What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* Alli Marshall grew up in Western New York and has called the mountains of North Carolina home for more than 20 years. She's a Warren Wilson College graduate and completed her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College. She's been named the best arts reporter in Western North Carolina in the annual Best of WNC reader's poll, 2011-2014. She received awards in editorial reporting from the North Carolina Press Association in 2005 and 2014, and from the International Festivals & Events Association in 2004. She also took home top honors in the Cupcakes for the Cure bake-off (local ingredient category) — but that’s another story. And though Alli doesn't like to brag or anything, over the course of her career she's interviewed Yoko Ono, Cyndi Lauper, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Aimee Mann, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Michael Franti, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Ziggy Marley, Peter Murphy, Grace Potter, Jamie Lidell, Kishi Bashi and many, many others.
Today Alli Marshall will be talking about how she handles balancing life and writing.
* My thoughts on balancing life and writing are kind of at odds. On one hand, I believe in seeking balance in life. Healthy eating, daily exercise, relaxation, plenty of rest and the disciple to stick to that program. But I'm also a realist and I think that the whole balanced life concept is is a bit of a sham. Who out there is actually pulling it off? At the end of the day, I think that idea (along with good family relationships, friendly exes and enjoying green tea) are just there for us to aspire to and fall short of.
* So I don't really balance my writing and non-writing lives. My new novel, How to Talk to Rockstars, was written in bits and pieces over the course of a year. I did set up daily goals of 500-1,000 words while writing, and 10 pages while editing. And because I'm a task master, I stuck to those goals. But different writers make it work in different ways. There are those who works set hours, or write a set number of pages. Then there are those who write like mad when inspiration strikes and walk away from it when the ideas stop flowing. In art there’s simply no right way, and while learning about the techniques that others use can be helpful, the successes of others — and methods to reach those successes — should never be used as a measuring stick of our own shortcomings.
* The thing about writing is that, even when it's going well, it's hard. It's difficult to access that world and unlock its particular language; and it's hard to leave it behind, too. But endeavoring to reach that world — bushwacking if need be, because the creative landscape is a jungle rather than a neatly manicured garden — is worthwhile work. Sometimes just getting to the starting point is the most harrowing part of the adventure, and the writing hasn’t even started yet.
* Here’s a passage from How to Talk to Rockstars in which the main character, Bryn (a music journalist) tried to get in the head of one of the musicians she’s interviewing:
*** Bryn wonders how. How can Sid Holmes open himself up to a roomful of strangers each night? There’s no time for the usual detective work, the clues that divide strangers into groups: Potential friends and people who could never be your friends.
*** Maybe he doesn’t discern. There’s no time for discernment, only time to be open, to let it all in. The rest of the night, alone in a hotel room, and the following day, alone in a car, heading to the next town — that’s the time for putting the guard back up.
*** But who needs their guard up when they’re all alone?
*** So, maybe Sid Holmes lives without the guard up.
* Bryn, I came to realize in the process of creating her story, is in the business of writing about heroes, because rockstars are our modern-day heroes. But it’s Bryn who is on a hero’s journey, and her adventure, both physical and emotional, kind of reflects the journey of the writer.
* There’s a lot of time spent alone, a lot of internal dialog, a lot of self-doubt and overcoming the smallness of the self in order to achieve the greatness of the mission.
* So, balance? Not so much. If it happens, fantastic. If not, go where the road leads. Someone with a less momentous task at hand can worry about balance.
* Learn more about How to talk to Rockstars at http://www.alli-marshall.com and http://www.facebook.com/allimarshallauthor
* The tracks appeared in order, summoned from some distant world. Bryn dropped the headset over her ears and clicked play. The world outside the headphones stood still. Blood beating in her ears, rivulets of rain streaking the picture window, outside a blurred watercolor. Everything and the absence of everything. A ballet of shapes and shapelessness.
* Wanting seems so harmless at first, the way it feels like an old familiar ache, comfortable as pajamas. The way it feels good to return to a previous sadness, to sink into the soft gloom.
* The way he spoke of love, always losing, always chasing, always wanting.
* The songs held her captive from the first. She simply sat and watched the rain and listened. That was all. They were not acquaintances then, Bryn and Jude. They were two people in two separate bubbles. Bryn in her dusk-darkened office, Jude just a voice coming through the headphones. It didn’t occur to her to wonder what he looked like, or his age or where he was from. Usually the back story was at the front of her mind. A journalist’s habit. But Jude was a song first and a man later.
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