The weekend is here and that means it is time for another writer’s interview here on TMW. In case you missed the memo last week -for four consecutive Fridays TMW will be posting a new interview with each of the contributors here on the blog (scroll down a couple posts to see last Friday’s entry). This week’s interview is with Arrietty -ENJOY!!
- When you were younger, what motivated you to write?
My early writings were primarily poetry, and my two main sources of inspiration were my cat and rain. I would say my general writing motivation was sharing things I thought were interesting that I learned about in books or school. Poetry was a niche all to itself in my early writing life, and my motivation to write poems was trying to craft something beautiful that expressed what I felt about the people, animals, and nature around me. And I also loved to make my poems rhyme, no matter how nonsensical it made the result, so rhyming was perhaps another motivation.
- In the beginning, what types of things did you enjoy writing the most?
Poetry was my favorite type of writing and in some ways still is, although I also really enjoy reviewing books and writing literary essays. I wanted to write stories, but they were always a lot harder for me, so I generally found poetry more fun.
- Now that you have been writing for several years, how have those initial motivations to put pen to paper matured and changed?
Well, I don’t just write to rhyme anymore. I have also developed a passion for nonfiction genres, from essays to reviews to personal reflections. Fundamentally, my motivations to write have remained what they were when I was little: 1) writing to share information I find interesting and 2) trying to make beauty with words. However, my subject matter and inspirations have broadened and matured. I would say that a new, more mature motivation is my desire to help people through my writing. I think that developed a lot because of my work as a university English tutor. Sharing my knowledge about English and grammar and helping students improve their writing turned out to be a lot of fun.
- How have the types of things you write changed as you have grown more adept in your capabilities?
As I’ve grown more confident, I have tried to expand the topics I write about and push my comfort zone by trying different genres. My work has become more focused on writing advice as I have grown more adept in my writing capabilities. I have also learned to be more flexible about how I write. I try to be more informal in some of my writing and create a more personable voice, even though third person is my de facto setting.
- Do you feel that worldview makes a difference in the approach an author takes to their writing?
Yes, I think worldview shapes every aspect of life, including an author’s writing. What we think about and write about, how we think and write, our perceptions of other people and ourselves, and the topics and messages we choose to write about all stem from our view of the world and where our hearts lie.
- Why do you think this way?
I think worldview influences an author’s approach to writing because worldview affects people at their core, and writing very often comes from the core of who we are—or at least aspects of writing do. The way we see the world will shape how we portray it for others and our motives for writing in the first place.
- If yes, how has your worldview shaped your approach to the craft?
As a Christian, I aim to bring glory to the Lord by showing the beauty of creation through my poetry, the image of God in my stories about people, the truth that God defines in my essays and devotional pieces, and the wonderful, God-given intricacy and loveliness of language both through my writing itself and in my essays and reflections about language. To take a page out of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I seek to “[r]ejoice in the Lord always” and cause others to do so too (4:4). I also desire to bring to the forefront and cause others to think on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” for as Paul tells Christians, “[I]f there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
All around us, but especially on blogs and other rabbit holes on the Internet, I see so much negativity, criticism, and plain meanness. I rarely read comments but once got carried away scrolling through 200+ comments on a blog post because they were such nice, touching, uplifting notes. It all felt a little too good to be true, and sure enough, by around the 150th comment, everything fell apart and people started giving know-it-all advice and then retaliating and name-calling. I had to laugh a little because I needed this dose of reality, this sharp but sad reminder that sin can permeate even the “nice” things in life (for some reason, “nice” makes me think of that song from Into the Woods; what does that say about my worldview?).
While I cannot erase the blot of sin and should certainly not try to pretend it doesn’t exist, I think it’s important to fight darkness with beauty, light, and truth. Helping readers grow as writers, sharing information that might be useful, focusing on the beauty that surrounds us even during challenges and sorrows, and bringing joy or laughter to others are a large part of what drive me to write.
- In your opinion, are there personal benefits to practicing writing beyond just exercising your creative outlet (let’s ignore writing for financially motivated reasons)?
Of course! I think practicing writing has quite a few benefits. For me personally, exercising my writing skills helps me clarify my thoughts and forces me to learn more about subjects that interest me so I can share more about them. Writing opens up new horizons and lets us explore where our imaginations can take us, and if we never practiced, we would never go anywhere. Few people accomplish anything great without practice, and I think that’s true for writing as well. We need the trial and error, the writing muscle stretches and pain that come with regular practice if we are going to reap the rewards of sharing our ideas effectively or reaching our readers.
- You like to write poetry -what would be some advice you have for those interested in learning how to write poems of their own?
First, write about something you know well or that interests you. Don’t just choose a topic because it seems poetic. Also, you don’t have to always use a scorched earth strategy. Some topics deserve to be poeticized countless times, like rain.
Second, do your research, whether it’s observing a bird or discovering what material the Statue of Liberty is made of and the fact that the green stuff that appears when copper oxidizes is called “verdigris.”
Third, focus on rhythm and strong word choices before you try to rhyme. The former are usually much more important to good poetry than the latter.
- What poems would be in your top five of all time, and what do you find makes them particularly impactful/enjoyable/appealing?
That’s a really hard question. I’m not overfond of superlatives, but I’ll give you five of my top poems (not necessarily the top five).
“I Never Saw a Moor” by Emily Dickinson. I love Dickinson’s simplicity. She captures in this tiny poem the essence of imagination and faith and the worlds waiting to be explored within the covers of a book.
“My Kate” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This may seem like an odd choice. Probably literary critics would call it old-fashioned or accuse Browning of supporting the Victorian patriarchal ideal for women, but “My Kate” has always touched me with its sincerity. This tribute reminds me of people I know who do good for others in little, invaluable ways that leave an indelible mark and a hole in life that can’t be filled after they’re gone. At its core, this poem feels to me like a tribute to ordinary people who change the world in their own important way.
“Daddy Fell into the Pond” by Alfred Noyes. I’ve loved this poem since the first time I heard it. It reminds me of my family and tells such a clear, funny story that makes me feel like I’m there. I also have fond memories of this poem because I once used it in a Father’s Day card and had the best time pasting clipart raindrops all over the cover of the card. Daddy probably didn’t appreciate the card all that much, but the poem was about a daddy, so I felt that it was appropriate at least in its main character, if not in its tone or general details.
“The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy is beautiful. I love the picture of a tiny bird seeing joy and hope in a world that is dark to man’s eyes. This thrush and its uncowed cheerfulness remind me of the Carolina wrens I enjoy watching. God’s creatures are often wiser than we are. Hardy’s religious beliefs are a matter of debate and he seemed to struggle with Christian ideas throughout his life. But this poem is a reminder that even broken men can reflect God in their work, if perhaps unintentionally. Hardy shows how he struggled with darkness and longed for a hope that a bird could see but he could not. While this poem expresses the author’s doubt and struggles, it also reflects the beautiful Hope that really does exist and should elicit joy from our hearts as well as from little songbirds.
“Opportunity” by Edward R. Sill. This is a very rousing poem and tells a story that rings with knightly romance. My favorite part, though, is the theme about not making excuses but using that which is given to fight for a cause, even if winning seems hopeless. Kind of reminds me of Gandalf’s advice to Frodo in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring: “‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” When given an opportunity, even if it’s not the gleaming sword or the grand adventure we might have wished for, the real test of who we are is what we do with it.
- Who is your favorite contemporary author, and why?
If by contemporary, you mean someone who’s still alive and writing, I think N. D. Wilson is the winner. His books are fun adventure stories, and I love his quirky writing style and creative twists on fantasy worlds in The 100 Cupboards series and The Ashtown Burials. I think what makes his crazy stories feel real is that he draws on his own experiences as the initial inspiration for his settings, characters, and adventures. This especially comes through in Leepike Ridge and Boys of Blur.
Some authors who are close contenders in their own way would be J. B. Cheaney, Brandon Sanderson, Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, and Gary D. Schmidt, but none of the authors have quite the consistent pizzazz of Wilson, and I also don’t think they influenced my writing or literary tastes quite as much. If Lloyd Alexander were still alive, he would rank up there too.
- What are you reading currently?
Glad you caught me on a good day! My reading list varies quite a bit and might give people a weird impression of my taste in books if I were to answer this question on another day. I’m currently listening to Howards End by E. M. Forster and reading Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller, and How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.
- What does your continued pursuit of this craft look like going forward? Do you have any specific long-term goals or aspirations?
I want to write more stories and fiction in general. One of my goals is to try my hand at new genres, gain more mastery over dialogue and character development, and build larger story arcs. Mystery, romance, adventure, and fantasy are all genres that I want to explore, but we’ll see how brave I am. For a more short-term goal, there’s a story sitting in my drawer that is covered in crossed-out sections and handwritten notes and is patiently awaiting an ending. Another of my goals is to write a long poem. Perhaps not an epic poem, but something with a larger narrative than my usual ones. With my poetry and my fiction prose, I feel like I am more of a sprinter and need to train to become a long-distance writer.
Probably my biggest aspiration is to create a story and world that I believe in and feel is so real I can step into it and look around and just write about what I observe happening in it. I’m discovering that being a writer takes a lot of believing, imagining, and suspending one’s disbelief. And at least a pinch of something magical.