Claire McQuerry discusses Lacemakers and other projects

author shotSuperstition Review featured Claire McQuerry’s poetry in Issue 2. I recently had the good fortune to discuss her soon to be published collection of poetry entitled Lacemakers. Claire earned her MFA in writing poetry and taught for several years at Arizona State University. Her work has been published in Double Change, Comstock Review and elsewhere. Her poetry collection Lacemakers will be published in December 2011 as the winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award.

Superstition Review: How has your life changed since your time teaching at Arizona State University?

Claire McQuerry: I took a year off from teaching and worked as a freelance writer, which was enough time for me to realize that I’m much more at home in the academic environment than most other workplaces. I love teaching, and I love being surrounded by colleagues who care about literature and learning. So I’m back in school now, working on a PhD at the University of Missouri, where I’m also teaching and working as the Contest Editor at the Missouri Review.

SR: What experiences have you taken away from your work at The Missouri Review?

CM: I’ve never been very good with technology and social medias, but part of my job as Contest Editor involves networking to publicize our annual Editor’s Prize competition—so I’ve been learning to use Twitter and to keep up with regular blog posts and follow other journals and literary news online. The move that many journals are making to digital formats, the growing digital book trend, the widespread use of Twitter, etc. are changes I’ve been resistant for a long time, but it seems that that’s the direction things are headed—even in the literary world, which is so slow to change—so I think it’s good that I’m getting to know the online publishing environment better.

SR: How is working with The Missouri Review different from other writing you’ve done?

CM: I guess I touched on that a bit in the previous question. There’s a level of self-consciousness I’ve had to overcome when I blog or “tweet” for TMR because I’m aware of the very public and immediate nature of that writing. When I write poetry or essays for publication, part of that process always involves honing each piece through numerous revisions until I’m satisfied that the rough edges have been smoothed away, that the work that remains is well-reflected-upon and carefully crafted. This usually requires me to put a draft away for a while and then revisit it after some time has elapsed. Clearly, this level of reflection isn’t possible with online communication, so I’m adapting to a new form.

SR: Besides your work at The Missouri Review, what are you currently working on?

CM: Teaching and finishing coursework for my degree. Writing more poems when I can.

SR: For those who are not familiar with your newly published book, how would you describe Lacemakers?

CM: I wrote most of the poems for Lacemakers while living in Phoenix, so a good portion of the book questions the effect a city has on the people who live in it: the poems explore questions of relationship, of loss and longing, and of environment—particularly the man-made environment and its impact on the people who inhabit it. Lacemakers also returns obsessively to separations, which is something I became keenly aware of while living in Phoenix—the way people can live side-by-side and yet remain incredibly isolated.

SR: When did you begin writing Lacemakers, and when was it completed?

CM: I wrote the oldest poem in the collection in 2002, and the most recent poem was written about a year ago, so I guess that covers a span of seven years. The early poems have undergone so many revisions that they don’t look much like their first versions.

SR: What advice would you offer to an aspiring writer?

CM: Well, it may sound obvious, but it’s the best advice I got from my mentors when I first started writing, and it’s still the best I can offer anyone else: read. Read widely and often—both authors who have a similar style to your own as well as those who challenge you or have a different aesthetic. A poem (or an essay or story) is always a response. You’ll find that your poems are richer and your mind is fuller of the poems you want to write if you feed yourself a steady diet of other writers’ work. I only wish that I hadn’t waited so long in life to listen to this advice myself!

Meet The Interns: Christine Schmidt

Christine Schmidt will complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature, Writing & Film in December of this year, and plans to apply for graduate school to focus on liberal studies with an emphasis in creative nonfiction. She is co-founder and managing director of scribes at ASU, a creative writing club at Arizona State University, as well as a contributing writer for an online publisher. Currently, she is working on a collection of personal essays, and gaining a better working knowledge of social networking media, including blogging.

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

Christine Schmidt: My position with Superstition Review is Nonfiction Editor. My responsibilities in this role are to work with my counterpart, and managing editor, to identify and solicit 20 high-profile authors to submit works of creative nonfiction, view and assess submissions, collectively decide what work should be published, correspond with authors, and gather bios and photographs.

SR: Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

CS: The reason I became involved with Superstition Review was for hands-on experience in a publishing capacity. Because my future career goals revolve around writing, publishing, and editing, this seemed the ideal internship.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

CS: I spend my time juggling 15 credits, a freelance writing job, and I’m hoping to get involved this semester with the Writing Center on the Polytechnic Campus where I’d like to tutor other students with their writing.

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

CS: If I were to be offered a third internship on SR (last semester I interned as Interview Coordinator), another position I’d love to try out would be blogger. This summer, I created a simple blog and have been learning how to stick to a regular schedule of writing and posting, as well as adding widgets and other features to dress up the pages.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary works.

CS: One of my favorite literary works is a novel I recently read by Joyce Maynard entitled Labor Day, a fictional piece about a mother and son who are profoundly changed when a strange man appears in their lives. Her ability to flesh out her characters until the reader feels a part of the story is one of the qualities that keeps me coming back for more of her work.

SR: What are you currently reading?

CS: Currently, I am reading Joyce Maynard’s Internal Combustion, a nonfiction account of a dysfunctional family in Detroit and a terrible tragedy that ensues.

SR: Creatively, what are you currently working on?

CS: Creatively, I’m currently working on a collection of essays revolving around growing up with non-traditional (i.e., older) parents, as well as essays that further explore how these earlier life experiences have colored my role as an adult, including the mother-daughter relationship that has been passed down to my own family and is evolving into a unique–and sometimes crazy, sometimes lovely–dynamic.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself enjoying the fruit of my education and passion for the art of the written word by writing, as well as working in some type of publishing/editing capacity.

Meet the Interns: Heidi Nielson, Fiction Editor

heidinielson_0Heidi Nielson is pursuing concurrent degrees in English (Creative Writing) and Journalism (Digital Journalism), as well as a minor in Music.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Heidi Nielson: As a fiction editor, I send solicitations to authors for work, as well as for interviews, read, discuss, and decide on submissions along with Riki, and conduct at least one interview with an author.

SR: How did you hear about SR?

HN: I first heard about the internship while I was interning at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, working with Hayden’s Ferry Review. Shortly thereafter, I volunteered at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers’ Conference at ASU and was able to attend a class on literary journals that Patricia Murphy was teaching, and met with her after the class ended. During the last issue, I helped with the blog, though I wasn’t officially an intern. I’m very excited to be an intern this semester.

SR: What is your favorite section of SR and why?

HN: As a fiction writer, I tend to gravitate toward the fiction section of any journal first. I am an avid reader, as well as a writer. I feel like I learn the most about writing fiction from reading the work of more experienced and talented writers, like those in Superstition Review.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal?

HN: My dream contributor would probably be Jhumpa Lahiri. Her prose is beautiful, and I admire the way that she is able to immerse her readers in Bengali culture.

SR: What job would you like to try out?

HN: Probably blogger. I really enjoy social media and had a lot of fun when I helped with the blog during the last issue.

SR: What are you most excited for?

HN: I would say that I am most excited to just read submissions. We are writing to so many amazing writers this semester to request work.

SR: What is the first book you remember falling in love with?

HN: I think the first book I fell in love with was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. What made that book so compelling to me as a child, I think, was that their family felt so similar to my own. I come from a family of six girls, and one boy, and the personalities of myself and the three sisters closest to me in age, always seemed so similar to the four sisters in Little Women.

SR: What are you currently reading?

HN: I’m currently reading a compilation of T.C. Boyle’s short stories, entitled simply, Stories.

SR: What are your favorite websites to distract you from homework?

HN: I noticed that most people were saying Facebook, and I can’t deny that I do check it more than once a day, but I think the website that usually distracts me from homework the most is etsy.com. It’s a website of handmade or vintage items, and I can just spend hours browsing through the thousands of items. I also get distracted by my Google Reader. I subscribe to about 50 blogs, and so I’m almost constantly reading posts.

SR: Do you write? Tell us about a project you are working on.

HN: I write fiction, mainly short stories. I have been working on revisions of two stories I wrote for my fiction class last year since the last ended, and I’m on my sixth drafts of both.