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15 things you may not know about Stevan Allred

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Writer, teacher, and editor, Stevan Allred’s debut novel, The Alehouse at the End of the World, was published by Forest Avenue Press in November 2018. Since then, the book has exploded, recently hitting #4 on Powell’s bestseller list. Allred claims he has survived circumcision, a tonsillectomy, a religious upbringing, the 60’s, the War on Poverty, the break-up of The Beatles, any number of bad haircuts, years of psychotherapy, the Reagan Revolution, the War on Drugs, the Roaring 90’s, plantar fasciitus, the Lewinsky Affair, the internet bubble, the Florida recount of 2000, the Bush oughts, the War on Terror, teen-aged children, a divorce, hay fever, the real estate bubble, male pattern baldness, and heartburn. He has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A prolific writer, Allred’s work has appeared in numerous literary publications. He’s witty, talented, and hard-working. Here are some things you may not know about him.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I got my first creative writing assignment in 5th grade, from Mrs. Bumgardner. Mrs. Bumgardner was one of those special teachers who changes your life, and even though I didn’t have the perspective to know that at the time, what I did know was that I adored Mrs. Bumgardner. She had me stand up and read my piece to the whole class, and she laughed at what I had written. Really laughed, not just being polite. I knew right then and there that making Mrs. Bumgardner laugh was exactly what I wanted to do in life, and writing was the way I could do it.

I take note, these decades later, that performance is involved in this story. I had to stand and deliver, and I got a nice response. To this day reading my work aloud to an audience, even an audience of one, is one of things I enjoy most in life.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I write early in the morning. I like the quiet. I like being up before dawn. I know that showing up is the one key thing that leads to any writing happening at all, so I show up.

That said, I allow myself some down time when I’ve finished a big project, and I don’t beat myself up if it takes some time before I’m ready to write again.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

As many as it takes. I have written short stories that took two, or three, or four drafts to complete, and some that took eight or ten. I did three major drafts of my novel, The Alehouse at the End of the World.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

Best thing: having my first book, A Simplified Map of the Real World, published by Forest Avenue Press has to count as one of the best things, and now, with The Alehouse at the End of the World, I am the press’s first “repeat offender”.

Worst thing: I learned a long time ago not to dwell in regret. Don’t keep a list of the worst things–let the worst things go.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

The hours I spend writing before the sun comes up are some of the best hours of my life. I try to find something to like about every single aspect of the job, and when I am vexed by some part of it, I remind myself how lucky I am to be living a life in which writing is important. I was raised to be modest and to not call attention to myself, so the publicity and marketing side of being a writer makes me a little uncomfortable at times, but that’s a small price to pay for having two books out.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I read constantly, and I have many favorite authors. I’m a huge fan of Michael Chabon. I’ve just read a really strong memoir, Stranger in the Pen, by Mohamed Asem–this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what it’s like to be treated as “other” in today’s hyper-politicized world. I love Alice Munro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anthony Doerr, Annie Proulx. I just finished An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones–terrific novel. Right now I’m two thirds through Cai Emmons’ Weather Woman, and really digging it.

There are some writers whose voice is so particular and so strong that I avoid reading them when I’m working on a piece. Cormac McCarthy would be an example, as would Tom Spanbauer. I love their work, but it gets into my head and I start sounding like them.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

I have a friend who’s a professional photographer. He told me one time (long ago, when cameras still used film) that the biggest difference between him and me as photographers was that he shot a lot more film. Writing is like that. You just keep doing it and doing it and gradually you get better. It takes most of us a long time to get to be good enough, years and years.

Worst advice: give up. This bad advice came from myself. Many years ago I got really discouraged about my writing, so I very quietly quit for two months. I didn’t tell anyone–I just stopped doing it. I thought I might be happier if I just stopped calling myself a writer–after all, I had nothing to show for it except a couple of short stories published in some very obscure journals. When friends and family asked me how my writing was going I felt embarrassed–who was I to call myself a writer? But after two months I was even more unhappy, so I started writing again. I called time on a novel I had worked on for five years, setting it aside, and I turned my attention to writing short stories. The stories I wrote then became A Simplified Map of the Real World.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Close readings of writers I admire. I still read, as I always have, for entertainment and edification. But when I read now I always have a second track going in my head, one where I’m noticing how a writer is going about her business. Cai Emmons, for example, whom I’m reading now, has given us a superhero story in Weather Woman, but she treats her character’s story in completely realistic terms. She’s not ironic in any way, so her central metaphor, one of female empowerment, comes shining through with the seriousness it deserves. And Cai is a first class word nerd, something which I, as a fellow word nerd, really admire. I now know that “strigine”, for example, means ‘owl-like’. I can’t wait to use that one in a Scrabble game.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I have rituals and habits. I sit at a desk. I have an old-fashioned desk calendar, and I change the date and the day of the week before I start. I have a prayer I say before I write. I light candles.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Less neurotic.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

Live and let live.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I have extensive notes for another novel. I hope to begin soon.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Spend more time with my mother. She died suddenly 25 years ago. I still miss her.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Be kind to yourself. Learn to live with your own bad writing. It is far easier to improve a bad sentence than it is to write a good one in the first place.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I love wearing a tie, and I have a couple of hundred. Lately I’ve grown very fond of Crocs. I like my ties and my Crocs to color coordinate.

And: what would you like us to know about your latest release:

The Alehouse at the End of the World is widely available in bookstores and online. The audiobook, with me as the reader, came out December 18, and it’s a lot of fun.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly said about The Alehouse at the End of the World:

The fisherman is a simple man: he loves the sea and he loves his Cariña, from whom he’s been separated by time and shipwreck. Upon receipt of her final letter to him before her death, he embarks on a mythic hero’s journey to the Isle of the Dead, where he encounters shapeshifting birds, demi-deities, a legendary beast, and a snarky, narcissistic crow who fashions himself the king of the dead. What began as a quest to reunite with his lost love quickly becomes a battle for the survival of a spirit world, in whatever form that might take, and an examination of the divine. Sparked with risqué humor, the nearly Sisyphian questing of the fisherman devolves into a series of increasingly absurd and astonishing scenarios, all underscored with a strong thematic element of hope. Scholars of myth and lore, and readers prepared to be swept away on someone else’s trip (perhaps of the hallucinogenic variety), will be enthralled.

 

 

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North Coast Squid

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I’m happy to announce that my essay “Ebb and Flow” has been published in Volume 6 of  North Coast Squid: A Journal of Local Writing, published by the Hoffman Center for the Arts, Manzanita, Oregon.

You can find a copy of the literary magazine here:

Manzanita: Cloud & Leaf Bookstore, Manzanita News & Espresso
Nehalem: Beehive
Wheeler: The Roost
Tillamook: Tillamook Country Pioneer Museum
Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach Books
Seaside: Beach Books
Astoria: Lucy’s Books
Pacific City: The Rowboat Gallery

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Forty years ago today

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It was a day like no other, one she would remember for the rest of her life. Maxine Foster clicked off the television, her eyes blurry with tears and loaded every single Elvis Presley album she owned on the Zenith record player and pushed the lever.

“Well, it’s one for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
Now go, cat, go.”

Holding her sides, she crumbled to the floor and cried inconsolably. It couldn’t be true. No, he couldn’t be dead.

 

Find out more about Maxine in Waiting available here.

 

15 things you may not know about Renee Macalino Rutledge

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If you’re looking for a good summer read, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Renee Macalino Rutledge’s debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams. This book is a reimagined Filipino folktale where myth and realism inhabit the same house. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to know more about the author. Maybe you will, too.

Renee was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four.  She received her bachelor of arts in English from UC Berkeley and master of fine arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her articles on arts and culture, parenting, and lifestyle have appeared in ColorLines, Haute Living Magazine, Oakland and Alameda Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Monthly, The Children’s Advocate, Parents’ Press, Red Tricycle, and others. Her reporting on minority issues facing Filipinos was nominated for a New American Media Award and New California Media Award by the editors of Filipinas Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in Red Earth Review, 580 Split, Mutha Magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books, The Ford City Anthology, and Literary Hub.

 

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

Like many writers, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child. “How will you use your writing?” was always a question I was asked. When I decided to become an English major in college, the assumption was that I’d be a teacher. The truth is, good writing is an asset in many fields, from business to journalism to nonprofit work. I’d written for all of those industries before (and while) buckling down to write The Hour of Daydreams, my first book.

 2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

Last week, I wrote for an average of 20 minutes a day. The week before that, I wrote once, for a single block of about 2 hours at a very late hour. My writing routine feels rather skimpy and pathetic at the moment. But I try to be forgiving to myself, because I’ve spent a lot of my designated writing time doing things like completing this interview. I’m still invested in my first book, and helping it to succeed and find readers. But those rather skimpy writing sessions are starting to pay off—I’m thinking about my new book more and more.

 3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I wrote four drafts of The Hour of Daydreams.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

It’s more like an accumulation of best things, and of bad, rather than a single thing from either category standing out above the rest. Of course, signing with Forest Avenue Press was a high, but working closely with publisher Laura Stanfill has been too, as has feeling the support from my community, hearing from readers, seeing the book in the bookstore, overcoming my fear of public speaking to do readings and interviews. There are also many darker turns, from worrying about sales/exposure to wishing I had more time to write to getting radio silence after a personal pitch to insecurity about how good I am. But I try not to spend much time in the darker moments. There’s too much to be appreciative of. My trick to “detoxing mentally” is to spend a day in nature. If you don’t have time for that, take a walk around your neighborhood, feel the beat of your footsteps against the pavement, your heartbeat, your breath. If you are a parent, humor is your best friend. Kids are so darn funny and endearing—not to mention that they are creativity in motion.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I’m a nonfiction book editor and I love reading books for a living. I hate that I can’t write my own books for a living.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

Love to read at all times. Many favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Lysley Tenorio, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rene Denfeld, and Vanessa Hua.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

“Write the story you believe,” from Yiyun Li and referring specifically to The Hour of Daydreams in its infancy stage. Any advice that claims there’s something specific you have to do religiously is the worst, and really it’s up to each of us to find our own rhythm, pace, and discipline.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Time, reading, and practice have been my most faithful mentors.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I once invoked the ghost of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to help me stay motivated, keep the fire, write like a beast. I like to think he heard me.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A scientist or naturalist. Maybe an accountant or psychologist. Or an archaeologist or historian. Or perhaps a social worker or career counselor or zoologist. Or a realtor or librarian or ESL teacher. I’d still like to be all of these things plus many more.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” -Ursula LeGuin

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m working on a parenting essay on creativity, and a short story about a Filipino American child’s relationship with her grandmother and an older neighbor in the California suburbs, and novel research. The next novel is getting clearer in my mind the more I research. I’m learning so much about the world and the time. I’m really excited to start writing when the moment is right.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Go to college again—relearn everything. Get my MFA again—make the most of that writing time. Life is a never-ending learning process.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write like only you can.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’ve have strange pregnancy experiences while abroad. Got bitten by a monkey in the face in Costa Rica during my first pregnancy; was in the Gracia neighborhood of Spain when I was surprised by the knowledge of my second pregnancy. No more babies for me. But I’ve been dreaming of my grandchildren since I was in my twenties.

And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?

The Hour of Daydreams is now available online and in bookstores. Thanks for reading!

BONNIE DODGE VISITS THE BOOK DINER TO DISCUSS THE WEIRD BLESSING OF BEING A WRITER

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Today I’m talking writing with Sharon Zink at The Book Diner. Check it out.

This week’s Book Diner interviewee is the wonderful Bonnie Dodge. Bonnie is a veteran writer, with a stack of books under her belt. I first became aware of her work since I am friends with her author son, Trevor Dodge, who I interviewed recently. Literary talent clearly is part of the Dodge family gene and Bonnie has such amazing insights from her long experience as an author that I found myself pretty much agreeing with everything she said! Her books also sound right up my alley, so I can’t wait to start reading them all! Enjoy!

http://sharonzink.com/the-book-diner-interviews/bonnie-dodge-visits-the-book-diner-to-discuss-the-weird-blessing-of-being-a-writer/

 

 

My Oregon Love Song

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My fingers are puckered, my feet are webbed, and like most of my neighbors, I’d love to see the sun. But the weatherman just confirmed another week of rain. Oh, yay.

Coming from a town lucky enough to see ten inches of rain a year, here in Newport we’ve already endured forty-three inches of rain, and it isn’t even May. It’s hard to get and stay motivated when the days are gray, misty, and wet. Walks along the beach are anything but romantic and puttering in the yard only creates bigger messes. Maybe that’s why there is always so much going on indoors.

For instance, in the last thirty days I got to hang out with some pretty amazing writers. In March, Susan DeFreitas talked about environmental degradation and her debut novel Hot Season. Her landscape descriptions blew me away. I can still smell the river and feel the breeze on my skin. A couple weeks later Karen Karbo, author of a best-selling “kick-ass women’s series”, talked about writing personal essays and I learned how to put passion back into my work. And just last week Garth Stein came to town to discuss writing his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. The room was packed and for two hours we didn’t care that it was pouring outside, Stein was filling the room with enlightenment and inspiration.

The place I used to call home was so isolated I’d have to drive hundreds of miles to attend book signings and writing workshops. Now all I have to do is go to the library or the Performing Arts Center, just a few miles down the road.

Newport brims with talented people I would have never met if I had stayed in my Idaho cocoon. So thank you Oregon for giving me a stimulating and verdant place to live. Thank you for welcoming me home.

(Sorry the pictures are so blurry. My phone doesn’t play nice sometimes.)

 

SELF-SABOTAGE, MY WORD FOR 2017

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Words of encouragement are flooding social media this month. Words like hope, peace, love, respect, patience, and even no. As a writer, I’d like to offer another. Self-sabotage. That thing many writers do to avoid moving forward.

I’m not the queen of sabotage, but I know how to procrastinate. Take this book I’ve been working on for almost twenty years. Ten years ago I shopped this book around thinking it was finished. But clearly it wasn’t or I’d be collecting royalties instead of avoiding revisions.

Why isn’t it finished? It isn’t because I don’t know how to write or deliver a product. It isn’t that I don’t love the idea of this book, I do. The only reason I can offer is that I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding this project. Every time I set out to finish this book something gets in the way. Here are some of the ways I’ve sabotaged the completion of this book.

1) I can’t work on this book until I finish xxx. Insert clean the house, take the dogs for a walk, or do the laundry.

Life is messy and has a way of getting in the way of writing. There will always be something else that needs attention. Pretending I can’t write until the dishwasher is loaded only prolongs the project. Instead of waiting until everything is done, I need to make working on this project a priority. First thing in the morning I need to sit down and revise a chapter. Before anything else. Waiting until I have a big chunk of time to work isn’t the answer and is just a lazy excuse.

2) I need to do more research.

After twenty years I should have more than enough information to finish this book. And if I don’t I can make it up. After all, it’s fiction, not non-fiction.

3) I don’t have the skills to write this story.

Recently I listened to Alice Hoffman discuss writing. She said a writer needs to write every day. Only by writing every day do you become a better writer. So stop waiting until you have the skill level you seek. Start writing and it will come.

4) It’s not perfect, so why bother.

Good writing is revisions, lots of them. Anne Lamott says write a messy first draft. Get the story down and then do the work of revisions. That’s where skill and magic happen, in the honing of words.

5) I need feedback on this chapter before I continue.

Maybe, but probably not. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who offer to read your work and comment, this can be a big way to sabotage your writing. Reading is subjective and you will get good comments and bad comments. The time for constructive feedback is after the book is done. When you know the ending of your story, you’re better equipped to identify weak plot points and motivation. Too much advice while you’re being creative and writing can stop your story dead. Rely on your gut and trust the process.

6) I’m not smart enough to write this story.

If that is true, than put it away and work on something else. Just because you don’t feel adequate to complete this story doesn’t mean you can’t produce a sexier, better story. Learn to let go. Not everything you write is golden.

7) I need to turn off the internal editor.

Often the fear of failing, or even the fear of succeeding, can prevent me from finishing a project. Yes, criticism is scary. But it’s part of the process. Don’t let fear prevent you from achieving your goal. Writing can be scary, learn to work through the fear.

8) I can’t write until I get in the mood.

The longer you work as a writer the more it becomes a job and there are days you won’t want to go to work. Waiting for the mood to strike could mean days without writing, a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot. Many times I sit down to write, in a bad mood because I don’t want to write that day, and like magic my muse shows up and I produce some pretty amazing stuff. If you want to be a good writer, write even when you don’t want to. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

9) Illness gets in the way.

My goal for 2017 is to finish this book. I had a good start, with four chapters revised before I ended up in the hospital with a nasty gallbladder. See, I told my son, this book doesn’t want to be finished. And, yes, sometimes I feel like that. But the book isn’t the writer, I am the writer, and no one else is going to finish this book but me.

Self-sabotage diminishes passion and energy. It’s just an excuse to keep you from moving forward. If you’re in the habit of self-sabotaging yourself, try to identify why. Then work toward reaching your goal. You’re in control. Only you can do it.

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