This week, I want to wish a happy birthday to Myfanwy Collins!
In case you don't know Myfanwy, she's a generous, charming, and extremely talented writer, and she embodies those same qualities as a person. She's an experienced editor, having been the flash fiction editor for Ink Pots and a guest editor for Smokelong. She's garnered plenty of acclaim and awards so far in her career, having been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, longlisted for the Carver award, a finalist in The Journal's 2006 William Allen Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she also took 3rd place Honorable Mention and Finalist in the 2005 Night Train Richard Yates Short Story Award Competition for her story "Freak Magnet".
Her short story "Have You Seen Us" is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. And here are a couple of links to some of her work online, both fiction from Smokelong Quarterly and CNF from Agni and Lit Pot.
She was born in Montreal but moved to the Adirondack Mountains in New York when she was young, and she currently lives in New England.
I'm an avid reader of Myfanwy's work, and what always strikes me is how much emotion she's able to coil into her characters and plots. She brings scenes to life, not through overly-descriptive passages, but through carefully chosen, evocative words. And when you reach the end of her works, the tightly coiled spring pops with reward.
And Myfanwy, she is also a Rebel. Her haunting story "Marlborough" is one of the treats of the 2006 Best Book Awards Finalist. You can visit her online at www.myfanwycollins.com or http://myfanwy.blogspot.com. And while at her blog, be sure to check out her fabulous "My Secret Shame" postings.
1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do you think they've influenced you?
First, let me say thank you to for you interviewing me, Susan. It’s generous of you. Okay. This is always a tough question for me because I have so many favorites—always new ones added. As far as influence, I would say that reading poetry has influenced me in a big way. Poetry makes me pay attention to sound, to the impact of a single image, to the importance of heart.
2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?
My greatest asset is stubbornness. I will never give up. My biggest weakness is self-doubt, anxiety, fear. These two things play off each other, of course, and so I am an insomniac.
3) I know you've written short stories and creative non-fiction. Do you ever dabble in poetry? How about novel length?
I love poetry but I do not write it. I did in college for creative writing classes and whatnot but it was always really bad poetry. I also have some tragic poems from my twenty-something years. I have written a few novels—my first as a senior in college for an honor’s project. My most recent novel is represented by a terrific agency, who have been really supportive of me. It will be going out to publishers sometime soonish.
4) You're prolific. Do you have several projects going at once, or do you buzz through one thing at a time? Do you ever do a mix-and-match where themes from one story bleed into another one and then change what you'd set out to do? Or, do you have a strong idea of what you're going to do with each piece and then just follow that to completion? Also, part B to this question—not only do you write like crazy, you publish quite a bit. Does the grind of submitting ever interfere with your writing? Or is that part of the reward for you – getting acceptances?
I do have several going on at once, though I try my best to focus. If I’m focused on one thing and an idea for another comes along, I write down some notes on the idea and then get back to the main focus project. I like your mix-and-match question—I don’t think I do this but I probably do. Right now I’m embarking on a new project which is maybe going to be a novel in stories and so there I think this idea will come into play. As for having a strong idea about where something is going—I might think I do, but I really don’t. I’m always surprised by the end product.
The grind of submitting absolutely interferes with my writing. I find I cannot do the two things at once. I used to work as a project manager because I’ve always been (even as a child) focused on seeing one thing through to completion and then moving on to the next (but, as I said in Part A, I do not shunt ideas aside because of this, instead I mark them for the future). I’m sort of obsessive-compulsive and so to have anything half done drives me nutty. Okay, so what does this have to do with submitting? Well, I typically submit in batches and this requires research and printing and collating and trips to the post office, etc. So when I’m in office manager mode, my writing brain just doesn’t kick in—or at least I haven’t found a way for it to yet.
5) You also blog. From your blog comments, I can never really pigeonhole your tastes. Do you have favored genres or types that you prefer to read, or are you wide open?
My tastes are WIDE open because I am greedy that way. I love to entertained. I want to be moved. I want to be kicked in the ass. I want to laugh. I am obsessed with popular culture. I love television and movies. I love genre, I love literary. More, just give me more!
6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?
My mother. She is dead and having dinner with her one last time would be lovely. I would even cook so she could see how well she taught me.
7) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?
One CD (it’s a double CD—so I hope that’s okay): Yo Yo Ma / Bach / Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites
One DVD: Woody Allen’s Manhattan
Book: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8) Other than fiction writing, what's the biggest lie you ever told?
I guess it would be the time I was grocery shopping with my mum and I stole a pack of gum right while we were at the register. She turned to me and asked me if I wanted any money for candy and I said no. I knew that she knew I had taken the gum. It was a moment of pure shame. Okay, so that’s not really a lie but it sort of is.
9) Suppose you can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?
Respect and acclaim, hands down.
Thanks so much, Myfanwy. Looking forward to your novel!
Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction is a finalist in the 2006 Best Book Awards and is now available from Rebel Press, or Amazon.