21. Flying & Throwing Pots: Thoughts on the Interdisciplinary Writing Life with Alisa Hagerty Miller

Alisa_Hagerty_Miller

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!

Highlights

“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

20. Poetry & Social Justice: A Dialogue w/ Poet Enzo Surin

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Enzo Surin is a Haitian-born poet​, publisher​, and social advocate, and the author of the chapbook, HIGHER GROUND (Finishing Line Press, 2006). His poetry​ is forthcoming and​ has appeared in publications such as ​The BreakBeat Poets anthology, Ozone Park Journal, sx salon, Tidal Basin Review, Reverie: Midwest African American Literature, The Caribbean Writer, among other literary journals. ​Surin hold an MFA in Creative Writing and currently serves as Assistant Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College.​ He is also founder and publisher at Central Square Press, a small, independent, literary press that publishes poetry with a commitment to African-American, Caribbean and Caribbean-American communities. (25:53)


Visit Enzo’s Website

Follow Enzo on Twitter @enzothepoet

REMINDER: The deadline for The Postmasters Podcast Short Story Contest is 14 February! The prize is $100 and a chance to read the winning story as part of our April episode. No entry fee! Submit today!

Highlights

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

19. Peace, Translation & Diversity: A Dialogue w/ Poet Andrea Beltran

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Andrea Beltran is a poet currently living in El Paso, Texas. She is a graduate student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her poems have recently appeared in Luna Luna, Word Riot, Mom Egg Review, Superstition Review, and Acentos Review. (26:41)


Read Andrea’s Blog
/Follow Andrea on Twitter @drebelle

And we announce our first Postmasters Podcast Short Story Contest! Submissions are now open. Send us your fiction before Valentine’s Day 2015!

Highlights

“I wish I could say that I’m one of those writers who, you know, wakes up every morning and has a set routine… I tend to be a binge writer. I find I’m more at peace with that.”

“[VCFA] has changed my life… I’m so grateful I got over my fear and just did it. I feel a lot more comfortable with my writing now than I ever have. But I feel like I’m a better reader, and I think, coming away from VCFA, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

“I am very nervous to work with [Rigoberto González], if I do get to work with him, but I feel it will probably be the most rewarding semester… He expects a lot from his students, and I feel like I need–and I want–that challenge at this point in my writing… I also have not [yet] been able to study with a Latino writer, which is very important to me.” Continue reading

17. Voices Not Her Own: A Dialogue w/ Author Frances Kay

Frances Kay Dollywagglers

Frances Kay lives in Wales and Ireland. She writes plays for children for The Ark Children’s Centre, Dublin, Theatre Lovett, ‘The Morbegs‘ on RTE [Irish national television], BBC TV’s ‘You and Me‘ children’s programmes, and Siamsa Tire Theatre in Kerry. Her novel for adults, ‘Micka‘ (published by Picador) was runner up for the Society of Authors’ 2011 McKitterick Prize, and was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read‘ programme. Her new novel, ‘Dollywagglers‘, is published by Tenebris Books. She also writes romances under the name of Pan Zador; two novels, ‘Act of Love’ and an erotic version of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ were recently published by Crimson Romance. (26:42)


Highlights

“I like to write in voices that aren’t me.”

“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!

Who’s Who

George Orwell, author of 1984

Joan Littlewood, called “The Mother of Modern Theater”, producer of Oh, What a Lovely War!

Murder of James Bulger, case involving the two youngest convicted murderers in modern British history

Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Closing Quote

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”

16. Practice & Patience: A Dialogue with 2014 Masters Review Author Drew Ciccolo

Drew Ciccolo Masters Review

Drew Ciccolo, a 2014 graduate of Rutgers University-Newark’s MFA Program, won Talking Writing‘s 2013 prize for creative non-fiction. His story “The Behemoth” was selected by Lev Grossman for the 2014 anthology, The Masters Review. A first-year PhD candidate in the Rutgers-Newark American Studies program this fall, he will study, among other things, representations of culture and socialization in fiction containing non-mimetic elements. His website is forthcoming.


Giveaway Details

We’re giving away two copies of the The Masters Review Volume III, which opens with Drew’s story, The Behemoth. To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on this blog post or on the Facebook post. Click here to like The Postmasters Podcast on Facebook! We’ll announce the winners later this month.

Highlights

On the MFA Draft Facebook Group group…

“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.”

Who’s Who

The Masters Review

Donald Barthelme

Steven Millhauser

Justin Taylor

Jayne Anne Phillips

Rutgers University MFA Program

University of Florida MFA Program

Akhil Sharma

Alice Elliott Dark

Paige, Drew Ciccolo’s personal essay won Talking Writing‘s 2013 prize for nonfiction

James Goodman

Closing Quote

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

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

suzanne_hegland

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}

Continue reading

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

happy_anniversary_postmasters

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!