Saturday, January 3, 2009

Q&A with Margaret Fieland

Q: Tell us about what you write.

A: I'm a professional Computer Software engineer – BA in mathematics, MS in computer science, and it never even occurred to me to be a writer. That said, I've written poetry as far back as I can remember – somehow that didn't “count” -- but not with publication in mind and not with any level of dedication. At present, I'm writing nonfiction ( a monthly column for an ezine, FemmeVip – poetry and stories, especially children's stories. I sort of fell into writing for publication. I'm far from the best organized person going, so though I wrote tons of poetry, I didn't keep it organized in any way. Finally, I wrote a poem I wanted to keep – and wanted to, and did, see published – so I looked around for a way to organize that I could cope with. Since I'm a computer professional, I used more than one computer – and also I'm paranoid about backup – so I put the online. At first I had them in my Yahoo briefcase. Later I switched to Google documents, which I like much better.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing that you’ve ever written?

A: I have a couple of poems that hold a special place in my heart. One is “Booze,” the poem that got me started getting organized. I also have an unpublished story, “Sherwood,” that's making the rounds that I'm very fond of, and my chapter book, “The Ugly Little Boy.”

Q:Do you have a favorite character that you write about? If so, who is it, whatmakes it your favorite and tell us about the character.

A:My current favorite character is a little girl, Heather. I originally wrote a silly piece about my kids and some of the stuff they'd done – sort of flash fiction/prose poetry, and the characters were Which, Why, and Whether. The focus was on Why. The characters were modeled after my sons, now grown. Then I decided I needed to expand the thing and wanted real names, so the first two ended up as “Mitch” and “Wyatt.” I tried to come up with a boy's version of “Whether,” but I kept coming back to “Heather.” I've written some stories about the characters, and plan to do more, perhaps a chapter book, and, well, Heather took over {grin} and she ended up being the focus of the stories. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with Heather and her brothers, but she's on my list of things to do in 2009.

Q: Almost every writer is inspired by someone else. Does anyone inspire you?

A: Lewis Carroll. My all time favorite book is “Alice in Wonderland,” which I reread every exam time when I was in college, as I made it a habit to avoid the library during exams.

Q:How long have you been writing?

A: I've been writing poetry since my teens, but only with publication in mind for the past three or four years. As a story writer I'm pretty much of a novice, as I only started writing stories after I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson after the first Muse online writer's conference three years ago and joined her writing forums. I'm 62 now, so that's a lot of years of writing.

Q: What made you want to start writing?

A: Good question – I started and became addicted. I really love writing. I wrote a poem as a thank you for an instructor in an online course I just finished and I realized when I'd finished just how much I just plain enjoy writing poetry. Besides, if I don't write it down it stays stuck in my head.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: Like many teens, I started writing (bad) poetry in my teens as an outlet for my teenage angst. Then later on I started writing poetry for the people I was dating, and after that for family birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, -- basically everything.

Q: What's the strangest thing you've ever written? Why?

A: I don't think anything I write is strange {looks innocently up at ceiling}. I have written several surreal poems, and I have one I really like called “Machine A Ecrire” (French for typewriter), unpublished, in the shape of a typewriter. The sentences are “variations” on the stuff they had us all typing when we were in school.

Q: Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts whenyoung, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?

A: When I was young I was studying music, not writing – I play the flute and the piccolo. My mother was an artist and while she was supportive of my music, her advice was “Always be able to support yourself,” so for that and other reasons I didn't become a professional musician.

Q: Who proofreads and critiques your work?

A: I belong to a couple of (online) critique groups, and I'm going to start looking a writing partner, as my last one had to quit for family reasons.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Darned if I know. Some of the poetry is “inspired,” some is in response to exercises or prompts I dig up – lots of places.

Q: Where do you write?

A: Wherever I happen to be. I have pads and pens everywhere. I even write in the car. At home, my favorite spot is the dining room table.

Q: When do you write – set times or as the mood moves you?

A: Since I have a full time job, whenever the spirit moves me, and I have (or can make) the time. The nice thing about poetry is that a lot of it is short and taking a couple of minutes to jot down poetry is pretty easy to do. Waiting for appointments is a favorite time to write.

Q: If you could take a character from someone else's book on a date, who wouldit be and where would you take him/her/it?

A: Oh, good question. Some of the characters from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series come to mind. If I could take them anywhere, I think I'd opt for the San Diego Museum of Science (as opposed to the one here in Boston). I was there once for a conference and fell in love with the place.

Q: If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would ask and why?

A: Lewis Carroll, because I have a soft spot for his poetry, or James M. Barrie, because my favorite book as a kid was Peter Pan.

Q: Do you use the Internet to check facts, or the library?

A: Are you kidding? The internet. I'm an online kind of gal. My favorite resource is , which has an online dictionary and thesaurus. I make heavy use of the thesaurus when writing poetry, even rhymed poetry. Though I do occasionally resort to a rhyming dictionary, I usually generate the rhymes myself.

Q: When you're not writing, what do you like to do?

A: Read, listen to music, play my flute and my piccolo, walk our dogs, do crossword puzzles.

Q: Do you ever have a problem with writer's block?

A: Not so far, thank goodness {pauses to knock wood}.

Q: Who's your favorite author (other than yourself)? Why?

A: My favorite author for a long time was Robert Heinlein. I am a 'way back sci fi fan. I picked out his “Farmer in the Sky” as my tenth birthday present.

Q: What's your favorite book (other than one of your own)? Why?

A: Alice in Wonderland, which I reread every exam time in college.

Q: What's the last book, other than your own, that you read and really enjoyed?

A: I just started reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, about a mountaineer who ends up building schools in Pakistan after the inhabitants of a small mountain village save his life.

Q: Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day.Do you do this? Why or why not?

A: No – it feels counterproductive to me. The stuff I write isn't long to begin with. I do try to do something every day – write, revise, submit, critique – but I don't hold myself to a certain number of words.

Q: If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or moviewho would it be? Why?

A:I think I'd like to be Magdalene Lorne from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books. I think she's really neat.

Q: Why did you start writing?

A: I started writing poetry to express teenage angst, and continued for much the same reason. Then I started writing more because it turned my partner on. Then I started writing yet more because it was something special to do for holidays and family birthdays. Then I submitted a poem of mine to a poetry contest on a whim, and it was one of four finalists. So then I felt validated and started working on my poetry and submitting it for publication. I joined online groups, got books on writing poetry and worked through them, started reading more poetry, etc. I like seeing my name in print -- it's a turn-on -- but at bottom, I just plain enjoy writing poetry. Occasionally I am touched by the muse. Then, too, it's a nice, portable occupation, and it's nothing like my day job (computer software engineer), so it's a welcome relief to struggle with a poem or a story instead of why a particular section of code is or isn't working. I also write to get stuff out of my head, where it would otherwise be stuck.

Q: What do you write?

A: I write poetry, stories, and articles. I started writing stories after the first Muse On Writing conference, where I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson. I write both rhymed poetry and free verse. I'm 62 and my day job is a computer software engineer {grin}. I have three sons. The youngest is a senior in college, the next one is in the army, and the oldest is computer software engineer. The middle one is the only one who has any writing talent or musical ability. I live with my partner, who has a son (in college, living at home ATM) and a daughter. We have lots of dogs.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

A: Poetry, of course. I'm trying to put together a couple of chapbooks, and a chapter book for 7-9 year olds, The Ugly Little Boy. This book does have significant meaning for me. Many years ago now, friends lost their lives in a fire. Mother and all four children died, leaving the father, who was never the same. Partly I'm writing TULB to make things come out differently. I can't change what happened, but in my story, there's only one child (all I can handle as a writer), and only the mother dies. I'm working on the rewrite and passing the chapters through my critique group. I'm working on the chapbooks party because it's nice to have a goal, and partly because it's something to do, and partly because it would be a tremendous ego boost to actually see one of them in print.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I play music (the flute and the piccolo). Up until a year ago, when the late nights got to be a bit much for me, I was a member of a band. I have a strong inner need to create.

Contact Margaret Fieland:


Anonymous said...
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Joyce Anthony said...

It was great geting to know you better, Crystalee!

Beth Bence Reinke said...

What a really great and thorough interview. Good job, Margaret!

Crystalee, in addition to both being from PA, we also have in common that we are trained in things other than writing. :o)

All best,