Authors Talk: Sarah Viren

Authors Talk: Sarah Viren

Today we are pleased to feature an interview with Sarah Viren. Sarah is a journalist, writer, and translator working at Arizona State University specializing in the art of the creative nonfiction essay. She is the author of an essay collection entitled MINE.

In this fascinating interview she discusses her experience with writing from her working in journalism to her transition to writing literary essays. During her time as a journalist, she found that she wanted to write about things that “had no place in newspapers” and essay writing provided a new solution. The literary essay presents its own problems as the author is dealing with real people and Sarah explains how she has learned to write ethically about close loved ones from her sister to her children. Literary essays allow the author to “find ways to let those people have their voice be heard” while also showcasing the uniqueness of their own.

Sarah also takes time to explain her writing process from inspiration to research and observation identifying herself as a fan of the idea of “writing something and giving it time.” She uses moments of inspiration and wants to write honestly about herself and others, to share meaningful stories. In memory writing she says “remembering the self I was” can be hard and that in writing of others it is the “people that are outside of our sympathies… those are the people you need to write about.” Her essays are dark and honest and real, and though they are at times difficult to write she remembers “it’s hard work, but good work.”

This interview is a culmination of immersive student work on non-fiction narratives for ENG 509 in the Narrative Studies program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. In this class, students read longform non-fiction writing and listened to author interviews to theorize writerly practices related to a variety of non-fiction genres. Students’ final reading for the course was Sarah Viren’s essay collection Mine. After a semester of critically engaging with author interviews, they composed their own questions and interviewed Dr. Viren on Tuesday, November 19. Watch the full interview to learn more about her creative process and inspiration and be inspired yourselves by the reflections and advice of a fellow creative mind.

Sarah Viren is a writer, journalist, and literary translator. Her essay collection, Mine, won the River Teeth Book Prize, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and was longlisted for the Pen/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Her translation of the novella Córdoba Skies by the Argentine author Federico Falco was published in 2016 by Ploughshares Solos, and her co-edited anthology of the essay in the Americas, The Great American Essay, is forthcoming from Mad Creek Books. An award-winning newspaper journalist for half a decade in Texas and Florida, Sarah holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is now an assistant professor at Arizona State University.

Michelle Stuckey is a clinical assistant professor and the writing program administrator for the Writers’ Studio, a fully online first-year composition program in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Stuckey is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and teaching are informed by feminist and critical race theories. 

Kendall Dawson is a current Narrative Studies Master’s student at Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication and English Literature from Central Michigan University, enjoys reading, and loves her hometown of Chicago, IL.  

Delena Humble is a first year graduate student in the narrative Studies MA program at Arizona State University. At ASU, she also serves as the primary research assistant to New York Times best selling author, Jewell Parker-Rhodes. Delena’s passions include writing and studying Latinx identity negotiation, ethical story representation, and autoethnography. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two cats. 

Riley Hess is a second-year graduate student in the Communication Studies Master’s program at ASU’s West Campus. He is working on a short memoir about his trials and tribulations as a student-athlete in high school and college, as well as an applied project using persuasion theory to effectively fill out a general grant application form for nonprofit organizations.

Monique Medina is a second year graduate student. She is in the beginning stages of her Capstone project, which will focus on the relationships between parents and their trans children. This topic hits close to home as she has a trans nonbinary child and it’s been a journey in rediscovering who my child is, while building upon and redefining our relationship.

H. Rae Monk

H. Rae Monk is a graduate student in the Narrative Studies Master of Arts program. She is currently doing grant funded public history research in the rural towns of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. She resides and works in Mesa.  

Contributor Update, Christopher Citro: 2018 Meek Awards

Today we are happy to announce the news of past contributor Christopher Citro! Christopher’s nonfiction piece, titled “Root That Mountain,” published in 2018 by The Florida Review, has been awarded the Review’s 2018 Meek Award for Creative Nonfiction! Furthermore, three of his poems are forthcoming in the newest volume of Raleigh Review.

More information about “Root That Mountain” can be found here, more information about his forthcoming works and events here and Christopher’s poems in S[r}’s Issue 9 can be found here.

Congratulations Christopher!

#ArtLitPhx: New Voices Live Reading

Date: April 5th, 2019

Time: 4PM

Location: Trans Am PHX, 1506 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ 850007

Event Details:

Join us for a night of live readings from the Phoenix College Creative Writing Department. New Voices will feature student and faculty reading their poems, short fiction, and brief non-fiction pieces before a live audience.

If you’re a Phoenix College student and would like to read, please submit your piece to josiah.kilduff@phoenixcollege.edu before March 30th.

This reading is hosted at Trans Am PHX in the Grand Ave Arts District.

Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Ellen O’Brien

There are two qualities that every good nonfiction story – every story that stands out to me, every story that I can’t stop thinking about, that I enjoy rereading again and again – shares, and those qualities are intentionality and subjectivity.

Intentionality is about construction. I want to read stories that are expressed with clarity and ease, stories in which each scene serves a purpose in the narrative and each word perfectly captures the scene the author wants to convey. Intentional writing is simple and unforced. An intentional story has everything it needs to feel complete, nothing excessive, unresolved or unnecessary.

I come from a background in journalism, and the newsroom is where I’ve gotten some of the best writing advice for news articles and for creative nonfiction alike. An editor recently told me: I don’t want obvious details, I want poignant details. Tell me what moved you, what caught your attention: those are the details I want to read. Another editor’s advice: don’t be afraid to declutter a story. Cut scenes or details that don’t serve a purpose or that don’t ‘spark joy’, in the parlance of Marie Kondo.

The second quality, subjectivity, is about content. I don’t just want to know what happened, but how it affected the author. No two people see the same event or person or place the same way, and I want to feel a writer’s unique perspective. I want to know: how was she affected by the events in the story? What relationship does she have with the people and places in the story? Where do they fit in her personal narrative?

Our relationships make us human. We change and define ourselves in relation to them, and we seek connection with and acceptance from them. Our subjectivity makes us human, too. We can never experience what it’s like to be anyone other than ourselves, but stories allow us to imagine and to empathize. That’s what I want out of a good story: not just to know that something happened, but to feel how it affected the person who experienced it.

Ellen O’Brien is the nonfiction editor for Issue 23. She’s a senior at Arizona State University pursuing a double major in journalism and philosophy with a minor in Arabic. She’s passionate about photography, literature, foreign policy and epistemology. After graduation, she plans to pursue a job in photojournalism or news editing and to attend law school.

Authors Talk: Laurie Blauner

Authors Talk: Laurie Blauner

Laurie BlaunerToday we are pleased to feature author Laurie Blauner as our Authors Talk series contributor. She discusses her experience working with creative nonfiction in her work “I Was One of My Memories” in which she writes to grieve the loss of her pet cat, Cyrus, but the book encompasses much more than that. Rich Ives joins her to talk about the ins and outs of writing creative nonfiction and distinguish its significance and strength as a literary form.

Having appeared in previous issues of SR, Laurie has worked in poetry and fiction writing, now she has chosen to tackle the creative nonfiction genre with some advice from Rich Ives. They first discuss the importance of analogy in nonfiction and Laurie, when she began writing this piece, asked herself “how much am I allowed to use my imagination”. Rich responds to this question by highlighting the “complexity of certain kinds of truth” determining that “truth is not singular” which distinguishes the creative nonfiction genre from a typical research-based essay. According to the pair, truth and context are some of the main concerns of creative nonfiction. Laurie notes that the genre allows people “to become each other’s witnesses” providing a thoughtful insight to the writing process and how to approach creative nonfiction.

You can read Laurie’s work in Issue 21 of  Superstition Review.

Guest Blog Post, Judith Sara Gelt: But Some of My Best Friends Are Novelists

But Some of My Best Friends Are Novelists

By Judith Sara Gelt, Memoirist

Photo of author with family.
Source: http://www.judithsaragelt.com/about.html

Novelists don’t need to wait for people to die.

 

Novelists don’t have to use their families’ real names.

 

Agents don’t wear a cheesy smile and declare that a novelist’s true-life narrative “cannot be differentiated from others in the market.”

 

By creating names, places, people and events (and, well, whatever they want), novelists build a bulwark of invention to keep their agonizing, lived experiences at bay while concealing them in their fictions.

 

Novelists don’t create in a genre tagged with terms like “naval gazing” or paired with adjectives like misery as in misery memoir.

 

Agents don’t shake their heads and explain that novelists’ life stories don’t have enough of a “hook.”

 

Novelists don’t workshop their manuscripts in mixed-genre groups only to be neglected—

“I couldn’t really write my opinions or leave comments. I just wasn’t comfortable. After all, yours is so personal.”

 

When someone asks, “Come on, did that really happen?” Novelists answer, “Of course not.” (Whether it did or not.)

 

When novelists compose outrageous fictitious scenes, readers don’t flinch. When a memoirist records an outrageous real-life scene, readers complain—

“No way this happened!” “I don’t believe it.”

 

Novelists don’t confront questions like—

“What is a memoir, again? Okay, and who wrote it? But, who is it about? Shit, you must have had a really amazing life!”

 

After their books are published, novelists aren’t in jeopardy of family and friends ostracizing them or of being disowned. They don’t witness their families and friends sob and dodge others when their lives are exposed.

 

Okeydokey, novelists, bring it on!

Authors Talk: Maggie Kast

Today we are pleased to feature author Maggie Kast as our Authors Talk series contributor. Maggie asks what imagination is and how it plays its “particular and equal role in the project of gaining knowledge.”

She quotes Michael Chabon’s author’s note to his novel Moonglow, a work based on facts except where they “they refused to conform with memory [or] narrative purpose.” While not displacing critical thought, narrative imagination can “make the familiar strange” and thus reach new vision.

You can read and listen to Maggie’s essay “The House Will Burn” in Superstition Review, Issue 19.

Contributor Update: Sherrie Flick

"Contagious Empathy"Today we are pleased to share news about past contributor Sherrie Flick. Sherrie’s essay “Contagious Empathy” has been recently featured in Creative Nonfiction’s Fall Science and Religion Issue. The essay can be read on their website here. Purchase Creative Nonfiction’s Issue 65 by clicking here.

To read “Not Talking About Sage” by Sherrie in Issue 10 of Superstition Review click here.

Authors Talk: Alaina Symanovich

Today we are pleased to feature author Alaina Symanovich as our Authors Talk series contributor. Alaina reflects on a question posed to her by one of her students: how can one’s writing be gloomy and melancholy while they’re usually the happiest person in a room?

By considering this question—along with “Out of the Box” and another essay, “Holy Ground,” published in storySouth— she muses on the importance of creative nonfiction. Alaina explains that creative nonfiction can be an entry point into somebody’s feelings and by extension, an opportunity to feel less alone. So while this talk is “rambling about [Alaina’s] high school students and their forlorn love lives” in a way, it is also a candid, funny, and thought-provoking look at the work that creative nonfiction does.

You can read and listen to “Out of the Box” by Alaina Symanovich in Superstition Review, Issue 19.

Authors Talk: Emily Townsend

Today we are pleased to feature author Emily Townsend as our Authors Talk series contributor. Emily speaks about finding her place in creative nonfiction, her “arbitrary” research process, and her complicated relationship with honeybees.

Emily captures the beauty of nonfiction writing concisely by noting its unique ability to allow writers to “untangling facts that [are] often left undiscovered.” Her podcast ranges from eloquent tidbits to candidly pointing out personal weaknesses in a way that makes the recording just as engaging and thought-provoking as her essay.

You can read Emily’s essay and hear her read it aloud in Superstition Review Issue 17.