TWD Magazine 4th Collection Interview: Emily F. Butler — Poetry Contributor

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As an extension of The Black Lion Journal’s mission, The Wire’s Dream is a semi-annual magazine that values community, life perspectives, and different worldviews. Contributors were asked to complete a set of mini interview questions with the purpose of sharing with the readers and their fellow submitters a bit about who they are and about their creativity. All questions were the same for each contributor; and each answer given is unique, open, friendly, and candid.

About The Creative Process

What does creativity mean to you? And what does it mean to be creative?
That is a tough question! I guess I think more about the verb- to create- than the adjective- creative. Creativity is active, even if it occurs solely in the mental realm.

How do you make time for your creativity? Are you an early bird creative or a night owl? Or something in between?
For me, making time for creativity is a matter of carving out sufficient alone time, especially in the mornings. I know that if I wake up without any work or social obligations, I will be able to accomplish some creative work. I have a long list of projects. I like to feel like I am chipping away at them every day, even if that means doing something as small as thinking about my fictional characters while I do the dishes or drive to work. Sometimes that is all I can manage.

How much of your personal life and experiences shape who you are as a creative and as a person? Do you find that you draw much content from your experiences or have you worked to keep that separate from what you create?
Since I write poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction, my answer varies by genre. Poetry is often drawn initially from something in my own life, but the end product is filtered heavily through decisions about sound and literary devices, such that the end product only tangentially relates to the real-life inspiration.

I am working on making my fiction less personal. I feel that if I’m going to write about my own life, I might as well write an essay, rather than a story. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to know which genre to work in.

About Creative Moments & Inspiration

What is your most memorable creative moment, if any?
I have had virtually no luck writing in a group setting, whether in a class or a workshop. However, there was one exception. I took a fantastic, year-long writing class as a senior in college. One day our professor asked us to free write at the beginning of class. I don’t think he offered any prompt. I was tired, cranky, and didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I ended up writing a prose poem inspired by a woman I had seen on the street the previous day. It was one of those moments (rare moments!) when you write something and you know immediately that it’s actually pretty good, and that you will barely have to do any editing. I brought it to class the next time it was my turn to workshop, and my professor said that I should try submitting it to literary magazines. This was the first time anyone had offered that suggestion about anything I’d written. It was very encouraging to hear. Years later I did submit it and it was my first accepted piece. This was a lesson in the importance of, at least sometimes, writing when you do not feel like it. You never know what will happen.

Do you cross genres for inspiration? Which ones?
Ex: If you're a fiction writer, do you read and practice poetry? Do you also dabble in art?

Yes! I write poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. Sometimes I wish I could settle into one genre. I don’t feel well-read enough in any genre since I am constantly switching between these three. That said, sometimes it’s very clear to me that making progress in one genre, through reading and writing, spills over into another. For example, reading poetry has improved my descriptions in fiction. Writing poetry has helped me be more concise in my prose.

I play music and make collages, too. This mostly ensures that I never get bored. I fend off writers block by switching genres or mediums.

What/who inspires you the most?
The figure who most inspires my writing was not a fiction writer, poet, artist or musician. I am most inspired by Terence McKenna, who I would describe as a thinker and public speaker. I try to imitate his work, not in content or form, but in the way that he drew inspiration from every little bit of life. His ideas were the product of intellectual inquiry from ancient history to evolutionary biology to popular culture, culminating in truly kooky ideas which he didn’t even want anyone to necessarily believe, but merely to consider. I want to make art like that.

Are there any contemporary writers/artists that you admire and think should be on everyone’s radar?
(Who do you think has been undervalued?)

Most of my favorite contemporary writers are getting plenty of attention right now. No one seems to have heard of the poet Anna Moschovakis, though. Check her stuff out!

Tips For Others, Personal Goals

What tips would you give to those who have never published anything before?
I don’t have tips for writing except to say: read as much as you can.

If you want to publish, expand your reading to include literary magazines just like this one! If you like the work in a particular magazine, your tastes may align with that magazine’s editor. Similarly, if you come across a poet or author you really like, read their bio. You may want to submit to magazines where they have published. All of that said, submitting work can be disheartening. You will get rejections. It helps if you start with magazines who explicitly state their desire to publish emerging writers.

What goals and/or aspirations do have for your creativity? Where would you like to see your work?
I am hoping to publish a chapbook of my poetry. I would love to see my work in Spoon River Poetry Review, one of my favorite journals.

I am currently in the beginning stage of outlining a novel. My goal for that project is just to see it through to the end without losing the inspiration and drive to finish. So far I’ve abandoned three novel drafts at various stages. This time I’m trying not to rush through it. I think that if I take more time to outline, get to know my characters, and enjoy the imaginative process that occurs *outside* of the writing itself, I’m more likely to stick with it. I once met a local (to Western Massachusetts) children’s author, Jeanne Birdsall, who emphasized the importance of loving your characters because you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. That’s something I’m working on in the fiction realm.

I would also like to write enough songs for an album and make higher quality song recordings than the ones I have made so far. I’d possibly like to join or start a band since my music-making feels needlessly lonely.


About Emily

Emily F. Butler is a librarian and comedian. Their work has appeared in Halfway Down the Stairs, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Moonglasses, Eunoia Review, Cliterature Journal, and Bone Parade. They were a finalist for the Adelaide Voices Literary Award Contest 2018. You can follow them on Twitter @EBetcetera.

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