Interview with Kathryn Mattingly by Renee Emerson
Renee Emerson earned her MFA in poetry from Boston University, where she was also awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2009. She is the author of Keeping Me Still, forthcoming from Winter Goose Publishing (2014).
Pen, pencil, computer, or typewriter?
Definitely computer. I just bought a brand new state of the art MacBook Pro to replace my four year old one (not old in Apple years). I gave it to my husband and he is thrilled.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing my whole life. I wrote short stories in elementary school that won me some recognition in kid contests. I wrote for the high school newspaper under an alias so I could be free to voice my opinion about controversial subjects at the time. In college I had quite a bit of poetry published in the University of Oregon English Department Literary Journals. Once my children were half grown, I returned to school for a graduate degree in education, to begin a career as an educator. That’s also when I began writing novels.
How have you prepared to be the best writer possible?
I took a lot of English and literature courses in college. Throughout the decade where I began to write seriously I continually attended writing retreats, workshops and conferences. I studied under a different New York Times best selling author each of the five years I attended the Maui Writer’s Retreat. It is a satisfying experience on many levels for a fledgling writer to be mentored by a successful author. I also read a lot of books on writing, recommended by authors I studied under at these and other retreats, or mentioned at conferences I attended.
Tell me about any awards and recognition you’ve received for your writing.
My debut novel, Benjamin, was a New Century Quarterly Finalist and four of my short stories have won awards for excellence by various publishers. My whole short story collection won an award from Carpe Diem Press, and they were going to publish it but then went bankrupt at the last minute. That was somewhat heartbreaking. The good news is that Winter Goose (my publisher) is releasing the collection this January under a new name and with some additional stories in it.
Who has influenced you as a writer and what authors do you enjoy reading?
I have been influenced by many different authors and read a large variety of books and genres. I have always been a prolific reader. I would say that lately I am leaning toward literary fiction novels that give me deeply complex characters trying to maneuver their way through a landmine of complications that have suddenly destroyed their everyday world as they once knew it. These are the situations in life that cause us to examine who we really are and to either grow or shrink as individuals. This by the way, is also the type of book I write. Some examples would be Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay, The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark, Little Bee by Chris Cleave and The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison.
What is your writing process like? Do you write everyday or when the muse strikes?
I feel the need to write every day whether it is fiction, a blog post, an article about someone or a long personal email to an old friend – whatever is on my mind. I do far more editing however than original writing on any given day. I just finished editing my short story collection and now I will continue to polish my next novel.
What is the best advice you have ever gotten about writing?
The best advise is a quote that was given to me by my first writing mentor, Elizabeth Engstrom (who wrote Lizzie Borden). I have kept it in my mind and heart ever since- Persistence is the key. It is, by the way, the most important thing a writer needs- to be persistent.
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