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The Metaworker Podcast | 012 Ink Runs in Our Veins: Editor Chat Part 2

Episode Description:

Matthew, Elena, Mel, and Cerid talk about how they got into writing and why they are involved in the publishing world, even as unpaid editors of an indie literary magazine. They also delve into the type of submissions they’d like to see in their inbox.

Referenced in this episode: 

The Metaworker submission wish list

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Jane The Virgin – TV series

Brian Froud – Artist/concept creator

Kelly Link – Author

Neil Gaiman – Author

Long Ridge Writers Group

Topics of interest in this episode:

Magic realism and Cultural Traditions in Storytelling

Dungeons and Dragons

Genre Fiction/Lit Fic/Fantasy/Historical Fiction


Writing Affirmations/Craft Commentary

Episode Transcript:

Matthew Maichen (00:01):
Hello, we are here for the second part of our ‘editors only’ podcast. This one is going to be more of a roundtable discussion. In case you didn’t catch the last one, it was more of a history lesson and a general discussion of what The Metaworker is and how we managed to come together and how we got this literary magazine off the ground. With a lot of love thrown in. There was a lot of that. So, yeah, good episode. I would recommend it. Five stars. This one hopefully will be another five-star one. I can’t review it in advance, unfortunately. I am Matthew Maichen. I’m the editor-in-chief

Elena L. Perez (00:58):
I’m Elena Perez, the managing editor.

Melissa Reynolds (01:02):
I’m Melissa Reynolds, also an editor.

Cerid Jones (01:06):
And I’m Cerid Jones, the newbie intern.

Matthew Maichen (01:10):
Okay. Thank you. Great job, team. I knew we all knew it. So, the opening question this time is: how did you fall in love with writing? I wrote since I could read. It was my first instinct, as soon as I could read books, to then try to create books. I distinctly remember that when I was five or six, I either wanted to make video games or write books. I’m really glad that I didn’t choose video games, knowing what that industry is like now—side note. But, I thought about it and my mom said, ‘you know, reading books is good for you’. And I’m like, ‘well, I guess I should write books because reading books is good for you’. So, I made that decision and I never looked back and I’ve just always done it. It’s just organically been a part of me. I don’t know if I can even say….you know, do you love your hand? Yeah, I guess I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to grab things. It’s something that’s just so intrinsically a part of me that I can’t even separate myself from it. Fun fact: I’m going to be getting—before this summer ends if I have the money—I’m gonna be getting another tattoo that signifies that I will always be a writer because adult life really tries to pull you away from that. So, yeah, I’ve just always been in love [with writing]. It’s how I exist.

Cerid Jones (03:05):
I can totally resonate with that one, too, actually. Mine is a very similar answer. I think my love of writing really comes from a lifelong love of storytelling. I’m of the opinion that all of life, human existence, is about storytelling. That’s what separates us from all other living things, the fact that we are capable of telling our stories. As a kid, as much as I grew up with reading books, my dad had this wonderful set of cards that were storytelling cards and they’d all be set out in different themes. So, we had a circus themed one, we had a fantasy one which included pirates and mermaids and unicorns, and we had a mythology one, and a bunch of other little different bits and pieces. You’d set out these different categories and you put a card down and it would be, you know, like a figure. So, you’d have a figure—say, for example, a clown, which is just the first thing that comes into my head, bizarrely. Then the second one would be a location, which might be a mountain range. Then the third one would be an object, which might be an orange. Then you’d tell a story. How do you connect these three things together? That was a game I played with my dad from a really, really young age. So, oral storytelling actually came first for me. Then, funnily enough, my name is Welsh in origin and a double D should be a ‘dth’ sound, so it should be ‘Kidth’. And that actually means poetry. So, I feel like my parents sort of inherited me with the writing bug. From a really young age, I was writing poetry and I’ve just never stopped. It’s always just been a part of who I am, whether I’m telling stories through writing or through art, it’s storytelling. Hundred percent.

Matthew Maichen (05:00):
So educational.

Cerid Jones (05:00):

Elena L. Perez (05:01):
Oh, I love that. That’s so awesome, to have your name mean that, as well. So cool. I love the cards, the storytelling cards. That’s such a cool game. That sounds so fun.

Cerid Jones (05:14):
Yeah, it is. I’ve been blessed to be able to use it with other kids—not my own—but in various work and things like that. I think it’s really magic. It’s such a cool little fun thing to do, and it’s a great writer’s block breaker as well, you know, connect three dots of things. Having that has just always been neat.

Elena L. Perez (05:32):
Yeah. That’s great to explore your imagination and others’ imaginations like that. That’s cool. I guess I’ll jump in. I can definitely relate to that, too, Matthew, about writing being a part of me and I can’t…I don’t feel like I can separate it. I guess I’ve always used writing as kind of a way of…Well, first of all, of exploring my imagination and just like you, Cerid, I’m just fascinated with storytelling. The ‘what if’ and all these worlds I can build with words and ideas. I remember when I was little, maybe like in second grade, we had a writing assignment in school and it was just a paragraph or two. We had to write a story about…we had spelling words, you know, we had to write out the words so we could learn how to spell them. We’d write ’em three times or five times on a piece of paper and then a fun activity after we did that was that we would have to write a story with, I think, three or four words included in the story. That was my favorite part of homework when I was in second grade. [laughs] Then I remember when I was about maybe 13, I wrote a story, a longer story, and submitted it to the county fair [laughs]. They had a contest for kids to submit their books or stories or whatever. And I said, ‘oh, this is my first published book’. You know, that other people besides my family read. I was so excited to share that with everyone. So, that’s part of how writing is part of my life, but I think also, in addition to the story aspect of it, it’s a way for me to kind of explore my own thoughts. Whenever I’m sad about something or angry, or just trying to figure something out in my life, I go to writing. It’s kind of, I guess, like journaling in a way. I don’t do it consistently, just whenever I have something really on my mind that I need to figure out. So, that’s another way that writing is part of me. It’s…[laughs] Like you said, Matthew, it’s something I can’t separate from myself. I just gravitate towards it. And even though adult life, like you said, tries to draw me away from it, it’s still always there in the back of my mind. Just calling and I have to write. [laughs]

Melissa Reynolds (08:19):
I like that you mentioned journaling because I think a lot of people almost discount that as a useful form of writing, but I think it’s the most useful of them all. Especially if you’re using it to untangle your thoughts or figure out a problem that you’re having. It’s probably one of the more consistent types of writing that I do ’cause I’m trying…I attempted to do the “Artist’s Way”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that book.

Cerid Jones (08:54):
Yes. Brilliant.

Melissa Reynolds (08:55):
Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. So, I failed on many aspects on that journey because I got busy with school, but I try to keep up with the morning pages aspect of it.

Cerid Jones (09:09):
Here here. I’m exactly the same. I love it.

Melissa Reynolds (09:12):
Yeah, it’s really good. But to jump into how I got started with writing, there’s a picture of me somewhere as a baby in a Huggies diaper box, scribbling away, pretending to write. So, I suppose even as a baby, I was writing. [laughs].

Elena L. Perez (09:33):
[laughs] So cute.

Melissa Reynolds (09:34):
But I didn’t think it was something I was good at or something that I could do. I really didn’t take it seriously until I was an adult. I kept pen-pals, I have journals from the third grade up, did lots of emails…writing constantly, but I didn’t think it was something I could make a living at or that it would be useful. I went to the school of nursing instead for a couple years. Once I followed my ex to Kentucky, that’s when I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had all kinds of interests. I liked to draw, I liked music, I liked interior design. I was all over the place, but I happened to see Long Ridge Writers Group, one of those adverts for [a] mail-in writing course, basically. I took it and turns out, ‘Hey, I’m not half-bad’. I had my oldest as a baby lying beside me on the bed while I was furiously writing away to turn in my assignments for this writing course. Even then I thought it was for children’s writing [and] I would probably never really do much with it. It wasn’t until I got on and started sharing parts of my novel and gained a fan base that I started to realize, ‘Hey, this is something I really love’. I just threw everything at it. I found a mentor there named Edward who took me under his wing, who’s a more experienced writer and a bit of a teacher himself. He said, ‘read this how-to-write book and that how-to-write book and do this, this, and this’. I just absorbed everything that I could, like a sponge. After a while at FanStory, I was a top ten author at one point and I decided, ‘okay, I need to get serious about this’. So, I went back to school to get my bachelor’s in English. Along that journey, I was at Every Day Fiction, working up from first reader all the way up to, for a couple weeks, co-deputy managing editor there, but it was too much with college, so I dropped out of that. Yeah, that’s my story. It wasn’t until probably around 27 that I really got super serious about writing, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Matthew Maichen (12:21):
I do wanna say in response to that, I think realizing that…starting out thinking, ‘oh, I can’t make a career out of writing’ and then coming into it and doing it really hardcore after that is probably better than the alternative, because the alternative is, for me, believing for nearly twenty years that I could be a full-time writer as my job. Well, okay—not nearly twenty years. I mean until I was almost twenty that I could believe I could be like a full-time writer for my day job. And that was an unfortunate way to learn that. I saw a panel with a very, very direct writer who was very forthright about his earnings and what he managed to do.That all said, it’s really great that you discovered it and that you’re here. I think a lot of people need to hear that because a lot of people think, ‘oh, I can’t start writing now. I need to start when I’m a kid. I can’t…I missed my opportunity to learn a skill’. It’s just not true.

Melissa Reynolds (13:38):
I was gonna say, I agree wholeheartedly. I definitely think that writing is something—speaking as an English 101 teacher—writing is something that you can learn and improve on. Some of it is talent, yes, but a large part of it is just having the determination to work at it and improve.

Elena L. Perez (13:58):
Yeah, exactly. That’s what I was gonna say, too. It’s interesting how different everybody’s paths to writing are even just in our little group, but we’re all here. However you come to it, like you said, Mel, it’s something that you can work on to get better. If you love it, then to me, that’s what matters.

Melissa Reynolds (14:21):
I agree.

Matthew Maichen (14:22):
Speaking of loving things and not getting a lot of money, the next question is: at The Metaworker here, we are an independent publishing journal [and] like many independent publications, we make no money. A lot of people might call us crazy for basically doing a job, a full-on side hustle, really, for no income. So, why is it that you edit for The Metaworker? Elena, I figure that you’ll have a pretty easy time answering this one, so let’s start with you.

Elena L. Perez (15:04):
Um, [laughs] why do you figure it’s easy for me? Um…[laughs]

Matthew Maichen (15:08):
Because you pretty much said in the previous one…you kind of already answered this question in the previous episode.

Elena L. Perez (15:19):
Yeah, I was trying to figure out what different answer I could give ’cause—yeah, my answer’s pretty much gonna be the same. I just love it. I can’t imagine not doing it. If I were to get paid for it, that would be amazing. Since I can’t right now, this is great. I like being part of the world, the publishing world, and this is part of it. Just talking to this team and talking to the authors that we publish is really cool and I love learning their journeys and reading their writing. Just being a part of that is why I’m still in it.

Matthew Maichen (16:04):

Melissa Reynolds (16:05):
I originally got into editing with my drive to learn everything that I could possibly learn about writing. I thought what better way to learn than to be on the other side and see what everyone’s submitting and what the trends are and all that. I ended up…I was at Every Day Fiction and then I returned to this type of editing with Metaworker and I continue to stay in a large part because the team is so wonderful, but also I always feel like I see something new or I’m learning some new genre that I didn’t really know about before. I always learn a lot when it comes to poetry, too, because Elena and Matthew, you both are so knowledgeable on this and your takes on the poetry or even your knowledge of the technical side is always wonderful because I’m more of a prose writer and reader. I feel like I’m still learning constantly. I also like the aspect of helping out other authors, giving them a platform that maybe they might not get otherwise. I think that, as a writer myself, it’s such encouragement to have someone to say, ‘yes, your writing is good enough that we wanna share it on our website and for our audience’. That is a huge deal for a writer. So, knowing that we can share that encouragement with other writers who may or may not be struggling, but if they are, giving them that boost to keep going…that’s amazing.

Cerid Jones (17:45):
Love it.

Elena L. Perez (17:46):
Those are all good points. I agree. A hundred percent, a thousand percent. [laughs]

Cerid Jones (17:52):
Yeah. Look, I mean, I’m the same. I’m gonna pretty much echo a lot of what Elena and Mel have said. You know, I think arts is not an industry, as Matthew sort of said before, that you venture into if you wanna make big bucks. You know, the struggle is real. [laughs].

All (18:10):

Cerid Jones (18:11):
Which is actually kind of ironic since it was only a few hundred years ago that arts were the prestigious sort of members of high-class and intelligent society, you know, which I find really interesting. But anyway, I think that again, in part one, we kind of made it pretty clear that all of us are here because of the passion that drives us. I’m one of those people who is absolutely completely miserable if I’m not doing something that helps fill my creative cup. Honestly, I really don’t know how to do anything else outside of a creative endeavor. For me, being involved on this side of a literary and visual arts industry is because, like Mel said, I’m really passionate about helping support creativity. I wanna see people be inspired and validated through their own creativity and through other peoples’. Also because of learning. The first question was about ourselves as a writer. I actually feel a little bit like an imposter because although I have journals that are sitting on my shelf and I don’t know how many pages filled in the four drawers that are sitting next to me and whatever is on my hard drive, but I’m not published at all. I kind of feel like a lot of my want to intern for magazines and publishing houses is to learn what it is I need to do to try and be actually published. An ‘actual’ writer rather than a closeted hobby writer. So, that’s part of my alter agenda of being here in a way

Elena L. Perez (19:42):
You are a writer because you write, whether you’re published or not. [laughs].

Melissa Reynolds (19:50):
Yes, Elena. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (19:52):
In all the writing groups that I’m in, that sentiment is echoed because at the end of the day, there are so many people in every writing group that I’ve encountered who aren’t published. Their writing does not match up to the tastes of the predominant…what literary editors are looking for right now. Their writing is perhaps even higher quality than a lot of the people who are frequently published. But yes, you are a writer because you write. If you finish the story or the poem or the whatever it is, and you’re proud of the whatever it is, then you have written and you are a writer.

Cerid Jones (20:35):
I think that hits a nail on the head, you know? One of the major things is about actually completing, right? Which is what Mel was kind of talking a little bit before about. Having that dedication. There’s one thing to have the aptitude to be able to construct a nice sentence, but it’s actually having the dedication to complete things, which I think is really underestimated when we talk about writing and the journey of writing.

Matthew Maichen (20:57):
Oh yeah. That’s an entire conversation. I think Neil Gaiman was the one who, in his core advice—I think Stephen King said this too—for writers, no matter what, finish everything you write. No matter what. Even if you are sitting there and writing it and you’re like, ‘this feels like garbage’, finish everything you write, because otherwise you don’t get practice writing endings, among other things. You also don’t get practice tying up the loose ends in a plot, or at least trying to. Even in more thematic or literary things like poetry, you don’t get the experience of connecting those themes together at the conclusion. You should always finish what you write. It’s hard. It requires dedication.

Cerid Jones (21:58):
Two seconds—I love that you brought up Neil Gaiman because when I met him, that’s actually what he signed my notebook. By saying: ‘write and finish’. So, that’s just perfect, Matthew.

Elena L. Perez (22:08):
Ah, that’s amazing. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (22:11):
I remember when I went to comic-con and I saw him and it was against the rules for people to get notebooks signed from him because people were not allowed to be that close to him. At the end of the panel, people rushed up to him and he managed to sign three notebooks before they pulled him away.

Cerid Jones (22:32):
Wow wah-wee-wah.

Elena L. Perez (22:34):
[laughs] Nice.

Matthew Maichen (22:36):
He is a really cool guy. I mean, that level of like dedication of like, ‘I’m gonna give my fans what they want, even if it kind of breaks the rules here’. I love that about him.

Elena L. Perez (22:51):
Yeah, he’s great.

Matthew Maichen (22:53):
[laughs] Anyway…

Elena L. Perez (22:53):
[laughs] We could have a podcast on him.

Matthew Maichen (22:57):
Oh, my God, we could. Sad thing is, he’s kind of falling out of fashion because he doesn’t give more modern fantasy fans the things that they are looking for. There was really an era where someone could write the things that he writes and rise to prominence and I think that it’s kind of passed. There’s a lot of really, really good fantasy stuff that’s coming out, but I don’t think that it’s his type of writing. Anyway, that is a whole other thing. I am moving on to this next question, because we’re talking about things that we love. It’s been a while since we updated our wish list. I’m admitting that here, I’m just straight up admitting it. Our wish list is outdated. I don’t know when we last updated it, but it’s ancient. Cerid doesn’t even have anything on there, even though she’s on the team now. Even before Cerid, it was old. I’m curious, Mel, what is something that you personally would like to see more of?

Melissa Reynolds (24:13):
I really like magical realism, but with like a nonfiction bent, if that makes sense. Maybe, like, just taking a walk through the woods and bringing a little magic into it. I just love that idea. I don’t know if that’s an actual genre, but I love magical realism. It just so much fun to read.

Elena L. Perez (24:43):
You know, that’s interesting. I was having a conversation with some of my writer friends, and some of them were saying that, actually, magical realism is a specifically Mexican genre. The literary magical realism that we see now has kind of branched off from what the Mexican version of magical realism is. I just thought that was interesting. I haven’t done too much more research into it, but I thought it was an interesting thing that they brought up.

Melissa Reynolds (25:21):
Yeah, I didn’t know that. That’s awesome.

Cerid Jones (25:23):
I’ve heard that from one place before and that’s…I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Jane the Virgin, [the] TV Series?

Elena L. Perez (25:29):

Speaker 5 (25:31):
But they talk a lot about magical realism and the fact that it is a uniquely Spanish thematic that’s only really broken through into the Western world in, you know, the last couple of decades, which I find really interesting. But yeah, magic realism, wicked. Love it.

Elena L. Perez (25:47):
Yeah. Me too.

Matthew Maichen (25:48):
It’s also…[a] wide variety of peoples indigenous to the Americas…so I had a Navajo mythology professor who was one of the best professors I ever had because he taught from that perspective. One of the things that he explained, and this is how I understand magical realism now, is that in their world, in the world that he traditionally comes from, if you go up to your friend and you say, ‘Hey, I saw a ghost yesterday,’ he will say, ‘okay, where was it? What did it look like’?

Elena L. Perez (26:34):

Matthew Maichen (26:35):
He won’t question whether or not it existed. There isn’t that extremely clear line between what is real and what is “magical”.

Elena L. Perez (26:48):

Matthew Maichen (26:48):
So, it comes from that. It’s a very old, very indigenous thing. And if you read a lot of African stuff, you’ll see it there, as well.

Elena L. Perez (27:04):
Oh, that’s true, too. Going back to those kind of stories, [they] just are very intriguing to me.

Matthew Maichen (27:10):
Mm-hmm. I do think that…um, this is my ‘hot take’. I honestly think, going back to the Neil Gaiman thing, I think that a lot of litfic—literary fiction—that is really fantasy calls itself magical realism in order to not be associated with the ‘lower class’ Brandon Sandersons of the world and such. You know, they don’t wanna be assoc…

Cerid Jones (27:40):
Sword in the Stone…

Matthew Maichen (27:40):
Yeah. They don’t wanna be…well, even Arthurian stuff is considered more literary than a lot of the stuff that these people don’t wanna be associated with. I read…Kelly Link writes short stories that are very similar to Neil Gaiman stories, but she’s categorized as magical realism when what she writes isn’t magical realism. It’s definitely fantasy, but people are calling it magical realism because that sounds like a literary genre. That sounds high-class. So, yeah. That’s my ‘hot take’ for that.

Elena L. Perez (28:28):
Yeah. That definitely matches some of the conversations I was having with writer friends. That literary magical realism has kind of branched off from what it was originally. Just interesting.

Matthew Maichen (28:42):
Wow. We really got away from that. Okay. wish list, wish list, wish list. Uh, Cerid.

Cerid Jones (28:49):
That conversation actually does make a wonderful bridge into what my personal wish list is because I’m a lover of mythos and the cosmology of different cultures, right? That’s what drew me into anthropology. So, I love retellings that aren’t strict retellings and things that are inspired by folklore. I’m really, really into Fay stories at the moment and things involved in the Fay world. I grew up with fay stories. Brian Froud has always been an inspirational hero for me. I really like things that come from a traditional, esoteric, cultural background exploration, that’s got maybe a modern perception on it or has some of that…really strong roots to the ‘wild wood origin’, I think is what I’d call it. It’s magic realism in a way, but a bit more specific to the nature-y, woodland-y vibe. That’s what I’m into. And esoteric stuff for sure. I’d love to read more of that.

Elena L. Perez (29:52):

Matthew Maichen (29:53):
All right. Awesome. I’m always down for that stuff, too. I mean, some of the things I’ve written actually match up with that, so I can’t say I’m not down for it. [laughs] Elena, what is your personal wish list at this point?

Elena L. Perez (30:12):
Okay. So, when we first started thinking about what kind of stuff we wanted to see from people who were submitting, I think it is actually still on the wish list. One thing that I wanna see—because we are an online magazine, that doesn’t really limit us in what kind of things we can publish. So, yes, we publish text and images, but I would love to see some stories that play with the interplay between those things, you know? With gifs or with some sort of interactive. I think would be really cool. Like, you know, sending you to links, on a wild goose chase hyperlink somehow. I don’t know, I’ve seen stories like that around [in] different literary magazines and I just find them so interesting. If someone has an idea for some sort of thing like that, I would love to see that. We don’t really get a lot of graphic novels or comics or picture books. I mean, I don’t know if the rest of you editors agree with me, but I just feel like…different formats that we haven’t seen that that could work in our online format. And yes, I do agree with Mel and Cerid about their wish list asks. [laughs] I would like to see those as well, but yeah, those are my main two. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (31:45):
I’m really glad you said that because my first impulse, as someone who would be submitting to a literary magazine, you know, submitting a graphic novel or something that uses hyperlinks or whatever is, ‘I’m not allowed to do this, actually’. I recently wrote a story where I had text messages between two characters and I used one of those fake text message softwares to make the text messages into an image. As soon as I did that, there was this thing in the back of my mind, that was like, ‘that decreases my chance of being published by 50%’. It has to.You know, there’s that fear.

Elena L. Perez (32:32):

Matthew Maichen (32:33):
And that isn’t even that out there, because everything in those images, in that text message conversation, you know, it is still text, right? It’s just being delivered in a different way. I still had that fear. I will have you know, though, that that got a personal rejection, which is as good as it gets most of the time for me. Clearly that was an actual consideration. So, I think people don’t need to be afraid, as evidenced by my very nice rejection. [laughs] Um…

Elena L. Perez (33:07):
Yeah, definitely. Oh, that’s so exciting that you submitted that. That kind of stuff. People are so creative. I wanna see that creativity in different forms of telling a story. I think that’s so cool.

Matthew Maichen (33:21):
Hmm. I’m gonna throw out something really weird because I do agree with everything that’s been said, and I don’t wanna repeat it. My big thing that I am looking for in literature right now is nuance. Let me explain that one a little bit. Right now, we are in a—at least in the US—we are in a very aggressive culture war. Unfortunately, I think that there are parts of that that damage our art, in the sense that there are certain sentiments that we want to shout from the rooftops and certain ones that we don’t wanna express. Even if they’re not bad, they sound bad. I’m not saying submit offensive things to us, but what I want to see more of is genuine empathy for people who are not like you. Genuine understanding of people who are maybe not who you are. I mean, from the writers perspective, I want to see more of that. It’s always something that jumps out at me. It’s the reason why I’ve been so kind to satire pieces lately. We haven’t accepted that many of them, but I’ve been kind to them because I feel like in satire, there is that twin depiction of, you know, ‘I don’t agree with this perspective. I’m satirizing it, I’m revealing it as bad, but also I’m showing the person who believes it all of the empathy that I am capable of conjuring’. I think I want more of that.

Elena L. Perez (35:42):
When you put it that way, that’s an interesting take on it. I do like what you’re saying about the subtlety and I feel like you’re right. When it’s kind of blatantly said, sometimes it doesn’t get to the depth. I guess I’m basically paraphrasing what you’re saying. [laughs] But I agree. I like that, the exploration of people, really, because when it comes down to it, we all feel—I think we had this conversation recently—we all have the same emotions, the same core emotions. Matthew, I think you said that. So, yeah, you’re right. Kind of exploring those relationships and the nuances of those relationships is definitely interesting.

Matthew Maichen (36:38):
I know that I personally—and this is a very different approach from the one that is practiced now. When I was starting out and still these days, sometimes, I want to write about characters that are as different as possible from me because it helps me understand those people. For better or worse. There has been a shift toward authenticity. There’s been a shift toward: if you are an author who is writing something, people should believe that you are the author to write that. There are very good things about that. It’s just very interesting because it’s so different from what I’ve traditionally written. You know, I’ve traditionally written about people who are very different from me. I see the reasoning for it. I really do. It helps us understand when we take a moment to be like, ‘okay, what if I was this person’? You know, what if I was so-and-so, born in such-and-such time in such-and-such place who thought these things. I think writing has the power to do that. I think it gives more empathy to the writer even than it gives to the reader.

Cerid Jones (38:10):
I love the way you worded a lot of that, Matthew. I really like this idea of revealing or pointing out extreme differences with empathy. I think that is such a powerful….I can’t remember what your exact wording was. I was gonna write it down, but I got caught up in what you were explaining. I just think that’s such a cool phrase that we don’t hear a lot of, you know? That it’s okay to talk about these drastic differences, because like Elena says, you know, we’re all human, we all share these same cores. But doing that contrast with empathy, and we can do that really well in satire. You know, when you put the craft elements in place to do it. That idea really excites me.

Matthew Maichen (38:50):
Just a fun fact: for a few years when I was in college—I’ve calmed down about it now—but basically every single character protagonist in every story I wrote was a woman. My friend actually did say to me, ‘okay, you need to put as much effort into characterizing men as you do women. This is the one thing you need to work on’. There is this very irrational thing in the back of my head that was just like, ‘but I’m a man’. I realized how nonsensical that was, so I didn’t say it out loud, but that was actually what I thought at the time. It wasn’t like, ‘oh, I should be as good because I’m a man’. It’s just like, ‘I’m not as interested. It’s too [much] the same. It’s not different. I’m not stepping into a totally as different of a person’s head as I could be’.

Elena L. Perez (39:55):
That kind of relates to what we were saying earlier about journaling. How I—and Mel—use it as way to understand ourselves, but you’re right, Matthew, it can definitely be a way to understand others, as well. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes like you’re saying, someone else living in our time or someone else living in a different time than us, that definitely changes your perspective on the world and maybe helps you understand why somebody does things the way they do.

Matthew Maichen (40:36):
Oh yeah. Yeah, you’re right. It’s a good thing. I think there are a lot of writing aphorisms that people maybe take too far. ‘Write what you know’ is a really good idea. I think people—and I know this because, if you look at literary fiction, how many forty-something, fifty-something professors do you see who have a weird infatuation with one of their students that they can’t let go of. Guys writing what they know and it’s boring. The other thing that people take too far is probably ‘show don’t tell’. I have another really good writing friend who says, ‘no, no, no, no, no. You’re supposed to choose what you show and tell’. You’re supposed to tell the things that aren’t important, so you just get past them. You’re supposed to show the things we’re supposed to focus on and the things that are supposed to be salient for us. There are people who take that advice and then just describe everything.

Cerid Jones (41:56):
It’s like having an actor’s approach to writing, you know?

Elena L. Perez (41:59):
I like that.

Cerid Jones (42:00):
As an actor, you don’t wanna play yourself, right? That’s boring. You wanna play a villain or someone so far out [from] yourself so that you can understand and have that experience. That actually generates empathy when you do that, for better or worse, sometimes depending on what the role might be and how ‘Method’ you’re gonna be. But that’s kind of what I almost hear you sort of echoing in a way, Matthew. Approaching writing in a similar way to an actor approaching playing a role. To experience…but that almost…in a weird way, so many people talk about, you know, when you’re writing, you’ve got to write what you know, and then other people say, ‘well, actually, a really good writer writes what they don’t know so that they can learn how to know in the process of writing it’.

Elena L. Perez (42:43):
Right. I like that. Choose what to show and tell. And then, Cerid, you said—what was it you said? Learn so that you know…

Cerid Jones (42:53):
It was: write what you don’t know so that you learn it.

Elena L. Perez (42:56):
Yes, yes. I like that, too. That sounds so much better. That one particularly kind of grates on my nerves. I remember when I was an undergrad, an acquaintance told me, she’s like, ‘well, how can you be a writer? You haven’t experienced anything’. I was probably twenty at the time. She was convinced that I didn’t know enough about the world to write, but I don’t think that’s true. If—like you’re saying Cerid—if you have the curiosity to learn and to do research and learn what you don’t know so that you do know it, then you can write anything. There’s so much possibility. So, yeah, that advice kind of grates on my nerves. [laughs].

Cerid Jones (43:44):
I think in a way it’s about having the awareness to be able to say, ‘well, I don’t know about this. How can I’, you know? If I can’t…just like the reason why we love reading so much is the fact that you get to explore and experience a whole different world and a whole different lifetime that you are never going to—well, not necessarily never—but probably not gonna experience yourself. It gives you that insight. That’s why we are writing them too, right? To experience something completely different. It’s that same acting approach to writing, to be able to be outside of yourself and somewhere else, you know, and how you can fit that in. Whereas if you are just writing what you know all the time, which is what I constantly got criticized with when I was in uni with my work, is that becomes self-indulgent because it is all just the stuff in your own head, and it’s not relatable to anyone else. You’ve gotta have an element of something you don’t know in there to create that relatability to an external audience, I reckon.

Matthew Maichen (44:39):
Yeah. I was reminded, when you were talking about research, of the small, but extremely dedicated historical fiction fan base.

Elena L. Perez (44:52):
Oh, yes. Oh, I love historical fiction, too. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (44:56):
Oh, my God. They are a whole different beast.

Elena L. Perez (44:58):

Matthew Maichen (44:59):
The writers and the readers in that genre, they are in an art form of their own, because if you are a historical fiction writer and…Oddly enough, not only if you’re a historical fiction writer, but if you are an alternate history writer and you get something wrong, you will have fans breathing down your neck, shouting at you.

Elena L. Perez (45:26):
Oh, yeah.

Matthew Maichen (45:27):
It’s, you know, it’s own world of fiction. The dedication to research in that sub-genre that is, you know, a very small dedicated audience. It’s insane.

Elena L. Perez (45:43):
Yeah. So fascinating.

Cerid Jones (45:46):
It’s kind of similar in the D&D world too, right?

Elena L. Perez (45:49):

Cerid Jones (45:49):
‘Cause you’ve got this rule book and these set of rules that you have to adhere to and it can get really nitpicky. [Laughs] It’s quite interesting when there’s something that already has a dedicated fact line base…

Matthew Maichen (46:01):
Yeah. Oh yeah.

Cerid Jones (46:01):
….you’ve gotta operate around…but we digress. [laughs]

Melissa Reynolds (46:05):
You said the magic words. D&D. I just got back from playing a game with my son and a couple of my friends, but I agree. I actually got into D&D because I wanted to assume that actor role and explore some of the characters that I was writing through the game. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way, but that game is a lot of fun, too. I’ll just say that.

Cerid Jones (46:31):
Oh, yes. I’m with you. Yup. [laughs]

Matthew Maichen (46:33):
[laughs] It’s a great experience for creative people. Actually, it taught me a lot about what an audience wants, because you’re sitting right across from people and you’re trying to entertain them. You have to immediately choose the things that they want to see and not the boring stuff. You have to dispense with the boring stuff and find out what it is right away. We’re gonna stop the conversation for now because we’ve gone on for a long time, but we’ll pick it up in part three of the special ‘editors only’ episode. So, stay tuned for that.

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