In March, Picador published a volume of essays titled “Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.” Because my favorite author, Pam Houston, was among those sixteen, I waited for the book with breath bated. Until very recently, I’d been among that selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed crew, after all: childless by choice. Child-free, say those who think the word childless implies a lack of something they don’t believe they needed in the first place. I get these people. But I’m no longer one of them.
I was eight months pregnant when the book dropped, eager to read it from cover to cover, and… I haven’t managed to open it (or almost any book at all, if you don’t count Are You My Mother? or Goodnight Moon) since the day my daughter was born. That was almost three months ago. While I have managed to post a couple of times to my personal blog, The Girl Behind the Red Door, my writing life has otherwise dwindled to quick-and-dirty scribbles in a moleskin beside my bed. Bleary-eyed and distracted, these scribblings are barely legible the next day, but they are what I have now. I cling to them. After all, having a baby didn’t actually make me any less selfish, shallow, or self-absorbed than I was before. It’s just that my daughter’s life-or-death needs–which, thankfully, include playing and intellectual stimulation to build her little mind–require me to put on a more selfless face and show up, even when I would rather have my nose deep in a book, or my hands rattling across a keyboard.
Originally, I’d hoped to keep up the pace here at Postmasters. How hard could it be? pre-motherhood me thought to herself, as she sipped a cup of hot tea (still hot!) and casually flipped the pages of the current New Yorker, debating whether to take a leisurely shower and give herself a pedicure instead. Turns out, very. Especially when both co-hosts decide to have babies just five months apart.
That’s right, here at The Postmasters Podcast, 2015 is the Year of the Baby. Which is why you may have noticed us go to radio silence this month. Our intent is to continue with the podcast, but we’ll be dropping down to quarterly episodes in the immediate future. Our priority will continue to be bringing you, dear listeners and readers, fun, helpful, inspiring interviews with authors of every genre and at every level of personal success. (And don’t be surprised if one of our next interviews concerns strategies for maintaining a fruitful writing life as a parent, because lord, I could use the help!)
We wish you a wonderful summer! You’ll hear from us soon.
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 →
“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”
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
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 →
Born in the former Soviet Union, Valerie Bandura received degrees from Columbia University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where she served as the Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow. She was awarded a residency from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the James Merrill Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared, among other publications, in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse,Alaska Quarterly, Third Coast, and the Best New Poets anthology. She teaches writing at Arizona State University. (27:47)