|Poet Samantha Duncan|
Laura Davis: How do you begin writing? Do you just dive in? Warm-up exercise? Daydreaming? Any rituals that involve smelling a drawer of fruit?
Samantha Duncan: My writing starts with observance and centers on small ideas evolving into bigger ones. I tend to look for beauty and art in unconventional places and find a lot of it in everyday life, so an idea for a piece may come from a tree in my neighborhood or an exchange I see in a coffee shop. I like to take what’s simple and expand it, perhaps beyond its surface level meaning. My first chapbook, Moon Law, literally came about from a discussion about how life and the law would have to be different on the moon if we colonized it. I took the trajectory of a fairly normal and straightforward relationship between two people and placed it on the moon. That manuscript was the result.
LD: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?
SD: My latest poetry chapbook, One Never Eats Four, took a while to come together. If memory serves me correctly, I wrote the individual drafts fairly quickly, then took a long time to do dozens of edits. I submitted most of them individually to journals and a handful were accepted, which was when I started to think about creating a manuscript. Grouping them was the hard part. I tend to be a little obsessively organized, and I think I was initially too fixated on there being a central theme to the collection, when there obviously wasn't. When I finally gave up that vision and turned my focus to multiple related subjects, instead, it quickly got picked up by ELJ Publications. Ideally, I prefer starting with a theme or subject and then writing the manuscript around it; in this instance, the reverse had to occur, as I already had months of material that was demanding to be put together.
LD: How long have you been writing? What’s the first thing you remember feeling good about having written?
SD: I've been writing since I learned how, as a child. I remember mimicking books that I read, starting with picture books (art was never my strong suit, so these were simplistic) and graduating to longer and longer chapter books when I began reading those. Despite writing from an early age, it wasn't until college that I felt I had written something that I liked and was worth publishing. I wrote a short story about a young, accomplished violin player who lost her arm in a car accident and had to navigate a different path for her life. I later expanded it into a novel, but in retrospect, I don’t think I had the skill to give the story what it needed to be great and publication ready. Another project I wrote that I remain proud of today was a short, nonlinear novel called Happy Blue. It was the first time a piece of writing seemed to pour out of me with little effort, and of all the fiction I've written, it’s the only thing I believe I could someday publish if I ever go back and polish it.
SD: Since I started publishing my work, it’s become less about cookies and coffee and shiny things. If I find myself procrastinating on work, I think about my published pieces and how they wouldn't have been accepted if I hadn't, at some point, decided to stop staring at a blank screen. We all know people who talk about writing a lot more than they actually write, and I never want to be that person. My end goal is to create and get it out in the world, and I remind myself the only way to make that happen is to sit down, ignore Facebook, and write.
LD: Beverage of choice?
SD: Anything hot. It’s a bit of a writer cliché, but I’m a Starbucks junkie. I have rotating favorites, but my go-to drink is a soy dirty chai. When my Starbucks card has no money on it (a frequent occurrence), I’ll have green tea. That said, I don’t discriminate – I’m also a fan of crappy gas station coffee.