Meet the Author: Chelsea Schott

by Katie Walker on July 28, 2014

Chelsea Schott

Under the Gum Tree is pleased to bring you — a Q&A with Chelsea Schott.
Chelsea teaches literature and writing, and is a recent graduate of Rice University where she is also president of the MLS Writers. Chelsea has had her work published in Germ MagazineThe Winter Tangerine Reviewand most recently, Chelsea’s story, “The Frederick Boy” was reviewed by New Pages in junction with our magazine’s summer issue. Read her and our review Here

Q: When and why did you start writing?
A:  Believe it or not, I started writing stories when I was 6 or 7. Writing has always been very natural to me. I seemed to be hearing a “voice” which compelled me to write, to share stories. I still hear that voice—I suppose it’s a muse. Whatever it is, it is more essentially me than myself.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?
A:  I really love when I feel like I’ve captured an emotion completely, when I feel like I’ve delivered a punch to my readers. One of my deepest fears is a reader would finish reading my work indifferent. I want readers to feel something intense when they read my work; I hope to inspire love, longing, fear, dread, regret—anything.

Q: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when you write?
A: Well, the who would be the people who are the subjects of my writing and the what is typically dialogue and setting. In the former, I am fascinated by the impact words have on our conscience, our emotions and our perceptions of people and events. I have found in the latter, a setting of a good story is a character in itself. It remains in the background yet speaks through climate and physical attributes like geography. Sometimes, the presence of geography is more powerful than the protagonist—in a way, it’s God-like.

Q: Do you have a writing schedule?
A: When I am deep into a piece (most recently I wrote a novel), it’s a full-time job. I don’t worry about word count or pages typically, but I do require a schedule: 4-6 hours alone, in silence, coffee and snacks nearby and absolutely no interruptions. This goes on for six days a week and I force myself to rest on the seventh.

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
A: Usually, it’s the first hour (or two on a bad day) of writing.  My sentences feel sophomoric, unpolished, amateur. I can’t tell you exactly why this happens, but I am fully aware I have to press on through this, then something remarkable occurs—my sentences flow, my voice is mature, intelligent—I transform from banal, technical-speak into fluid poetry. And, at this point I am a slave to the story.

Q: How long does it usually take you to finish a story?
A: The novel took a little over two months of full-time writing. Short stories take about 2-3 days only because –for reasons I can’t articulate—I must step away from the work for a day or two after its completion and then revisit it.  I become objective when I do this and am better able to edit my own work.

Q: Are you working on anything now?
A: Besides wooing agents, I’m working on a collection of short stories. I plan to put these into a novel-form. After that, I’m going to tackle another longer novel I’ve been working up the courage to write. And, writing is a courageous act.

Q: How many rejections did you get before you had something published?  How did you deal with them?
A: What felt like countless rejections was closer to 15. (According to Submittable.)  More painful was the amount of time I spent in obscurity—I went about 10 months unpublished. It was grueling, but I have a close network of writer friends who kept reassuring me that I needed to accept the rejections as part of Greater Author Territory. Rejection, unfortunately, is the norm even for amazing writers, it’s acceptance that is exceptional.

Q: How did you celebrate when you got your first acceptance?
A:  I immediately contacted my writing mentors from Rice University. They had all been my greatest supporters; believing in me when I did not. They had been helping me mature into a creative writer for three years, I owe them everything.

Q: Do you prefer typing or pencil to paper when you write?
A: Typing. I like to see what it will look like when it is actually read.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: I’m a teacher and a mother. So, young people take up most of my time. And, much of that is spent encouraging them to write well and read better books. When not with them, my time is spent as President of the MLS Writers at Rice University. It’s a group of graduate students who creatively write. We workshop each other’s pieces and host guest speakers—typically published authors and distinguished faculty.

Q: Who is your favorite author?
A: Hemingway.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A: I tend to favor American men. So, in that respect almost anything from the following: Tobias Wolff, Sherman Alexie, Henry David Thoreau, Langston Hughes, Twain, Arthur Miller, Poe, Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin. The exceptions are Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce Carol Oates and Joan Didion.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writer?
A: I’d share the same advice I was given: If you’re truly a writer, then write—no excuses—put away the bullshit. And, never give up—keep submitting, keep workshopping, keep revising, keep editing, fill your house with books and read them!

Q: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
A:
Yes. You can find more of my work coming out this September. My Other Ex is an anthology written by a collection of women authors detailing true stories of when friendships fail. It’s from the HerStories publishers, Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock. If you love UTGT like I do, you’ll like this book as well.

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Meet the Author: Patrick Kindig

by Katie Walker on June 23, 2014

Patrick Kindig Photo copy

Patrick Kindig — whose story “How to Pack a Suit Case” was just excerpted in our last blog post — has kindly agreed to answer our questions for those of us imploring minds. Kindig, a graduate student at Indiana University, has already had publications for his poetry in Poiseis Review, Isthmus, and Jabberwock Review, but Under the Gum Tree is proud to publish his first piece of creative nonfiction. Here is our Q&A with Patrick Kindig.

Q: When and why did you start writing?
A:
  As a kid who loved to read, I was always writing the first chapters of fantasy novels and laying them down before anything actually began to happen in them. I didn’t begin to write “seriously” (i.e. poetry and “literary” prose) until my second year of college, and I guess I began doing that for the same reasons I wrote as a kid: I wanted to feel like I was more actively engaged with the writing I loved–now Virginia Woolf and Charles Bukowski rather than J.K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini–than just reading would let me be.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?
A:
 Writing, for me, is often a struggle; inspiration doesn’t come easily, and I have a difficult time finishing anything much longer than a page. It’s incredibly rewarding, however, when I’m reading over a finished piece and realize that I’ve managed to surprise myself. This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I’ll read the ending of a poem or prose piece and find myself thinking, “Where did that come from?” This is such a great feeling.

Q: Where do you find your biggest inspiration when you write?
A:
 My inspiration varies, and I’ll often go through phases. Sometimes I’ll become obsessed with writing creative responses to news stories. Other times I’ll write for weeks about my childhood or I’ll become really interested in language experiments and write nonsense for a while. A lot of this depends on what I’ve read most recently.

Q: Do you have a writing schedule?
A: 
My schedule also varies. I’m a graduate student, so I’m pretty busy during the school year, and when I’m taking classes, I usually only write when I’m struck with inspiration. During winter break or over the summer, however, I try to write or revise something–no matter how bad–every day or every other day. Recently, I’ve been going to a favorite coffee shop after work and just sitting there until something appears on my laptop screen.

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
A:
 The hardest parts for me are beginning and ending a piece. I usually rewrite the first sentence of anything I’m working on a dozen times before I can move on to the rest of it, and once I’ve finished something, I’ll rewrite its ending over and over for days or weeks. I always think that my openings aren’t hook-y enough and my endings are too trite, so I have a really difficult time bookending my work.

Q: How long does it usually take you to finish a story?
A:
 I’m primarily a poet, and it usually takes me just a couple of hours (with frequent breaks) to finish the first draft of a poem, which I then revise over the course of the next couple of days. When it comes to prose, I tend to write shorter pieces–mostly flash fiction and nonfiction–and I’ll usually be able to finish a story or essay in one or two days (plus a revision time).

Q: Are you working on anything now?
A:
 I’m not seriously working on any big projects right now, but I am slowly and tentatively beginning on a poem sequence called “Revelations” about the art of keeping and revealing personal secrets.

Q: How many rejections did you get before you had something published?  How did you deal with them?
A:
 I actually began by submitting to very small lit mags–often published specifically by and for undergraduate students–so my first publication came pretty quickly. My first real person publication, however–in a journal produced by adults for adults–took a bit longer, and I did get quite a few rejections before it happened. I dealt with them primarily by feeling awful about myself and intensely questioning my ability as a writer for a day or two, then getting distracted by school work or some other responsibility and starting on a new piece of writing.

Q: How did you celebrate when you got your first acceptance?
A:
  I don’t think I did anything terribly special. I hyperventilated a little bit, posted an exuberant Facebook status, and then went out for a drink with my roommate.

Q: Do you prefer typing or pencil to paper when you write?
A:
 I much prefer typing; I edit so much as I go that using pen or pencil would be impractical.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: 
As an English grad student, I’m pretty much always either reading or writing. When I do have some free time, however, I like to bike, drink coffee and Michigan beers, watch bad horror movies on Netflix, and play with my boyfriend’s roommate’s cat.

Q: Who is your favorite author?
A:
 My favorite writer is definitely Anne Carson. If we’re talking strictly about fiction-writers, though, I may have to go with Ernest Hemingway.

Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A:
 Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson, is one of my all-time favorites. I’m also a fan of Hemingway’s short story collection Men Without Women and Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
A: 
I don’t really think I’m qualified to give anyone advice about writing, as I don’t know what I’m doing myself. Something that’s helped me grow as a writer, however, is simply reading as much as possible. Reading good writing changes your relationship with the world, with language, with basically everything (for the better).

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A Brand New Issue of Under the Gum Tree for Your Summer Enjoyment

June 23, 2014

Summer has officially begun and to celebrate the new season Under The Gum Tree is bringing you an entirely new issue. Filled with featured stories, stories from our departments of Fork and Spoon, Sound Track, Stomping Ground and 1000 Words, there is a medley of reading to enjoy for everyone. Under The Gum Tree seeks […]

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Farewells & Welcomes: Staff Changes at UTGT

May 29, 2014

Here at Under the Gum Tree, we’re very lucky to be supported by a small staff of amazing editors, designers and interns–all who volunteer their time to make the magazine what it is. So I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge their hard work, and let you know about a few recent changes. Editors […]

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UTGT Now Accepting Sponsors & Other Ways to Support the Mag

May 22, 2014

Running a literary magazine is often a labor of love. No one I know ever does it to get rich, and no one I know gets rich doing it. Even writers and artists submit to literary magazines as a labor of love, because they want to gain some exposure for their work no matter what–no […]

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