Editor Favorites: “Washing the Elephant” by Barbara Ras

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… (Read the full poem at The New Yorker website.)

It’s been years since I’ve read this. I’m glad to see it’s still online. For me, it epitomizes how crucial memory and imagination can be to our emotional lives, where the capacity for connection, hindered in reality, finally reaches its potential. Hannah Arendt wrote, “[p]oets are the only people to whom love is not only a crucial but an indispensable experience, which entitles them to mistake it for a universal one.”

-Kalisa Schweitzer, Senior Editor at Laurus

Writers’ Corner: Mentor Interview

Award-winning poet, Creative Writing instructor, and local workshop organizer Sarah Chavez discusses publishing, diversity, and the rewards of writing in the first episode of Writers’ Corner.

Author Q & A: Adriana Martinez

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Q:  Your story “Ten Cent Pistol” was vivid and terrifying. Have you continued to explore violence and trauma in your writing?

A:  It’s so interesting that you ask this question because I think that it ties closely into the way I view “Fiction.” The way I see it is that nothing is every truly and completely fiction. So much truth goes into everything that is written whether or not the writer intends it. This is especially true for “Ten-Cent Pistol.” Though I don’t know of anyone that has murdered their parent/guardian by lacing their drugs, I do know of many that are in similar situations that Mona was in. The story is nowhere near perfect and doesn’t do “the truth” the kind of justice I intended, but that is what I try to do with my writing - tell the stories that seem too fantastic to be true, and yet have so much truth in them. I try to bring the lives that seem to be on the fringes of the collective psyche and give them enough substance so these voices have to be heard. 

Q:  Have you continued to write creatively? Do you plan to continue to be a part of the creative writing community?

A:  Oh absolutely, yes! I absolutely will continue to be a part of the creative writing community. 

Q:  Has being published connected you with any new fans or fellow writers? Has it changed the way you approach your work?

A:  To my knowledge being published hasn’t

connected me with fans or fellow writers. What has connected me with writers and readers though is the UNL Writing Center (an amazing place, you must go) and my various writing classes. The way I approach my work hasn’t changed significantly. I suppose I didn’t realize it might. 

Q:  How do you approach your work? Do you have a particular process that you come back to?

A:  From what I understand, my process is not so similar to other writers I know. Most writers I know spend time each day writing. I don’t. I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and the situations they are in. For example, the story I most recently wrote took about 8 months of planning. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think about the characters or narrative arc every second of every day. Yet in moments when my thoughts wandered, I found myself thinking of the characters and thus they began evolving. I have learned to be patient. Really patient. As soon as I start trying to force something out before it’s ready it’s complete garbage. The characters, though it might sound strange, let me know when they are ready to be put down on paper. In an interview Karen Russell said something to the effect of “[writing is] taking dictation from imaginary people… I like it mostly.” I would have to agree completely with her.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other creative writing students? A mindset or a piece of wisdom that has helped you creatively?

A:  Listen to yourself and really hear yourself. Don’t listen to anyone tell you what your writing process should be, or what you should or shouldn’t be writing! For some, the grueling process consists of writing “x” many words a day or doing “x” many exercises really furthers their work. That isn’t the case for me and for a long time I tried to be “that” writer and I grew to hate writing stories. I would have this ideal image of what I wanted the story to be in my head and it never came out right. It wasn’t until I became patient and allowed the evolution of stories characters that writing became enjoyable again. I would also suggest reading everything you can. Everything. Cereal boxes, soup cans, street signs, fishing magazines, everything. Take every writing class that you can! You don’t think you’re a poet? Fine! Take all the poetry writing anyway! It will help you grow! Be fearless. I would also suggest finding a group of readers/writers that you trust. Those people are invaluable. I am so lucky to have the group that I do. 

Also, write smut. Shock yourself. Shock others.

A conversation between Neko Case and Sherman Alexie

 Herein, musician Neko Case discusses art and writing with author Sherman Alexie. You can catch a screening of his film Smoke Signals for free at Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center on Monday at 7 PM. On Tuesday night, Alexie will host a reading and discussion at the same time. Alexie is visiting the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on behalf of Prairie Schooner’s winter 2012 issue launch.

McSweeney's: In Which I Fix My Girlfriend's Grandparents' WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero

A humorous essay from McSweeney’s website on the trials and triumphs of the modern age. Here’s an excerpt:

The warrior closed his eyes, summoning the power of his ancestors, long departed but watchful still. And then with the echoing beep of his digital watch, he moved with deadly speed, wrapping his battle-hardened hands around the power cord at the back of the Router.