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“More important than a desk is a room where I can close the door…”


GEMINI INK: How do you work?

LAURA VAN PROOYEN: At my best, I write daily around 5 or 6 a.m. Because I was on the road a lot this summer, I fell out of this routine. I look forward to this fall to reestablish my pattern.

GEMINI INK: What theme or symbol keeps emerging in your work? Why?

photo-4LAURA VAN PROOYEN: My latest book manuscript, Our House Was on Fire, is riddled with birds. I either have to thank or blame a writing residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, IL where I happened upon a bird banding field team from a local university. I joined this team for 10 days, learning how to handle, identify, and band birds. For a long time after that, birds appeared left and right in my work.

GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk.

LAURA VAN PROOYEN: I’ve never had a writing desk. I write in my favorite ripped up chair that currently is in our guest room. I suppose I like the mobility of my laptop and notebook. When I tire of the room, I go to a coffee shop or to the library. Mostly, though, I like to write from my comfy chair, where I can access my bookshelf and chill with my cats. More important than a desk is a room where I can close the door.

GEMINI INK: What is integral to your method of writing?

LAURA VAN PROOYEN: I write best when I can look outside. Windows or access to the outdoors is key for me.

GEMINI INK: What is your next project?

LAURA VAN PROOYEN: When birds and other recurring figures refused to stop appearing in my work, I decided I needed to shift gears. I self-imposed a mandate for new poems: no husbands, no daughters, no birds. The result is a series of poems loosely based on childhood memories and an elusive character from my history named Frances. It’s exciting to write from a place that feels mysterious to me.

GEMINI INK: What is one way to jump start your creativity?

LAURA VAN PROOYEN: Show up and trust the process. Play.


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Whenever and wherever I am, I write. I keep a journal—dreams, ideas, conversations, imagined first lines…

GEMINI INK: Norma, what theme or symbol keeps emerging in your work and why?

NORMA CANTÚ: I guess a literary critic will have to answer this formally. For me, it is the border and also the idea of land and family.

GEMINI INK: Do you have any secret rituals you perform before you get started writing—tics, habits, special ceremonies?  How important is it to you to have a sense of sameness about your writing routine?

NORMA CANTÚ: No, I don’t have any special rituals and I don’t have a sense of sameness about my routine…it happens wherever I am. Of course, when I have had occasion to I relish the time devoted solely to writing, I do have a routine and I love the solitude as when I had the Beca Nebrija en Alcala de Henares and I wrote everyday, all day long, with short breaks for food and to walk a bit. I had a similar routine in Albuquerque when I wrote Canicula.


GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?

NORMA CANTÚ: I use the computer, but I also write with ink pen or a pilot ballpoint. I like no. 2 pencils…

GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk.

NORMA CANTÚ: My first writing desk was the kitchen table at 104 E. San Carlos. Now, I have a simple table at home, and I have a university-supplied desk in my office.

GEMINI INK: How do you mentally get into a space for writing?

NORMA CANTÚ: Not sure, I just do it. Sometimes for poetry, I find that reading poetry elicits poetry from me.

GEMINI INK: What music are you listening to now?

NORMA CANTÚ: These days I continue to listen to a variety of things: Cesaria Evora to Eva Ybarra; classical (operas), musical theater, Conjunto and 60s music. I am watching an old movie about an opera singer: Jose Mujica.

GEMINI INK: What is the best writing time of day for you?  What is the worst?  Does it matter?

NORMA CANTÚ: The best is late at night… between midnight and 5 a.m. I don’t think there is a worst time… I can write at any time, so I guess it does not matter.

GEMINI INK: Do you have any special charms, talismans or souvenirs in your workspace? What and Why?

NORMA CANTÚ: No, but frequently some things find their way to my desk—the seashell from Finisterra or from Port Aransas, a feather found on my morning walk.

GEMINI INK: What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

NORMA CANTÚ: READ. I always tell students who ask, just read and then write!

GEMINI INK: Does good writing result from best practices, magic or both?

NORMA CANTÚ: Probably both and then some! I think it results in finding your path as a writer and following it…maybe it is writing in a cafe, or writing on a plane, or at home in a specific space…no le hace. Good writing emerges from deep emotion and truth telling.

GEMINI INK: What do you want to do in your writing that you’ve never done before?

NORMA CANTÚ: I have never written a full fledged play and I’d love to do so. I would also love to write a broadway musical based on the Camino de Santiago. I also have only dabbled in mystic poetry—I would love to do more of that.

GEMINI INK: What do you consider the best/worst trends in writing today?

NORMA CANTÚ: Best trends: the personal narrative, flash fiction, and graphic novels. The worst: probably writing that seeks to shock by using profanity.

GEMINI INK: What’s your favorite writer snack?

NORMA CANTÚ: I don’t have any… in fact some times I forget to eat when I am writing!

Metz Desk

I know that there are many writers with regulated schedules, but alas, I am not one of those. I write when I have time—which might be anytime. I will say that mornings with a cup of strong green tea are wonderful writing hours.


GEMINI INK: What theme or symbol keeps emerging in your work? Why?

JULIE METZ: I try to uncover some truth in my past to find freedom in the present. That urge just bubbles up no matter what topic I set myself.

GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk.

JULIE METZ: So far it’s still my desk. It’s a small writing desk I bought at auction years ago. Kind of old-fashioned and maybe a bit too small now, but it feels cozy.

Metz Desk_1

GEMINI INK: How do you mentally get into a space for writing?

JULIE METZ: I make sure my morning chores are done so that they won’t distract me. We all have our weaknesses…mine is that since I work at home, I cannot stand seeing disorder around me when I am trying to create something that often feels out of control.

GEMINI INK: What music are you listening to now?

JULIE METZ: I can only listen to music without words when I write. My tastes are eclectic to say the least…the tunes of any day might range from bluegrass to jazz to wailing blues to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.

GEMINI INK: Do you have any secret rituals you perform before you get started writing–tics, habits, special ceremonies?  How important is it to you to have a sense of sameness about your writing routine?

JULIE METZ: I am not an observant person but I have been known to say a quiet prayer to the universe.

GEMINI INK: Do you have any special charms, talismans or souvenirs in your workspace?  What and Why?

JULIE METZ: I am working on a book about my mom—I keep two photos on my desk that I look at often. One is my grandmother (whom I never met) dressed as Flora, Goddess of Spring for a costume ball in Vienna sometime around 1920. I love to imagine this woman I never met who clearly had a great sense of humor and vitality. The second photo is of this same grandmother and my mother relaxing in Maine in 1956 or so. You can tell so much about their relationship in this photo, how close they were. Sometimes I try to imagine that I am sitting there too. I have a well-worn pebble I found in a pocket of one of my mom’s coats after she died, a stone she had rubbed to a shine. I have two small figurines: Ganesh (remover of obstacles) and a Buddha made of pink rubber (who makes me smile). I also have an origami cat that my daughter made for me when she was young. She wrote on it: “You’re great! You’re the best mom ever!” Hey, we all need a cheerleader.

Metz Desk_2

Metz Desk_3

GEMINI INK: What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

JULIE METZ: I think Anne Lamott’s advice in Bird by Bird is the best: Try to write something every day, even if it’s a paragraph. Give yourself small tasks and keep at it. When you will look back in a few months you’ll see that you’ve accomplished a lot. Keep a notebook or 3 x 5 cards handy because you never know when you will get a great idea.

GEMINI INK: Does good writing result from best practices, magic or both?

JULIE METZ: There is no magic. You just have to keep at it. Ok, maybe there is magic, but it won’t happen unless you are sitting at your desk, or sitting somewhere else with a notebook handy or taking a walk, with a notebook in your pocket. You have to be ready to meet your inspiration like a friend when it arrives from out of the blue.

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