May 23, 2012
1) Please tell us about you and your book. What is the genre? What's the book about? (If you have any websites or other links, please post them).
My book is a collection of prose poems and flash fiction pieces that both stand alone and work together to create a universal woman. Each piece begins with "A woman" and a verb and continues from there. My goal was to emphasize the complexity of a woman and communicate that to my readers. The pieces express a range of emotions, stretch from the elements of daily life to the fantastical, and connect a woman to the world. I begin with a piece that breaks everything apart, after which, each piece examines one aspect of the prism that I split. One of the best compliments I received about my book was from a male writer, Al Garrotto, who provided a blurb for my book, but later wrote an unsolicited review on his blog. He wrote: "Every man who cares about a woman at any level of relationship will come away enriched and grateful." (http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/2012/02/wisdom-of-being-woman.html) As an author, what better gift could I receive?
Aline Soules, Author
Meditation on Woman
Aline's blog: http://alinesoules.wordpress.com
2) Your book sounds wonderful. What made you decide to write about women?
I think I've always written about women in some way--sometimes more overtly, as in Meditation on Woman; sometimes more subtly, reflecting a woman's perspective (e.g., The Size of the World, which came out in 2000 or my section of Variations on the Ordinary, which came out in 1995).
I grew out of the feminist movement of the 1960s and the effort to pass the ERA in the 1970s. I've not lost that internal fire to draw attention to the nature of women and to women's rights, which I think are in danger of slipping backwards these days. The obvious aspects of anyone's rights are easier to pursue than the discrimination that's more subtle. The glass ceiling, for example, is much harder to define than a specific right that's quantifiable, despite the struggles our forebears experienced as they sought the vote or fought for the ERA. This may seem quite removed from my book, but for me, it's part of ensuring that the complexity of women and their many struggles with our societal norms and our human condition are brought into focus.
3) Tell us about you? What do you like to do besides writing?
As a writer of non-traditional formats, I haven't relied on my writing to earn a living. I'm a librarian and I hold the rank of librarian/professor at California State University, East Bay. In that role, I teach, practice librarianship, conduct research and publish academically, and participate in my academic community. That takes up a good deal of time. For pleasure and another form of community, I sing in choirs. I love to sing. One of the pieces in my book is entitled "Sing." I wrote it quite early in my process because I am aware that many are silenced from singing, which distresses me. People used to sing all the time, in rhythm with their work. Now we sit at desks and face computers. For exercise, I like to walk and hike. I do my best thinking and get my best ideas when I'm striding along.
4) Do you have any projects you're working on at the moment?
I recently finished a 30-page chapbook called Evening Sun: A Widow's Journey, which I hope will be published sometime this year. These are poems in the more traditional vein--with line breaks. Now, I'm plotting out a novel based on my choir experiences.
5) Where can we buy a copy of your book?
My book is available from amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Meditation-Woman-Aline-Soules/dp/1937536130 or directly from my publisher athttp://anaphoraliterary.wordpress.com/catalogue/aline-soules/
6) What is the most challenging for you as a writer?
The biggest challenge is devoting enough time to my work. As a poet, I haven't given up my day job (I am a librarian and professor at California State University, East Bay). I work by choice and I love my work and our students, but there are times when I just have to face the fact that I don't have as much time to write poetry or other creative work that requires reasonable space and time. This usually happens when I have student assignments to grade or must complete an academic paper by deadline (although that, too, is writing, albeit of a different sort). Even if I don't have time for new work at certain points, I still work on something every day to maintain my practice--editing, revising, planning, something.
7) How do you manage your writing time?
Mornings are best for me and that can mean as early as 5 a.m. I engage with new work and ideas at that time. I can be more flexible with editing and revising, engaging in that during the day or evening or in small "spaces of time," as I like to call them. I also consider walking to be writing time because its rhythm frees my thoughts. If I hit a snag, I head out for a walk with the specific purpose of thinking about the problem and something always breaks loose, enabling me to return and continue.
8) Can you describe your surroundings where you write?
My computer is in my living room and I use that space for my morning blocks of time. I face a southeast window that looks out over my tiny garden and I often see the day break as I write. I confess that the table around my computer is severely cluttered, but that doesn't bother me while I am writing, unless things drop off into my recycling bin! The rest of the time, I write anywhere--lunch break in my office at work, coffee shop, in bed when I wake up in the middle of the night, anyplace I can scribble with a pencil or pen or get on my little netbook.
9) Who inspires you?
I'm inspired by great writers, particularly poets, so many of whom we've lost lately, like Wisława Szymborska, who died earlier this year. I could list many, many inspiring poets--Seamus Heaney, Tomas Tranströmer, Adrienne Rich (whom we also lost recently), Jane Kenyon (long gone), Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, W. S. Merwin, the list goes on. I am inspired by any writer who writes well, whether poetry or prose. Alan Lightman, physicist and creative writer, wrote Einstein's Dream, which I reread every couple of years. Fabulous book. I read a wonderful book called Neutrino, by a British physicist named Frank Close. The writing was so good that I'm now tackling his new book, The Infinity Puzzle. And the classics--Chekhov, De Maupassant, Dickens, Trollope. Any good writing is a gift.
10) Do you have any last words for a beginning writer?
Elmore Leonard once gave a keynote address at a conference I attended. I don't remember his speech, but I do remember the Q&A that followed. A young man asked him what he did about writers' block. Leonard leaned over the podium, glaring. "Writers' block? Writers' block? You either want to write or you don't!" This has stayed with me for decades. I'd add these points. Read. I am continually amazed by creative writing students who do not read. Revise. Most writers do not revise enough. Persist. In the face of rejection, keep going and develop a practice. Enjoy it. What's the point, if you don't?