15. Essay Therapy: A Dialogue w/ Nonfiction Writer Suzanne Hegland

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Suzanne Hegland completed her MFA in Nonfiction at Lesley University in 2011. Something of a perpetual student, she also holds a Master’s in History and a Master’s in Education. Founder of Essay Therapy, Suzanne has combined her deep knowledge of what goes on “back stage” in higher education with her love of teaching and her passion for narrative nonfiction to work with students on the dreaded college application essay. Suzanne teaches College Writing and is the Director of the Writing Center at New England Conservatory in Boston. When she’s not talking about writing to musicians, she plays the role of Associate Dean of Students. Suzanne’s work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The World Scholar, Femamom, The Huffington Post, and Creative Nonfiction. She claims to be working on her manuscript Comfort Measures Only, and sometimes this is true. {27:54}

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14. Mysticism & Maturity: A Dialogue with Author Stephanie Reents

stephanie_reents

Stephanie Reents is the author of The Kissing List (Hogarth, 2012). Her work has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Best of the West, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Denver Quarterly, among other places, and been noted in Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize. She earned her MFA from University of Arizona and has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, a Stegner Fellowship, and a MacColl Johnson Fellowship for fiction from the Rhode Island Foundation. An Associate Professor of English at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, Stephanie lives in Cranston, RI with her husband and multiple cats.

 

Stephanie’s website: stephaniereents.com

Highlights

On the creation of The Kissing List

“I was sifting through the stories on my hard drive–because I didn’t want to start working something new–seeing if there was anything partially finished that I could attempt to finish. I realized that I had been writing a number of stories about young women, without being fully cognizant of it, and it suddenly made sense to me: Why don’t I have a collection of stories about young women figuring out that decade after they graduate from college?

“It wasn’t a collection of interconnected stories. The connecting of the stories didn’t happen until after the collection had been acquired by the publisher. My editor suggested that I try connecting the stories, which was very psychologically challenging.”

On writing mystical, unreal stories…

“Any writer knows that you have to use your own life for scale… We use the places we know, and we use some of the experiences we’ve had, to create the texture of verisimilitude or believability in a story or novel. So, I definitely draw from experiences I’ve had or places I’ve lived in order to make things feel believable, to give the story the texture of something that’s real, even if it’s obviously not real.” Continue reading

13. Thus Far: A Retrospective on One Year of Author Interviews

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We’re one year old! This show is a retrospective, a chance to talk about all the fun we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned over the last twelve months, as well as an opportunity to update you on the status of our own writing lives. Thank you, podcast listeners, for such a great first year! (26:55)

Where are they now? Catch up with your favorite Postmasters guests here! This is what they’ve been up to since they spoke with us: postmasters_guests_year01a Courtney Gillette (Writing, Identity & Sexuality) Courtney’s essay “How To Like Girls” (featured in our episode!) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was the featured prose writer in Issue 4 of Ardor Literary Magazine, and also served as a judge for the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards.

Zoë Harris (Enterprise, Agency & Making Things Happen) Since speaking with us, Zoë has completed the third book in the Eidolon Cycle, and is almost finished with her first draft of the fourth; she is still looking for a publisher. The membership of the Oslo Writers’ League (OWL)–which Zoë founded in 2012–has tripled in the last year, and published its second anthology, All the Ways Home, in May. And while her typesetting business has really taken off in recent months, the bigger news is that Zoë’s publishing imprint has released two books, including Dollywagglers, a novel by Frances Kay.

Steve Adams (Place, Persistence & The Pushcart) Steve’s essay “Ghosts of New York” was published in The Pinch and nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he has two essays forthcoming in Bull, Men’s Fiction and Talking Writing. postmasters_guests_year01b Sarah Shaffer (Running, Writing & Retreats) Sarah is currently working on a handful of short stories and personal essays, as well as writing monthly articles for Hothouse Magazine. She recently had short stories published in Bluestem Magazine and Poplorish. Having lived in Seattle for eight months now, she’s finding, connecting to, drawing inspiration from, and staying busy fraternizing with a sincere, strong, and fun-loving writing community.

Valerie Bandura (Life, Poetry & The Freak Show) Valerie’s poetry collection, Freak Show, was a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Poetry Prize. Poems from Human Interest are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, and were included in the 100th anniversary issue of ZYZZYVA.

Jorge Armenteros (Breaking Rules, Innovative Fiction & Writing in the Moment) Jorge’s debut novel, The Book of I, is forthcoming this November from Jaded Ibis Press. It will feature original visual art by Liselott Johnsson and a full album soundtrack by Sarah Wallin Huff. Jorge is currently working on The Lesser Violin, a novel about the inner life of a wicked violin. postmasters_guests_year01c Susan Schnur (The Map vs. The Compass: A Writing Therapy Session) Susan will be spending two weeks at a writers’ retreat in County Cork, Ireland. Also, PJ Library will distribute Tashlich at Turtle Rock, Susan’s first children’s book, co-authored by her daughter, Anna Schnur-Fishman,  free to 20,000 Jewish 7-year-olds in August.

Cameron Conaway (Artistic Collaboration & Activism) Cameron has been re-exploring the beautiful campus of Penn State Altoona, the place where, 10 years ago, he first studied the art of poetry. He’ll teach poetry there this Fall.

Boris Fishman (The Replacement Life) Boris’s debut has been the stuff of every writer’s dreams. The Replacement Life was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice! He’s also been interviewed by several prestigious news outlets, and the book continues to be listed over and over as a great summer read.

The latest writing news from Audrey & Lacy Audrey’s essay, Sinober, was published in May as part of the Oslo Writers’ League’s second annual anthology, All the Ways Home. She also recently returned from a trip to Dublin, Ireland, her prize for winning the Irrgrønn Flash Fiction Competition in Oslo. Lacy won the AWP Writing Conferences & Centers Scholarship after one of her (as yet unpublished) stories was selected by judge Rigoberto González. She used the scholarship to attend the The Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference in Austin last month. As part of the experience, she met with agent PJ Mark of Janklow & Nesbit to pitch her novel idea.

Coming up… We’ve already got our interviews lined up for the rest of the year. Can you believe it? In August, Stephanie Reents, author of The Kissing List, will sit down to chat about her writing life. Then in September, fellow Lesley University graduate Suzanne Hegland of Essay Therapy will share her experiences as a writer of nonfiction, but also her insights on the college application essay process.

Closing Quote

We have to learn to be kind to ourselves. What we’re doing isn’t easy. We have chosen to spend the better part of our lives in solitude, wrestling with our deepest thoughts and obsessions and concerns. We unleash the beast of memory; we peer into Pandora’s box. We do all this in the spirit of faith and exploration, with no guarantee that what we produce will be worthwhile. We don’t call in sick. We don’t take mental health days. We don’t get two weeks paid vacation, or summer Fridays, or holiday weekends. Often, we are out of step with the tempo of those around us. It can feel isolating and weird. And so, when the day turns against us, we might do well to follow the advice of the Buddhist writer Sylvia Boorstein, who talks to herself as if she’s a child she loves very much. Sweetheart, she’ll say. Darling. Honey. That’s all right. There, there. Go take a walk. Take a bath. Take a drive. Bake a cake. Nap a little. You’ll try again tomorrow. ~ Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Don’t be a writer; be writing!

 

12. The Replacement Life: A Dialogue with Author Boris Fishman

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If you’re wondering what to read this summer, you’ve tuned into the right podcast. We’re excited to have Boris Fishman joining us today to talk about his debut novel, The Replacement Life, out from HarperCollins on June 3rd. It’s a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for the summer, and having recently finished the book myself, I heartily agree with that choice!

Boris was born in Minsk, in the former Soviet Union, in 1979, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. He received a degree in Russian Literature from Princeton University, and an MFA in Fiction from New York University, where he was a New York Times Foundation Fellow. The list of residences and fellowships he’s received includes the New York Foundation of the Arts, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in Northern California. Boris’s journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Harper’s, Vogue, The London Review of Books, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, but has also supported his writing by working as a hiking guide, a farm laborer, a market researcher, and the editorial director of a tech start-up. But today he’s here to talk about writing fiction. (29:39)

 

Website: borisfishman.com

Highlights

“None of it happened, but it’s all true.” — Novelist Arthur Phillips

“You work alone in a room, day in and day out, for three years, and then your agent calls you one day and says that HarperCollins wants to issue a preempt offer for this novel… It’s meant to reflect the enthusiasm of the house for the book. To get any offer at all would have been incredibly affirming after three years of uphill climbing. Years that, I want to point out, were filled with no after no.”

“Even when I was getting said no to… it was still kind of amazing that the answer wasn’t, I don’t think this could sell. The answer was, I need to be on fire about this, and because I’m not, I regretfully have to turn it away… So, even though the answer was no, it’s wonderful to be part of a business where the heart is deciding along with the mind and the wallet.”

“You’re calling me on a very significant day. Just this very morning I finished revising my second novel. So, I will be having a drink later.”

“I’m just about fully secular, however, I feel profoundly Jewish… I grew up in a very secular country. So, where I connect to Jewishness is the literature, the culture, the history, the humor, the language, the inflection, the grammar, the way of speaking.”

“Everyone agrees that money can’t restitute suffering, and yet the slate is expected to be wiped clean after [restitution is made]. One of the amazing things about Germany, at least for me as a Jew, and as the grandson of a survivor, is that this country has continued to remember its responsibility and to commemorate long after it satisfied its monetary obligations, such as they are.”

“I’m the child of immigrants; it would be so awesome if I were interested in something more stable and lucrative than writing fiction. So, even as there’s [one eye on] MFA world, the other eye is swiveling around looking for other opportunities. It’s a blessing that they came along relatively rarely.”

“I’m the one-man MFA-defense army. It’s so fashionable to knock MFAs these days. In my case, it was essential. It provided structure that I didn’t have, deadlines… It made me interested in discipline in a way I hadn’t been previously. I did not start writing every day until I started my MFA. Like a job, every morning, Monday through Friday.”

Who’s Who & Books

Bernard Malamud — An American novelist and short story writer whose “gorgeously mangled syntax” inspired Boris in his writing of The Replacement Life.

Jonathan Lethem — Author of Dissident Gardens

Darin Strauss — Author of Half a Life

Wild East: Stories from the Last Frontier by Boris Fishman

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Other Stuff

Ringleader of $57 million Holocaust survivor fraud found guilty (2013)

The Case for Reparations (by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic)

Closing Quote

This month, we have four!

I carry a window in order to look at what I wish. ~ Jim Harrison

Some people have to burn up or become smudge. ~ Jim Harrison

In writing, I had to say what had happened to me, yet present it as though it had been magically revealed. ~ Bernard Malamud

Beware, o wanderer, the road is walking, too. ~ Rilke

11. Artistic Collaboration & Activism: A Dialogue with Poet Cameron Conaway

Poet Cameron Conaway

Poet Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway, Executive Editor at The Good Men Project, is a former MMA fighter and an award-winning poet. After attaining a BA in both English and Criminal Justice at Penn State Altoona, Cameron decided to give up his fight career in order to serve as the Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program (2007-2009). He then moved to Thailand where he spent two years living in and traveling throughout Asia. A Wellcome Trust Arts Grant allowed him to study with some of the world’s brightest malaria researchers, the result of which is Malaria: Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2014). Cameron has written about the issues of child labor, human trafficking and poverty and some of his publications on these topics can be found in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and the Women News Network. Cameron is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet (Threed, 2011), Bonemeal: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and Until You Make the Shore (Salmon Poetry, 2014). (24:45)

Website: CameronConaway.com

Twitter: @CameronConaway

Until You Make the Shore - Cameron ConawayBook Giveaway!

Salmon Poetry has generously sponsored this month’s giveaway for our listeners. To qualify to win a copy of Until You Make the Shore, Like The Posmasters Podcast on Facebook AND leave a comment below. It’s that easy! We’ll announce our winner on Facebook at the end of the month. Continue reading

10. The Map vs. The Compass: A Writing Therapy Session w/ Author & Psychologist Susan Schnur

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Susan Schnur has been the senior editor at Lilith Magazine–her “paper pulpit”–for 26 years. Susan has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, and USA Today. She holds a masters from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, a rabbinical ordination, and a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her private clinical practice is full of writers and writers’ issues, and this work has inspired her to sit on a number of different panels and teach a variety of seminars designed to support authors in their pursuit of a pure, inspired, creative experience. Today we’ll speak with Susan about the psychology of writing, and she’ll share some basic strategies each of us can employ in our writing lives. Bring on the writing therapy! (29:20)

On the 1200-word essay and the constrained form

“Like a pantoum or anything else length is also a constraint. If you discipline yourself to work within those same boundaries over and over and over you will start to internalize what rhythm is specific to 500 words, 800 words, 1200 words.”

On writing with a partner

“I get people to write in pairs. You are never to study the Talmud alone. The way you do Jewish study is always with a chavrusa, with a partner. It’s always dilectical, really a beautiful thing, back and forth. You’re constantly feeding on each other to get to stuff.”

“When people go to write, they get stuck. They get paralyzed. If [they] can do it verbally, diotically, just talking it out, they have written something without realizing they’ve written it… When it’s a white page, it’s completely unknown and uncontrollable. If you can talk someone through the first paragraph, they can keep going on their own.”

“Get a partner.  This is why people go back for MFAs, so you’re being partnered and writing and being listened to and hearing people. Get a partner, talk through the first paragraph and you’re off and running.” Continue reading

09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

Joanna Walsh started the twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 after drawing some bookmark-shaped New Year’s cards showcasing her favorite female writers. She had been inspired by two literary journalists—both male—who didn’t want to show up on the wrong side of this year’s VIDA pie chart, and so made a commitment to read only female authors for a set period. Today, we discuss our personal responses to the #readwomen2014 movement, and recommend some of our favorite books by women. (26:09)

VIDA

Established in 2009, VIDA is a nonprofit literary organization that painstakingly tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews annually. Today, the literary world is abuzz with the results of the most recent VIDA count.

Recent Reads We Recommend

Suite Francaise by Irene NemirovskySuite Française by Irène Némirovsky

“The prose is saturated in the blood of the people who were running away [from Paris during WWII]. It takes this incredibly close look at the way life can change so suddenly from everything-is-normal to Lord of the Flies.”

Bonus: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth StroutOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

“Usually books are about younger characters, but Olive Kitteridge is older. Everyone in the story, mostly, is older. By the end I felt like I’d lived this lifetime… like I’d been through her lifetime. And it weighed heavily on me in a really interesting way.” Continue reading