Friday, May 13, 2005

Blog interview

My blog interview, with questions from Dave Clapper

1. How do anthropology and archeology affect your writing?

My profession permeates my writing, in many ways. There’s the obvious influence of subject matter - I’m currently writing a collection of poems based on archaeological burials, and I have a novel on the back burner in which the protagonist is a physical anthropologist. I also have a series of children’s novels planned, involving the adventures of a boy whose parents are an archaeologist and a physical anthropologist. Also, many of my stories and poems share a theme of change through time and a sense of the humanity in every situation.

Less overtly, my background in anthropology/archaeology shapes the way I see the world and therefore dictates the way I create worlds in my writing. I’ve been trained to pick up fragments of the past and connect them to create a picture of what went before, and I think that training helps me in my writing to use details like pieces of an incomplete puzzle, putting the right words together to reveal just enough of a hint that readers can imagine the picture for themselves.

Anthropology also gives me a good understanding of how similar all human beings are, regardless of social or cultural circumstances. We all want pretty much the same things and share the same emotions, and keeping that in mind helps me put myself in the shoes of characters that are very different from myself.

2. Are you native to Oregon? If not, how long have you been there, and what made you decide to move there?

I’m not a native Oregonian, though I might as well be by now. While growing up, I lived in lots of places, mainly in the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon. Later I came back and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene. I then spent twelve long years in the sprawl around Phoenix, and though I love the desert, I did not love the extreme heat or the heavy traffic and huge population. When we were expecting our second child, my husband and I decided enough was enough, and escaped back up to the sanity of Oregon. I love living here - the weather is much more kid-friendly (you can’t play outside when it’s 110 degrees) despite the rain, there’s lot of lovely green plants, and there’s much more of a small-town feel to our community than the impersonal concrete suburban expanse of the Valley of the Sun.

3. Do you think geography affects writing style? If so, what is the Pacific Northwest's impact on your writing?

I think geography affects everything in my life. I’ve always had a strong sense of place and am very much a Westerner at heart, despite having been born in West Virginia. I identify mostly with the basin and range landscape, having spent the most years in Idaho during my childhood. And that probably does affect my writing, now that I think of it, because I tend to write in a style that is spare and lean, much like the high desert I love so much. We’ll have to wait and see whether the forested abundance of western Oregon begins to creep in as well.

4. What market is your number one target to get into these days?

Hmmm, that’s tough, because there are lots of markets I’d love to get into. I’ve been reading literary magazines by the bushel and have found several that I particularly enjoy, so those are right up there on my list:

Quarterly West
The Gettysburg Review
Alaska Quarterly Review
Night Train
Hunger Mountain

If I had to pick what I consider my own personal literary coup, it would be getting a story into Glimmer Train. I think they consistently showcase solid (if not daring) work, and their production value is without a doubt the most professional, highest-quality, that I have seen.

I’m also dying to get a piece into Born Magazine, which is, I think, the fullest realization of the internet’s potential for combining literary works and art.

Other online venues I covet include:
Double Room
Café Irreal

I’d love to get another piece into SmokeLong Quarterly, too.

5. Which do you prefer to write, flash or poetry?

I actually consider flash and poetry to be two ends of a single continuous spectrum, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where a particular piece falls. I have written things that began as poems and ended up as flash fiction, and vice versa. In a few cases, I still haven’t figured out which label is most appropriate.

I like these short forms for several reasons. The first is the most obvious, perhaps - as a busy mom of two small children, I simply find it easiest to write something very short. I can often knock off the first draft of a poem or a flash in a single sitting, whereas I seldom have the time to finish even the bare bones of a longer story in one writing session. But I also like flash and poetry because the conciseness suits my writing style. I like the challenge of conveying a story or an emotion in a few words, the need for precise language, and the thumbnail nature of sketching a rich, full world by using both what is said and what is unsaid. It’s kind of like playing a game with the reader by running up ahead and hallooing back, then waiting to see if the echoes are enough to lead them to me.

Great questions, Dave! Thank you.

Rules for those of you interested in further interviews...
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions of my choosing.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. If you don't have a blog, you can post your responses in my comments section.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post, following the same rules.


Patricia said...

Thanks Sharon, and Dave too, I'll have to get down there and visit you one day, or maybe we can all meet somewhere in between. xo

bevjackson said...

Great interview!! I am always so interested in reading these (thanks, Dave) and your life in particular so interests me, Sharon. I should send you a poem I wrote about an archeological discovery (I read it in Nat'l Geographic and had to write it).
Your work is most interesting!!!!
Put up some of those poems?!

Katie said...

Very interesting!

I adore Oregon. It's just gorgeous.

Dave Clapper said...

Great answers, Sharon! I really enjoyed reading this.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Patricia - YES! We do need to get together one of these days. Thanks!

Bev - Thanks! I'd love to read your poem - feel free to post it here if you want. One of my poems is currently live at Zoetrope, if you ever venture into the poetry wing.

Katie - Thanks! Oregon is beautiful, though I'll admit I like the drier eastern part better than the rainforest. On clear days we can see Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens both.

Dave - Thanks so much for the great questions, it was fun to do.