Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Ross Klavan’s (a) “Schmuck”

August 12, 2014

Ross Klavan, the charismatic voice of the creative writing program and one of our beloved screenwriting faculty members, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts and process for his novel, Schmuck with The Write Life blog.schmuck

Schmuck takes place in 1960’s New York, where Jerry Elkin and Ted Fox rule the radio airwaves. Between Elkin’s zany dialects and impressions and Fox’s golden, straight-man voice, they’ve got it down pat. But if listeners could hear between the lines, they’d notice an undertone of tension between the hit team. Jerry resents Ted for his dismissive attitude towards TV offers, and his ability to sweet-talk the ladies. Even his own son gets the girl, Sari Rosenbloom, an eighteen year old bombshell that Jerry can’t get off his mind.

Between seedy, well-connected mobsters, a head-swiveling femme fatale, and a son that just doesn’t get it, Jerry navigates this post-war, Jewish-infused, zany, larger-than-life landscape.

Schmuck was published by Greenpoint Press and is available through their website, which can be found by clicking here: http://www.greenpointpress.org/gb_book_schmuck.html

You can also purchase the book on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble.

Schmuck is loosely based on your father’s radio show. Why write something so close to home?

The most famous joke about show business is the one about the guy in the circus who sweeps up behind the elephant. You know which one I’m talking about. He walks behind the elephant with a broom, clearing all the elephant crap and cursing to himself about how much he hates his job. And when somebody says, “If you hate it so much why don’t you quit?” He says, “What?! And leave show business?!” I’ve lived all of my life connected to show business and I’m sort of the guy sweeping up behind the elephant…and also the guy writing about the guy who’s sweeping up. All writing and performing is obviously based in your self since you’ve got no other place to begin. I’m lucky that my own personal lunacy–mishegas as the holy men say–leans sharply toward a combo of the masochistic and exhibitionistic. That means that I can exploit my own experience and then beautifully alter, embellish, form, shape, structure and compose until it both seems real and strangely heightened, both at the same time. It’s either that, or I go back into analysis.

Does your artistic work take from your real life often, and is it hard to balance between what’s real and fictional?

My work almost always takes off from real life, at least to start out. As for the line between real and fictional—I don’t know, it’s not so solid for any of us, I think. I like to jump back and forth across that line or blend both sides or step aside and see what gets called up from the dregs. That’s an incredible pleasure. Dream experience—that’s real experience, too, just a different kind. And like I said before, I’ve spent all my life around show business and I like writing about show business—not major movie stars and big money deals, for some reason that’s a snooze for me. I like the other levels. Clowns and jokers and radio guys who live in a world of TV. Where people are desperate and striving like their life depended on it and not usually succeeding. The screenwriter who can’t sell anything and who ends up shot dead by his mistress and floating in her pool, to me that’s a better story than the big names who end up on the cover of “Vanity Fair.” It’s plays more in my imagination. For a while, when I was younger, I supported myself as a reporter doing grunt journalism and you were supposed to be accurate above almost anything else. Eventually, my mind started to develop hemorrhoids. Even if you’re not going to be in the arts, I highly recommend living by the imagination as long as you’re not walking off a cliff.

“Schmuck” has been said to blend zany humor with a deadly somber undertone. Was it hard to write in such opposition?

It’s much more difficult to live with that opposition, which many of us do. It’s sort of like, one minute it’s all “ha-ha-ha” and you recognize the Absurd…then, when you see how absurd it all is, you start to feel it’s all so sad there’s not enough tears in the world to cry, and then you start laughing again because you hear yourself thinking that and it all seems so ridiculous. I tried to give Jerry Elkin that quality—underneath it all, he knows that we’re all sharing a misshapen rock spinning around in space and nobody really knows what the hell is going on.

Jerry Elkin is loosely based on your father. Has your father read the book, and if so, what does he think of Jerry?

My father died ten years ago so he hasn’t read the book—at least, I don’t think he has. I like to imagine that if he’s out there in that Great Radio Station in the sky, that maybe he got a few laughs out of it. He had a pretty wicked sense of humor that stayed with him until the end.

Do you have a specific process that you use when you write, and does “Schmuck” differ from your usual process because of it’s roots in your own life?

A theater director once told me that he went into rehearsal with a specific goal in mind for each particular session and then, when he got there, it was time to go home even if rehearsal only took five minutes. For some reason, that’s how “Schmuck” was written. Every time I sat down to work, I had a specific problem to solve—not a number of pages—but a chapter or a scene or a sequence of scenes to finish. Just what felt right. When that was done, I headed for the couch, lay down and put the “New Yorker” over my face. I also kept a notebook of ideas and lines and things to look at or change when I hit the next draft. Every project has something of its own character. I usually start off with a process of free association, just riffing and coming up with scenes and ideas that light up, even if they seem to be totally unrelated. Then, if I haven’t completely cracked up, I start finding some kind of narrative line that connects what scenes I’m going to use.

What the most important thing that you want to convey to an audience when you write, and how do you try accomplish that?

That’s an incredibly tough question to answer so I’ll hide from it as best I can. One way of looking at it—only the book itself can answer that question, otherwise there wouldn’t be a reason to write it. Also, you don’t want to get between the reader and his or her experience of the book–a writer has no business being there, you should be off working on something else or taking a nap. Then, overall, I’m going for something that’s tremendously alive and vital, or I hope it is, anyway—I don’t have any grand theories that make sense and I’m not smart enough to have any mind-bending ideas. But I hope the reader comes away at least with a feeling of life and enjoyment—like they’ve been hit in the head with some kind of weird tuning fork. And in a book, I think, you do that by rhythm, tempo, structure and a certain kind of language.

Sari Rosenbloom has been compared to Daisy Buchanan. Was this an intentional inspiration, and how else does “Gatsby” fit into “Schmuck’s” world?

Oh, yeah, there’s a definite “Gatsby” thread running through the story. Partly, that’s because I wanted to convince my audience that I’d actually read at least one great book. Also, growing up, I spent all too much time not too far from the real Gatsby House—or what was supposedly the house Fitzgerald used–and I got a feel for the parvenu’s outlook. Then, at one point, I started to think of “Schmuck” as a sort of “Gatsby” that’s told through the eyes of Meyer Wolfsheim, the Jewish gangster character, the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series. Which, by the way, is not a bad trick if you can get away with it.

You’ve written scripts for Miramax, Paramount, and TNT. How does your script writing differ from your novel writing?

At the gross level—which may be our favorite—a script has more people involved and you get a lot more money. But aside from the practical–there’s a common level in all narrative writing, I think, from commercials to novels to feature films. You’re dealing with characters and stories and people and you’re trying not to bore anyone. I wrote the film “Tigerland” which starred Colin Farrell but I did the script off the first draft of a novel I’d written. I’d worked out the story already, so it was much easier than starting from zero. For prose fiction–a novel can rest more in its language, going directly into the reader’s psyche, a mind dart. A screenplay has to do that also but it has to unfold in the reader’s imagination as a film, so that even a character’s consciousness is there to be literally seen, heard and understood in a medium that’s going to be watched and that takes place in time, somewhat outside of the viewer’s control. At some point, even if it becomes second nature, you have to care about that when you write a screenplay. I love film—I’d have to say that film and a kind of molecular understanding of what it is to write a screenplay have only been of the greatest help in other kinds of writing, especially prose fiction. It teaches you to move a story, not to be precious with yourself, to make everything count.

Your wife, Mary Jones, is a painter. Does her artistic vision bleed into your work, and vice versa?

Mary’s a terrific artist and I’ve probably learned much more from her than she’s learned from me. Her courage and seriousness and willingness to take chances, her connection to her own work and her respect for it, her ability to let it change…that this is part of everything she does and that she wears it lightly, I’ve gained from all this now for a long time. When we first knew each other many years ago, I remember once she lost a lease on her studio and was looking around for a new place. I asked her why she didn’t just rent a cheap apartment, what difference does it make where you paint? And she said, “Because during those times when you’re not selling anything or you’re stuck or you feel like everyone hates your work, it’s important to have a place to go that reminds you who you really are.” Maybe writers have to have a version of that, too…and since we don’t need a lot of brushes or canvases, it can just be in the mind.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Ah ha! The old advice question. Sometimes I hear writers say that there’s more bullshit out there about writing than there is about sex…but actually, I think, a lot of the writing advice is pretty good. It’s just…what do you do with it once you hear it? How do you make it your own? Can you actually sit down and use it? Then there’s this—I think what most of us want when we go after advice about writing is for somebody else to do the real work for us. I’m not talking about specific craft questions. But we live in a world that’s got a large sign across the sky that says, WARNING: DON’T BE ALONE IN YOUR IMAGINATION! And effort, pain or frustration? Forget about it, they get chosen last for the team. But that’s exactly what writers have to do and where they have to go, hour after hour. Real problems with writing are solved by writing. Eventually. Maybe painfully and with much frustration. OK, on some days, more easily. On some days, it’s like a tight muscle opening. So the best advice is that, ultimately, there’s no advice—you have to do your own work, day after day. Abandon all hope! Nobody can do it for you. And if you’re having one of those days when you think everything you’ve done sucks, you don’t deserve to live and you’re wasting your time at the pad or the keyboard…well, after you’ve screamed into the pillow, try not to have too much to drink and then, take a look at your stuff and try to see very, very specifically, exactly what it is that’s turning the blade in you. Try to see exactly what it is that you don’t like. Because that, exactly, can be fixed. With a generality, you’re screwed.


 

Ross Klavan’s work spbossklavanans film, television, radio, print and live performance. His original screenplay for the film Tigerland was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, he recently finished an adaption of John Bowers’s “The Colony,” and he has written scripts for Miramax, Paramount and TNT, among others. The “conversation about writing” he moderated with Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer was televised and published as “Like Shaking Hands with God,” and his short stories have appeared in magazines and been produced by the BBC. An earlier novel, “Trax,” was published under a pseudonym. His play “How I Met My (Black) Wife (Again),” co-written with Ray Iannicelli, has been produced in New York City, and he has performed his work in numerous theaters and clubs. He has acted and done voice work in TV and radio commercials and has lent his voice to feature films including Casino, You Can Count On Me and Revolutionary Road and the new Amazon web series Alpha House, written by Gary Trudeau. He has worked as a newspaper and radio journalist in London and New York City. He lives in New York City with his wife, the painter, Mary Jones.

Todd McClimans’ Time Traitor

August 4, 2014

In collaboration with Wilkes Magazine’s Summer Reads Contest, in which participants comment on the featured book of the week in order to win a free copy, I interviewed Todd McClimans, author of Time Traitor, whose book is currently participating in the contest.

Todd’s book, the first in the American Epochs series, is a middle grade, sci-fi/history novel about the adventures of children who travel to significant events in American history, such as the American Revolution, and where they meet historic American icons like Benedict Arnold.

The book’s Amazon reviews are very telling, with comments like, “McClimans does a masterful job of character development with his young heroes Ty and Kristi as well as the story’s supporting cast of friends and foes,” and “The author doesn’t shy away from the brutality of slavery or ground combat, and he does a fine job of showing that history, even the most painful aspects of it, is more complex than any textbook could capture.”

You can find out more about the book by going to Time Traitor’s website (http://www.timetraitor.com/), or it’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/toddmcclimans2013).

Could you tell me a little about your book?TT-frontcover-103013

Time Traitor is the first book in the American Epochs series, a Middle-Grade historical/sci-fi series that is meant to take kids to important eras, or epochs, in American history and hopefully trick them into learning some important history while enjoying a story. I decided to incorporate science fiction and time travel instead of writing traditional historical fiction because, for one thing, I would LOVE to time travel myself and writing stories about time travel is the next best thing. But, equally as important, I want my readers to experience the events in history through the eyes of contemporary characters to which they can relate.

 My main characters, Kristi (an African American girl from a rich family) and Ty (an orphaned boy from England) are real life kids with real life problems. Kristi is struggling with the divorce of her parents and lashes out in school as a way of getting attention. Ty is an introverted bookworm who deals with bullying and harassment and is unwanted by his step-father after the death of his mother.

The two discover that their eccentric history teacher, Dr. Xavier Arnold, is a direct descendant of General Benedict Arnold, a former patriot who sold out his friends and countrymen by switching to the British side during the Revolutionary War. Xavier Arnold, in an attempt to improve his tainted family name, invented a time machine to go back to the time of the war and assist Benedict in his plans for treachery and make him a hero again, but for the British this time. He drags Kristi and Ty back with him as pawns in his scheme and they have to traverse colonial America to stop Dr. Arnold and force him to return them to their own time.

How did the idea come to you?

I am currently an elementary school principal, but when I came up with the idea, I was a fifth grade teacher. I used novels about specific time periods in history to help the students gain a better understanding of the time periods and the cultures of the people in our social studies curriculum (Sign of the Beaver—frontier life and Native American relations, Rifles for Waite—western theater of the Civil War, etc.). But, beyond Johnny Tremain, I had trouble finding novels about the Revolutionary War for my students. So, I decided to write one of my own.

About how long did it take you to write it? What was your favorite/least favorite part of the process?

My first draft came to me quickly. It took me about six weeks to plan and outline the story. Once I had an outline, it only took me about two months to write my first draft. However, I am a compulsive reviser, so I spent the next eighteen months rewriting and revising before I started submitting. Revising is my favorite part of the whole writing process. In the classroom, I tried impressing upon my students that stories, or any other kind of writing for that matter, are never truly finished and can always be improved upon.

I love how you can simply change a few words or descriptions around to make a story funnier, scarier, happier—whatever-er.

My least favorite part is most definitely the submission process. Trying to boil your story, your baby, down to a few sentences in a query letter that probably won’t get past the cubicle of a college intern in a publishing office or agency is daunting and discouraging. I hate to use the cliché needle in a haystack, but that’s how it feels.

Have you started work on any of the other books in the American Epochs series? Can you tell me anything about those?

The second book, Time Underground, is currently with the editors at my publishers and is due to be released in November of this year. In Time Underground, Kristi finds out that her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a slave who escaped on the Underground Railroad and survived to sire her family. However, he had a younger brother who attempted to escape with him, but was caught and disappeared from history. Kristi and Ty go to 1858 to find Kristi’s uncle and help him get to the north and safety.

I’m about 25,000 words into the first draft of the third book in the series. My working title is Time to Heal—but I’m not in love with that title yet, so I expect it to change. The third installment is set during the Civil War where Ty works in the hospitals and experiences the horror of Civil War medicine before he’s dropped right on top of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg and the Confederate assault.

What was it like trying to collaborate factual, historical events to turn them into a fictional, fantasy narrative?

It was very important that my narrative be as historically accurate as possible. As I stated above, I wanted my readers to learn about the historical events while they are reading, so I do a great deal of research before writing and while I’m drafting. I believe the term for it is active history. It’s not a rote recitation of historical events, but a recounting of events through the eyes of characters who do not see the outcomes as predetermined. It’s a fine line to tread, but that makes it all the more fun to write…and hopefully to read.

How do you work with suspended disbelief, making something so fantastical become a believable scenario?

I use some author’s license and try to write in a way that seems believable. My stories are technically science fiction because of the time travel, but they are not traditional sci-fi. I don’t go into extended explanations into the science behind my time machine or the theoretical possibilities of time travel. I think it works because my stories are written from the points-of-view of young characters who don’t really care how they were transported through time, just that they were transported and what they are going to do about it. I count on my readers to use their imaginations while they are reading, giving them an active role in the story instead of a passive one.

When writing a young adult novel, do you have to give your language any special consideration? Is it difficult not to condescend to your intended audience? What do you think is the real difference between YA literature and Adult literature?

My series is meant for a Middle Grade audience (ages 9-14), a step younger than YA. That being said, storytelling is storytelling so I don’t see a whole lot of differences in the language for different intended audiences. Kids are more intuitive than we give them credit for. They know when language and descriptions are condescending and they’ll drop a book much faster than an adult at the first sign of condescension. No middle grade reader would be caught dead reading a “kiddie book”.

I see the major task for any writer, whether he/she is writing MG, YA, or Adult books is the ability to get his/her readers to relate to the characters and the real life issues they face. A story comes alive when the reader can see him/herself in the main characters. Take an adult detective novel, for example. The antagonists often deal with social issues such as alcohol abuse, broken marriages, or kids who won’t talk to them. Adult readers can relate to those issues. YA readers deal with teen angst (do we still call it that???) in their real lives. Many antagonists in YA books deal with questions and decisions about overbearing parents, individuality and independence, an even sex, alcohol, and drug use because those problems/questions are real to YA readers. MG readers worry about their parents’ divorce, bullying, and mean teachers. I see these issues as more innocent, yet no less real to the characters and the readers.

Have your children read Time Traitor? What do they think?

My oldest son is eight and going into the third grade. He has the reading ability to comprehend Time Traitor, but he doesn’t have the background knowledge about the Revolutionary War to truly understand the importance of the events in the book. I’ll wait until he reaches that point in school to let him read it.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

I’ll be cheesy and steal Nike’s motto. Just Do It. Everybody knows someone who wants to write a book someday. And all of those people have real, legitimate reasons for putting it off (jobs, family, time, etc.) But to be a writer, you have to actually sit down and write it. Then rewrite it and rewrite it. You have to understand that you’re going to write a lot of garbage along the way as you learn. But the more you read and the more you write, the better your writing will develop. I’m not aware of any savants who sat down and wrote the Great American Novel on their first shot. You get out what you put in.


IMG_5076Todd McClimans is an elementary school principal and former fifth grade teacher.  He holds bachelors degrees in Creative Writing and Elementary Education and master’s degrees in Creative writing and Educational Leadership. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three young children.  A self-styled history buff and fantasy nerd, Todd first became interested in writing about American history when teaching his fifth graders the riveting stories of patriots and their struggle for independence during the Revolutionary War.  He aims to bring history to life for young readers by writing stories with a careful mixture of historical fact and fantastical story-telling with characters to which children can relate.

Corinne Nulton’s 14 Symptoms

May 20, 2014

A fellow Wilkes student, Corinne Nulton is currently running a fundraiser on IndieGoGo for her original play, 14 Symptoms, whichcorinneblogphoto will appear at the Brick Theater in Brooklyn, NY this summer. The page for the fundraiser includes a video featuring some of the characters from the play and the lovely playwright herself and can be found by clicking on the link above or the picture to your right.

She was kind enough to answer some questions about the play for The Write Life blog!

Tell me a little bit about your play. What’s it about?

14 Symptoms follows the story of four very different teenagers—an egotistical hacker, a predetermined serial killer, a cheerleader with an alter ego, and the ghost of the ideal best friend. The play unfolds as they collide online through chatrooms and games in both the present and the past in order to investigate or conceal a gruesome murder.

I’ve heard that the play was inspired by an actual murder. Could you tell me more about that? 

Intrigued by the mis-identities on the internet, I was drawn to the article “Murder by Text,” published in Vanity Fair in October 2011. According to sources, the real Kruse Wellwood and Kimmy Procter often passed each other in the hallways of their small high school. As a cheerleader, Kimmy seemed to have little in common with Kruse, an outcast whose abusive father was arrested. However, the online game World of Warcraft leveled the social stratifications that existed in high school. Kruse offered her a secret friendship through games, chats, instant messages, and texts. He would tease her about sex and death while engaging in the adolescent sport of video game competition, and despite his warnings, his confessed desire to kill her, all of his foreshadowing was shrugged off, because the chats did not feel real to Kimmy, who assumed Kruse was only as dangerous as his avatar. Ultimately, the story ends with an adolescent from a broken home brutally raping, dismembering, and burning a classmate with no real explanation as to why except for a blog entry listing the “signs” of a serial killer, of which, Kruse had all fifteen.

I realized this was exactly the sort of problem I wanted to artistically portray—the blurred boundaries between reality and cyber reality that gave Kimmy this false sense of security while also allowing Kruse’s cyber-girlfriend to listen to his murder confession, but wait months before calling police. The blog entry, likewise, filled my head with questions about fate.

While researching, I was able to access the private chat logs between Kimmy and Kruse, the integration videos, interviews with Kimmy’s parents, her facebook memorial page, and even a recent letter Kruse wrote to the judge overseeing the investigation. It was sickening how easy it was to access all of this information in our post-crazy society—no, I’m not hacker, but it was just all out there waiting on the internet. However, what I discovered was that Kruse, essentially, was a writer, a master at voice imitation and at reinventing himself through words. And as this brief description indicates, there were a number of philosophical, practical, and psychological questions left in the incident’s wake that would forever remain unanswered, which seemed unbearable.
However, my play isn’t an adaptation of this event for my characters are different individuals entirely facing only a similar experience. I hesitate to even say “was inspired by”. It certainly moved my pen for two years now as I tried to wrap my head around it, but the result is something that stands alone, bearing little resemblance now of the event that kindled it except for the names which I kept as a sort of tribute as the play evolved. It is by no means a justification, nor is it a definite answer to many of the questions it poses. It’s merely an illustration of these topics in order to inspire serious discussion.

What was the writing process like for you? How long did it take until this play was complete? How different was the first draft from the final?

A word on the writing process : Hell.

Since fourth grade I was a perpetual daydreamer, scribbling down bits of my imagination, but this was my first piece of substantial length and my attention span and sensitivity as a shy undergraduate could hardly bear it. Initially, I was obsessed with the project, and couldn’t wait to declare it as my creative thesis. I decorated all the walls of my dorm with serial killers and chatlogs and any bit of evidence I came across. However, after the first few months, I was bored with what was trying to write and ready to start a new short story but my mentor wouldn’t allow it. I had to keep with it, regardless of all the other issues I wanted to pursue. He also liked to make me think by responding to all of my questions with more question. I also wasn’t sure how to sustain interest for my audience or how to write convincing dialogue and for a while I couldn’t hear the voices of my characters. Draft after draft after draft I’d hand in and rewrite and hand in again and scrap and rewrite and complain and rewrite and curse mentor and rewrite and listen to it read aloud, curse, and rewrite and beg my mentor to let me quit and rewrite and listen to it again and rewrite. I’m pretty sure I killed a whole forest, and I took every edit so personally in the beginning that I grew to hate writing. But eventually I noticed my fiction was getting better, my imagination more refined, my dialogue more genuine with actual voices. I started getting recognized in the community, even if the play wasn’t in a state of progression but digression, and it served its first year and a half as a learning experience and towards the end things began to “click” into place.

And being in and out of Kruse’s head for months was hardly an enjoyable experience especially at first. I tried to write only in broad daylight in populated places after suffering several chilling nightmares, and I began regretting my dorm decorating, since it seemed too frightening or too overwhelming at times.

It wasn’t until recently I went back to review the play with new eyes using what I learned in undergrad with some of the new things I learned at the graduate level. I was more emotionally removed, too, which also helped in refining the latest draft. I used the contest mainly as motivation to review something I had tucked away, and its acceptance was a complete shock. Thus, the company is scrambling to gain publicity and adequate funds.

But as always, it’s still a work in progress. I’m sure it will continue to evolve in little ways throughout the next round of rehearsal as well.

How did you research the project? What sources did you use? Were there any surprising discoveries?

As mentioned I raided the internet for newspaper articles and found more than I should’ve, but I went in another direction, too. I read books on human nature, like “Radical Evil” by Bernstein and I studied philosophies on predeterminism vs. free will. I read memoirs of former children who suffered from abuse. I looked into serial killers and what they all shared or how they were different. I read about sociopaths and psychopaths and empathy disorders and passion murders. I even played W.O.W. But, more than anything, I read plays. I read close to a hundred in a single summer that shared those ideas and used language to manipulate, like Dark Play or Story for Boys and Speech and Debate.

What is it like seeing something you’ve written performed on the stage? Is it exciting? Are there some disappointments?

The first readings were unbearable—I couldn’t seem to separate myself from the words and from the audience’s reactions or failure to react. I’d just sit in my seat shaking. However, seeing it come to life in rehearsal has been a surreal experience, both chilling but also rewarding to experience the things I imagined and watched how the actors and director not only enact, but enhance my original words. Every now and then I will slam my palm against my head—and think, it’s not said like that! Timmy Flynn, for example, our original hacker-character barely knew how to turn his computer on, so he would murder the pronunciation of words like Linux, but he eventually grew so close to the character that in my rewrites I could hear his voice as Cam.’s voice—the two were one in the same by the end, which is sort of magical

corinnebiophotoCorinne Nulton is a recovering coffee addict and is one semester into Wilke’s MA/MFA program in Creative Writing. She recently graduated from the University of Scranton as an English major and has since become an adjunct professor and professional writing tutor at Penn State Worthington. As far as writing, she has had several short stories published in college literary magazines such as Esprit and Ellipses. . . and her ten-minute-play, Flesh, was a Kennedy Center Finalist in 2010.

Barbara J. Taylor’s Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

May 1, 2014
Barbara J. Taylor received her M.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in 2008. Her first published novel (and the first book in a series of three), Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night was recently selected for Publishers Weekly’s “Best Summer Books 2014” list. Akashic Books have also provided a description of the novel on their website:
“Almost everyone in town blames eight-year-old Violet Morgan for the death of her nine-year-old sister, Daisy. Sing in SingintheMorningCryatNightthe Morning, Cry at Night opens on September 4, 1913, two months after the Fourth of July tragedy. Owen, the girls’ father, “turns to drink” and abandons his family. Their mother Grace falls victim to the seductive powers of Grief, an imagined figure who has seduced her off-and-on since childhood. Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Stanley Adamski, a motherless outcast who works in the mines as a breaker boy. During an unexpected blizzard, Grace goes into premature labor at home and is forced to rely on Violet, while Owen is “off being saved” at a Billy Sunday Revival. Inspired by a haunting family story, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night blends real life incidents with fiction to show how grace can be found in the midst of tragedy.”

After hearing about the novel’s success and having enthusiastic discussions with other members of the Wilkes Creative Writing program who are excited about the book, I prepared some questions for Barbara Taylor. Luckily, she was kind enough to share some of her insights about her novel with The Write Life blog!  (Clicking on the book cover above will take you to the Amazon page where the book can be purchased.)

Your book Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night was just put on the Best Summer Reads list for Publishers Weekly. You must be completely thrilled! How did you feel when you saw that?
 
I was stunned and delighted. When you’re writing a book, you never think about how it will be received once it’s out in the world. I had a moment after I signed my contract where I realized people who don’t know me, people who have no idea how hard I worked, will be reading my book. That was a little scary.  
 
How does a writer get acknowledged by a publication like that? Did you have to do anything special to promote the book?
 
You’d have to ask the amazing people at Kaylie Jones Books and Akashic Books. They are responsible for getting Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night to places like Publishers Weekly. As far as first book experiences go, mine has been amazing. My publishers are so author-centric. I found a very safe place to land.
 
How long, from the original idea to the publication, did it take for you to produce this novel?
 
I started writing Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night in 2007 and finished my first official draft (with lots of unofficial revisions in between) in late 2008. I probably spent another year revising after that. My agent sent the book out, and while there was some interest, no one picked it up. I decided to move on and wrote the first draft of my second novel. Then, one summer, Kaylie Jones had an idea for restructuring the first book. I spent the next year doing rewrites, so the novel took about four years to complete over a period of seven years.
 
What was that process like? Was it an emotional journey?
 
The process was definitely emotional at times. My novel is based on a family story. Growing up, I always heard about the death of my Aunt Pearl, my maternal grandmother’s sister. She was baptized on July 4, 1918. Later that day, she and her friends were playing with sparklers and Pearl’s dress went up in flames. She survived for three days and sang hymns. When I was partway through my novel, I remember sitting at my desk, staring at the last picture taken of Pearl, a group photo from the day of her baptism. The picture was always in our house, but for some reason, it really hit me that night. This was more than a story. This was someone’s daughter, sister, friend. I sat there and cried as if I’d just lost her myself. 
 
The process was emotional in other ways as well. I started the novel just after my divorce, and my dad got sick along the way, so there were hardships. While it wasn’t intentional, I’m sure I poured some of that emotion into the work as well.
 
How much research was involved in writing this novel?
 
Since my novel is historical fiction, there was a great deal of research involved. I spent countless hours at the Lackawanna Historical Society, the Albright Memorial Library, and the Anthracite Museum. I also interviewed numerous people, visited mines, and read lots of primary source material.
 
You mentioned that the story was inspired by a family tragedy. Are there any other real life events that made it into your novel?
 
At one point in my novel, several of my characters get snowed in at a Billy Sunday Revival on March 1, 1914. Billy Sunday was a well-known evangelist at the time, and he held one of his campaigns in Scranton that year. My grandmother used to say she was born during the “Billy Sunday Snowstorm” where 2500 people were stranded overnight with the very charismatic preacher. I thought that would be an interesting setting for my characters.
 
What advice do you have for other aspiring writers/novelists?
 
Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Repeat.
 
And get involved in a writing community, be it a local workshop or an MFA program. Writing is such a solitary activity. It’s good to have a network of like-minded people to support and encourage you. 
 BarbTaylorBarbara J. Taylor was born and raised in Scranton, PA, and teaches English in the Pocono Mountain School District. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Wilkes University. She still resides in the “Electric City,” two blocks away from where she grew up. “Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night” is her first novel.
CONTACT:
Webpage: barbarajtaylor.com
Email: barb@barbarajtaylor.com
Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/barbara.j.taylor729
Twitter: twitter.com/barbarajtaylor

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Robert May: Documentaries and Advice for Aspiring Artists

March 4, 2014

My previous blog entry discussed producer Robert May’s creative process and the mechanics of moving a fictional film through production. This week, I conclude the two-part series by discussing his process for documentary films and his advice for aspiring story-tellers and film-makers.

According to May, there are two prominent categories of documentary films: ones with an active story, and ones in which the story has already happened (inactive story).

While the story components of an inactive story are already present, there must be an especially compelling reason to revisit the events. Otherwise, retelling a pre-existing story may not be worth the investment. “There is more research required,” May explained, “because you may need to find a new angle.”

For either form of documentary, “seed money” is needed to begin a project. People need to be hired to gather the initial footage, and then if the project is worth moving forward, the rest of the money is raised. If the project is deemed unworthy of production, it is abandoned entirely.

An active story, however, is an entirely different type of project. It is already compelling by nature, since it’s still unfolding as it is being told which gives the story momentum, but May cautions that, “an active story can’t be too tragic; it has to have a dynamic for people to be interested in seeing it.”

kfc2

May used his most recent film, Kids for Cash, as an example of what he means by “dynamic.” He does not believe that any story should be presented from a single side, because much like the reality he is trying to capture, people on both sides of a story present sometimes opposing perspectives. He insists, much to my unbiased approval, that he would not have begun production on the film without having the former judges appear in it as well.

In order to gather footage from both angles and to have both “villain” and “victim” appear in the same film May makes it clear that the producer must maintain absolute secrecy until the film is finalized. Because obtaining an interview from a subject requires building a rapport and earning that person’s trust, the discovery of an interaction between the film-maker and the subject’s offender can cause emotional repercussions (I assume), or even negatively affect the promotion of a film.  Furthermore, if the subjects suspect that an undesirable contact is being interviewed, their responses will be less genuine and the project will lose its integrity.

A hazard of attempting to film active stories is that they can be extremely unpredictable because they develop as the project is being filmed. “You know it’s going to be a wild ride; you have no idea where the story is going. You just need to keep assessing and reassessing the footage,” May said.

As an example, during former Judge Ciavarella’s trial, an outraged mother burst onto the scene to confront Ciavarella on the courthouse steps. She began raging at him—who she blamed for the tragic suicide of her only child—and her raw, emotional outburst intrigued May greatly. He knew then, roughly two years into filming, that he had to include this woman in the movie.

 Because of the wide variety of people filmed, some characters must be cut entirely for the sake of time constraints. May filmed many people who were involved in the Kids for Cash scandal who did not make it past the editing room. His explanation was that, while initially the story may not be clear, once it begins developing and gaining prevalence, filmmakers must decide which “characters” contribute directly to the overall theme or point.

There is also a certain sensitivity involved regarding what the subjects choose to divulge. According to May, unlike reality shows, the subjects’ interviews cannot be altered to take statements out of context. It is a careful science conveying the subjects’ meaning precisely as intended.

After filming is complete, the editing process can take longer than a fictional narrative because of the “sheer mountain of material.” At one point he had three editors, five assistants, and an assistant editor working on the project at a single time.

Once the film has been released and is in its final stages, May initially feels “exhilaration,” but he quickly explained, “…if there’s a lot of money owed, I worry to death. ‘Can we pay people back?’ ‘What will people think [of the film]?’ ‘What will critics say?’” May spends the few months after a release fretting about the film’s success.

Another big source of anxiety for May is sharing the film with its subjects. “When you put the ‘villain’ and ‘victims’ in the same film, you have to be worried about the victim’s response. The product can take a very human toll, but hopefully the movie will advance the healing of the people involved.”

While May recognizes the necessity of promoting his movies, he does stress the importance of moving on to begin development of another project. He indicates that some of his colleagues have recommended taking a break between projects, but in an admirable admission of dedication to his art, May claims that, “You need to be doing it[film-making]…you need to keep moving forward.”

In regard to other potential projects, May clarified that Kids for Cash is his first directorial credit, a role in which he is beginning to gain confidence. He is now considering taking up the mantle of director again for future projects. Either way, May does not plan to linger long in the ether of “between projects.”

Finally, May provided some useful advice for aspiring writers, story-tellers, and prospective film-makers alike:

“A film is the most collaborative art form there is; you have to be a good collaborator.” All of the people involved in the production of the film are necessary to create a successful product. You have to be open to criticism, willing to work with others, and unafraid to change anything that isn’t being perceived the way you want it to.

With that in mind, he goes on to say, “Writers need to be very open to ‘trying to figure it out.’ When we give notes and people contend every note—Don’t! Try to figure out why people are saying what it is that they are saying. Embrace the collaborative process and embrace the notes that people are giving you. Decide whether you want them to feel that way, and if you don’t, figure out how to change it.”

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Then & Now: Q&A with Dawn Zera

January 8, 2014
Dawn Zera

Dawn Zera

Then & Now: Q&A with Dawn Zera         

By Heather Lowery

Writer, editor, and instructor Dawn Zera is a graduate of the Wilkes University creative writing program. In this Q&A, she shares her experiences in working with Etruscan Press, Kaylie Jones Books, and Nancy McKinley as part of the education internship. 

HL: What is life like after the M.F.A.?

DZ: I have to use the F words here—fabulous and frightening.

HL: What did you learn from your internship experience?

DZ: How to teach! Frankly, I knew nothing about pedagogy or teaching practices. Dr. Nancy McKinley is not only a teacher I want to emulate and a talented creative writer, but also is a source of constant advice for those students interested in entering the profession. I still check in with her every now and then for advice and encouragement.

HL: Has that experience helped you get to where you are now?

DZ: Absolutely. Thanks to Dr. McKinley’s advice, her recommendations combined with other instructors at Wilkes, and the experience I gained during the internship, I was able to land two adjunct college teaching jobs even before I officially walked at summer graduation ceremonies (in September) to receive my M.F.A. (I officially completed the M.F.A. program in July 2013. By August I was hired to teach at the University of Scranton and also Marywood University).

HL: Any advice for those considering the M.F.A.?

DZ: Do it. It’s only an extra year, which means only one extra residency. You do not have to attend the final residency. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of writing an M.F.A. analysis paper with my M.F.A. mentor Kaylie Jones, and I am using the books I read for that M.F.A. as a source of information for a World Literature class I will teach this spring.

HL: What is your current occupation?

DZ: Writer, college instructor at University of Scranton and Marywood University, editor with Kaylie Jones Books, public relations guru, creative writing workshop leader for Penn State summer camp and local libraries. I enjoy doing all these things and do not feel it necessary (or financially feasible!) to limit myself to one at this time.

HL: What were some of your favorite things about the M.F.A.?

DZ: The people and the learning experience. This extra year gives students extra time to get to know people in the program better, do creative work under the guidance of a mentor, and figure out a plan for how to proceed in life after earning their degree.

HL: What were some of your not so favorite things?

DZ: I think each student should be judged individually for whether or not they can handle both a publishing and teaching internship. I was told I could not do both because they had tried it in the past and the students had not been able to complete the work. Thankfully, I was able to figure out a plan in which I officially did the teaching internship to fulfill my M.F.A. requirements, but switched my graduate assistantship from the creative writing office to Etruscan Press. I also did volunteer work for the Kaylie Jones Books imprint. All of this was fun and I learned a lot. In addition, the work I did for Kaylie Jones Books has been of interest to people when I go in for job interviews. Even though I am doing it on a volunteer basis, I enjoy it and Kaylie wrote a nice recommendation letter for me.

HL: Would you recommend getting the M.F.A.? Why?

DZ: I believe it depends on the individual. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution. If a student plans to go into teaching or publishing, then the M.F.A. is ideal – it provides that extra calling card that says s/he did the extra work of analyzing a particular topic, writing a paper about it and did an internship. In applying for teaching jobs, it gave me an edge over others with similar credentials who had an M.A. but not an M.F.A. In order to reach a decision on whether or not to pursue an M.F.A., each student has to plan for the future and ask themselves why they are in the creative writing program in the first place.

HL: How did you make the most of your experience?

DZ: I was a sponge and worked hard. Serving as a graduate assistant taught me a lot about how Etruscan Press, the Wilkes University creative writing office, and SenArt works. I also listened to good people who gave me outstanding gifts of their knowledge and experiences. Everything my mentors—Bev Donofrio and Kaylie Jones—said was remembered and taken to heart. Every story of experience shared by Dr. McKinley, Dr. Lennon and Dr. Culver was remembered. I sought the advice of faculty members and cohort members whenever I could and every single one of them was approachable and kind and willing to share their knowledge. Ross Klavan gave me feedback on a screenplay synopsis. Fellow cohort member Rachel Wiren, a college teacher at Baptist Bible College, shared her PowerPoint presentations that she used in her composition classes and offered valuable advice. Fellow cohort member Laurie Powers gave me feedback on a play and did pro bono special effects work on a film I produced. Dawn Leas recommended me for the Penn State summer camp position. Ken Vose, Gregory Fletcher, Sara Pritchard, Lenore Hart, former Etruscan Press editor Starr Troup, former associate program director Jim Warner—all these people, in addition to the ones already mentioned, took time to assist me in some way even though they weren’t my official mentors. In turn, I stand ready and willing to help these people in any small way I can.

HL: Anything else you’d like to add?

DZ: The program is what you make of it. In order to get something out of the bank, you need to put something in. Invest your time, energy, thoughts, writing, and anything else you can offer into the program, and you will get it all back, with interest.

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An interview with Lori A. May

December 31, 2013
An interview with Lori A. May
By: Heather B. Lowery
loriamay1 - web size

Lori A. May

A woman who can call both Canada and Detroit home is a woman who must be well rounded. Lori A. May, poet, performer, speaker, instructor, is a jack-of-all-trades—at least when it comes to the writing, marketing, publishing, speaking side of things. So pretty much anything that has to do with communication Lori has on lockdown.

Lori A. May writes across the genres, edits, teaches and travels as a frequent guest speaker. If you want to know how to save a buck she can spout out a list of fifty tips in less than two minutes. You can find her work in print and online with publications like Brevity, The Writer, Phoebe, Writer’s Digest and The Atlantic.  

Lori has a new collection, Square Feet, out in January 2014 by Accents Publishing. In the following interview, Lori shares what her writing process entails, details about her collection and gives advice to struggling writers.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And how long did it take you embrace it?

Of course I wrote when I was a kid and that’s really when the desire to be a writer grew within, but I’d say I started taking writing—as a vocation—more seriously when I was in my early to mid 20s. There was definitely a time when I wrote only for myself that transitioned into wanting to share my work with others and seek publication. That grew very quickly into thinking how nice it would be to do this in a full-time capacity. Once I had proven to myself that I could finish a book-length manuscript, it became very clear to me that I had to find a way to make this writing gig a permanent and prioritized part of my life.

What does your writing process look like?

crumpled-paper

It’s messy. From idea discovery to complete draft, there’s complete disorganization in between. Or, so it may seem from the outside. I tinker a lot and let things simmer; I go back and forth between projects and seem to be all over the place. Then, one day, I’ll have this moment where I realize how close to first-draft-finished a project is and I’ll wonder how it all came together. That sounds magical and it’s not at all. For me it’s more of a trust in the organic mess, that what starts off in clunky drafts gradually grows into something better. I guess that’s why it’s called a process and not something more definitive.

You are a writer of many genres. Do you see a merging of genres in your work?

At times, yes. When I’m writing poetry, I let the draft take shape but then I step back to see what the story is arising from the verse, then use that to revise and tweak. When I’m working on prose, I’ll poke around at the draft material to revision how I might improve word choice and sound quality—like I would with poetry. I think all writing feeds itself.

What motivates you to sit down and write even when you don’t feel inspired?

I remind myself how fortunate I am to write. To have that leisure to write any time, all day, or not at all. Writing is my choice, my pleasure. Sure, there are times that I don’t feel like writing or, more accurately, like sitting at my desk. Writing is work. It is never perfect, not in the beginning, nor in its final draft. It takes effort and patience and, as Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Inspiration is overrated. Persistence gets the work done.

SqFt_LoriAMayYour new collection is called Square Feet. Where did you get the idea for that title?

The title came to me fairly early on in the process. I had been working on a few poems about life behind closed doors—where we laugh and share secrets, where we grieve openly without shame. I found myself working on the human component, yes, but also looking at those domestic objects that surround us and either comfort or irritate us: utensils, furniture, photo albums. The title was a gift, dropped in my lap from the working subconscious, and once I had it on my tongue I knew I had a direction with the full manuscript. It rarely works that way for me, by the way.

You have a good number of poems that deal with co-existence: spouses living together, partners trying to make it work, family members visiting, etc. It is interesting to see how all of those relationships are different, and yet have the same struggles in common, accommodation and compromise being two major themes. How did you come to those conclusions?

I don’t know that I did so with intention, but at the end of the day aren’t we all the same? Aren’t we all after the same things—love, acceptance, a sense of security within ourselves and in our lives? These things are possible, sure, but they often require compromise. I think Square Feet shows how our lives touch one another—for better, for worse—and respond to one another, particularly in small or private spaces.

Any advice for writers who are struggling to finish a piece of work for whatever reason—boredom, pain, exhaustion, time, etc?

I’m easily distracted so it’s not uncommon for me to work on a project ten or fifteen minutes and then lose focus. When that happens, I give myself a choice: continue to work on Project A or shift focus to Project B and so on. It’s good to have multiple projects on the go. There’s always something to work on. Writing needs time to breathe and simmer on its own, so if something is giving me a hard time I’ll adjust focus and move on to something else. But I try not to abandon projects, unless I know I’ve hit a wall and don’t want to break through it. I think, for all writers and especially emerging writers, it’s important to remember to have fun and not put too much pressure on one’s self. The writing will come, in time, and it’s okay to take a break from something. Find something else that moves you for the time being.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m excited about 2014! I’ll be traveling often and working on a number of projects. I’m also thrilled to say I have another book coming out at the end of the year. In December 2014, I’ll have a new nonfiction book out with Bloomsbury. More details will be shared on my website, www.loriamay.com, very soon!

Where can interested readers get a copy of Square Feet?

I’d love to see readers pick up the book direct from Accents Publishing, but an indie bookseller can make sure the book is ordered and/or delivered. Of course, readers can also find Square Feet on Amazon or at their local Barnes & Noble. The B&N in Wilkes-Barre PA has some copies in stock, too. During AWP in Seattle, I’ll be signing copies of Square Feet at the Accents Publishing table in the bookfair (AA3) on Thursday Feb 27, from 12-1pm and books will be available there all weekend. Signed copies can also be purchased directly from my website: http://www.loriamay.com.


Photo credit for crumpled paper: acrumpledpaper.wordpress.com

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Interview with poet Loren Kleinman

December 25, 2013

Loren_NYC-8

Loren Kleinman is a young, American-born poet with roots in New Jersey. Her poetry explores the results of love and loss, and how both themes affect an individual’s internal and external voice.  She has a B.A. in English Literature from Drew University and an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex (UK). Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as Nimrod, Wilderness House Literary Review, Writer’s Bloc, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review (PLR), Resurgence (UK), HerCircleEzine and Aesthetica Annual. She was the recipient of the Spire Press Poetry Prize (2003), was a 2000 and 2003 Pushcart Prize nominee, and was a 2004 Nimrod/Pablo Neruda Prize finalist for poetry.

In 2003, Spire Press (NYC) published her first collection of poetry Flamenco Sketches, which explored the relationship between love and jazz. Kleinman judged the literary entries for the book  Alt-History: New Writing from Brighton published by QueenSpark Books (UK). She was also a contributing editor/writer for the Cancer Dancer by Patricia San Pedro. Kleinman is also a columnist for IndieReader.com (IR) where she interviews NYT bestselling indie authors. Many of those interviews in IR reappeared in USA Today and The Huffington Post.

Her second collection of poetry, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs,  is due to release in 2014 (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). She is also working on a New Adult literary romance novel, This Way to Forever; and a collection of interviews and essays that explore the vibrant community of indie authors called Indie Authors Naked: Essays and Interviews on the Indie Book Community  (Publisher: IndieReader).

Kleinman recently presented a two-day seminar at Sentences 5: A Conference on Writing Prose at Drew University in July 2013. She also owns and operates a small, boutique editorial firm, LK Editorial, where she edits poetry, offers social media services, and instructional design consultations.

Kleinman shares insight into her writing life and news about her latest book here on The Write Life.

Hi, Loren. What can you tell us about your forthcoming book, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs?

My second collection of poetry, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, is due to release in March 2014 by Winter Goose Publishing. It took me seven years to finish. The collectionattempts to bear witness to trauma and its healing process. Trauma survivors will clearly remain tortured as bodily wounds may heal, but the wounded psyche bears witness to years of reconstruction.  I’m exploring love and loss. I’m trying to find its language. The Dark Cave Between My Ribs will appeal especially to those craving an authentic voice that is at the same time raw and universal.

You’re also working on a novel, aren’t you? How do you balance the time and energy in writing for multiple genres? Have you always wanted to write for multiple audiences?

I just finished a New Adult literary romance novel, This Way to Forever and am seeking representation.  The novel explores how young people deal with love and ambition and the choices that come with each.  Other themes the novel explores are choosing romantic love over security, love as an ideology, and long distance love/dealing with long distance relationships.

Finally, I have a collection of interviews and essays that explore the vibrant community of indie authors called Indie Authors Naked: Essays and Interviews on the Indie Book Community (Publisher: IndieReader). Indie Authors Naked explores and defines the world of independent publishing.  Comprised of a series of essays and interviews by indie authors, booksellers and publishers, readers will get a look at the many aspects of the indie community, where publishing professionals of all types come together with the simple goal of creating something unique; something that speaks directly to the reader, no middleman necessary.  Contributors include James Franco, Hugh Howey, McNally Jackson Books, Sarah Gerard, OHWOW Books, Raine Miller, David Vinjamuri, Toby Neal, Rachel Thompson, Eden Baylee, Christoph Paul, Jessica Redmerski, and more. The book is due to release 1/15/2014.

I’m very territorial about my time. I take one day off a week from writing, which is Saturday. The rest of the week I work full-time and write after work. When I take breaks from writing, I’m reading a lot. The only way to keep to schedule is through discipline. I keep my energy by working out and eating a mostly organic diet. Your body is a tool. You have to maintain it in order to function at your best. Anyone can write. It’s another thing to be in the place to write.

As far as writing for multiple audiences, it’s always been something I considered, but have been too afraid to try. I’ve always written poetry, and thought I could never write fiction. Really I was terrified. Fiction is scary. It’s a beast. And you have to outline. You can’t mess around. I wrote the first line of something: Everything we know is fiction. Even love. I showed it to my close friend and fiction editor and he said, “You’ve got something here.” A year later I finished my first novel This Way to Forever.

My point is, it’s important to be verse in different genres. While it’s scary, you have to keep readers surprised. I cried through most of the re-writing of the novel. It was awful. But I did it.

You’re a busy freelancer, too. Can you tell me about LK Editorial and what sort of services you offer?

LK Editorial is a small editorial firm that specializes in select projects. I primarily work on press releases, media kits, bios, LinkedIn profile writing, and poetry collection edits. I also manage a writing program at an NJ college so I’m incredibly active. Right now I taking more time for my writing, and being even more selective about the types of projects I take on. Again, I have to be territorial about my creative life.

You also conduct an interview series and so much more. How has freelance writing and editing contributed to your overall writing life? Do you ever feel these activities distract from the creative writing?

I feel that they add to my writing life. It’s important to network, to develop your community and be a part of a creative community. The more people I meet, the more exposed I become to what’s trending or up-and-coming. I schedule all of my interviews at least 6 months in advance so I can keep on track. So, it’s also about planning out your time so you can get your own work done.

Essentially, the blog, Twitter and Facebook keep me connected to readers and writers. If you are writer or another creative, you MUST plug into social media. It’s the only way you are going to reach readers. And it’s not a sad truth, just the truth. I’ve met so many fantastic people via social media and through all of the interviews I’ve done. It’s an important aspect of who I am. Naturally curious.

I also believe in forming alliances, in supporting each other through the writing process. I mean, seriously, it’s scary sometimes and mysterious. I feel less alone when I interview someone and they say the same thing I was thinking. Or they something uplifting and charming. It’s great. It’s such a snapshot of life. They always make want to write more.  True story.

Where can readers learn more about your work? Do you have any links to poems or other work available online?

Readers can follow me on Twitter for updates. The best is to keep checking the website. I have sample poems on my site and links to all interviews and publications.

So stop by any of these platforms to say hi:

Website: www.lorenkleinman.com

Winter Goose Publishing Author Page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/loren-kleinman/

IndieReader Column: http://indiereader.com/category/columns/loren-kleinman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorenKleinman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorenkleinman1?ref=hl

Email: lorenkleinman@yahoo.com

Tumblr: http://lorenkleinman.tumblr.com/

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Then & Now: Q&A with alum Justin Kassab

December 4, 2013
Justin Kassab with Kaylie Jones

Justin Kassab with Kaylie Jones

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Justin Kassab

By Heather Lowery

Justin Kassab is a graduate of the Wilkes University creative writing program. He has authored a number of short stories and his first novel, Foamers, will soon be on bookshelves. Justin is also the Managing Editor for Kaylie Jones Books.

HL: What is life like after the M.F.A.?

JK: I have a novel under contract.

HL: What did you learn from your internship experience?

JK: I learned how to build wordpress sites, and platform on social media.

HL: Has that experience helped you get to where you are now?

JK: It has helped build a platform for when I become published.

HL: Any advice for those considering the M.F.A.?

JK: If you have other means of income and are looking to supplement it with adjunct [teaching], it is a good choice. However, with the current teaching market I would advise going for your Ph.D. if your goal is to become a tenure track professor.

HL: What is your current occupation?

JK: Currently working pro bono as Managing Editor of Kaylie Jones Books.

HL: What were some of your favorite things about the M.F.A.?

JK: The guidance of Phil Brady.

HL: What were some of your not so favorite things?

JK: Combining my internship with my GA position and giving up sleep for the semester.

HL: Would you recommend getting the M.F.A.? Why?

JK: It would depend on your personal situation. From what I am learning from job hunting it is a great supplemental degree, but there are few avenues where the M.F.A. is exactly what someone is looking for.

HL: How did you make the most of your experience?

JK: I connected with as many mentors and students as I could to increase the amount of writer interaction in my everyday life.

HL: Anything else you’d like to add?

JK: Don’t let networking opportunities pass you by. Connect with the agents, publishers, mentors, and other students as much as you can each residency.

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Then & Now: Q&A with alum Kaitlin Keller

November 27, 2013
Kaitlin Keller

Kaitlin Keller

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Kaitlin Keller

By Heather Lowery

Kaitlin Keller is a graduate of the Wilkes University creative writing program. She finished the program in summer 2013 and, while she’s continued to work on her writing, this Q&A shares some of the other ‘life’ moments that hold her focus.

HL: What is life like after the M.F.A.?

KK: A struggle to find a job.

HL: What did you learn from your internship experience?

KK: I learned how to write a book review and how to write for a variety of audiences.

HL: Has that experience helped you get to where you are now?

KK: It’s enriched my knowledge as a writer.

HL: Any advice for those considering the M.F.A.?

KK: Try something you have never tried before or never thought you would be interested in. Branch out. It’s worth it! Trust your voice.

HL: What is your current occupation?

KK: Nine-month-pregnant woman awaiting the birth of her first child.

HL: What were some of your favorite things about the M.F.A.?

KK: The research! I loved reading the dozens of books for the M.F.A. paper and learning so much. I also loved working with Phil Brady [from Etruscan Press] and Lori A. May [from Poets’ Quarterly].

HL: What were some of your not so favorite things?

KK: Writing book reviews.

HL: Would you recommend getting the M.F.A.?  Why?

KK: For your own personal satisfaction, yes. For career advancement? No. There’s no money in it.

HL: How did you make the most of your experience?

KK: I tried to take myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I pushed myself to do things I wouldn’t normally seek or want to do.

HL: Anything else you’d like to add?

KK: The M.F.A., like writing itself, is a wonderful experience for those looking to enrich their lives and intellect…but not their wallets.

 

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