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Ariel Chart Interview With Tara Flaherty Guy


 

Ariel Chart Interview With Tara Flaherty Guy


1.  Share with us your story of the journey to writing.

 

For me, the road to writing started – of course – with reading.  Doesn’t it for every writer?  From the first Bobbsey Twins book my mom gave me, I was reading words, learning words, cataloging words, and filing them away for future use.  But I didn’t just read books, I read them and re-read them, and RE-read them. In grade school, I read Bambi 26 times. I don’t mean the storybook version - I mean the Felix Salten novel – some 300 pages.  I still remember the first line: “He came into the world in the middle of the thicket…”  Words stay with me; they imprint themselves on my heart.  I’ve always written, since I was old enough to imagine a story and try to put it down paper.  Recently I came across stories I wrote as a kid, starting when I was about ten years old. Printed with a #2 pencil on blue-ruled notebook paper, they were all there, tucked away in a mildewy box.  In a different box were stories I wrote as a teenager, and in another, my scribblings as a young adult, typed on my old IBM Selectric typewriter, dotted with Liquid Paper blobs here and there, reminders of my abysmal typing. (Thank God for word processors.)  Clipped to a few of the pieces were tactful rejections from the fiction editors at Redbook Magazine.  That terrific publication was the foremost women’s magazine for decades, with a wonderful emphasis on fiction, and an annual contest for emerging writers.  They never published anything I sent them -- why would they, when they had the likes of Judith Guest, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, and Maya Angelou contributing?  Serious writing for me got lost in the quotidian shuffle of making a living for years, until I went back to college, and - one class at a time - finished my BA in Creative Writing.  It was being in that creative environment with writing professors I revered, and fellow students who were crazy bright and terrific writers, that set me at long last on the path to serious writing.  I was 62 when I graduated and started really writing, so for the shillyshallying-someday-I’m-gonna-write procrastinators out there, it’s never too late!

 

2.  As an editor I can see your growth as a writer by judging past and present submissions. How does support help you grow as a writer?

 

Support is everything.  First of all, support from a spouse or family who takes your writing seriously and allows you space and time for it is very important, in the most fundamental way.  Second, if you can find a writers’ group that is a good fit, that can be a priceless form of support. Look for fellow scribblers who are as serious about writing as you are, interested in your writing, relatively compatible in genre, and willing to offer honest, constructive comment in return for the same from you.  If you “get” each other in your writers’ group, critique from those who know you, your work, and your voice, can draw out a richness and depth in your writing that otherwise might go undiscovered.  Finally, support from a professional in the business, such as an editor, publisher, or an already successful writer is invaluable, in a spiritual and practical way. Writing is a very intimate thing; one has to be brave to offer it up for possible – or probable – rejection. Submitting a piece of writing for consideration is like tearing off a little hunk of your heart, handing it to a complete stranger, then waiting to see if they’ll love and nurture it, or hurl it to the sidewalk and stomp on it.  But if the magic happens, if your piece is accepted by an editor who is respectful and enthusiastic, it’s the best confidence-builder in the world.  It strengthens a writer’s belief in herself, in her work, and in her voice, which in turn engenders more good writing. But even rejections are bearable and can be valuable, supportive learning experiences if they are offered with honesty and respect.

 

3.  I preach writers need to take support and run with it to other markets out there. You have done that and are building an impressive bio. What keeps you driven? 

  A little success is a fabulous motivator, and successive successes are even better.  My natural genre is creative nonfiction, so while I adore poetry, writing it has always been a challenge for me.  Ariel was the first literary journal to publish a piece of my poetry and offer a generous word. That was the editorial equivalent of tossing me the keys to a Maserati and saying, “Take it out for a spin and see how you like it.”  So, I did - I took poetry out for a test drive and never took it back to the dealership - what a joy ride!  But seriously, an editor hearing your voice, seeing your spark, is so gloriously uplifting, it’s like a rush of wings around you, lifting you up to see new vistas that you couldn’t have imagined – then you want to fly there, too!  I wonder how many more mixed metaphors I can cram into this description…okay, here’s the last one:  I think the writing-and-publishing circle of success is self-perpetuating – it’s a mobius strip of motivation. The energy circles back and around and in so doing, drives your Maserati forward.

 

4. In your opinion is there a way to make poetry more relevant to modern life? 

Yes! Starting with making poetry more accessible, more approachable. This would require exposure - or better yet, immersion - early in life, and continuing on through the span of education.  In every poetry class I’ve ever taken - whether it’s a poetry writing or poetry reading class - sooner or later someone will shamefacedly confess to feeling “intimidated” by poetry, a disclosure that always starts other heads nodding all around the room.  It’s universal, I think because poetry is so unknowable, so big…to me, it’s literally indefinable; it encompasses everything from a sestina a to a limerick, from John Milton to Ogden Nash, from Beowulf to Hickory Dickory Dock.  For most people, at least those educated in America, trying to grasp poetry is kind of like the blind men grabbing hold of the elephant…If all you’ve ever grasped is the elephant’s tail, it’s going to be alarming when he swings his trunk around and starts ruffling your hair.  If someone has read only Longfellow or Walt Whitman in high school, slamming up against Sylvia Plath’s Daddy or Jericho Brown’s Duplex can be unsettling. That’s where the intimidation factor enters for many, I think. When you find a new poet who moves your heart, or blows your mind, you suddenly realize the totality of what you don’t know. But that can be changed through proximity - especially in the hands of a great teacher.  Find a poetry class and take it.  Get up close and personal with it. Poetry is relevant to this modern life that moves so swiftly, everything in constant flux, with nonstop sensory input. Compared to a novel or a lengthy essay, poetry is a snapshot in time; it captures the flavor of a moment, or a day.  It preserves a piece of time forever, in the same lightning-flash way that a gorgeous, intense still photo captures an instant. Just as a photo stops time, poetry offers a quiet moment, lets you rest in its stillness. It is contemplative. It shares a human heart. It is relevant.

 

5. Are you working on a book of poetry for the near future? If so, tell us more. 

I’m always scribbling poems, or at least fragments, it seems, inspired by an image, a conversation, a flash of insight, whatever presents itself.  I keep a “scraps and tidbits” file like most writers, which I revisit now and then when I need a prompt to write. I don’t have any immediate plans for a chapbook at this point - I’m still a novice, really, feeling my way and finding my poetry-voice.  I appreciate the encouragement Ariel has provided.

 

6.  If you have literary influences – whom and why. 


 I’d have to start with Felix Salten of Bambi fame, of course. Just kidding - although, if you discount the anthropomorphism, it’s a damn good yarn.  Let’s see…my influencers constitute an authentically weird literary buffet. A partial list - irrespective of genre - would include E.B. White, Herman Wouk, Wendell Berry, Stephen King, N. Scott Momaday, Mary Oliver, Michael Ondaatje, Maya Angelou, Liane Moriarty, Ross Gay…see what I mean?  I could add to that list but it already reads like the playbill from a fever dream. The only consistency across my jumbled list is that they are all outstanding storytellers, whether the stories are told in prose or poetry. Each one brings some kind of unique delight to my table.  In the end though, I’d have to say the thread is just this simple: they all move me. I’m a believer in Robert Frost’s famous aphorism:  No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  I want to feel moved by a writer’s words, and in turn I want to move others. What is the point of writing, if not to illuminate the human experience, to draw people closer?  This Christmas I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the millionth time, and was reminded that not only did the arc of Scrooge’s redemption in that little novella inspire self-reflection in readers, it heightened awareness of the poor in Victorian England and permanently changed public perception. In our own fractious, polarized times, it is my hope that as writers we can add a little warmth and light to the world, enhance human understanding and - who knows - maybe even generate a little goodwill.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. while i appreciate the interview I felt it should have included more questions about what it is to be a woman writing these days.

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    1. many thanks for supporting the journal and making comment on the work. while i appreciate your viewpoint I make it a point to avoid political forays that are not warranted. once that path is embarked my next interviewee will expect i include the hungarian green party member who enjoys coffee ice cream. Our first priority as writers and editors is to literature. And that universality binds us in ways all other aspects do not.

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  2. Inviting and insightful. Those are the qualities of a good interview. I must disagree with the last comment. This is the place for cultural warfare but rather cultural education in the least. i come to this journal because the editor stands his ground and doesn't back down or play games. We need a few more like him. Welcome, Tara. Fine job all around.

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    1. Thank you Chelsea, I appreciate the kind feedback!

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  3. i wholeheartedly agree. please leave that fake protesting at the door. writers are more than categories we throw our grievances at. This was well done and I sure appreciate it.

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    1. Thank you Ursula...I certainly appreciate your thoughtful response.

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