Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Alison Stine’s first YA novel, Supervision, will be published by HarperVoyager on April 9, 2015.
Also the author of three books of poems: Wait (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), Ohio Violence (University of North Texas Press, 2009), and Lot of My Sister (The Kent State University Press, 2001), her awards include the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Her work has been published in such magazines as: The Nation, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, and Poetry. She lives in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve told stories since I was a child. My mom, who was a teacher, used to write down all the stories I would tell her, and taught me to read quite young. I think my first piece was about a snowman wearing high heels and eating pancakes—all things that were important to me at 3! When I was 12, I wrote a ghost story that the local newspaper published. This was a story based on one my dad had told me, about a haunted train tunnel in his town. Kids would dare each other to hide in the safety bays of the tunnel when a train came through. This story actually is a major part of my first YA novel, Supervision.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My first novel for young adults, Supervision, is being published by HarperVoyager, an imprint of HarperCollins, on April 9. Supervision is about a girl who gets in trouble in NYC and is sent to live with her grandmother in a small, rural town. She makes friends, and is settling in there, but then she discovers her friends are dead. And something is wrong with her too.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I have a very small office in a very small house. My office has a desk by the window with a view of the wild yard: trees and a big hill and birds. There’s a good lamp, a quilt, and posters on the wall by my favorite graffiti artists (I did my PhD dissertation in part on graffiti). It’s cozy, colorful, and sunny, but I actually prefer to work in public. I like a little background noise and distraction. I write in coffee shops and libraries. My favorite place to work is at a table in the corner at the bakery in my town.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I write in the mornings. As soon as I drop my son off at preschool, I rush back and write as much as I can. I work on fiction or whatever “hard thing” is troubling my writing; the morning is for the most difficult work. Then I make lunches, pick my son up, take him to the park and daycare for a few hours. Some days I teach a fiction class. On the days I’m not in the classroom, I work on essays, research, and revising in the afternoon. Then it’s time to pick my son up, another park visit, dinner, cleanup, and getting him off to bed. Once he’s asleep, I make a pot of coffee at 9pm or so and stay up into the early hours writing some more. Missing from my typical day is enough sleep!
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I was very influenced by the National Novel Writing Month concept of writing a fast draft in a short period of time. I don’t write a novel in a month, but I do try to push through and write at least 1,000 words a day, not editing much or getting feedback until I’ve finished a draft of the whole project. I love editing. It’s actually my favorite part. The messier the draft, the better. But I also like organizing and spring cleaning, so I think I’m just strange.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Everything I write is a letter, reaching out to someone I have or haven’t met.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I am very influenced by art, particularly street art. I document graffiti, and am wildly inspired by women street artists (see this video for an example of some of the work being done by female graffiti artists today). I just spent a few weeks at an artists’ and writers’ colony in rural Vermont, the Vermont Studio Center. It was life-changing to be around so many talented visual artists. I am happiest and most inspired by people who love their work and who make work very different from my own—whether the work is painting, taking photographs, solving proofs or building chairs. Sharing differences, being challenged, and learning new things is what makes me feel sharp and alive.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Shutting out the critics—including the inner critic, who is the harshest one—and beginning again. My first published books were poetry, so for most of my writing life, few people have read my work; poetry, unfortunately, has such a limited audience. But coming out onto the novel stage now, especially the YA novel stage, I’m in this weird place where I’ve been publishing for a long time, but for the first time ever, I might have a few readers. It’s even more terrifying than not having them.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
You’re not alone. There are other writers just like you. There are artists not exactly not you who will make excellent companions and collaborators and co-patriots for you. You have company and help. It’s okay to want a creative, magical life. Other people want it too—and you will get there together.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I want to tell the stories that don’t get told. I want my hometown and towns like it—small, rural, neglected—to be known for more than just poverty, but for magic and beauty as well. I want to help people, in my small way, feel not alone. I want girls to know their strength. As a deaf writer (I was born with a profound hearing loss), diversity is extremely important to me. I want diverse books to continue to be championed, and many, many more to published; I want the publishing world to wake up.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Kelly Link, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Elizabeth Dickinson, Sarah Einstein, Domenica Ruta, Holly Goddard Jones, Meghan O’Rourke, Jessica Smith
Thank you, Alison Stine!
— Nicole Melanson
And thank you, Maggie Smith, for recommending Alison! Read Maggie Smith’s WordMothers interview here
* Author photo by Kari Gunter-Seymour
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