Interviews

Holly Lyn Walrath on Tuning Out the World & Staying True to Your Artist Self

Holly Lyn Walrath will be joining us this summer for Rendezvous in the Rockies in Breckenridge. She graciously allowed me to ask her a few questions to find out a bit more about her life and writing and her forthcoming poetry chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl, from Finishing Line Press (available for pre-order April 9th!).

We’re so thrilled you’ll be joining us for a writers’ retreat in Breckenridge this summer! What are your thoughts on honoring creativity and/or creative play? How important are these to you?

I think a lot about Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards (http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Index-NBFMedal.html) where she says “Resistance and change often begin in art.” Honoring creativity to me means staying true to who you are as an artist and not chasing the market. This is so hard to do, because as writers we need to self-promote. But to me, the moment when we break free of the external world and instead let the internal world guide our process is the moment when we are capable of true art that will enact change.

When I feel a piece is enacting change in myself, that’s when I know it’s working. That’s what I strive for in creativity—break through, surprise, unsettling, resettling, a quiet dawning of realization.

You described your recent (amazing) flash in Fireside Magazine, entitled “knick knack, knick, knack” as one of your own favorites. Can you talk about the process of writing it and why it’s one of your favorites? I love that first line by the way…

I think the title of this piece is one of the best I’ve written so far, a nod to the old children’s rhyme, This Old man. Conceptually, I was inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki and his use of the Japanese tree spirits called Kodama, which appear in his film Princess Mononoke. But the piece is mostly drawn from the personal experience of struggling to put aside the demands of a parent. I’m interested in stories that put a new twist on the Mother-Daughter story. My own Mom has pretty much never known how to handle my creative side. I wanted to acknowledge that we don’t all have great relationships with our mothers, we don’t all want to follow in our parent’s footsteps.

Respond to this quote by Dani Shapiro: “If I dismiss the ordinary — waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen — I may just miss my life… To allow ourselves to spend afternoons watching dancers rehearse, or sit on a stone wall and watch the sunset, or spend the whole weekend rereading Chekhov stories—to know that we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing — is the deepest form of permission in our creative lives.”

Oh man, how do I struggle with this! Lately my schedule has been cram-jam full of lovely writing-related things that make me happy and give me a deep sense of purpose. But I’ve found it really hard to turn off lately, to explore the small, quotidian pieces of life that make it worthwhile on a deeper level.

The only way I’ve found to recapture this lately is going out canoeing with my husband. We paddle out on Armand Bayou and there’s always a moment when the water quiets, we slip away from the shore where people are picnicking and playing with their dogs, and everything we left behind sinks into the stillness. Cranes and vultures circle the sky, gators lurk in the shallows, and that’s how I turn off the rest of the world.

Anything else you’d like to share? Something we probably didn’t know about you?

Pre-orders for my first chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl (Finishing Line Press), start April 9th. This chapbook is a series of illustrated poems about femininity. Information on my website: Holly Lyn Walrath

If you’re a writer, check out The Weird Circular, my free e-newsletter full of curated submission calls and writing prompts.

I have subscriber-only content on Curious Fictions if you want to leave me a tip! 

A lot of people don’t know that I worked in finance for three years. My mother is still disappointed that I quit that job, ha. Now I’m a freelance editor, but I still get random phone calls from my family asking for advice on money matters.

Well, we’re glad you pursued writing (and editing) instead! Thanks so much, Holly, and best of luck with your upcoming poetry chapbook!

Holly Lyn Walrath is a writer of poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, Liminality, Crab Fat Magazine, and other places. She is a freelance editor and volunteer with Writespace, a nonprofit literary center in Houston, Texas. She currently resides in Seabrook, Texas. Find her on Twitter @hollylynwalrath or at hlwalrath.com.

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