What sort of subjects/genres do you like to write about and why?
MARINA: I’m a big proponent of mixing genres, so everything and anything is fair game in terms of that. The one consistent focus is the audience—young adult and new adult tend to be my focus, as I love the innovation and risk-taking that the focus allows. The audience is so open-minded and as a mixed genre writer, that’s where my work best blooms.
MATTHEW: I write a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, at least in fiction, but I don’t stick to it. My more realistic writing is a lot more personal, though, so I’m less likely to share it.
DARIN: I like so many it may be easier to say which ones I don’t like very much. I think I like all of them except high fantasy. The tropes of high fantasy are just too expected, but that fans of it like it for that very reason.
ELENA: My favorite genres to write are fantasy and magic realism. I love building worlds. Really the only limit to what can be created is my own imagination so it’s fun to think about the what ifs and take those as far as I can. It’s also intriguing to think about worlds where everything is the same as ours except for one thing and how that one thing can sometimes make such a big difference.
What or who influenced you to start writing?
MARINA: Oh man, so many people! Off the top of my head, I can list S.E. Hinton, Harper Lee, and modern-day YA author Ally Carter as hugely influential. J.M. Barrie, J.K. Rowling, and Lewis Carroll also get massive credit.
MATTHEW: When I was five I wanted to either write books or make video games. I decided on books because my mom told me they were better for your brain. Thanks, mom.
DARIN: I was always obsessed with story telling. It started with video games and then in middle school I became this weird kid who was obsessed with indie films, art films, Scorsese, and Coppola. I eventually found literature in high school. I just thought writers had the most wisdom, so I wanted to be like them.
ELENA: Writing I think I just fell naturally into because I’ve always loved reading. My mom read books to me when I was small and ever since then I was hooked. Reading all kinds of stories opened my imagination, and I’ve also always been a very quiet person, so I found the best way to express myself was through writing.
Are you a morning person or a night person? Does that influence what time of day you write?
MARINA: I’m definitely a night person. I do tend to write at night, but these past few months, I’ve been working on writing at any time of day because regardless of whether or not the muse is striking, the writing still needs to get done.
MATTHEW: Man, I wish I had that kind of consistency. I’m a “Not-Afternoon” person, but a lot of the time I end up writing in the afternoon, because that’s when I get gaps in my work schedule.
DARIN: Night person, but I’m willing to write any time of the day. I wish I was more consistent.
ELENA: Definitely a night person! I’m often up until 2 or 3am and I don’t function very well anytime I have to wake up before 9am. I do tend to write better during the late nights when it’s quiet in the house, but that could just be because I like to write when it’s quiet (or sufficiently noisy to become white noise) since I also sometimes like to write in the early mornings when I happen to be up.
Do you prefer coffee or tea? Cats or dogs?
MARINA: I’m an equal opportunity caffeine addict but if I had to pick one it’d be coffee. A severe dog allergy makes me a cat person by default.
MATTHEW: Both taste like someone puked their pre-digested medicine into a cup. But if I had to choose one that put me in less gustatory pain I’d pick coffee.
DARIN: I love both, but for the sake of being healthy I’ll say I prefer tea.
ELENA: Tea! And definitely dogs. Cats are just evil.
Have any of your pieces been published? Where?
MARINA: They have! You can find my short story, “Battlegrounds”, in 1888’s “The Cost of Paper Vol. III”.
MATTHEW: At the risk of being a giant fraud: No. Not other than the Calliope and the magical internet. I’ve gotten close, damn close, but the time has not yet come.
If it makes it any better, building The Metaworker is connected, to me, to not being published. I feel like too many literary magazines don’t meet their submitters halfway. Literary writing, like the human race, has been in a constant state of over-proliferation yet near-annihilation since the 1940s. In both cases, it leads to us being cold, cynical, and impersonal, which is exactly what we shouldn’t be. I want to break through that. Your mileage may vary on how well it’s going.
DARIN: What Mathew said ^^
ELENA: Yes, my poems (yes, I also dabble in poetry) have been published in UC Riverside’s Mosaic and Chapman University’s Calliope.
What else are you involved in when you’re not busy with The Metaworker?
MARINA: When I’m not working for The Metaworker, I spend my time writing novels and working at my day job. When not doing either of those things, I’m probably forcing kittens to cuddle with me.
MATTHEW: I work as a Behavioral Interventionist at C.A.S.E. I’m writing a novel. I attend a lot of poetry events. I have a few completely separate groups of friends that I try to balance. I spend way too much time playing tabletop rpgs and Xcom. My life is chaos.
DARIN: I write for a political website called PolicyJunkie and work on other side projects. I’m currently building out a tech blog with a marketing and branding agency that will hopefully gain an audience. In the fall I’ll be attending graduate school studying global governance and politics.
ELENA: I work behind the scenes in theater so my time is mostly spent in rehearsal for some play or other, which is super fun. I also read whenever I can and spend time with my dogs and bird, and of course my family.
Have you gone to any literary events lately? Which ones?
MARINA: Regrettably, I haven’t been able to make it to any literary events lately. That being said, for those located in Los Angeles, CA, some great events are coming up in the area! The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is running April 9 and 10, and the AWP Conference is happening March 30-April 2! Check those out if you’re in the area.
MATTHEW: Glassless Minds in Oceanside is fucking great. Show them some love if you’re ever in North County San Diego. I went to the Poetry Ruckus (in Leucadia) to meet up with Michael Schmitt and interview him. If you’re in Orange County, go to the Ugly Mug. You’ll find a few of the poets we’ve published there.
DARIN: Not since I graduated college. I live in the middle of nowhere and I have yet to hear of one near me.
ELENA: I don’t often go to literary readings. The closest thing I could say I’ve been to lately was Comikaze a few months ago. I love walking through the Artist Alleys at conventions like that and seeing what other writers and artists are working on. People are so creative! It’s inspiring to talk to them about their work.
Other than The Metaworker, do you have a favorite literary journal?
MARINA: Hands down, my favorite literary journal is Calliope Art and Literary Magazine, a college magazine from my amazing alma mater, Chapman University. Former issues can be found online!
MATTHEW: Someone already said The Calliope. If you want to know everything that The Metaworker someday hopes to be, read Electric Literature.
DARIN: You know, I read obsessively but it’s usually collections of stories. I almost never make my way towards literary journals unless I’m trying to find a certain writer’s work. I’ve stumbled across some stuff on Electric Literature, Tor, and Apex magazine that I liked a lot. I’ll check out The New Yorker and McSweeny’s as well.
ELENA: Yes! I love Shimmer, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies is great because they have audio podcasts of their stories which I can listen to in the car. Also, it’s not really a literary magazine but a writing and art competition called Writers and Illustrators of the Future. I went to their awards ceremony last April and it was amazing. Everyone should check it out and submit. They publish yearly anthologies of each year’s winners and the stories are just great.
If you could be any character, who would you be and why?
MARINA: I’ll go with Hermione Granger, because our similarities are numerous but she got to go to Hogwarts and I didn’t. Yet (my letter will arrive one of these days).
MATTHEW: Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon, for the pet dragon. The only escapism I will ever indulge.
DARIN: That’s a good question. I feel like every character I think about either has something tragic happen to them or has to confront difficulties or take on responsibilities that are enormous, so it’s hard to say. That’s the whole point of fiction, right? I’m not sure if I want to fully experience the hardships, but literature allows me to experience the characters enough to both learn from them and gain empathy for them. I think my answer is none of them at the moment.
ELENA: I’d love to be Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. She has such a strong personality and is very smart. She doesn’t take nonsense from anyone. Plus, she gets to live in a really cool magical world.
Other than your keys or phone, what is one item that MUST be in your pocket or purse before you head out the door?
MARINA: I’m going to go the non-writer route on this one and say my epi-pen is the one item I always have. Death is everywhere, friends.
MATTHEW: A pen. Start carrying your own pen, and you’ll never look back.
DARIN: My wallet, duh.
ELENA: A book, of course!
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
MARINA: I’m a big proponent of a good pro/con list. I find that they are the easiest tool to evaluate your current situation and see paths to help get out of it. That being said, I’m also a big proponent of choosing your own happiness; if you’re in a situation that you’re unhappy in, maybe it’s time to move on and explore the potential of other options. Remember that there is always a choice to make if you’re acting like the main character of your own story (don’t be a passive background character in your own life).
MATTHEW: I got pulled over without a license. The cop looked me up and told me my license was expired. Then he told me my name wasn’t even in the database. There was a lot of talk of bringing me into the office, since, I guess, I’d probably stolen my car. Finally, another cop noticed he’d been calling me Matthew “Nation” the entire time.
DARIN: I honestly can’t think of something. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t think of a character I wanted to be. I’ve been pretty blessed to have it so easy. Any dumb thing I’ve done or gotten myself into I probably deserved to not be able to get myself out of it.
ELENA: I tend to play things safe so I’m not very interesting in this regard. Except maybe when I’m baking. I get into all kinds of trouble then. I once accidentally followed the wrong recipe and made ginger BREAD instead of gingerbread cookies. In college, some friends and I had a chocolate chip cookie baking contest. I accidentally exploded the butter in the microwave but poured the steaming hot butter into the batter anyway, thinking it wouldn’t make much difference. Of course the chocolate chips melted, so the cookies ended up being chocolate swirl cookies. I didn’t end up winning the contest, but they still tasted delicious 🙂
Do you have any helpful resources for writers that you’d like to share?
MARINA: Those looking for critique partners should take a look at YA author Maggie Stiefvater’s Critique Partner Love Connection. Poets & Writers also offers a free newsletter that you can sign up for here. And lastly, those looking for agents to represent their work should check out Agent Query.
MATTHEW: Stephen King’s On Writing. The Elements of Style. Community workshops wherever you live (you can find one, trust me). This speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI
DARIN: Elements of Style is a big one. Raymond Carver’s On Writing is another.
ELENA: The website Poets & Writers is a really good one. They have a page here that lists a bunch of different literary magazines and what type of genres they accept, when they accept them, etc. Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling are great to think about. And this is just for fun: http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-dictionary.htm
What are three books you think everyone should read and why?
MARINA: Oh man, we have to pick just three? Okay, here we go:
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, because it’s my favorite book.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, because it’s a prime example of a nonsensical world that still follows absolute rules—fantasy doesn’t get much more perfect than this.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, because of its genre-mixing; the exploration of art’s purpose amid strife and tragedy is also quite beautiful and fascinating.
MATTHEW: Neil Gaiman has written more than three books so I struggle.
In reality, while I’ll recommend his entire library and especially The Sandman, I don’t think there’s a book that everyone should read. If there is, I feel like everyone’s already read it.
DARIN: Well I can name three that got me into literature: Slaughterhouse-five, The Things They Carried, and The Sound and The Fury.
ELENA: The first one is easy: Any book by Diana Wynne Jones, but especially Howl’s Moving Castle. Her stories are so quirky and fun and connect in ways that make you think. As for the rest, it’s so hard to choose! Sabriel by Garth Nix is a darker story, but it is also a book that surprises you. Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is wonderful. It’s not fantasy but I love the family relationships that it explores.
Anything else you’d like to add?
MARINA: A shamless plug: follow me on twitter @MarinaMShugrue and The Metaworker @TheMetaworker!
MATTHEW: Don’t compare yourself to other artists. Don’t disparage them, and don’t feel envy for their success. We’re all in this together.
DARIN: If you took the time to read this and you have never submitted something to us, just do it already!
ELENA: Thanks to everyone who keeps up with our magazine!
Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/ns1dRr
Very cool! I especially appreciated the “Helpful resources for writers” section.