E. Sedia lives in Southern New Jersey, where she teaches at a liberal arts
college, gardens, and writes. Her two cats have spontaneously generated in
her house once she decided to start writing and have been keeping her in
line ever since. She also keeps lizards and goldfish.
What made you want to become a writer?
I don’t think I ever wanted to be a writer; I started writing pretty late in life, in my early thirties. I suppose I always made up stories for myself, and there were just too many of them to keep them all in my head, so I ended up writing them down.
Was the journey difficult?
I am quite grateful to my friends and family who encouraged me; other writers and their advice and critiques have been extremely helpful (if occasionally blunt.) Far as obstacles are concerned, those are subjective – every writer experiences many rejections, lapses of confidence, and the inclination to surf the web instead of writing. But once you realize that this is something important to you, you do it. So no, I can’t say it was difficult, but it has certainly been challenging. And still is – I don’t think one ever arrives in this business.
Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?
Good grammar and spelling are important; rejections are not personal; sometimes the story is not ready to be written, so one should have patience to let it get ready; but, most importantly, luck and perseverance make a writer. While one can’t control luck, perseverance is something we can all work on.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
Just having stories to tell, and being arrogant enough to believe that other people will like them too. Also, if writing is important to you, the drive is usually not a problem.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
I think it is mostly being interested in the story. If I’m bored with a passage, chances are the others will be too. Passion and honesty is the ideal I strive for, and I think this is what makes engaging fiction. Whatever the book is, it should matter to the writer in order to matter to others.
How often will you revise and re-write your work?
It depends. With novels, a lot. I usually finish the first draft and let it sit for a few weeks; after that, I do the first read-through and revise as I go. After that, the manuscript goes out to my readers, and I revise based on their suggestions. With short stories, I spent less time revising, since short stories are easier for me to write and the first draft comes out with fewer problems.
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
It is pretty random. Sometimes, good ideas come in dreams. My story, “Simargl and the Rowan Tree” (Mythic 2, Fall 2006), stared as a single line I dreamt. It took me a while to think of the story to go with it. I read a lot, and sometimes an image or a single word might spark a story that is quite different from what it started as. But mostly, story ideas just appear when I need them. It’s the matter of training yourself, of always being ready to notice a good snippet of a dialogue or a nifty idea no matter where. I consider story ideas as I drive to work and back, in the shower, while doing dishes. It’s a mistake to think that writing happens only when one sits in front of the computer (or pen and paper).
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
Sometimes writer’s block is a good thing – you need to let yourself rest. Creative work is hard work, and sometimes the brain just needs time off. Reading and gardening are my usual alternatives on the days I just don’t feel like writing – but those are fortunately rare. Sometimes, a story confounds me, and I try to work around the problem – work on something else, or try writing scenes that come later in the book. Sooner or later, all the problems are resolved; they are rarely the true obstacles, but rather funny-looking opportunities to challenge yourself, and to provide for interesting alternatives.
Do you have a favorite book?
Too many to name, certainly. I’m fond of The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass, everything by Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut. Clifford Simak and Robert Sheckley were the writers that made me interested in science fiction. Ursula Le Guin, Jorge Luis Borges, James Tiptree, Lucius Shepard are excellent writers, with rich imaginations and impressive literary skills. I also should confess the love of many children’s books, especially Tove Jansson Moomin series.
I love these books because they’re all written with attention to, and interest in, both language and ideas. Also, all of these writers do not hold back – they write about things that are interesting to them and that they are passionate about.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
Late at night, usually between 10 pm and 2 am. I’m a night person, plus I’m at work all day, and then I usually have other stuff to do (like cooking dinner, grading papers, cleaning etc.) The added bonus is that late at night everyone is asleep and it is very quiet with no distractions.
What is one saying or proverb you live by?
“Do what you must and hope for the best.”
What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?
Don’t start because you think it will make you rich and/or famous. Don’t expect success. Write because this is something you really need to do. A writer must believe that they have something to say. Also, prepare to be discouraged and frustrated. There are no guarantees in writing, and success is elusive. Don’t start until you think you can do it just for the love of writing.
Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?
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