An Interview with Lee Martin

Superstition Review is excited to announce our publication of Lee Martin for our next issue, due out this December.

Martin is the author of The Bright Forever, and three other novels, including his latest, Break the Skin, which was published by Crown in June 2011. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper’s, Ms., Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Glimmer Train. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at Ohio State University, where he was the winner of the 2006 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Click here for a trailer for Martin’s latest novel, and here for a brief clip of Lee Martin speaking about the story and characters he has created for it.

Superstition Review also had the opportunity to speak with Martin:

Superstition Review: What first made you fall in love with literature?

Lee Martin: I was an only child who spent a good deal of time sitting on porches, in kitchens, in barber shops, listening to the adults tell stories. I was always in love with language. My mother was a grade school teacher, and she had books in our home. She read to me when I was a child. When I started school, I asked my teacher for permission to take my books home to show my mother. I was so proud of them! Before those first school days, when I stayed with my grandmother while my mother was teaching, I would take books off the shelves in her bedroom and sit on the floor with them. I couldn’t read, but I loved the way the books felt in my hands. I loved the way they smelled. I loved the patterns the text made on the pages. All of this is to say, that from an early age I knew books and I had an aesthetic response to them. It was only natural that I would eventually want to write books of my own. I got serious about the prospect of that when I went to the MFA program at the University of Arkansas in 1982. Five years later, I published my first story. At the time, I decided to apply at Arkansas, I was coordinating an Educational Talent Search program that helped culturally or financially disadvantaged people get into college. I shouldn’t admit this to the taxpayers (we were a federally funded program), but I always found ways to spend some time working on my stories when I was supposed to be doing other things for my job. I knew, then, it was time to make a choice to either pursue my craft completely or to give it up. My decision to accept the offer from Arkansas sent me down a path that I’ve never regretted.

SR: What are some of the best things about being both a teacher of literature, as well as a creator of it?

LM: I do love to teach. I love the intense conversations we can have over the choices a writer has made in a story or an essay. I love seeing students develop their skills. I also love those moments of solitude when it’s just me and the page, and I have this material I want to shape, and little by little I do it, which makes me feel that I’ve reached into the world and done something with a little part of it. I like the uncertainty of that process and how it finally comes to something that coheres. Finally, I love doing a reading or talking to classes at the universities I visit. I love performing my work, and I love sharing what I’ve come to know over the years with writers who are just at the beginning of their journeys. I guess, to answer your question more pointedly, I love it all. I love everything about being a teacher and a writer.

SR: If you could offer your students–or any aspiring writers for that matter–just one piece of advice, what would it be?

LM: I think it’s so important to begin to read a good deal and to read the way a writer does–to read with an eye toward the various artistic choices that a writer makes and what those choices allow and, perhaps, don’t allow. Young writers in undergraduate programs will have plenty of opportunity to read the way a literary theorist does, but it’s important to remember that stories, poems, essays, and novels are made objects. If you want to write them yourselves, you have to start figuring out how they get made.

Look for Lee Martin’s work in the forthcoming issue of Superstition Review.

 

Meet the Interns: Kim Jakubowski

Advertising Coordinator Kim Jakubowski is an English (Creative Writing) major completing her senior year at ASU. Her short story, “Heartland,” recently won the Randel and Susan McCraw Helms Homecoming Writing Contest, and is being published in an upcoming issue of Marooned. Aside from her internship with Superstition Review, Kim currently works as an ESL tutor. After graduation, she hopes to travel and continue writing, and eventually pursue an MFA or a career in publishing. This is her first semester with Superstition Review.

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

I am working with Superstition Review as an Advertising Coordinator. Some of my responsibilities include writing press releases, updating SR‘s press kit, coordinating advertisements with other literary magazines, and promoting our reading series, submissions period, and issue launch.

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

I read one of my own stories for Superstition Review during my first semester at ASU, and I talked to an intern there who said that working with the magazine was a fantastic experience. I’m interested in gaining some insight into the publishing process, as I am considering a future career in the publishing industry.

3. How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend a good portion of my free time reading and writing. I also love listening to music, playing guitar, and spending time with my friends and family.

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

My passion is for reading and writing fiction, so I would love to try the position of fiction editor.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

My favorites change periodically, but if I had to pick one work to bring to that proverbial deserted island, it would be The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. This is one work that I never tire of; it’s witty and original, and her use of language is incredibly incisive and beautiful. The binding on my book is already falling apart.

6. What are you currently reading?

I can never seem to read just one book at a time, so at the moment I’m reading a collection of short stories by Alice Monroe, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as the Best American Short Stories 2010.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a couple of short stories, as well as a non-fiction piece.

8. What inspires you?

I’m inspired by people with an enthusiasm for life, as well as people who have the strength and drive to pursue what they love.

9. What are you most proud of?

My writing and academic accomplishments have always been a source of pride for me. I’m proud of my determination to achieve my goals.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I would love to be a published writer, or involved in the publishing field as an editor. I also hope to travel extensively, maybe live in a foreign country. My plans are a bit vague at the moment, but I hope that I will be able follow my passions and end up doing something that I enjoy.

Just Write

Britney Gulbrandsen is an Interview Editor at Superstition Review. When not interviewing authors she spends her time reading, writing, crafting and spending time with her family.

I’ve recently been asked the question, “How do you write?” The question has been posed several different ways, the language varied depending upon the person asking, but the message remains the same: what is my process for writing?

Well, my first reaction to this question was, “I just put my pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard, depending upon my mood—and write.” But I wasn’t going to get out of the question that easily. So I examined my process more closely to think of what my method actually was.

Here is what I came up with:

  1. Sit down with a blank page looming in front of me.
  2. Turn on some light music (my writing playlist on iTunes).
  3. Stare into oblivion.
  4. Check my email.
  5. Update my Facebook status.
  6. Turn to my list of ideas or my list of things that inspire me.
  7. Check my email again.
  8. Finally begin to write.

Now I know that sounds like a joke, but ninety percent of the time, that is actually what I do when I sit down to write. But the real depth of my process comes from the tips I’ve gained and learned from experience.

My Tips:

  1. Read as much as I possibly can. I’m a firm believer that the more you read, the better you will write.
  2. Read the genres that I want to write, as well as many others. I read everything: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, memoirs, magazines, newspapers, articles, blogs, etc.
  3. Keep pieces that inspire me near my writing desk. When I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I turn to one of them.
  4. When an idea comes to me, I write it down immediately. I’ve learned through experience that I won’t stop and write things down in a notebook I carry with me. It just won’t happen. But I do have an app on my phone that allows me to write notes to myself as well as to make checklists. So when I think of something intriguing that might work itself into a story, I quickly type it into my phone. Then I transfer it to paper later on when I have more time.
  5. Develop my characters. This is crucial. Characters will transform the story. When writing a longer work, such as a novel, I get to know my main character(s) before I begin to write. I go through every detail until I feel that, in a way, I have become my character. This means that I work through the character’s hobbies, fears, dreams, motivation, favorites (movie, book, food, song, store, activity, etc.) most tender memory, what he/she would grab in a fire, every aspect of what that character looks like, each personality trait, and much more. I want to get to know my characters from the inside out. Generally, most of this information won’t make it into the actual story itself, but it will help me understand my character so I will know what he/she would do or say in a certain situation.
  6. If I need to stop writing before I finish the story, I go back and reread the past few sentences or so before I sit down to write the next time. This helps get me back in the mindset of my story and characters.
  7. I write down everything that comes to my mind. Lots of things won’t make it into my final draft, but none of that matters now. Something raw—even a list of sorts—can help lead me to some revelation later on. The first write-through is for ideas. It’s all about getting the story out.
  8. Let go of whatever ending I have in mind if it just doesn’t work. I once had this “grand” idea for a short story that I had created from beginning to end in my mind. When I finished actually writing it, I realized the ending didn’t work. My character would never do what he did in my story. So I erased that portion and let my character guide me based on what he would actually do. The ending is so much crisper and realistic now.
  9. Revise, revise, revise and then be done with it. I’ve learned that I can always make changes to my work. In my mind, it will never be good enough to get published. I may think it’s ready, but if I put it away for a week, take it out, read it again, I will inevitably find something to change. But at some point, enough is enough. It’s time to try to get it published.

I’m learning more and more every day. Each time I sit down to write, I learn something new. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is to just write.

 

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.

Spotlight on Haley Larson, by Sarah Dillard

haleylarson_0_0Intern Sarah Dillard, interviews Haley Larson about her experience as a poetry editor for Superstition Review.

Haley Larson is one of the two poetry editors that is interning with Superstition Review this semester. Her background is unique, as she received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology and with a minor in Music from the University of Nebraska. She is currently working on her second bachelor degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Next fall, Haley will be headed to Graduate School to work on her Master’s in Poetry.

With the launch of Issue 3 right around the corner, interns have been busy finishing up tasks and projects. Haley was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share what her experience has been like with Superstition Review thus far.

Sarah Dillard: What led you to pursue a position with Superstition Review?

Haley Larson: I had ENG 411 with Trish, and she encouraged me to consider it. Having never done anything like this before, I wasn’t originally planning to apply–I didn’t think I’d have the time or experience necessary. It has turned out to be a highlight of my undergrad work. The hands-on experience is invaluable.

SD: What are some of your favorite poets and how do they impact you?

HL: A few poets who I obsessed over at the beginning of my poetry interests include Neruda, e.e. cummings, and Sylvia Plath. Since then, I have had some phenomenal instructors who introduced me to an endless world of great poets: Larry Levis, Mary Oliver, Paul Guest, Kay Ryan, Arthur Sze, Bob Hicok. I think most of these poets impact me by challenging me. Their work urges me to reevaluate what I think poetry is and consider the infinite possibilities of what it can be. Whether they create a form, transform an intangible idea into an image, or turn written language to a musical serenade, they all make me jealous enough to try a little harder.

SD: How would you describe your experience so far with Superstition Review?

HL: This has been an absolute whirlwind! However, I can’t think of a better learning experience for a young writer. Not only do I get to see the up-close and inner workings of the publishing world and its processes, I get to be a part of them. There is an unmatchable sense of accomplishment in having my input considered and progressing toward the launch of what is sure to be a stellar third issue. I have improvised through a few moments, but that’s the unique feature of this applied learning environment–it’s encouraged that we “do” rather than “be told.” I’ve learned to take initiative and scramble when necessary. And I will admit, I’m still the poetry equivalent of star-struck when I get to email back and forth with poets I admire.

SD: What are your responsibilities as one of the Poetry Editors of Superstition Review?

HL: My responsibilities include communicating with our solicited poets, reading and considering submissions that come in, sending acceptance and rejection emails, and a variety of other tasks that present themselves. More generally, I must meet deadlines, keep some sense of organization, and be flexible. I’m looking forward to interviewing Barbara Hamby and David Baker in the coming week. Researching their work and letting my curiosity run a bit is a great opportunity disguised as responsibility.

SD: What do you look for when deciding which poetry submissions to publish? Do you try to stay open minded throughout the process or do your own personal preferences play a role?

HL: Some key things I look for are attention to rhythm and musicality, sentient imagery, and fresh interpretations of language. The capacity to elicit emotion is an obvious element, I think. I look for the ability to experience the poem without having it forced upon me. I definitely try to stay open-minded, but I’m sure that I carry a bit of my own aesthetic into the role. In fact, I hope that my aesthetic continues to evolve throughout this internship. One of the most important things I’ve learned in this position–being part of a publication–is that it’s important to keep our readers in mind.

SD: What are your plans after this semester?

HL: I plan to attend an MFA program in poetry.

SD: What is the most useful piece of advice you would give to future Superstition Review interns?

HL: Jump in and get your hands dirty! Ask questions (I have asked a few hundred since January) but also trust yourself a little. It can be nerve-wracking jumping into a world that you’ve only read about, but everyone is so helpful and supportive.

SD: What do you hope to take away from your experience with Superstition Review?

HL: I hope to take away valuable skills suited to publishing, a more evolved aesthetic, and a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I can’t think of a better way to prepare myself for my professional pursuits in the poetry world.

Communications and Ruminations

First off, I want to thank our new cast of commenters for coming. I hope you keep reading, and feel impressed or intrigued enough with the goings on of our magazine to get this link our to your friends and loved ones. Feel free to keep leaving us comments here at the Superstition Review Blog, and help us build both a digital and geographical literary community.

(If you have any insight, suggestions, concerns or questions, please leave a message!) 842078_greek_helmet_1

It is the natural means of humanity to connect to the masses in the method of words–the written and spoken words have both served as the gatekeepers to society. It seems as if the rubric of culture is that civilization truly exists once a verbal history has developed. The translation back and forth between spoken and script tradition is how humanity has obtained much of its heritage and history. For example, this is observed in the philosophies of Plato as transcribed by Socrates, and the epic origin poetry of Homer as spread through oral storytelling.

Therefore, it is with great honor and contemplation that we here at Superstition Review invite you to share on this tradition at our side. We have an upcoming reading on Monday, November 17th. This reading circles back to our local Arizona State University community by featuring undergraduate ASU Creative Writing students. If you are a student at ASU and interested in reading, please contact us to see if spots are available. As always, we hope to see you there, and more information is forthcoming.

Finally, keeping in mind the important of written-to-oral-and-back again communication in this culture, consider it an act of service and reverence to the English language to attend and participate in readings. Based on the desires of its participants, all languages will change, flourish, or go extinct over time.

Based upon your emotional and intellectual reactions to the following image, please, Readers, tell us what direction you would like your verbal culture to go next:

funny-pictures-kitten-is-tough-and-should-not-be-messed-with