The Practice of Creativity

Archive for the ‘women writers’ Category

Judith Stanton is a historical romance author, a former college professor and scholar. She’s obsessed with horses and generally, the natural world. I know Judith as a teacher through the wonderful creative writing program offered through my local community college in Pittsboro, NC. Judith is also a former women’s studies professor and when we get together, we can talk for hours. I’m so delighted that as we come to the end of National Poetry Month, Judith is sharing one of her ‘deer poems’ that I’ve come to adore.

judith

 

The Three-legged Doe

After long drought
the white oak drops
three times as many acorns
as in a year of good rain.
Under its spreading limbs
the three-legged doe stops to feed,
her right front leg sheared off
halfway between her knee
and hoof—victim of a car?
a stump hole in the woods?
or the black rocks in the stream
she crosses to get to my yard?

In the pasture I can spot her
two hundred yards away
shoulder sinking every stride
her stump touches ground
or the lurch when she bolts
with the herd full speed.

At dusk I see her
flanked by last year’s twins
and this year’s lone fawn
its spots faded by November,
its coat like hers turned gray.
He rams her udder hard.
She watches for hunters
lurking in the woods.

About this poem: I write fiction, 7 novels and counting, so when the leader of our writers group pressed us to write a poem for our blog for National Poetry Month, I walked out grumbling, “I’m a novelist, Al. I don’t write poetry.” The next day I saw the injured doe for the umpteenth time grazing under the oak tree outside my office. I embarked on Deer Diaries, an odyssey into writing about the wildlife I see every day on our farm. Amazingly, in the four years I worked on this collection, the deer, birds, bees, snails, turtles, wild turkey hens who grace my life lined up every few days or weeks to show their lives to me in a new light.

Deer Diaries is now a chapbook forthcoming this year from Finishing Line Press. Meet Judith here at her new website and check out her Amazon page here.

 

 

 

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I discovered writer and self-described ‘resource maven’, Erika Dreifus, about two years ago. And, I can say without question that my writing life is better because of her. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I eagerly await her postings on ‘The Practicing Writing’ blog. Erika curates advice and information about publishing and the writing life. She also rounds up opportunities for writers that charge no fees and publications/contests that pay writers. I also subscribe to her excellent monthly newsletter. Her work is generous and sustains community.

Erika is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio), which is an ALA Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding Jewish literature.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m delighted to welcome her to The Practice of Creativity.

 

Winter Haiku (2015)

By Erika Dreifus

I miss Boston lots
though as the snow falls and falls
I’m glad I’m not there.

About this poem: I go through phases—and I’m in one now—during which I try to write a new poem every day (or at least, every weekday). On some particularly frenetic days, I sometimes opt for haiku. Here’s a piece that I wrote during the winter of 2015, which you may remember as an especially harsh one for New Englanders. I used to be a New Englander myself, but I admit that I’m not sorry to have missed out on last winter in Massachusetts! Michele’s invitation to contribute to her blog happened to arrive on a day when my friends to the north were again posting snowscape scenes on social media. (Poor things!) Which reminded me of this haiku.

 To learn more about me/my work—and to subscribe to my free e-newsletter for writers—please visit http://ErikaDreifus.com.

Another poet and poem for National Poetry Month! I’m delighted to welcome Li Yun Alvarado back to The Practice of Creativity. Li Yun is a poet and scholar. She wrote an amazing guest post in January on ‘The Art of Low Stakes Daily Writing and How It Can Transform Your Year’. It’s a must read.

li-yun

A poet and scholar, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Madrid; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education; The Acentos Review; and PMS Poemmemoirstory among others. In 2012, her work received an honorable mention for The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and is an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO.

I’m honored that today she is sharing a poem with us. Her new chapbook is Words or Water from Finishing Line Press. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy and can’t wait for it to arrive.

 

His Thumb on My Belly

To the right of my belly-
button: purple-black

oval print on sun-kissed flesh.
A spirit pinching

while I sleep. Is it
him? A hint? Here,

he whispers. Singed meat.
His thumb on my

belly. Now you know.
And they (some strange,

foreign they) say there’s
comfort in the knowing.

Basements are forgotten
places where moldy lies

cling to dank walls.
On my back: the prickle

sting of inked flesh.
It knows how to burn.

Bruise. Heal. His thumb
on my belly. My aunt

lights candles, piles
pennies in corners, tells

tales of muertitos
who pinch at night. His

thumb on my belly. His
boys cloaked in black

masks. Friendship? Folly?
When they

faced him, (my thumb
on his belly), not flesh,

not lead, not prayer
could stop the blood.

 

Li Yun Alvarado is the author of Words or Water (forthcoming) and Nuyorico, CA. A poet and scholar, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Madrid; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education; The Acentos Review; and PMS Poemmemoirstory among others. In 2012, her work received an honorable mention for The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and is an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO. She holds a BA in Spanish and sociology from Yale University and an MA and PhD in English from Fordham University. Li Yun is a native New Yorker living in Long Beach, California who takes frequent trips to Salinas, Puerto Rico to visit la familia. You can learn more about Li Yun and her work on Facebook and at www.liyunalvarado.com

You can pre-order Words or Water here!

National Poetry Month is here! All throughout the month, I will feature writers sharing poems and insights into the craft of poetry. I’m delighted to kickoff this segment with Alice Osborn. Alice is a poet, editor and popular writing coach.

Several years ago, I attended one of her workshops on promotion for writers. I loved the way she engaged the audience and how she pushed us to be vulnerable and authentic in how we communicate with the public. I still have those notes and often find myself putting into practice her advice. Over the years, I have followed her career, inspired by all that she does and how generous she is in supporting emerging writers.

Alice is a prolific writer. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street Rag. A North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal MagazineSoundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies.

 I’m delighted to welcome Alice Osborn to The Practice of Creativity.

What was the first poem you’ve ever read?

 All of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes were my favorites when I was a preschooler and when I became school age, I loved hearing the pounding hoof beats in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems,—his Child’s Garden of Verses especially. I’m an auditory learner, I loved his rhythms and rhymes, plus there was usually strong conflict in his work. I also couldn’t get enough of Walt Whitman’s extended metaphor about Lincoln’s assassination in “O, Captain! My Captain!” I, too, wanted to express something grand and meaningful. I first got my chance my sophomore year of high school when I won second place in the annual poetry contest. I wrote a three page poem about the epic fight between King Arthur and Sir Mordred. After trying the next year and not winning any more awards, I stopped writing poetry until my mid-twenties when a friend invited me to an open mic. I felt that what I wrote could have been better, but I didn’t know what I needed to do get better.

Alice Osborn profile

 How has poetry influenced you as a person? Or as a writer?

 Now fast forward to nine years ago when I first started sending my short stories and essays out to various publication markets. I didn’t get any takers for these pieces and I was getting tired of all of the rejections. Then one of my writing teachers suggested reading and writing poetry to become a stronger fiction or memoir writer. I could do this! After all, I had written poetry before. The third poem I wrote after my nineteen year hiatus won honorable mention in NC State’s annual poetry contest. Wow! Maybe I needed to keep doing this poetry thing. It was called “Ghostcards” and it was about the dual hanging deaths of two 14-year-old African American boys in Shubuta, Mississippi in 1942. Langston Hughes had portrayed the boys’ fate in “Bitter River” and I wanted to present my own version using the color gray throughout the poem. One night, the name “Ghostcards” came to me in a dream and wouldn’t let me go until I had written the poem. Many of my poems emerge from dreams, while others come from the newspaper, random encounters, personal experiences or strange family behaviors.

Heroes without Capes cover

My most recent book of poems is Heroes with Capes, my first full length collection that features many dramatic monologues and narrative poems from famous and infamous speakers from history, myth and pop culture who show varying degrees of heroism and loneliness. From the Star Wars saga, we have the bounty hunter Boba Fett who is a recovering alcoholic working hard at changing the script of his past. “Holding the door for an old man in a Braves hat, /I keep my eye out for movement among the parking lot pines/and mutter a tiny prayer while backing out by the Drive-Thru. /And an even bigger one when I take a bite/to drive east into the sun. /Telling myself this ketchup on my armor is real, /even if the past isn’t.”

While all the Predator (from the 1987 hit movie) wants to do is buy beef at Walmart. “Ring butcher bell, and Charlie comes right away./What wonderful service! And fills up cart. /Few ground chucks spill out and hit feet. /Ouch, I have tender feet like bananas.” Also featured are the Devil, Ellen Ripley from Aliens, the Virgin Mary, LBJ, Darth Vader, Benedict Arnold, Captain Bligh, Princess Leia, Dick Cheney, the Road Runner and many others. You’ll also meet Nolan, the split foyer house who is under tremendous stress and Dina the Delta jet who wishes her passengers possessed more taste. My favorite characters are the B-men: Boba Fett, Benedict Arnold and Captain Bligh because they are all heroes, but they are also flawed and these flaws get in their own way—I really identify with these guys!

 In your opinion, what makes a poorly written poem?

A lot of crappy poems are written because they don’t care about the reader; they’re so insular and specific to the author, the reader can’t find a way in. Many poems also don’t have any layering, they are filled with clichés (especially love poems talking about soul mates) and poems that don’t have any grounding. What I mean by grounding is that the poem is only concerned about the abstract and they’re nothing to concrete to make a reader relate to it. Some poems also have a lot of “throat-clearing,” meaning the author takes a long time to get to the meat of the poem. Most of all I sincerely dislike poems that don’t trust the reader’s intelligence—they are expository and pander to the audience like a weak network sitcom.

 How would you persuade a non-reader to read poetry?

 Attend as many poetry readings/literary open mics as you can so you can experience the poem and the poet in the same space. If you can’t make it out to readings, watch poets read their work on YouTube and The Poetry Foundation. And while you’re at a reading, support the poets by buying their work. If you want to get really crazy and accelerate your poetry craft learning, review all of the poetry books you buy on GoodReads.com and Amazon. Even if you’re not a writer, I encourage you to read poetry to discover a fresh insight into an old idea or see how a poet performs acrobatics with his words. You just might learn something cool about yourself or the fellow drinking black coffee two tables over at the Panera.

Is poetry useful?

No question about it. Poetry teaches us how to live. Poetry is like the Windex on a grubby car window—it bares open the vulnerabilities of human beings so we can all relate to each other a little better.

“Chorus: The Hero of Acheron,” published in the Kakalak 2014 Anthology of Carolina Poets

Chorus: The Hero of Acheron

Against our constant warnings,
You have five minutes to evacuate!
she descends in the elevator,
shedding her blue jacket, shedding her mind-killers—
always watchful with her duct-taped
pulse rifle and flame thrower to rescue
the girl, her Persephone from
the Queen of the Eggs.
This Demeter is something of an immortal—
while in cryo-sleep she outlived her Earth daughter
and once returned to her planet, chose
a space station’s safe orbit, refusing
to walk barefoot in the prairie grass
or view stars burning with death.

She brings her own star justice to the Queen’s eggs,
dripping with mucous as one hatches…
saving the girl before the pomegranates eat her.
Angels hum to the sulfured air.
The two rise to the unstable surface,
what was rage in her descent is now fear.
You have two minutes to evacuate!
This wounded goddess could lose everything;
she’s fighting gods with their own agendas—
before it was only her and her vengeance.
You have 30 seconds to evacuate!
The android Hermes flies
to mother and daughter before enfolding them
aboard the Sulaco as the dead world explodes.
The humans and near human flinch
to shock waves rising higher and higher
in the moon’s atmosphere.
But all we know Hades won’t let
Persephone ever truly leave
the underworld.

Alice Osborn’ s past educational (MA in English, NCSU and BS in Finance, VA Tech) and work experience (Belk, waitress, tutor) is unusually varied, and it now feeds her work as a poet, editor-for-hire and popular writing coach. Alice’s business, Write from the Inside Out, is now a decade old and in that time, she has taught scores of writing workshops and has edited manuscripts locally and all around the globe. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street RagA North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal MagazineSoundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. When she’s not editing or writing, Alice is an Irish dancer who plays guitar and violin. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, four loud birds and Mr. Nibbles, a carrot-chomping guinea pig. Visit Alice’s website at www.aliceosborn.com.

Connect with Alice:

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/aliceosborn
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+AliceOsborn
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/aliceosborn
Facebook: http://facebook.com/alicevosborn
Twitter: http://twitter.com/alice_osborn
YouTube: http://youtube.com/avosborn

Find out more about her here: http://aliceosborn.com/blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things I deeply enjoy about my blog is conducting author interviews. I love finding out how writers create magic on the page and what sustains them when working on long projects. My blog allows me to reach out to new and established writers after I hear them give a reading, or learn about them online, and ask for an interview. Every time an author agrees to an interview, I feel excited and inspired. My goal is to ask thought-provoking questions that get at the heart of their ideas about craft. I look forward to checking my email and seeing how they play with and sculpt answers to my questions. Interviewing and helping to promote writers is a passion and gratitude generating activity for me.

At the end of each interview, I always ask an author: What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Below, I have collected the most intriguing answers from writers I interviewed in 2015.

Keep this list close at hand. The advice is inspiring and offers a great way to jump-start your new year of fresh writing. And, look forward to even more author interviews in 2016!

*To see the full interview, click on the author’s name.

 

Camille Armantrout, co-author, Two Brauds Abroad: A Departure from Life As We Know It

Camille (right)

Camille (right)

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Pay attention to your writing patterns. If you discover, as I did, that your words flow in the morning, clear your am calendar to take advantage of that creative burst. Keep pen and paper handy at all times, in your pocket or purse, on your bedside table, and in the car.

 

Karoline Barrett, Bun for Your Lifefb home picture----

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?  

Just one? That’s hard! I’d have to say, don’t get bogged down with self-doubt, just write!

 

 

Samantha Bryant, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel

full-swing-computer-shoes2

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

The one thing that truly made a difference for me was committing to a daily writing habit. For me, I did that with Magic Spreadsheet, a gamification tool for writers created by Tony Pisculli, which awards points for meeting a daily minimum word count.

For many years, I struggled to write while meeting all the rest of my responsibilities as a teacher, wife, mother, dog-mom, sister, daughter, etc., etc., etc. I would get a few hours once a month or so, and spend half of them just trying to get back in the flow.

But, once I committed to writing at least 250 words every day, come hell or high-water, that problem disappeared. It’s not hard to find my way back into the story if I’ve only been away twenty-four hours. It made the time I had more productive. Over time, with practice, I became able to write more words in one hour than I used to write in a four or five hour session. I began to finish things. So there it is: write every day.

 

Laurie Cannady, Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul

cannady03-210

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Write a page every day, no matter what, and don’t be afraid to allow your narrative to reveal things to you. When I first began writing memoir, I thought I had to write everything, as accurately as I could remember, to some self-imposed end. It took years to realize that my narrative had its own end and its own way in which it wanted to be relayed. So, writing a page a day was a relief. I allowed the scenes to unfold as they pleased and once that writing was done, I was able to shape all that I had written into Crave.

 

Amy Ferris, Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide and Feeling Blue

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share? 

amy_ferris

write as if no one – not one single soul – will ever read what you’ve written.

yeah, write that kinda balls-out scary heart-wrenching beautiful truthful.

 

Mur Lafferty, The Shambling Guide to New York City

Mur_lafferty-300x198

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Never give up. That’s the fastest way to failure.

 

James Maxey, Bitterwood: The Complete Collection

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

600_JamesMaxey

Momentum matters. Going back to my last answer, the biggest trap beginning authors can fall into is to write only when you feel inspired. If you practiced piano only when you felt inspired, would you ever master the piano? If you only went out and ran when you felt inspired, would you ever build the endurance and mental stamina needed to run a marathon? A key thing to understand is that any time you sit down to write, you aren’t working only on the story or chapter in front of you. You’re working on your entire career. If you want to “make it” as a writer, odds are you will write millions of words over the course of decades, maybe tens of millions. To get there, you’ve got to put your butt in the chair and slog out the words on days when you’re tired, or a little sick, or worried about your family or your job. You’ve got to keep tapping the keyboard when you are certain you are writing the worst sentences ever recorded onto a hard drive, when you hate every last character in your novel and can think of not one original idea for where you’re taking the plot. Because, you know what? Writing is where the magic happens. You can sit around daydreaming all you want, but until you start typing, you don’t actually know what’s going to emerge. Again and again I’ve discovered that, as I’m slogging through something I don’t want to write, something will spark and the next thing I know I’m on fire. I start out telling myself I can quit for the night if I make to 500 words, and the next thing I know it’s 3 a.m. and I’ve got 5000 words that just sparkle.

 

Jennifer Steil, The Ambassador’s Wife

Jennifer Steil-1

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Go away. Go far, far away. The best thing any writer could do for herself is to go out into the world and have adventures that will give her something to write about. Take risks. Go to difficult places and do impossible things. If you want a guaranteed fantastic story, give up a comfortable life and move to the most difficult country in the world. Stories will find you. In abundance. Of course, if you already have an uncomfortable and crazy life where you are, you’re all set!

 

I first met Samantha Bryant online, last November, during the intense worldwide writing challenge known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Novice and veteran writers alike try to complete a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a month. This was my first NaNoWriMo and I was looking for local writers to connect with, who were also undertaking NaNoWriM0, during what promised to be an exhilarating and caffeine-laden month. By sheer chance, I ran across Samantha’s profile on the NaNoWriMo site and saw that we had a lot in common and that she only lived an hour away. We both like to read and write speculative fiction, are great fans of ‘The Magic Spreadsheet’ (a writing accountability tool), and are bloggers. Samantha’s wonderful blog is called ‘The Balancing Act’ and she routinely writes about being an educator, the craft of writing and being a mom. The other thing that I took notice of right away was that Samantha was coming out with her first novel with a fabulous premise—women who through experiencing menopause develop superhero abilities. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the speculative fiction field has produced many menopausal superheroes. Menopause is such an important social, biological, cultural and even spiritual transformation for many women, yet it rarely receives prime time attention in fiction. In Samantha’s debut novel, Going Through the Change, four unrelated women experience menopause in a way that triggers superhuman capabilities. They must find out how to use their powers and why they have them. Sounds irresistible, right?

It’s been a blast getting to know Samantha and her writing. During NaNoWriMo, she was a kind and encouraging writing buddy. And, we both completed our NaNoWriMo drafts!

I am delighted to welcome Samantha Bryant to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

cover1000

 

Tell us about your new book Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel. What inspired this book?

I’m a long time comic book reader. My mom used to take Little Me to a bookshop on the avenue in my hometown where I could buy old comic books for a dime each and she could get mystery novels for a quarter. I was allowed to spend a whole dollar, so I’d get a lot of interesting reading that way! So, superheroes have been part of my imaginative landscape from the beginning.

Much more recently, through my library, I met a local writer, James Maxey, who was holding some craft and business of writing workshops. James wrote a superhero novel (Nobody Gets the Girl) and an even more awesome side-quel about the villains (Burn Baby Burn). Up until then, I didn’t know the “superhero novel” was a thing. I was so excited to learn that it’s a thriving subgenre!

I’d been writing a women’s fiction novel (unpublished as of yet: His Other Mother). I feel proud of the book, but finishing it was emotionally difficult. So, I promised myself that, if I finished that book, I could write something “fun” next. The actual idea sprang from a long, rambling conversation with my husband about the relationship between hormones and superpowers.

What is your biggest hope for Going Through the Change as it meets readers?

In my wildest fantasies, the book sells a bajillion copies and wins all the awards and I give up my day job and enable my husband do so, too, and we and our girls travel the world solving crimes and saving people like Nick and Nora Charles, but with less inebriation.

More realistically, I just hope I find some readers and they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The thing I’ve always loved about science fiction and fantasy in all its forms is the way you can explore life issues without feeling as though you’re taking them seriously. At its best, it’s fun and thought-provoking at the same time. It’s emotionally true, even when you’re dealing with things that can’t possibly happen in real life, like flying women or women who can throw fire.

Through Linda, I got to explore issues of gender identity, racism, and what makes a strong marriage. Patricia let me find out what it might have been like to choose a single life in a powerhouse career instead of becoming a wife and mother. Writing Jessica taught me about inner strength and reinventing yourself when life throws you curve balls. Helen had a lot to say about regret and bitterness and how they can twist a person.

Writing this novel let me live inside each of these women. I love them all and they are all in me in some way. I hope my readers will come to love my superwomen the way I do.

Please tell us how you came to work with your publisher, Curiosity Quills Press.

This will be my first published novel, but it’s not the first one I wrote. When I finished Change, I had been playing submission tag (mostly I was “not it”) for a year and a half with my other novel. I’d gotten some nibbles, but no bites. In the process, I learned that I didn’t have the patience for large publishers. I’m okay with “no” for an answer, but I just wanted to get an answer sooner, so I could move on and try someone else if my book wasn’t a good fit.

So, for this book, I only looked at small, independent publishers. I started paying more attention in my online life to speculative fiction writers who were working with small presses. Matthew Graybosch, author of Without Bloodshed, and fellow user of Google+, had posted a few times about his publisher, Curiosity Quills.

So, I cyber-stalked them a little. I liked what I saw. They seemed to really love what they were doing. Their website had personality. They were transparent about what kind of deal I could expect from them if they accepted my work. So, I wrote up a query letter and sent some pages.

It was a really pleasant surprise how quickly things moved from there. Within a few days, I had a request for the full manuscript. A contract was in my in-box just a few days after that. Working with them has been lovely so far! All my questions are answered promptly and seriously and the entire community of Literary Marauders has been warm and welcoming.

full-swing-computer-shoes2

 

How do story ideas usually come to you? Do you start with character, plot or conflict, etc.?

The best ideas seem to come from something that scares me a little or worries or upsets me. My first novel came about from my unreasonable fear that I would be hit by a car in the grocery store parking lot and that my infant daughter would be left alone. Going Through the Change stems from my anxieties surrounding doctors, going through menopause, and getting older. A short story I wrote recently is, in a way, about how much I don’t like gardening.

Usually, I have a vague idea about a scene and a sketchy outline of a character in mind and I sit down and start writing. I’m very much a discovery writer at first–I write to discover what the story is going to be. When it’s going well, it feels more like I’m channeling a story from some external source than like I’m making it up inside my own brain. I’m one of those writers who wants to kvetch about what her characters did to her today.

If you could be any superhero for a day, who would you be? Why?

I’m not very tall or very strong and am always frustrated by my lack of vertical reach, so I would probably love being Helen Parr (Elastigirl from The Incredibles) for a day. She’s also a great mom and manages, in the end, to balance superhero and family life. That’s quite a role model.

It could also be cool to be Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For one thing, Joss Whedon would write my dialogue. For another, I’d be preternaturally strong and fast and athletic. I wouldn’t want her love life though.

In my child’s heart, though, I’d probably be Red Sonja. She was my first superheroine love, after all-from those ten-cent comics days. Because she’s mostly naked all the time, I was sure I shouldn’t be allowed to read her, which, of course, made her all the more appealing. She’s fierce and unafraid, undeniably female and strong. A truly independent warrior.

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

The one thing that truly made a difference for me was committing to a daily writing habit. For me, I did that with Magic Spreadsheet, a gamification tool for writers created by Tony Pisculli, which awards points for meeting a daily minimum word count.

For many years, I struggled to write while meeting all the rest of my responsibilities as a teacher, wife, mother, dog-mom, sister, daughter, etc., etc., etc. I would get a few hours once a month or so, and spend half of them just trying to get back in the flow.

But, once I committed to writing at least 250 words every day, come hell or high-water, that problem disappeared. It’s not hard to find my way back into the story if I’ve only been away twenty-four hours. It made the time I had more productive. Over time, with practice, I became able to write more words in one hour than I used to write in a four or five hour session. I began to finish things. So there it is: write every day.

 

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and novelist by night. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her husband, daughters and dog. Her secret superpower is finding lost things.

Connect with Samantha in multiple ways:

Her blog: http://samanthabryant.com
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/samanthadunawaybryant
Author’s page on Curiosity Quills: https://curiosityquills.com/authors/samantha-bryant/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mirymom1
On Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SamanthaDunawayBryant/posts

Long before Mur Lafferty became a well-regarded speculative fiction author, she was known for her compassionate, funny and engaging podcast called, ‘I Should Be Writing: A Podcast for Wanna be Fiction Writers’. She has been hosting this podcast for ten years. Mur’s honesty about the ups and downs of the writing process really speaks to me. She’s very encouraging and a master at sharing tips on how to keep one’s self writing (and why it is important to do so). She periodically conducts interviews with leading authors and also an occasional feedback show where people can send in questions that she answers. She has inspired many people and has served as a model for some to start their own podcast about writing, including, ‘The Dead Robots Society’ (of which I am also a fan). ‘I Should Be Writing’ has won the Podcast Peer Award and three Parsec Awards.

Mur Lafferty has an MFA in popular fiction from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. She has published two novels with Orbit Books. The Shambling Guide to New York City won the 2014 Manly Wade Wellman Award. Its sequel, The Ghost Train to New Orleans, came out March 2014.  In 2012, she won the distinguished John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

She has hosted and/or created shows for Tor.com, Lulu, and Angry Robot Books, as well as created several of her own shows like ‘Geek Fu Action Grip’ and ‘I Should Be Writing’. Her nonfiction essays have appeared in Knights of the Dinner Table, The Escapist, and on the podcast ‘The Dragon Page’.

The Shambling Guide was a breakout hit. It told the tale of Zoe, a young human woman who finds herself working with monsters, or “coterie” (the preferred term for nonhumans). Yes, they do exist, everyone from zombies to water sprites. They travel and they need to know places to stay (and where to eat) when they do. Enter Zoe, the most unlikely editor of a travel guide for the coterie. Hilarity, a bevy of misunderstandings and juicy subplots ensue. This is urban fantasy at its best. Although I am not doing a review of the book here, let’s just say when I finished TSG, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Lafferty’s latest novel, Ghost Train. In Ghost Train, we find out more about Zoe’s mysterious background, the different factions of coterie, all while enjoying the sights, sounds and cultural history of New Orleans.

I recently caught up with Mur and invited her to talk about her work and the writing life. I’m so delighted to welcome Mur Lafferty to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

 

Tell us about your new book The Ghost Train to New Orleans. What inspired this book?

Ghost Train was born from a story I wrote in 2005 to benefit the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina. I had an idea about a tour guide who loved her job so much that after she died, she kept doing it. The idea stuck with me, and when I turned it into a book, I took my travel writer, now a human writing guides for monsters, to New York for my first book, but always intended to go back to New Orleans.

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You’re much admired for conveying humor in your novels. How did that aspect of your writing voice develop and how do you nurture it?

I read a lot of Douglas Adams growing up, and was the shy class-clown type. If such a thing exists. My humor tended to veer toward the amusing, and it’s what I enjoy writing the most. As an adult I’ve been inspired by Connie Willis, a writer with sometimes subtle humor, sometimes obvious humor.

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You helped pioneer podcasting as an engaging and entertaining medium. After ten years of podcasting I Should Be Writing, what do you still love about hosting a podcast?

I love that I’m still influencing new writers. At the beginning I felt like I was just whining into a mic about how I couldn’t get published (but was continuing to keep trying) and I’ve heard from so many people that they relate to this. Now my listeners are starting to email me with news about publishing deals, which is amazing.

 

What authors do you consistently mine for inspiration?

Connie Willis, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Seanan McGuire.

 

What’s next to your bed (or in your Kindle)? What are you reading now?

Currently going through the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie, with Kameron Hurley’s Mirror Empire waiting for me.

 

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Never give up. That’s the fastest way to failure.

 

Mur Laffetry is author, blogger and podcast creator. She’s been the editor of Pseudopod, Escape Pod, and is currently the editor of the upcoming ezine from Escape Artists: Mothership (launching August 2015). To find out more about Mur, check out her website The Murverse Annex.

 

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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