Showcased Writer: Fernando Manibog

fernando_manibog_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

“Warm Sand, Endless White” in Issue 12

Fernando Manibog holds a Ph.D. in energy and resources from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from De la Salle University in Manila, Philippines. He has recently completed graduate certificates in journalism and evaluation from Georgetown and George Washington universities. He was an energy economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. for 27 years and presently works as a part-time consultant. Currently, he takes writing workshops at the Bethesda Writer’s Center, participates in creative writing groups and studies at the Studio Theatre’s Acting Conservatory. His work has been published in Silk Road Review, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and the Bethesda Writer’s Center Workshop and Event Guide.

What compelled you to write your nonfiction piece, “Warm Sand, Endless White”?

My archenemy from elementary school provoked it. We in the diaspora were trying by email to organize a big reunion in our Philippine hometown when suddenly he asked: “How many of us are still around?”  I was shocked by the responses.  Husky Nora and Hunky Rudy, Frisky Nick and Flaming Jimmy—they and many more have died in their early-50s, done in no doubt by too much pork fat and fried rice.  Only the carrot and celery eaters were left standing. When I got the final invitation, a big snowstorm hit Washington D.C.  So there I was, an empty nester digging mounds of snow alone, missing those fiery characters from my childhood—my kindred spirits who ignored many rules to grab the pleasure of the moment. I had to write about it.

How and when did writing become part of your life?

College, I guess.  I enjoyed writing term papers.  So much that classmates bribed me to do theirs. But my Aha! moment came when my Philosophy professor assigned us a paper on existentialism, and graded my piece an “A minus with a grudge, because this is a literary, not an academic piece.”  Not wanting to go hungry for the rest of my life, I peddled the academic writing part, and secretly wrote journals to quench the literary part. It was only in these past 10 years when I finally got out of that shell and started taking creative writing courses at the Bethesda Writer’s Center.

Do you write strictly nonfiction or do other genres interest you as well?

Fiction has interested me recently. It is tough, I must admit.  I fearfully watch the hard, lonely work of the budding novelists in my writing group.  I have so much to learn from so many amazing and exciting writers out there.  How did they do that?

Does your background in energy and resources ever appear as a part of your writing? If so, how?  If not, why not?

Oh no, never. I am trying to ramp down that office-bound Ph.D. part of me actually.  It was a professional life that was wrenchingly surrendered to pleasing others. Life’s last trimester should be fully and creatively mine—to play.

On a daily basis, what inspires you to write?

People.  I love watching people as they morph behind appearances and pursue their barely concealable goals.  I love them funny or strange, heroic or vile.  I can’t stop wondering what 11 million tons of gray matter could possibly hide and might reveal.  That’s from 7.3 billion earthlings each having about 3 pounds of brain.  Except that dreams and secrets are probably not in the head, but in the heart. And that can’t be measured. So I write to find out how deep and eternal it all can be.

Showcased Writer: Terry Madden

terry_madden_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

Three Wells of the Sea from Issue 12

Terry Madden Maulhardt is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, has wandered the lands of historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction.  With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school.

As a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, Terry Madden has written historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction. With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school. She enjoys sharing the night sky with young people, encouraging them to look beyond what Carl Sagan called our pale blue dot. She is equally immersed in ancient history and mythology, as she is in terraforming and space exploration.

Terry’s science fiction appears in volume 30 of the Writers of the Future Anthology. She is currently at work on the second novel in her fantasy series, Three Wells of the Sea.

How and when did you come to writing?

I started writing in high school, mostly poetry, but set it aside when I went to college. I had a professor for a poetry class who urged me to take his creative writing class, but alas, as a pre-med major, I had no room in my schedule. I have often thought I would have come to writing fiction much earlier had I taken that class. As it was, I didn’t start writing until I quit my day job as a research lab technician to stay home with my first child. I started writing when she napped every day. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just wrote scenes. This started me on a ten year quest to learn how to put a story together. It led me to dabble in screenwriting where I had a small degree of success before I set writing aside to teach full time. Thirteen years went by before the muse came knocking again.

What was the inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea?

My inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea was a conversation with a student. At the time, I was teaching astronomy and we had been discussing parallel universes in class. Somehow we got on the topic of online games as being a kind of parallel universe. We posed the question, what if the people you interact with in a game are really the dead? After many iterations, the idea developed into its current form, a heroic/contemporary fantasy novel, but the gaming element has been dropped entirely. I am so grateful to my student for pestering me to start an outline of the story. I had sworn off writing years before, and if he hadn’t kept after me, kept the “what-if” present in my mind, I’m not sure I would have come back to the craft at all.

Since Silk Road has received Three Wells of the Sea as a first chapter submission, have you continued the story of Connor and Dish or do you have plans to? If so, can you share a glimpse of what those plans include?

Three Wells of the Sea is complete and I am in the process of finding a publishing home for it. I am hard at work on book two, The Crooked Path, continuing the adventures of Connor and Dish in the land they know as the Five Quarters, a land where a murdered king is raised from the dead to take back his throne and repair the mistakes of another lifetime. The story will culminate in book three, The Salamander’s Smile, still in the preliminary sketch phase.  I am currently uploading installments of a “historical” prequel to Three Wells of the Sea on the writers’ website, Wattpad. The Wood is an ongoing novella based on the early people of the Five Quarters and is something akin to tales found in the Irish epic known as the Book of Invasions.

In between, I write short stories, mostly science fiction, and have recently won the highly competitive speculative fiction contest known as the Writers of the Future Award.  My winning story appears in the Writers of the Future Anthology, Volume 30, which came out in May.

Do you think writing has helped you grow in other areas of your life? If so, how? In what areas?

Stephen King once said, “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” Writers are the archeologists of the soul, uncovering these stories and presenting them to readers who recognize them as part of the collective unconscious, clues to who we are as human beings. My writing has been exactly that for me, an exploration of my place in the universe, and by extension, our collective place in the universe. I am an introvert by nature and I’ve always felt that writing allows me to explore the ties that bind people on a level I don’t usually experience. It allows me to live dangerously in the safety of my own head.  Writing is, like all art, a mirror of the soul for writer and reader alike.

As a teacher, you work closely with youth. Do you have any advice to give young writers, or young people in general, who are trying to pursue their goals and passions?

I am currently the moderator of a feisty group of teen writers who have formed a creative writing club on my campus. The advice I give them is to listen to criticism, but don’t take every bit of it to heart. Use what rings true and discard the rest, but don’t close your mind to input, it’s the only way to grow as a writer, and I would venture to say, as a person. Also, write many stories, don’t slave away on one pet project believing it is your opus magnum. Writing is an ongoing exploration and getting stuck on one project will prevent the evolution of craft. But don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up, it’s too important to your soul.

Showcased Writer: Vivian Wagner

vivian_wagner_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

“Concealed Carry” from Issue 12

Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Pinch, Zone 3, and McSweeney’s, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music.

When did you find writing? Or, when did it find you?

I began writing on a manual typewriter when I was a teenager in the California mountains, describing pine trees and blue skies, granite and willows, chickens and dogs. I loved the magic of words, the way they both reflected and created the world. Growing up in a sometimes chaotic household, I found refuge in writing. It was a way for me to make sense of things, to order things, to question things, to shape my reality.

What motivated you to write your nonfiction piece, “Concealed Carry”, and submit it to Silk Road?

Since my father’s suicide several years ago, much of my writing has circled around his death, and “Concealed Carry” is part of that work. I was estranged from him for a number of years, but he always read my published writing, and sometimes I’d get emails and letters from him commenting on or reacting to my essays. Now that he’s gone, my writing still feels like a conversation with him. I sent this essay to Silk Road in part because I liked the name of the journal. I’ve always loved the way that the Silk Road, as a historical and mythological entity, breaks down boundaries between notions of “East” and “West.” My father was from Hungary, and I’m fascinated by the way that region is a crossroads between Asia and Europe. Since this is an essay about my father, Silk Road felt like a good home for it.

“Concealed Carry” can be considered a shorter piece of writing. Did you find it difficult or easy to keep the story brief?

I feel most comfortable, lately, with flash nonfiction and lyric essays. I like their momentary nature, the way they allow me to focus on fleeting details. Since I’m still in the midst of grieving for my father, I find it difficult to write long, coherent narratives about him. Maybe someday I’ll be at that point, but for the time being I’m more drawn to writing shorter pieces.

What do you think is the most rewarding part of writing?

Writing every day keeps me sane. When I don’t write, the universe starts to unravel.

Do you consider nonfiction your genre of expertise or do you dabble in other genres as well?

I feel most at home with creative nonfiction, though I’ve become interested recently in the intersections of nonfiction and poetry. Some of my essays, like “Concealed Carry,” have become so short that they might be considered prose poems. I like hybrid genres, and I enjoy experimenting with new forms, new approaches, new ways of seeing the world.