Megan Engelhardt’s holiday-themed poem suits our November/December issue [on sale now] well. Get to know her and her writing in our newest Q&A.
Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
ME: I’ve gone to church my entire life, and my entire life I’ve disliked the song “Silent Night.” A few Christmases ago I was attending our Christmas Eve service and, as always, we sang “Silent Night” with the lights turned off. Everyone in the congregation held a candle, and it struck me that it was worth singing the song to see the individual flames merging together to light up the sanctuary. It was a good feeling.
Then I put it into space.
AE: How did this story germinate?
ME: I wrote this poem all in one go, one wild rush from beginning to end. (I find it easier to do that with poems than with short stories.) It went through several rounds of edits before I was happy with the shape of it, but the core poem took maybe half an hour to get down.
AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this story?
ME: I’ve been trying to stop self-rejecting my pieces. Often I’ll write something that I feel good about, but not send it to my dream markets because I decide it’s not good enough. Asimov’s is absolutely one of my dream markets, and I am so thrilled I didn’t self-reject this one!
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
ME: My sister, Amanda C. Davis, is my best critic, biggest cheerleader, and my first influence and inspiration. I love C.S. Lewis and his work. If I could write something half as good, funny, meaningful, or influential as Terry Pratchett, I’ll count myself lucky.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
ME: Sims 3, long showers, and ranting about the problem to my husband, who listens very patiently until I talk myself into a solution.
AE: What is your process?
ME: I don’t have a process! I have one kid in elementary school, one kid in preschool, and one baby at home, so my schedule is all over the place, which means I don’t have a chance to carve out “process” time. Mostly what happens is that I have an idea, grab a notebook, and then finish the story or poem over several days, either waiting at the bus stop or at midnight once everyone is finally asleep!
AE: How did you break into writing?
ME: My first sale was a twitfic to Tweet the Meat, so that tells you something right there. A lot of my early sales were to themed anthologies. It was nice, as I started submitting, to have something to guide my writing to until I learned how everything worked.
AE: What are you reading right now?
ME: I’m waiting desperately for the library to get me Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor so I can finish that fantastic series. I’m also reading The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone. Nonfiction is rare for me, but this is a very readable and fascinating biography.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
ME: Read. Read in and out of your genre. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read short stories and poems. Read magazines. Read everything. Similarly, write everything down. Put it on a file on your desktop, or in a notebook you carry in your bag, or, as I did in college and grad school, on 3×5 cards that fit nicely in your pocket.
AE: What other careers have you had, and how have they affected your writing?
ME: I did my time as a cashier at a non-well-liked big box store, which really shows you a lot about human nature! I also spent time as a librarian and discovered a lot of fascinating reads that opened up my tastes. My coworkers were amazing and some of them were also writers, and on slow days it wasn’t unusual to find us all working on poems or stories together. It really taught me the value of creative community. Currently I’m a stay-at-home mom to three little wild things, which leaves surprisingly little time to write. I am becoming content with the idea that this is a period of literary rest in my life. When I do get a chance to write, though, I value the opportunity and the output more.