Showcased Writer: Victoria Kelly

victoria_kelly_photographInterviewed by: Bre Hall

“The Departure” from Issue 11

Victoria Kelly received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University, and her M.Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a U.S. Mitchell Scholar. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Best American Poetry 2013 (Scribner) as well as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Nimrod, and Hopkins Review, among others. Her chapbook, Prayers of an American Wife, was published by Autumn House Press in 2013. Her first full-length poetry collection, When the Men Go Off to War, will be published by the Naval Institute Press in 2015, as the first poetry collection in the Press’s 100-year history. Her debut novel will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2016.

How and when did you come to writing?

I have been stories and poetry for as long as I can remember, but it was while I was an undergraduate at Harvard that I began to think it was something I could pursue seriously. I was fortunate enough to take classes with wonderful writers there, including the poet Peter Richards and the novelist Katherine Vaz.

What was the inspiration by your prose poem, “The Departure”?

This poem is actually a true story. My father is a very intuitive person, and not long before my grandmother died, unexpectedly, he had a dream that my grandfather, who had died a few years earlier, came to get her. They had been married for over fifty years when he died.

Why did you choose to write the “The Departure” as prose poetry? Did you know it would be a prose poem from the beginning?

I set out with the intention of making it a prose poem from the start. I knew I wanted to compile a collection, and I wanted to experiment with different styles of poetry. I had been writing a lot of verse before that, and I wanted to do something different.

What genre of writing do you prefer? Is your other work similar to “The Departure” or different? How?

I also write fiction and earned my MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Fiction. My debut novel is coming out with Simon & Schuster in 2016, and my debut story collection will be published with Queen’s Ferry Press that year also. The Naval Institute Press will be publishing my first poetry collection, When the Men Go Off to War, in Fall 2015.

How have you grown because of writing?

I cannot imagine doing anything else. Writing allows me to feel like my “work” is something I am actually passionate about, something worthwhile. I also have a one-year-old daughter, and another on the way, and it is something I can do while also being a mom.

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.