Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Sandy Longhorn

poet Sandy Longhorn
Sandy Longhorn is the author of The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths, forthcoming from Jacar Press, and Blood Almanac (Anhinga). Longhorn teaches at Pulaski Technical College and for the low-residency MFA at the University of Arkansas Monticello. She co-edits Heron Tree and blogs at Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty.

Laura Davis: What is your favorite exercise that gets the words flowing?

Sandy Longhorn: I love to use a word bank to get started writing. For this exercise, I read several poems by writers I admire, and I “collect” all of the fantastic nouns and verbs in my journal, scribbling by hand and allowing myself a few adjectives. I let these words fall at random on the page in a big mess. As they fall, words clash together and sparks start to fly. I circle words and draw arrows when connections leap up. Once I’ve got a good chunk of random material, lines begin to suggest themselves and off I go, drafting a new poem.

LD: How long have you been writing? 
SL: I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil and form crude letters on newsprint. My first official “short story” was written in 5th grade, featuring a group of kids investigating a haunted house; in other words, I plagiarized an episode of Scooby Doo. My teacher gave it a star, though, so she must not have been a fan of the cartoon. I switched to poetry in junior high so I could write righteous break-up poems for my friends, and I haven’t looked back since.

LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence? 

SL: I fluctuate between some background, instrumental music and a quiet house with just the rustlings of the cats inside and the singing of the birds outside as background noise. When I listen to music, my playlists include Yo-Yo Ma, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Steffen Basho-Junghans. I’ve tried to write in coffee shops and restaurants, even libraries, but I am hopelessly distracted by any kind of language or movement of people. I’m a looky-loo and an eavesdropper; I blame this on my maternal grandmother.

LD: Do you believe in “writer’s block”? 

SL: No, I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in fallow periods, times when the creative mind gets quiet and goes dormant. In this dormancy, new ideas are taking root, new inspirations and new models are being formed. It’s taken me a long time to become even a little bit comfortable with this phenomenon. Of course, if one finds oneself making excuses for not writing when the ideas are there, waiting to be heard, then it might be time to break out the emergency axe and get to work on the block.

LD: Beverage of choice? 

SL: Double-fisted drinking, I write mostly in the mornings when I must have a cup of hot, hot, hot coffee (none of this iced latte business here) and a glass of ice-cold orange juice (no pulp!) diluted 50% with water. 

Would you like to be a featured writer in this interview series? Email Laura for more information.

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