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Entries in Wolf-Ely Writing Project (2)

Wednesday
Apr012015

"Trespassing" Published by Midwestern Gothic

This is no April Fool's joke!

My first story from my Wolf-Ely Writing Project is now published! You can read the complete story, “Trespassing,” in the Spring 2015 issue of Midwestern Gothic! Order your copy at HERE.

Read my online author bio HERE.

If you plan to be at AWP in Minneapolis April 8-11, purchase your copy in person when you visit Midwestern Gothic at the book fair (table #2032), chat with the editors, and peruse issues.

Thank you, Minnesota State Arts Board and Midwestern Gothic!

* READ THE FIRST PAGE OF THE STORY BELOW *

 

ABOUT MIDWESTER GOTHIC (quoted from the website)

Midwestern Gothic (ISSN 2159-8827) is a quarterly print literary journal out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here. Midwestern Gothic aims to collect the very best in Midwestern writing in a way that has never been done before, cataloging the oeuvre of an often-overlooked region of the United States ripe with its own mythologies and tall tales.

Don’t be fooled by our name. Gothic fiction is often defined as the inclusion of deeply flawed, often “grotesque” characters in realistic (and, oftentimes unpleasant) settings/situations. At Midwestern Gothic, we take to heart the realistic aspects of Gothic fiction. Not every piece needs to be dark or twisted or full of despair, but we are looking for real life, inspired by the region, good, bad, or ugly.

Ultimately, we’re striving to catalog the best of Midwestern writers, and whether it be pieces physically set in the Midwest, or work inspired by your time living here, we want it.

 

Wendy Skinner is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday
Dec312014

Ely-Wolf Project: Day 365

(This is the tenth and last in a series of posts that chronicles my year-long Minnesota State Arts Board writing project. I'm writing fiction to explore how wolves and wolf hunting affect residents in northern Minnesota. Previous posts have included excerpts from works in progress. For more information about this project, please scroll down to Wolf-Ely Writing Project: Day 1, or click here. Quick links included in this post are: Driving on the ice-covered highwayPowerPoint project overview from the Ely Public Presentation, Facebook post about a most embarrassing moment,  and story excerpts from "Mortality Mode" and "A Million Stars).

A Final Interview

My Minnesota State Arts Board grant period ends today, December 31, 2014. After conducting over two dozen interviews throughout the year, it's time for you to ask me the questions...

How do you feel about this being the end of the grant period?

My stories are based in the fictitious town of Greenstone, which is based on Ely, MinnesotThe grant supported experiences I would never have done on my own—traveling to Northern Minnesota to spend weeks researching and interviewing dozens of interesting people. It's a rush to delve deeply into a community in a concentrated amount of time, but a major let down when it all comes to an end.

It's like the closing night for a play.

Exactly! You’ve built sets, endlessly tweaked lights and sound and spent weeks memorizing lines and rehearsing scenes—only to have it all end after the final curtain call.

What exactly did you accomplish over the grant year? (Tweet your answer in 140 characters max!)

I interviewed 27 people. Submitted 5 stories to 50+ literary magazines. 500 people visited 10 monthly blog posts. 100+ came to my Mpls reading & 50+ to the Ely program.

But what about wolves? Did you see any?

Luna, my muse for the black wolf that weaves in and out of the stories.Yes, I saw many wolves—in captivity at the International Wolf Center in Ely. I had the privilege of meeting three elder retired wolves: Grizzer and two Arctic wolves named Malik and Shadow. I was lucky to meet Malik and Shadow before they died from natural causes in March and July, respectively. I also met the four active ambassador wolves: Aidan and Denali (Rocky Mountain gray wolves), and Boltz and Luna (Great Lakes gray wolves).

But no wild wolves?

Sorry. No wild wolves. Even if you live in the Northwoods every day, it’s still a rare experience to spot a wild wolf. Maybe next time I visit I’ll get lucky.

What was the scariest thing that happened?

Driving my Honda Accord on the ice-covered highway from Ely to Orr. It was very early on a Saturday morning on my way to interview a woman who raised miniature Nigerian dwarf goats on Pelican Lake. Not a soul passed me in either direction, my arms and shoulders ached from clenching the steering wheel, and it was 16 below zero. I had visions of careening off the iced-over road only to freeze like a walleye stuck in a snowbank outside an ice fishing house.

What was the most unexpected?

Hidden Valley Ski Club Trails in ElyMaking so many new friends—and at times under the most unexpected circumstances. For example, after a week of back-to-back interviews, I finally had a 4-hour break when the temperature rose to a balmy 10 below zero. I decided to squeeze in a round of nordic skiing at Hidden Valley between my morning and late afternoon interviews. After an hour and a half, I was on the home stretch back to the parking lot when I realized I’d dropped my camera.   When I began to backtrack, I bumped into a local skier. It was a little embarrassing—I’m notorious for losing things—and had to explain why I was going the wrong way on a one-way trail. He insisted on skiing with me to help me look for my camera.

And…Did you find your camera?

After three exhausting hours skiing the entire back loop for a second time, I never did find it! But I did make a new, dear friend. This is just one example of how people I met were so welcoming and accepting of me, a stranger to the community.

What did you find most challenging in your writing process?A glimpse of my writing desk.

That has to be what always challenges me most: getting into the regular routine of writing. Drafting stories is work. Just like a job, I have to show up on a regular basis, be present and start scribbling or typing. Writing takes long, dedicated amounts of time for me. I can write from nine in the morning to six in the evening without so much as a bathroom break to get a story down. That’s a good day.

What about revision?

The revision process that takes much longer for me, but it’s easier to do in smaller pieces.

How did you deal with distractions?

Simply showing up, being present—and closing the door—took care of a lot of distractions. But there were some distractions that I couldn’t and didn’t want to close the door on. When personal crises arose and put a stop the writing process all together, I just let it be. Writing will always be there, family or friends might not. So, it’s important to let the writing go and take care of life and the ones you love most, especially yourself.

What are three things you learned?

1. If I listen well, I will hear the most intriguing stories.

2. Real life truly is stranger than fiction.

3. My best stories are inspired by my truest human connections.

If you could do one thing over, what would that be?

I would never interview anyone in a restaurant or coffee shop.

Why not?

I found that most people say only what they’re willing to let the whole world know when they tell you something in a public place. I’m not interested in that. I want to listen to what they’re not willing to tell the whole world, those secrets or those reflections that they only express when in a quiet, safe, private place. I want to hear the stories they would only tell me, a trusted confidant.

How did the two public readings go?

Fantastic! Because of great publicity efforts—stories in the paper, posters, emails, Facebook, blog posts and word of mouth—over 150 people heard about my project and listened to me read from two stories, "Mortality Mode" and "A Million Stars."

How many people came to the Minneapolis reading?

Five 2014 MSAB Artist Initiative grantees read at the Loft.Over 100 people attended the Minnesota State Arts Board Loft reading at Open Book on Nov. 7.  Five of us 2014 grantees read from our work.

And how was the turnout for the Ely reading?Q & A at Grand Ely Lodge presentation

People packed the house at the Ely Grand Lodge. Over 50 people came on Nov. 18 for the full program: 20-minute PowerPower project overview, 20-minute reading of “A Million Stars,” and a half hour of Q & A. Audience members had lots of great energy and asked insightful questions about wolves and fiction.

Where are your stories now?

I polished five of the seven stories I wrote to final drafts and submitted them to over 50 literary magazines. The rejections began pouring in immediately. Then, just before Christmas the editor of Midwest Gothic notified me that they accepted my story, “Trespassing,” for publication in 2015!

Congratulations! What about the other stories?

I’m hopeful that over the next few months one or two more—and if I’m really lucky, three—stories will be accepted for publication. I’ll let you know when “Trespassing” or any other stories are published and available to the public. It’s a long process. It could be up to a year before you see these in print.

What’s next?

First and foremost will be to write the second half of the story collection. I’m aiming for 9-10+ stories total. I have dozens of interviews and notes I’ve yet to tap for material. I might retreat to a cabin Up North where I can dedicate focused writing time. Then, more revision and submissions to literary magazines. Ultimately, I’ll seek to publish the entire collection as a novel in stories. I’ll keep you posted!

Any last words?

Following the radio signal beep from a collared wolf on the far shore of Birch Lake.I’m grateful for all the people whose words and actions supported me during the year. Besides tax payers who supported me through the Minnesota State Arts Board grant, I had offers from strangers for a bed, a cup of coffee, time to talk or take a walk. I was most grateful when my plans fell through and people stepped in to help--twice.

Once in January when the cabin I planned to stay in was not fit for winter occupancy and via a chain of communication through Sheila O’Connor and Polly Carlson-Voiles, I landed a gig house sitting for Alanna Dore right in Ely! Another time was in November when my plans to present my program fell through with my first venue. Within 24 hours and another chain of communication through Jordyn Nyquist, Steve Piragis and Steve Schon, I landed a one-hour speaking engagement with the Tuesday Group at the Grand Ely Lodge.

Then of course there are all the Minnesota tax payers who supported me through the Minnesota State Arts Board grant and the countless offers of support, such as a home to stay in, a cup of coffee at the Front Porch, a meal at the Chocolate Moose, a walk in the Superior National Forest, snowshoeing on Birch Lake, canoeing across the Hegman lakes to see pictographs…

And the dozens of people who agreed to be interviewed?

Of course I have to thank them! They taught me about wolves, wolf management issues, and what it’s like to live in Northeastern Minnesota in the heart of wolf territory.

Did the interview process play a significant role in your creative process?

Absolutely!

Then one last question: Can you leave us with a sense of what it was like to listen to so many people over your months of research?

Sure. Here’s an excerpt from my journal after my first week of interviews that gets to the heart of my writing:

January 27, 2014

Oh, my. What a trip. What a wealth of information, experiences, and emotion. From doubt to encouragement to fear, dread, frustration, distain, anticipation, surprise, thrill, relief, exhaustion, compassion, and as they say, the greatest to all, love.

I’ve discovered some people who have the biggest, most tender hearts, others whose hearts have been beaten and broken, only to form a tough outer shell for protection. And, still others whom I never care to see again personally, but challenge me to see the deeper meaning of their human experience.

This whole week has been an exercise in human compassion. Is this what it feels like to be missionary? Always turned on, speaking face to face and searching for the needs of each soul I encounter? No matter who they are or how poorly or well they treat me, my job is to find their motivation—what makes them who they are—and discover that spark that leads to a flaming success of a story.

My working map of fictitious Greenstone, Minnesota where all my stories take place.

Wendy Skinner is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.