July knows how to hustle, making her living as a freelance writer in the competitive Bay Area. In this episode, we mine her experience for inspiration and practical tips on how to do the same. Join us as we talk “creative cross-training,” “literary citizenship,” “healing from creative energy,” and the role poetry plays in swaying the cultural conversation. Few people we’ve spoken to dig words the way this lady does. Hold on tight as she closes the episode with her poem, “Trailer Trash.”
Lacy attempts to write with a 4-year-old office mate
It’s the parenthood podcast! Art and parenthood. What gets sacrificed? What is more important? How does one feed the other? Lacy (at 37-weeks pregnant) and Audrey (with a 4-month old in her arms) address the way motherhood affects the writing life, both directly and indirectly [25:48].
Lacy on completing an MFA as the mother of young kids:
“I had a three-year-old and an almost one-year-old… and they were just so much for me to handle… I just knew that if I didn’t do something to make myself write–which, for me, came out as an MFA–that I would go crazy. So, that’s why I did it, for my sanity. It was crazy to try to do an MFA with really young kids, but it would have been crazier not to.”
Audrey onkeeping a journal as a brand new mom:
“It’s not even a journal about my days. It’s more like a journal that forces me to write something happy that happened, so that I am aware of that thing, because it’s so much easier to dwell on the bad stuff… I’ve started calling it Dispatches from the Isle of Motherhood.”
Audrey on the necessity of continuing to write:
“Writing is the way I figure things out. I need to write in order to get through [early motherhood] in a healthy manner in my mind, but I don’t always have the time or the energy to do it. And the days when I do get something out on paper are better than the days when I don’t.”
Lacy speaking truth:
“It’s important to be really forgiving of yourself, really generous with yourself.”
I say this in spite of the fact that children are giant endless suck machines. They don’t give a whit if you need to sleep or eat or pee or get your work done or go out to a party naked and oiled up in a homemade Alice B. Toklas mask. They take everything. They will bring you the furthest edge of your personality and abso-fucking-lutely to your knees. They will also give you everything back. Not just all they take, but many of the things you lost before they came along as well.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Annie Liontas’ debut novel, LET ME EXPLAIN YOU, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2015. Her story “Two Planes in Love” was selected as runner-up in BOMB Magazine’s 2013 Fiction Prize Contest. Since 2003, Annie has been dedicated to urban education, working with teachers and youth in Newark and Philadelphia. Currently she co-hosts the TireFire Reading Series. She lives with her wife in Philadelphia across the street from the best pizza joint [22:38].
“I worked on it for about three years, but it was during my MFA so in people years, that would have been like five [years].”
“I think all writers… are looking to get blessed or christened. And like, no one really does that.”
On her MFA program…
“Syracuse is wonderful, in that they help support you. You don’t get in there for the contacts. And, you know, nothing is guaranteed. But it was really the relationships that I developed that led to this fortuitous thing.”
On the editing process…
“I found everyone at Scribner to be really in support of the work and not wanting to water it down or change it. It felt like they took the book on because they believed in it and everything they did would only make it better and I should stop being so precious…for me that was such a pleasant experience.”
On the Philadelphia Literary Scene…
“If you’re a writer and you don’t want to be in Brooklyn, then you should probably move to Philly.”
ANGELA FLOURNOY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a Dean’s Fellowship, and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University, and has worked for the District of Columbia Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit. The Turner Houseis her first novel [23.33].
On writing about Detroit…
“For me, I think of Detroit as a place of warmth. My experiences are obviously colored by the fact that it’s like a reunion when I got there…I don’t necessarily think of Detroit as a city of blight.”
“I had people immediately saying: this book needs to be grittier. It’s so light. It’s so happy. It’s so funny. This book needs to be darker. You know, basically like–kill some dogs in this book.”
On the paranormal…
“I think people incorporate all sorts of beliefs in the paranormal or supernatural. But for some reason in the fictional world, if you mention a ghost and you give it some sort of seriousness, all of a sudden it puts you in some kind of other sort of category. I don’t necessarily think it pulls your book out of the realm of realism.”
On first pitching her novel to agent Ellen Levine…
“I was going to meet with her even if I had nothing. So I wrote the first scene…and told her: ‘Oh, I have 100 pages of this thing.'”
On her experience at Iowa…
“A writing program is not the best proving ground for everyone, but for me, it helped me be able to explain to myself why I [make the decisions I make in my writing].”
“One of the things I learned in Iowa…is that you cannot hang your hat on criticism.”
Thank you to everyone who entered our first annual short story contest. It was a pleasure to read your fiction. There were many, many fantastic stories to choose from, but in the end our winner was clear. “The Selkie’s Daughter” by Gina L. Grandi caught us in a fishing net of visceral prose.
Gina L. Grandi is a doctoral student and adjunct professor in the Educational Theatre program at New York University’s Steinhardt School. In her former life, she was a public school teacher in San Francisco and a teaching artist and arts administrator in New York. She is currently the co-founder and artistic director of The Bechdel Group, a new play development company dedicated to challenging the role of women on stage. Her writing was recently featured on the site 100 Word Story and she has received a number of very kind rejection letters from a wide variety of publishers and literary journals. Gina has a BA from Vassar College, a Masters from New York University, and an extensive finger puppet collection. She can be found on twitter at @yonderpaw.
“But the sea does not let go and she was part of the sea. She was drawn again and again to the water’s edge, trailing her fingers through the foam. She held fistfuls of wet sand in her pockets. The hems of her skirts were stiff with salt. She smelled my father’s hands when he came home, pressing her face into the brine and the tang of fish that lived in the crease of his palms.”
Alisa Hagerty Miller recently completed her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western New Mexico University with major concentrations in English and Writing. Before enrolling in graduate school, she worked for ten years as a commercial pilot. In January 2015, Alisa represented WNMU’s graduate division in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and presented a research poster, “Interdisciplinary Education in Action,” for New Mexico Legislature’s first annual Graduate Education Day. She is completing a final revision of her first young adult fantasy novel, while actively submitting short stories and essays for publication about the flying life and other subjects. Look for one of her latest CNF pieces in the spring edition of WNMU’s literary journal, Twisted Vine. [28:57].
Along with discussing the impact of Alisa’s flying life on her writing life, her experience at WNMU, and her publishing aspirations, we also talk about post-MFA teaching opportunities. Lacy teaches three college-level writing classes online; Audrey is in the midst of an MA in English Literature at the University of Oslo; and Alisa remained at her school for an extra semester in order to pick up some important literature-based classes, potentially making her a more attractive candidate for teaching jobs. We hope these insights help you, dear listeners!
“I got into flying because I thought it would fuel my writing life… and I also had this fantasy that pilots had all this time off!”
“I found [WNMU] by providence and by luck… I didn’t really see a clear path back into education as I got older. I think it’s a common thing for people in their 30s and 40s: They’re like, I’ve put [grad school] off for this long, am I ever going to do this?”
On Interdisciplinary Studies…
“[IS] gives students the opportunity to design their own degree plans, usually in two or three disciplines… and the goal is to ultimately draw connections between those disciplines.”
“I think my whole life had been interdisciplinary. Flying is just about the most interdisciplinary career I’ve ever encountered.”
Management Information Systems: “A branch of computer science; you don’t have to code, but you learn about really cool technical concepts and organizations using technology.”
“I think that education should be dynamic. That flexibility [at WNMU] was really important to me.” Continue reading →
To kick off the episode, Enzo reads a new WIP poem for us, titled Trace Commodity, inspired in part by the recent controversial events in Ferguson, Missouri and “cities like it.”
On his inspiration for a given poem…
“The piece I just read to you… there’s always endless news cycles about violence happening in different states, and I always consider what’s happening to the folks after what I call the trauma of the violence. When the news are gone, when the protests are gone, when the trials are done, whether or not the person is found guilty or not guilty, people are still dealing with the trauma and the effects of the situation. I focus more on the individual, the aftermath of everything else.” Continue reading →