The Writer’s Handful with Katey Schultz

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Harrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.

So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.

Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Our inaugural interview is with Katey Schultz, whose brand spanking new book, Flashes of War, was just released this past weekend.

Welcome Katey!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

Today is Sunday, April 28th and I wrote a set of custom emails to all the friends in my contacts list, Screen+shot+2013-04-24+at+11.14.04+PMannouncing the launch of my first book, Flashes of War. I didn’t do creative writing, but writing those messages felt significant for me, as I’ve been waiting to send that message for what feels like my entire life!

Incidentally, I finished the first draft of my novel in March and forced myself to put it into a drawer for 10 weeks. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done–it’s totally against my nature. But I’ve never attempted a novel before, and many writers that I know and respect (like you, Patty Ann!) have offered sage advice about allowing yourself to have distance from the work. 

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I remember writing a play when I was about 9 or 10 years old in Montessori school–something that involved a hound dog named Charley, I believe. More than the actual writing of it, however, I remember getting to organize my friends on stage and cast them in different roles. I think we rehearsed a few times at recess and then someone had a falling out, and the whole thing was a bust. But I remember the energy of it, and how exciting it felt to try bringing something to life.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading In My Father’s Country, a memoir by Saima Wahab. In order to write my novel (the one that’s currently in a drawer), I need to research the female, Afghan, Pashtun experience. This author grew up in Afghanistan but was educated largely in the United States and has since worked as a translator and researcher in Afghanistan during our current war.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

Some of the most important writerly advice I’ve received came from one of my mentors, author Claire Davis (Season of the Snake, Winter Range, Labors of the Heart). She told me to write with precision and abandon. I love the push/pull in that advice and I think it perfectly captures what I try to do on the page…to be intuitive and authentic while also being spot-on. 

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

Oh my, what a strange question! If the writing in Flashes of War were an animal, it would at times be an alligator (because it demands your attention) and other times it would be a mouse nosing through your pantry at night (because it finds a way in).

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Katey Schultz grew up in Portland, Oregon, and has lived in Western North Carolina for the past 11 years. She is a graduate of the Pacific University MFA in Writing Program and recipient of the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. Her fiction has also received recognition from River Styx, Press 53, Whispering Prairie Press, and the International Short-Short Story Prize. Schultz has received writing fellowships in 8 different states, including honored residencies through the Jentel Foundation, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and The Island Institute of Alaska. In 2013, Loyola University Maryland published Schultz’s first collection of short stories, Flashes of War, which features characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been well-received by veterans, civilians, authors, and foreign war correspondents alike.

Flashes of War is officially released!
Flashes of War book trailer
Website: www.kateyschultz.com
Bimonthly newsletter: www.feedblitz.com/f/?Sub=21824

→Thanks to Katey Schultz for this conversation; and thanks to you, as always, for reading! -PMc←

Say It In 53 Words

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As some of you might know, I have an odd relationship with the short-short prose structure. I love to read those that are stunning, remarkable, odd, moving, magic, entrancing, curious, and and and. (Think: Vanessa Gebbie here. Meg Pokrass. Tania Hershman. Dinty W. Moore. Carrie Etter. Katey Schultz. Stuart Dybek. Tom Hazuka.) I have written a couple of short-short pieces–in fiction and in nonfiction–myself, and am not unhappy with them.

What bothers me, though, is the idea some writers have that flash fiction and its close relatives (prose poem, sudden prose, short-short, flash nonfiction, etc.) is something easily undertaken, harnessed, mastered, and published. I would posit that it is one of the most difficult forms of writing to do consistently very well; its writers have to avoid the trap of the punchline, the narrowly-told anecdote, the cryptic instance with no resonance. How short-short and flash writers avoid these things is another matter altogether (you who succeed with this genre, please do feel free to enlighten us via the comments section of this page!) But a good piece of the short stuff is remarkably satisfying. Perhaps more closely akin to a beautiful piece of visual art than to the long narrative: it gets to you quickly, takes your breath, and then gives you plenty of time and space to look and look again to see what you missed on the first read.

So imagine my absolute thrill when at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 I found myself the lucky winner of two short-short-short-short story contests sponsored by Press 53. The 53-Word Contest is a weekly call from Press 53 for writers to submit 53-word (no more, no less–titles not included in the count) pieces based on a proposed theme. The guidelines are tight and loose at the same time, allowing for a whole lot of imaginative play within a solid structure. You should try it.

Thanks to the two judges who chose my pieces: Meg Pokrass selected “Things I Wish You Heard,” and Kevin Morgan Watson picked “The Night I Said I Was Leaving.” You can read them each via the links attached to the titles, and you can read the complete Press 53 blog with its information on other contests, new books, interviews, and many things booky and literary here.

As always, thanks for reading. -PMc

Words in the Woods ~ Returning to Northern Michigan

Gail Wallace Bozzano at Sleeping Bear Dunes, image from ICCA

So here we are again in Northern Michigan; have I told you before how much I love it up here? Beautiful, beautiful place: trees, sky, lakes, hills. And such interesting and talented people. Is it any wonder that Michigan fosters so many great writers? And not just the big names—Jim Harrison, Thomas Lynch, Ernest Hemingway—but those you may only be starting to know: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Michael Delp, Jack Driscoll, Anne-Marie Oomen, Fleda Brown, Jack Ridl, Aaron Stander, Alison Swan and and and…the list is far too long for this post.

Our visit here will begin with a recording for an interview for IPR’s Michigan Writers on the Air with Aaron Stander this afternoon, which will be followed with a 3-way reading at Brilliant Books in Traverse City. Join me, Anne-Marie Oomen, and Alison Swan at 7 PM (Friday, June 15.)

Tomorrow, Saturday, I will be signing books at Mclean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey from 1 – 3 PM. The Biennial Hemingway Society Conference will start up in this lovely little town on Sunday, for you EH fans.

On Sunday, Michigan Writers will host their awards reading for the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press Chapbook Contest. I had the wonderful opportunity to judge this year’s fiction selection, and I am honored to be able to participate in this event by introducing the winner of the fiction category.

On Monday, the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers’ Retreat gets underway. This is a really fine retreat, focusing on generating work—as opposed to others where the focus is on tearing work apart. Some very fine teaching writers will be running the workshops: Anne-Marie Oomen in creative nonfiction, Jaimy Gordon (National Book Award Winner) in fiction, A. Van Jordan in poetry, Philip Hartigan and I in Journal and Sketchbook. (There are still some spots available for the retreat by the way.) All of this will be directed by the fine and nomadic writer, Katey Schultz.

Following the Interlochen Writers’ Retreat, Philip will be teaching a printmaking workshop in Interlochen, and during this time I will retreat into my own writing.

Am I lucky, or what?

Once again, thanks for reading! -PMc

Driving The Dream ~ Katey Schultz’s View From the Keyboard

Okay, so I know you all have had this dream: chuck most everything and then pack up your car with a few scraps of clothes, lots of books, journals, a gross of your favorite pens, gallons of water, a bottle of whiskey and your laptop. Then take off. Drive. Dream. Write.

There are not many of us who would have the cojones to actually live this sort of life, though, so it brings me great pleasure to introduce you to someone who does. Katey Schultz is a writer I had the opportunity to meet at the Interlochen Writers’ Retreat this past summer, and have been following cyberly ever since. Now you gotta meet this woman. Let me introduce you:

Katey: Not too long after the Great Recession earned its name, I finished grad school and faced a market saturated with MFA graduates. About the time my student loans kicked in, I was laid off from my part-time job slinging coffee and decided the only sane thing for a partially-not-sane writer to do was hit the road. For three years. Today I’m 23 months into that 36-month journey and my view from the keyboard happens to be the Shenandoah Valley in Amherst, VA, where I’m a Fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Last month, my view from the keyboard was of parched Texas Hill Country, packs of wild boars, and a herd of 46 bison. Before that, I’d been holed up in a warehouse with a painter in Houston. Before that, nestled along the banks of Green Lake in Northern Michigan. Before that? Eastern Oregon…All of which is to say, my view from the keyboard that conjures any semblance of my current writing reality is something like the map I created using Google Maps. The letters mark residencies and fellowships I’ve traveled to since January 2010, driving most places with the exception of Alaska. I suppose it’s also fair to say my view from the keyboard includes my 1989 Volvo Station Wagon, affectionately known as THE CLAW, which has magical powers beyond metaphorical description.

Traveling and moving as much as I do provides me with immense food for thought and exciting possibilities for place-based writing. I tend to process publicly, using The Writing Life Blog as my sketchpad and then later incorporating what I learn about place into my fiction as I feel inspired. For over half of the journey so far, I’ve been reading, studying, interviewing, and writing for my current fiction manuscript titled FLASHES OF WAR. This collection is 29 stories told from the perspectives of characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To relax from the intensity of war-themed work, I explore my surroundings and blog about it. These two forms of writing seem to balance each other successfully. Mix in a little cardiovascular exercise, singing in the car, some wine with friends, and daily supplements of chocolate and you’ve pretty much got my recipe for the writing life.

Here’s a sample of my war stories, recently published by War, Literature, & the Arts. The link goes to the contributor page and from there click on Katey Schultz for a free download.

With regard to life on the road, here was a particularly popular recent blog post that demonstrates how place inspires my nonfiction. It’s posts like these that I feel certain will grow into longer essays someday.

Last but not least, here’s a sample of the reality of life on the road: learning to wear my business cap and market myself as a writer. I live on roughly $12,000 per year earned from teaching and fellowship stipends, plus a little from freelancing. I offer free content on my blog but have learned that in order to buy gas I need to have money and money can come from all kinds of services. I edit for three magazines (here’s my favorite one), teach students by correspondence, and most recently came up with Monthly Fiction, an affordable, fun way to keep writing, stay connected, and eke out a living. In fact, in true business cap fashion, if you sign up because you found the link on this blog, email me (katey.schultz[at]gmail.com) with the words PATTY ANN in the message and I’ll send you a free zine just for signing up.

Meantime, here’s an excerpt from the first short story in Monthly Fiction:

“Amplitude” by Katey Schultz

That time? We hiked along Pinch Ridge to the apex and climbed the radio tower at dusk. Ben didn’t know the way, even though these mountains belonged to him as much as they belonged to me. Two creeks south along the ridge, his mom’s trailer squatted on a cinderblock foundation—a Carolina Country doublewide the color of spent Levi’s and just about as worn. I lived with my parents at the base of Pinch Ridge. A stone-faced house with a white porch and fancy roof; something the Baptists might have cornered in on if it weren’t for the fact of property and bloodlines.

Ben’s mom worked nights at the sewing factory and he started junior year at the high school the same year I was supposed to graduate. He worked evenings bagging groceries at Hughes Market where it was my job to unlock the tobacco case anytime somebody wanted a pack of Camels. A month before, Ben’s kid brother overdosed on crystal and he missed a week of pay. The paper ran the story. Everyone in town said Patrick convulsed for hours in the ER, rattling the hospital bed like the rapture. “Some trouble, that kid,” my old geometry teacher said to his wife the day after the obituary ran. He stood at the checkout counter, talking as if nobody cared. “Hush now,” his wife said, touching his forearm. “Think of the mother.”

Two hours uphill and another half mile along the ridge, we came to a mowed patch of mountaintop and heavy fencing around the radio tower. “Don’t you want to climb it?” I said, shoving Ben a step toward the guard fence. The radio tower loomed a hundred feet above us. He shoved me back and that’s when I curled my fingertips around his belt buckle and pulled him in for a kiss.

Ben pushed me off of him. “Why’d you do that?”

“Shut up,” I said, reaching for him again. It was our first kiss and I was sick of waiting. He kissed me back this time, mouth sweet and salty as ketchup. I liked his soft cheeks and pointy Adam’s apple, earlobes like little shrimp tails just waiting to be sucked. He mashed my breasts around and I leaned my back into the fence. He wasn’t very good…

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Okay, friends–you heard it here: Katey Schultz will send you a free zine if you email her and sign up for her Monthly Fiction (details above.) And don’t forget to check out her blog, The Writing Life. Drive carefully, Katey; drive on.  -PMc←

A Still Point ~ Lucricia Hall’s View From the Keyboard

One of the best things that happens when you attend the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers’ Retreat in Interlochen, Michigan, is that you meet a whole new circle of writers. Sure, there will be some you knew before, or at least have read and admired–Tony Ardizzone, Fleda Brown, Anne-Marie Oomen, Katey Schultz–but I am referring to the others here. Those writers who are in the early stages of their work, some having turned their backs on their creative life in order to raise families, start careers, follow more traditional paths. And those others who didn’t know they had writing in them, but who have discovered through their love of reading and sharing stories that maybe it is time to try this writing thing out themselves. I so enjoy these new (or newish, or returning) writers. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Their desire is great. Their talent is surfacing in ways they might never have imagined.

This past summer I met many of these writers, among them, Lucricia Hall. She and her husband Sam added so much to the retreat (including Sam’s considerable talent as an opera singer–he serenaded us one evening and brought many of us to tears.) They sat side-by-side at each event, faces turned upward, listening keenly, laughing, nodding, taking it all in. And since this retreat escape, Lucricia has made a commitment to her writing life, in spite of her busy other-life of being a mother, a nurse, a contributing partner. And now it brings me great joy to introduce Lucricia Hall to you all. Here she is:

Lucricia: When people ask me what I do, my knee-jerk reaction is to answer I’m a nurse. But what I “do” is write. I am not a published author; I don’t have an agent; I’m not making any money…but I write. I write because the stories whisper to me and I have the privilege of hearing them and bringing cohesion to the various bits. I write for the joy of creating something entirely my own. I share it on my blog in the hopes that people will enjoy my creation. And if they don’t enjoy it then maybe it will make them think, talk or write.

Yep, this is where it happens. One day I will have a space of my own but for now the dining table will do. I work full time so my writing happens in the evenings. I carry my journal with me everywhere because I never know when an idea will present itself. Painful past experience has taught me that I will NOT remember it later. From the journal to the blog. Repeat daily.

Here’s an excerpt from my blog The Still Point.

Didn’t I Already Do This?

I am exhausted! What have I been doing you ask? Training for a marathon? Saving puppies from burning buildings? Making sweet love to my husband?

NO! I am babysitting my niece, Lizzy, age 10 and my nephew, Kael, age 6. Now, my kids are 19 (the twins) and 15. I have not had to wipe a poopy butt, fix a lunch, get a drink of water, or “entertain” my kids in years. I am woefully out of practice!

First of all, you have to have the stamina of an Iron Man athlete to keep up with young kids. I think my stamina is that of a sloth or, on a good day, a koala. I have come to enjoy a life of leisure and it has been completely ripped from me this weekend.

Liz and Kael got here Saturday around noon. I needed a nap by 1:45 but plowed through the fatigue and sleepiness to blow bubbles, color, play soccer, make bracelets, get 7 glasses of water, make dinner and then reheat pizza because “I don’t like this” was sung in chorus, make beds in the living room, play with Legos, play Wii, watch Avatar (the cartoon), announce that it is bedtime, get 3 more glasses of water, make Kael go to the bathroom before laying down a third time, kisses on the head, I love you’s whispered, threats of death if you get up ONE MORE TIME and then the sweet oblivion of sleep!

Sunday: See Above.

Read the rest:
http://thestillpoint-lucriciahall.blogspot.com/2011/08/didnt-i-already-do-this.html

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Lucricia, thanks for finding the time to share your work space with us. Good luck with the blog and the babysitting, and with the writing life juggle. -PMc←

Oh, Interlochen, I Miss You So ~ A Brief Summary of a Writers’ Retreat

How could it possibly have gone by so fast? Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers’ Retreat of 2011 was four days full of writers reading, talking, writing, eating, imbibing, walking, sharing, sleeping (just a little,) listening, and yes, drawing.

We are back at our house in Mt. Carroll, IL, and are happy for our own bed, our two crazy cats, our full-size refrigerator, our own cooker (as the British, Philip’s people, call it.) What I am missing, though, is so much. Of course, the trees. The beautiful smells of Northern Michigan, the lakes that are small and great. The creative aura that is Interlochen Center for the Arts.

I find myself thinking back to moments and people;

  • Ava and Philip with their heads down over their work on the reduction linocut print for the dedication of the Mallory-Towsley Building.
  • Dinner with Matt and Angela, their delightful children making us laugh and marvel.
  • Walking along Diamond Park Road and into the collection of houses near the lake, amidst the wetlands–a path I ran daily during my residency at Interlochen in 2001. A place that appears in my stories.
  • Meeting, talking with, and hearing the fine, fine work of my fellow faculty: Fleda Brown, Tony Ardizzone, Katey Schultz, and of course, Anne-Marie Oomen. (Oh yeah, and Philip, too.)
  • Annie finding her way in the poetry workshop.
  • Linda showing her chops as a real writer.
  • Jo Anne’s kind face and beautiful drawings, her collections of memories about travels and places important to her.
  • Joan lighting up like one of her own students as she made new discoveries.
  • Lindsey doing what she always does, writing her way toward understanding, and doing it so well.
  • Lynn celebrating her birthday with ballet turns, new drawings, a new section of work-in-progress, and plastic rings and cupcakes. (Oh, and two dead mice!)
  • Viki surprising me deeply and delightfully, despite my having known her for–could it be?–nearly two decades now.
  • Ferdy taking the risk and reading his work off his phone.
  • Theresa, Lindsay, John, Terry, leaving me lost in their worlds after their readings.
  • Lucricia and Sam, such a dear couple, each following their dreams and holding hands on the way.
  • Opera on the lakefront in the dark.
  • And Gail, dear Gail, on the other side of the wall, putting up with Philip’s high jinx and giving comfort and camaraderie just by being there. (And her writing!)
  • John and Meredith making the trek to hear us read and to hang for a while after.
  • Selling and signing books. Felt a little like Sally Field: “You like me! You really like me!”
  • Talking blogs with Kristen, whose own is both beautiful and mouthwatering.
  • Rachel making me feel as though my stories can move even the toughest of customers, and hearing her own affecting novel-in-progress.
  • Sharkie.
  • A hug from Delp, whom I adore.
  • An escape the weekend before the retreat (pre-retreat retreat) with Philip to Empire, watching the great lake roll toward the shore, eating marvelous food and watching junk tv and…well, you get the picture.
  • Dinner with a crowd of excited new friends at the conclusion of the week.
  • And perhaps most of all, dinner before it all started with Anne-Marie and David, two of the world’s best people (no hyperbole here) who are such a joy to be with. Anne-Marie has shown me so much about how to live a writing life of meaning, and David is evidence of how to live the rest of your life, too, with warmth and compassion, with generosity and good deeds. What a couple!
Yes, I’m gushing. And there is likely more to gush about. But for now, that’s what you get. If you don’t believe me, then you should see for yourself. It’s an annual thing.
Sharkita holding court at the dinner table. Everyone likes a big fish story.