things, something you haven’t used before, perhaps rhyme. This relates to “Rowing American Lake,” where she used rhyme in the terza rima form. Trying new forms is Patricia’s fourth point. She recommends trying poetic forms as exercises, such as the ghazal form for her poem “Infidelities.” Lastly, she recommends to “write often, read even more.”
Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Author of four volumes of poetry, Patricia’s latest book is Sunday Rising. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, also appearing in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Slate, and Stand. Recent work appears (or is forthcoming) in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Southern Humanities Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Coal Hill Review, Plume, and elsewhere. Her new manuscript of poems is called Goodbye to the Poetry of Marble.
Today we are pleased to feature poet, novelist, and SR contributor Deborah Bogen as our thirty second Authors Talk series contributor. Deborah addresses two points in her Authors Talk. The first point she explores is “some of the problems people are going to have when they enter a field that is, quite frankly, flooded.” The second point is “How do you connect with other writers?”
When MFA programs started, it seemed possible to have a teaching job in academia and also a be a writer. But so many people are graduating from MFA programs every year that it is no longer realistic to assume one can get a good academic job. Trying to help you “stay sane and stable during your writing career,” Deborah has three alternatives to having an academic job: take a day job, teach at a (private) high school, and find a job that needs good writers.
She says though “it’s hard to give up the desire – I can’t be the only one who has this – it’s hard to give up the desire for big time recognition,” it just isn’t going to happen for everyone. (Although she has some tips to help you find that coveted big time recognition.) Since every writer cannot be famous, she suggests investing in your local reading/writing community. Being part of a local writing community gives you the chance to meet other talented writers and get inspiration and new ideas.
Today we are pleased to feature poet Hannah Lee Jones as our thirty first Authors Talk series contributor.
Hannah discusses her poems in Issue 16 and the role of intuition in her writing; the goal that all her poems should surprise in some way. She defines the poem as an entity far more powerful than the reasoning mind, and which demands that the writer surrender to whatever larger thing the poem wants to become. The persistent hazard then in writing, she says, is to search for clarity or to pin a poem down into meaning something instead of regarding it as a creature separate from the self, with “a will of its own.” Drawing on Keats’ negative capability and Robert Bly’s “black side of the intelligence,” she embraces the innate hiddenness of a poem’s making, adding that what matters most to her is not how authors write, but why. She shares her own reasons – pain and love – universal emotions she tries to approach from “a space just beyond this world,” to offer the reader a bridge from the physical world to the unconscious.
Today we are pleased to feature author Megan Harlan as our thirtieth Authors Talk series contributor. Megan discusses the difference between creative nonfiction and fiction, and why she is drawn to writing creative nonfiction – despite it being a “poorly named genre.”
Creative nonfiction is narrative writing based on reality, on facts. Due to the genre’s name, it seems that the creative part might be lying. This isn’t the case, Megan argues, as she says “With creative nonfiction, once you get past your own personal fact checking department, the truth becomes the grounding element for any structure you want to build.” The process of building a structure from the truth is the creative part.
Fiction, on the other hand, is often largely built around a made-up hero’s journey. Creative nonfiction doesn’t have to be causal, based on a hero, or have an arc – unlike classically structured fiction. Calling to mind Oscar Wilde, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Like reality, creative nonfiction is not simple or straightforward, but filled with the challenges and possibilities of expressing the truth as we experience it.