Q&A With Laurel Winter

Laurel Winter is a frequent contributor to Asimov’s who has won our Readers’ Award for best poem twice. In this blog post, she discusses her unique writing process, her favorite themes, and why she’s leery of warp drive. Check out her latest poem for Asimov’s,”What if Pomegranates,” in our [May/June issue, on sale now!]

Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
Laurel Winter: It’s possible I was eating pomegranates. Grin. Besides that, I’m fascinated by both Persephone and Eurydice, inhabiting the underworld against their will. I’ve written several poems about both of them.

AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
LW: I can relate to both Persephone and Demeter. Avenging mother goddess energy—but also the idea that she could have decided to let the girl make her own decisions and live with the consequences. And Persephone might have actually appreciated hanging out with the bad boy for half of the year, as long as she could go home to mama the other half. The best of both worlds.

AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?
LW: I’ve published numerous poems in Asimov’s and won the Reader’s Poll Award for best poem twice. “Why Goldfish Shouldn’t Use Power Tools” and “egg horror poem” each received a Rhysling Award as well. The latter was then picked up for multiple 9th grade literature textbooks.

AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
LW: I have a particular fondness for characters who think they’re ordinary and find out they are not. Also coming of age stories, rites of passage. I seem to write a ton about music, although I am not musical myself. I have quite a few stories and poems about food.

AE: What is your process?
LW: A while ago I started computer dating. As in dating my computer. An hour a day, six days a week. I also set times on it—if I hadn’t started my date at one, I had to start it by four. That way, I didn’t get to bedtime and blow it off. I got amazing amounts of work done, finishing a middle grade novel I’d abandoned in 2006 and writing a first draft of another one, as well as numerous stories. Every once in a while, if the date was going really well, I fudged a little and gave the computer a little more attention. (I think it likes me like that. Grin. So it didn’t mind.)

AE: What inspired you to start writing?
LW: Being a total bookworm. Words were my friends. Books were my refuge. Notebooks were my infinite possibility.

I have a particular fondness for characters who think they’re ordinary and find out they are not.

AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
LW: I’m spiffing up several novels. The Secret Life of Suzuki England, about a girl who’s three-quarters elf. Lucy, Lucy, and Liz, which is related to Suzuki, about an alien, an elf, and a human girl tasked with saving the world—with their piano trio. And my newest, Eleven in Wonderland, about an eleven-year-old genius who has to navigate alcoholic parents and eighth grade and the wild new wonderful world of drama club. Plus—always—poetry. And I’ve recently begun to get story ideas from fragments of anything or nothing. So, busy busy.

AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
LW: My first thought was Middle Earth. Hobbits and Elves and Wizards—but no, maybe Redwall—but, ooh, yes, for sure, Pern. Telepathic communication with flying dragons. Fire lizards. Going between. The pick me, pick me, pick me feeling of a hatching. Yeah, that’s it.

AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
LW: At this point, definitely NOT warp drive. I think we need to get more civilized in our local neighborhood before we go gallivanting off across the galaxy. Probably the replicator, because that might ease food & water problems across the globe. Then the Federation could come in and ease us into full galactic citizenship.

AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
LW: Celebrate baby steps. (I submitted a poem/story/novel! I must take myself out for tea!) Embrace baby goals. If you can’t manage an hour for computer dating, write two sentences every day on the current project. If you write, you’re a writer. If you send something out—please do!—start working on something else. And the next something else. Especially if you write novels. It can literally take years for an editor to get back to you with a No, thanks. (And once I had to withdraw a manuscript after said years, because the editor did not respond to any queries, or to the news he was out.) I let myself sour on novels for some years after that. Sometimes it takes creative work of a different sort—even collaging magazine cut-outs for your delight only—to get you back in the swing of things. Also, writer’s groups are good, unless they’re bad. Fortunately, I have not had this experience, but some people delight in being cleverly and cruelly critical. Run! And don’t be that guy. Also, celebrate vicarious accomplishments of your friends or acquaintance and keep on keeping on with your own work.

AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing? (IE: Social media handles, website URL…)
LW: Facebook Laurel Winter
Twitter @LuvLaurelWinter

Laurel Winter is happy to report that every decade of her life is the best so far. She has two amazing sons she both likes and loves, as well as three bright and shiny grandchildren. She lives in southern Oregon and is doing a good job of practicing house-in-order, creatively and physically and soulfully. She is a proponent of cheerful self-appreciation and believes you can only love others if you love yourself.

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