15 Things

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!

15 Things You May Not Know About Jamie Duclos-Yourdon

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Oregon has so many talented writers. Take for instance Jamie Duclos-Yourdon. Jamie, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue, August 2016) is his debut novel. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Here are some things you may not know about Jamie.

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

 When I was a kid, my mom said to squeeze her hand if I ever saw anything unusual. She hoped to prevent an embarrassing observation (we lived in New York, after all; everything was unusual), but I spent my time scanning my surroundings—and if I couldn’t spot the obviously unusual thing, I’d identify the smallest discrepancy.

 2) What is your writing routine?

I wake up at 4:30 every day and write for an hour. I usually manage 300+ words, which is slightly more than a page. It doesn’t feel like much, but if you keep at it every day—seven days a week, with no exceptions—the material builds up pretty quickly.

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

Oh, gosh … I probably go through four or five drafts before I’m ready to share a manuscript with a publisher or an agent, and those drafts have already been vetted by my writing group. If a publisher or agent is interested, then I’ll undertake another two or three drafts. The story is always evolving (and, hopefully, improving).

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

Having my first five books rejected. Through Book #6, I was still doing my best Nick Hornsby impression—which isn’t necessarily a knock on Nick Hornsby. It took me a long time to recognize my own voice and even longer to trust it.

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

I love Q&As with an audience. Even if I’ve heard a question before—and more often than not I haven’t—the context is always different, the underlying assumption is different, my mood is different, everything is different. I learn something new every time.

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

I’m always reading, whether or not I’m working on new material. I mostly stick to fiction, with a few news sources to keep me informed. I’m really picky, in terms of the former (and the latter, I suppose), and I don’t like to reread novels or short stories; additionally, I don’t feel guilty putting down a book after 50 pages. So my reading process is like no, no, no, no, no, YES, no, YES, YES, no, no, no …

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

A professor of mine once said, “Learn what you write and when you write.” If you write flash fiction, cool, write flash fiction. If you write 150,000-word novels, then do that instead. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Same goes for whatever time of day suits your creative process: find it and stick to it.

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

I took a fiction workshop with Aurelie Sheehan when I was twenty-four. She read one of my short stories and said, “Oh, you write about responsibility!” That observation had a profound effect on my writing.

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

I’ve had a storyteller on my desk since 2001—a ceramic figurine of a Pueblo Indian, mid-story, surrounded by her children. I’ll be devastated when I eventually, inevitably drop and break her.

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

I have absolutely no idea. Drunk?

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

Samuel Beckett said it best: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

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

I’m currently at work on my tenth novel, a Mesopotamian ghost story about death and grieving and talking crows and ancient Sumer.

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

In January of 2002, an agent at ICM expressed interest in my first novel. I thought, “Yay, this is it! The big time!” and spent the next six months sitting on my ass. I’d love to get that time back.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Read everything. Write constantly. Be on the lookout for a mentor. Don’t assume debt for an MFA. Find community and earn your inclusion. Success isn’t zero-sum. Listen to what your readers have to say. There’s nothing wrong with adverbs. Writers make boring protagonists. Know what your characters want and what prevents them from getting it. Study screenwriting to learn three-act structure. What seems natural and obvious to you is completely foreign to the rest of the world. You are a writer. You are a writer. You are a writer.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’ll be the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 South Coast Writers Conference February 17–18.

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

Froelich nurses a decades-old family grudge from his permanent perch atop a giant ladder in this nineteenth century madcap adventure novel, Froelich’s Ladder. When he disappears suddenly, his nephew embarks on a rain-soaked adventure across the Pacific Northwest landscape to find him, accompanied by an ornery girl with a most unfortunate name. In their encounters with Confederate assassins, European expatriates, and a general store magnate, this fairytale twist on the American dream explores the conflicts between loyalty and ambition and our need for human connection, even at the highest rungs.

If you’re still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas present, consider Jamie’s new book from Forest Avenue Press.

Happy Holidays!

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Goodbye, Nye Beach Writers Series. It was good to know you.

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For more than thirty years my vacation destination was the Oregon Coast. Leaving behind stressful jobs and busy schedules, my husband and I drove to the coast, almost every year, usually in late September or early October. We’d rent a vacation home overlooking the ocean and do nothing. Well, not really nothing. He’d golf and I’d either write or read. We’d take long walks on the beach, or just sit back and watch the sun set. We loved the quiet easy-going pace we found here and a chance to unwind and recharge before heading back to the real world in Idaho.

If you know anything about the Oregon Coast, you know there is always something happening here, either in Lincoln City or all the way down the coast to Florence. Even after all those trips, we never had time to do everything we wanted to do. Often we would leave saying next time I’m going to ….

One of the things I always wanted to do was attend one of the writer’s events back when they were still held in Yachats. But I could never fit it into our schedule.

When we moved to Oregon, one of the first things I did was attend a Writers on the Edge event at Nye Beach. It wasn’t long before I joined the board and became more involved in the organization.

A strong writing community is one of the reasons I moved to Newport. After thirty years, I still feel like I’m seeing the ocean for the first time. And every day I spend here, I learn to love Oregon more.

For our final event, Writers on the Edge will host Johnny Bargain on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Visual Arts Center on Nye Beach. If you’re in the area, please stop by and help us celebrate a wonderful organization. And just in case you are interested, here are some things you may not know about our next author, Johnny Bargain.

11 things you may not know about JOHNNY BARGAIN

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

The stories from my past were circling in my head. I’d wanted to write a letter to my friend’s 18-year-old son who had been gunned down in the 1960s by the police as he rode his Harley Sportster in Rosebank, Staten Island. Three bullet holes punctured the boy’s back, for no good reason at all. I wanted Stitch to know he had not been forgotten even though 50 years have gone by. The memories weighed heavily and I couldn’t shake them.

Over time, I mentioned some of the incidents to Carla Perry, publisher at Dancing Moon Press and she suggested that I record them on a tape recorder since I didn’t have the patience, eyesight, or ability to write them out on paper and I don’t have a computer. She said the stories were tragic, appalling, poignant, eye opening, and funny, and that they provided a glimpse into the world of motorcycle clubs and gangs that was unlike anything she’d encountered before.

So I headed down to California for a three-day biker party and by day ten, I’d managed to record several stories. Carla transcribed the recordings when I returned, but she said more stories were needed to flesh out a full book. When I said I couldn’t remember more, she suggested I create a map of my Rosebank neighborhood — the bars, Dapper Dan’s motorcycle shop, the houses where I lived, the police station, the location of the murders, the location of infamous parties, the cemetery where Stitch was buried, and the various motorcycle club headquarters. Each time I drew a building or marked an X on the map, stories flooded out, clear as the day they’d happened. So, I headed south again for another biker party and came home with plenty of material.

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

I clear the space in my head by inhaling sweet weed, think of an incident from my past, turn on the tape recorder, and start talking.

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

Carla Perry prepared three drafts for me. The first was to make sure the information was correctly transcribed and that I was okay with the short story titles. The second was to put the stories in order and correct name spellings. The third was the final draft. The cover designer, Sarah Gayle, also drew cartoonish maps to illustrate the locations where the stories took place, so those are interspersed throughout the book.

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

The best thing was getting the stories out of my head so I don’t have to remember them anymore. I feel a sense of freedom knowing I’ve done what I hoped to do – reconnect with Stitch by writing this book dedicated to him. The worst thing is there are still more stories I’d like to get down on paper. Maybe there will be a volume 2.

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

I can’t write longhand anymore because my eyesight is not so good and I will never use a computer, so talking into the tape recorder worked great for me. Telling stories from my past is not a job. It’s something I’m compelled to do to make peace with my early life.

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

The best advice was when Carla Perry suggested I draw a map of my neighborhood. That was amazing. Every street corner, every bar and tavern, the cafes, the movie theater, the houses my friends lived in, every building, park, church, and school contained vivid stories from my life in Rosebank, Staten Island. It was like taping into full-color movies of what went on in the 1960s. I could remember conversations, the sounds, the smells. It was all there, hidden away in my memory.

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

I just speak it out so my writing style is just the same way I talk. Except it’s a little more cleaned up through the editing process.

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

I’m a retired building engineer. I’m an artist of three-dimensional representations that hang from the ceilings and walls. I’m already 80 years old. I never planned to become a published author.

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

“If I don’t see you real soon, I’ll see you down the road someday.” (lyrics from “Car Outside” © Jimmy LaFave.)
“I’m surprised you’re alive.” – Fred, a member of Johnny’s Yoga class.

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

Maybe more stories. Volume 2 of “A Collection of Bummer Summers.”

11) What would you like us to know about your latest release?

The absolutely true stories of my life are in that book.

Robert Hill is a New Englander by birth, a west coaster by choice, and an Oregonian by osmosis. As a writer, he has worked in advertising, entertainment, educational software and not-for-profit fundraising. He is a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship.

Here are some things you may not know abut Robert.

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

I initially became a writer because it was a way to connect with my mother who was a writer. Later, I became a writer because it was a profound way to connect with myself.

Early on I wrote great 2-page murder and mayhem stories for class assignments in which all my classmates (and myself) met with horrific ends on school field trips to haunted houses. I think I learned how to captivate an audience doing those. Later, I wrote clever (if I say so myself) verse in the vein of Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker (yeah, dream on, Robert), some of which got printed in small, off-beat literary magazines that have since become bird cage liners. Professionally, I wrote advertising copy for over 20 years, first for general merchandise, then for movies (trailers, posters, home video package copy), plus a few “edutainment” software learning games, and then moved on to writing grants for non-profits. I didn’t sit down to write my first novel until I was 42, and that was the first fiction I’d written in more than 20 years. (Unless you count grant writing, which is 90% fiction. Ahem.)

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

My writing routine is to avoid writing as much as possible until I burst like a boil and have to get it out and onto the page. Once I sit down to it, I have to stick with whatever the arc is that I’m working on, be it a sentence or paragraph or chapter, and I cannot get up from it until I feel I’ve landed it. This can take a long time. I write out loud, often speaking the words as my fingers type them, but always reading everything back out loud many times, because I need to hear where the voice carries a word or clause, how two particular words rub up against one another, and especially, I have to hear the whole thing move towards the landing. It’s a kind of OCD, but until I hear these things the way my brain dictates they have to sound, I can’t get up from the keyboard.

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

I’m constantly editing as I’m writing, so I don’t think in terms of drafts so much. Sometimes the editing is about shifting blocks of things around, moving moments from early on to later, things like that. More often than not I kill a few darlings (always a painful thing to do) in the revision process when I see that they do not serve the whole piece. After that, editing is more or less on the micro level – a word here, a clause there.

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

The best thing was discovering that I had a particular voice, which I did not realize I had. In fact, I don’t think I ever really knew to have a voice until I was in Tom Spanbauer’s Dangerous Writers workshop and the emphasis was totally on voice. Tom and the other writers in the room saw what I could do, encouraged me to push it, and helped me realize something surprising in myself. I don’t think I’ve had a “worst” moment in my writing career. It’s writing. It’s putting words on a page, hopefully with emotion, that readers will enjoy. Neither my life nor anyone else’s is on the line, though. If no one wants to publish it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like going hungry, or having a terminal illness. There’s always another blank page and new words to start over with.

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

I love when something surprising comes out of me that I did not know was in me. I hate when something totally banal comes out; but then love comes back when I toss out the banal and start over and something wonderful takes its place.

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

I read mostly literary fiction. I belong to a book group that’s been meeting for close to 15 years. About half the group are writers; all are serious literature lovers. So we read as much for content as style and try to expand our horizons with international writers as often as possible. I say that, but give me an American novel about the dark side of the American Dream and I couldn’t be happier. I’m always reading. I read more than I write. Some favorite authors, in no particular order: John Cheever, Willa Cather, Elena Ferranti, Nelson Algren, Philip Roth, Dawn Powell, J. M. Coetzee, James Salter, Christopher Isherwood, George Saunders, Edith Wharton…

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

Best: shut up and write.

Worst: you should read x book which tells you how to write a best-selling novel.

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

Probably John Cheever. He wrote poetry disguised as prose and I admire that.

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

No, none. No, none. No, none. (Unless having to say or do things three times could be considered a superstition.)

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

I used to want to be an architect, and maybe somewhere deep in me I still do. Although, to be honest, I no longer think in those terms of “if I could do it over again, I’d do X or Y…” If I really wanted to do X or Y, I’d do X or Y. But I enjoy writing. I’m good at it. It’s brought lovely things to my life – people, experiences. I have no desire to fold back time and erase what I’ve come to love.

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

“I’ll have a tall dark roast, no room, please.”

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

I’m working on a novel about a middle aged man who discovers that the mother he thought had been executed for murder when he was a small child has been in jail all this time, and is now being paroled into his custody. The novel follows how they develop a relationship at such a late stage in life, how it affects the relationships he has with the aunt and grandfather who raised him, and about who he is as a man. It’s very much an exploration of self-identity. The working title is Unfinished.

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

I’m tempted to say I would have started writing fiction sooner, but honestly, I wasn’t mature enough to write about relationships, death, complicated emotions when I was in my 20s, nor yet in my 30s. I guess I was a late bloomer. So it’s not really something I could change.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write what you want to write because you love the craft of writing, not because you have dreams of fame and riches. You spend an awful lot of time alone in your head to create, so you better enjoy the process. Thinking about having to sell your work will only get in the way of creating your work, so stop it! Also, because it’s just you at that keyboard, you can say anything you want to say. No one has to ever read it if you don’t want it read. Push yourself to be honest, if that’s what you’re striving for. Don’t grind axes, nor sugar coat anything. And if you’re sitting down to write the story of your childhood/marriage/break-up/whatever, because you’ve told yourself the story so many times there will be no surprise in it for you if you write it as you’ve always thought it in your head. So do this instead: write it from another person’s point of view. Write the story you don’t know and you’ll discover something profound in the process.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I am on dialysis, and awaiting a kidney transplant. Any 0-positive donors out there…?

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

The Remnants is about people in a small town who’ve spent their lives trying to connect in whatever way they can, all the while knowing that theirs is the last generation and after they are gone, their town, their history, the memories of them, will be gone forever. It’s sad and funny, hopeful, spiritual, and full of my favorite kind of writing: the run-on sentence. To me, the story of mankind, as it is manifest in the novel, is one long run-on sentence, with the past, present and future alive in a single moment.

The Remnants (Forest Avenue, 2016) follows When All Is Said and Done (Graywolf, 2006)Robert’s debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Oregon Book Awards’ Ken Kesey Award for Fiction.

 

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A few things you may not know about Rob Yardumian

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Newport, Oregon, has an active literary community. This Saturday, May 21,  ROB YARDUMIAN will read at the Nye Beach Writers Series in the Nye Beach Visual Arts Center. at 7 p.m.

Rob is a fiction writer living in Portland, Oregon. The Sound of Songs Across the Water is his first novel, and Sing With Me, Brother, For We Have Sinned is the accompanying album of original music. His short fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, The Antioch Review, The New Orleans Review, and other literary magazines. He has an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, and he is currently working on his second novel, Rider Keene.

Here are some things you may not know about Rob.

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

When I was in my twenties I worked at a record label in Los Angeles. I was asked by one of our graphic designers to contribute a couple of pages to an art project they were putting together. I wrote two one-page stories as my contributions. Although the book was never published, it kindled my interest in fiction, and I kept writing from there.

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

I write all day on Saturdays and Sundays, and a few hours on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Discipline is not a problem for me, as I’d rather be writing than just about anything else I could do on a weekend.

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

I typically write two complete drafts, then ask my readers to review the book and give me feedback. I’ll do another draft or two after that.

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

Getting an MFA helped me learn how to edit my own work. I’d say that’s a critical skill any serious writer must learn fairly early in the process.

5) What do you like to read? Favorite authors?

Jim Crace, Glen Duncan, Denis Johnson

6) What was the best advice you received as a writer?

“Get black on white.”

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

My second novel, Rider Keene, is in its third draft. I hope to begin shopping it this fall.

8) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Take notes on the books you read. Write down what you liked or didn’t like about them. What worked or didn’t work and why? What would have made it better? What kind of choices would that have required from the author? Why do you think he/she didn’t make that choice? What would you have done differently? Even if the book wasn’t a success, pick out one or two things about it that did work and explain why you liked them.

9) Something we don’t know about you?

My family has two boys, two dogs, and four cats. And next year we’re getting chickens.

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

Probably a criminal mastermind with houses on three continents and a stable of flashy cars. Or a doughnut maker. I like doughnuts.

For more information about Rob, go to http://robyardumian.com

 

15 Things You May Not Know About Paula Marie Coomer

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Paula Marie Coomer began life in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived most of her childhood in the industrial Ohio River town of New Albany, Indiana. The daughter of over 200 years of south-central Kentuckians, she is a predictable mix of Cherokee, African, Scot, and a dash of English Puritan. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in many journals, anthologies, and publications, including Spilt Infinitive, Perceptions, Gargoyle, and Knock, to name only a few.

Coomer has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, was writer-in-residence for Fishtrap, Oregon’s much-loved advocacy program for literature in the West, and has been a visiting scholar for the Idaho Commission for Libraries since 2002. She is a former long-time instructor of English for Washington State University, and was commissioned as an officer of the U.S Public Health Service, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander before she resigned her commission in 1995, ostensibly to be a writer.

I’ve known Paula for several years and am excited to host her here today. She’s a great friend, an awesome teacher, and is always eager to talk about writing. Here are fifteen things you may not know about Paula Marie Coomer.

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

My first memories have to do with my awareness of myself as an observer. I wrote my first book at the age of four. No one else could understand what I had written, but I could. I even sewed a sort of binding with needle and thread—which I got in trouble for.

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

    1. If I’m doing research or composing a new draft, I’m usually in an isolated situation. Usually I go to the Inn in the Idaho mountains where I am in writer-in-residence (which is how I got to BE writer-in-residence). I hole myself up for as long as I can—usually at least 4 days. I’m fully focused. I do nothing besides eating (and very sparsely, at that) or getting up and moving occasionally.
    2. If I’m revising, I usually work in my studio at home half a day, beginning almost as soon as I get up. Then half a day on the other things I have to do—the paying job, author gigs, etc. At times during this phase I hire a housekeeper and an assistant to free up my time for the writing hours.
    3. If I’m doing edits, I spend mornings at a local coffee shop working. For some reason at the level of line edits, it helps to have background noise.

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

That varies completely. My novel Dove Creek took 15 drafts. The 16th draft sold. Blue Moon Vegetarian took 3 drafts. Jagged Edge of the Sky took four. Single poems can take 10-20 drafts. Short stories can take a dozen drafts. I tend to write in layers, rather obviously.

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

It broke my heart a little bit when I realized I was never going to be a New York writer, living in Greenwich Village, part of the U.S. “g-literati.” But that turned out to be the best possible thing, because I have a great independent publishing house at my back. They give me infinite freedom as an artist, and they like me enough to give me a job that allows me the time I need to keep writing. I have a decent following, and people love what I write. I’m so busy I can’t even imagine being any busier in my writing career. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.

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

I love the serendipity. The way, when I’m working on a story or a book, the pieces just come to me, show up in my life in the most random of ways. What I dislike the most is the effect it’s had on my body. Luckily now I have a standing desk, so I rotate between sitting and standing, but writing is really, really hard on the body. We were not designed to sit for long periods of time.

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

I mostly read according to whatever I’m researching for the next book. Right now my stack of reading material looks like the course requirements for an herbalism class or a course on mountaineering. I’m preparing to write a follow-up for the Blue Moon food book series focused on the healing nature of plants. This is also research for my next novel, which features a mountain woman who is a healer. Otherwise, I have a few living favorites—Lidia Yuknavitch and Lance Olsen are my literary heroes. I also do presentations at regional libraries so often I have a novel I’m reading for that. Otherwise, I try to read a few poetry books now and again. I don’t read any mainstream books or authors. Most of the books I read are written by women. I prefer the voices of women writers.

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

      1. Best: Don’t give up. If you keep writing, someone will publish you.
      2. Worst: Teaching gives you control of your time. It will give you time to write. The truth is that teaching sucks your life force and your creativity and gives you very little in return; however, to donate yourself to the world in this way is very noble and to some extent a necessary part of mastering your craft.

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

Lance Olsen, Ray Federmann, Lidia Yuknavitch.

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

I have lots. First, I have feathers and rocks everywhere. A feather in your path is a blessing. The always present themselves to me at difficult times. Rocks possess certain energies. If I’m drawn to the energy of a certain rock, I always pick it up. I have certain types of gems and semi-precious stones that are meant to absorb bad energy. Occasionally I soak them in water and sea salt to cleanse them. I regularly smudge the house with sweetgrass, sage, or cedar.

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

A visual artist.

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

From the I-Ching: Perseverance furthers.

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

I have a new novel finished. It’s very, very experimental, and I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it. I have a collection of essays and one of short stories that both need final revision. Then I have the 2 final books in the Blue Moon series, Blue Moon Medicine Woman and Blue Moon Folkways in the Kitchen. What is that 5? Five books in process, a book of poems I’m slowly working on, and research for the next novel.

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

I don’t really know. I don’t have much in the way of regrets.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Let writing change your life.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I spent two summers of my life picking fruit in California and Oregon, living out of the back of a pickup. It was the most horrible work but the people I worked with made it worthwhile. Stories I still haven’t told.

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

Jagged Edge of the Sky is the story of two women, one Australian and one American, who both go outside their marriages almost on the same day and with the same handsome, mixed-blood aboriginal man. The situation tears the Australian family apart; the American family keeps it secret. At once a women’s story, an immigrant story, and a family saga, the most important message the book delivers is about the despicable state of mental health services in our country.

 

 

13 Things You May Not Know About Evan Morgan Williams

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Evan Morgan Williams

 

 

Today I’m talking with EVAN MORGAN WILLIAMS, who will read Saturday, March 19, 2016, at 7 p.m. at the Nye Beach Writers Series in the Nye Beach Visual Arts Center, Newport, Oregon.

Williams’ stories are works of realistic fiction, set mainly in the Pacific Northwest, often on the Pacific shore. His stories deal with people making difficult choices, choices that invariably mean tugging or loosening the ties that bind. An award-wining author, Williams has published over forty stories in such magazines as Witness, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, and ZYZZYVA. He has an MFA from the University of Montana, and has taught in a public school for over twenty years. Most recently, he has held a Writers in the Schools residency, an AWP Writer to Writer mentorship, and gave the inaugural reading in Eastern Oregon University’s revived Ars Poetica Visiting Writer Series.

Hi Evan, tell us some more about you.

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

I have always felt that writing was a calling. In college, when I read the short story collections of Barry Lopez, this was made particularly clear to me. I got started by writing stories that probably sounded like cheap knock-offs, though earnestly done at the time. That was a very long time ago.

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

My writing routine is to write in the early hours of a weekend morning and for a little while after work during the week. Sometimes, I’ll go out on a Saturday night to a quiet venue to write. My discipline is highly variable; I’m not as disciplined as I should be. I work better when I’m facing a deadline or working with others, as in a writing group. Like everyone, I’m challenged by distractions online. I recently deleted my Facebook, and that has been very helpful.

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

My book is a collection of stories, and I revise exhaustively. Most of my stories have been drafted and revised over the course of many years. Sometimes, rarely, a story will come to me fully formed, so to speak, and in this case the revision process goes pretty quickly.

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

The best thing that happened with my writing career was the discovery, after many important and formative experiences such as an MFA program and working with a mentor in Portland, that I could write a story that resonated with my internal vision all by myself, and that others would like it too. A few of my most well-received stories never went through any workshop or critique, ever. Of course, I’m not opposed to those processes; they have been extremely helpful, too.

The worst thing that happened was my own fault, spending about 8 years doing almost no writing after I graduated from my MFA program. I was teaching middle school and throwing myself into it, but I was getting a diminishing return. By the time I went back to writing, I was extremely rusty, starting from scratch.

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

The part I love the most is when a story acquires a sense of compelling reality that feels more real than the reality that surrounds me. I have heard athletes talk about “flow” or “being in the zone,” and I think this must be something akin to that.

The part I dislike the most is structuring narrative out of raw notes. Plotting a story remains the part I resist the most. It is hard labor, a battle between commitment and skepticism. I have a few tricks to make it go better, but it’s still extremely difficult.

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

Reading is a necessary component of writing new work. It is a reciprocal process. You get ideas from what you’re reading, and you read differently when you’re writing. My all-time favorite authors are Hemingway, Barry Lopez, and Garcia-Marquez. This year, I’m trying to read the entire catalog of Propellor Press, a small press in Portland, Oregon.

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

The best advice was from a retired editor at Esquire, who was teaching a class at the University of Montana. He had four pieces of essential advice, of which I only remember two, but I go back to them all the time: 1) Know your own secret and 2) Seize form. I like the advice because it is suitably vague that I can bend it to my purposes. But it is also rigorous; one has to maintain certain disciplines.

The worst advice was probably something that someone said during a badly run writing workshop.

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

I wouldn’t say that my writing sounds like Hemingway, not even close, but reading Hemingway’s stories taught me how the flow of language on the page doesn’t just relate a story in a neutral way, but rather becomes the story.

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

I have a “special pen” that I found in a load of used office supplies that the BLM donated to my school. It’s somebody’s retirement pen, with a tortoise shell finish and gold accents. The lettering on the side said something about the “Interagency Fire Team,” but it has worn off.

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

I am working on a neo-noir novel, set in 1980s Los Angeles, about a young Japanese interpreter who gets caught up in someone else’s scheme. I am still early in the process, but I enjoy the convenience of noir: everyone is corrupt, compromised, complicated. Every character is capable of contradicting their type.

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

If I could turn back time, I would buy that beautiful Craftsman house at 23d and Sherman for 67k in 1994.

12) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write a lot. Read a lot. Immerse yourself in a supportive community of writers, and give as much as you get. Develop a thick skin because there will be a lot of rejection, but also develop a strong internal editor because a lot of that rejection will be deserved. Be very clear on how ambitious you want to be; the writers who get published have worked really hard to make it happen.

13) Something we don’t know about you?

I believe that cake is tawdry and that pie is sacrament.

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

My book of stories, Thorn, is realistic fiction, set mainly in the Pacific Northwest. It features an ethnically diverse cast of characters: men, women, rich folks and poor, each having to make difficult choices. Five of the stories are set on the coast. The book won the Chandra Prize at BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City)