“I started when I was twelve. I got a typewriter for my birthday, and I immediately thought, I’m going to write a novel!”
“The work I do for children is very honest and I tackle difficult subjects–I’ve looked at suicide in a play for teenagers–but I also believe in giving them optimism and hope.”
“My aim in writing [‘Micka’] was to get adults to see how two boys of that age can grow up with no compassion… of course, it’s a lot to do with their upbringing.”
On working with a niche publisher [Grimbold Books]:
“I wanted a new, young publishing house… I found from day one, as soon as Zoë said she liked the book and wanted to publish it, it was a wonderful journey. I felt really taken care of as a writer, because they [Sammy Smith and Zoë Harris] are both writers and they understand the creative process.”
On her writing process:
“Well, you can forget consistency and discipline!”
“Writing is one of the very few things that gets better the older you get.”
You don’t want to miss Frances speaking to us as her alter ego Pan Zador!
If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us. ~ Franz Kafka, someone “quite mad”
“You get a feel for what schools people are applying to… I definitely noticed people supporting each other and boosting each other’s spirits, and that seemed like a good thing.”
On choosing Rutgers’ MFA program…
“I applied to either 11 or 13 programs. [On Facebook,] I saw that people were worried about the cost of application. I’ll suck it up on the application costs if it means I could get some kind of a funding package somewhere.”
On patience as a writer…
“Most people [at the start of the MFA] hadn’t even written ten stories, me included. If you put that in the context of a writing life, it’s really just the beginning.”
Advice to people considering an MFA…
“When MFA faculty are looking at applications, they’re trying to find people, not who have written the most polished story, but they’re looking for people who… if they were they to work with this person, some good would come out of it.”
In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything! ~ Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
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: 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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
“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.”
“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 →
Jorge Armenteros is a graduate of Harvard University and a practicing psychiatrist. He recently completed his debut novel, The Book of I, about the inner turmoil of a painter with schizophrenia and his autistic alter ego. The book is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in Fall 2014. (26:59)
Jorge was born in Cuba and grew up in Puerto Rico. He now divides his time between Florida, Georgia, and the south of France. In addition to his medical training, Jorge completed an MA in Spanish and Latin American Literature from New York University and, most recently, an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Jorge has published extensively in medical journals on the diagnosis and treatment of children with schizophrenia and autism. His author interview with novelist Laurie Foos was published in The Writer’s Chronicle. Another interview with Brown University Professor Thalia Field, whose work lives at the crossroads of prose, essay, poetry, even theater, is forthcoming from Gargoyle Magazine in Summer 2014. Continue reading →