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Intermittent Visitors: Avery Oslo

Young Netherlands writer Avery Oslo agreed to answer some of my questions for Intermittent Visitors:

 

1. What is your writing process?

It’s all procrastination, all day every day. I go through reams of paper writing for my job as a historian and often I need to procrastinate in order to get some good history done. That’s when I write some of my best short stories and novel scenes. I like always having a writing project or 10 in the works, though of course sometimes when deadlines come up for them I get panicky… and so I procrastinate by producing some fine history. The writing and the history feed one another, and I feel very fortunate that I get to make a living procrastinating.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

I don’t have the exact quote, but something along the lines of “just write it, and worry about everything else later.” Often I see new writers in my writer’s groups agonizing over what genre their novel is going to fall into, or how they are ever going to sell something so out of the box. But that kind of agonizing is useless – write the novel first, pull something out of the box first, and then once you’ve gone through that journey of creating and polishing something start to finish, the marketing stuff will be much more obvious. And there will be people to help you. And the answers will make themselves found. The process of actually finishing something is invaluable because of the journey – When you’re writing, your brain operates on a different level. You notice things you didn’t before you started writing. Everything inside of you is in the writing-zone, and this writing-zone ensures you get what you need when you need it- you’ll see the flyer for a book reading at your local library where you can ask the author questions. The right how-to books will make it to your hands. You’ll be super-aware of the things you need to know to get your words out there to people who want to read them. So there’s really no sense in putting the cart before the horse – write first, then worry about marketing what you’ve written when it’s done.

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your short story “For the Love of Ciderpunk” (currently in the 2012 Best New Writing Anthology)?

“For the Love of Ciderpunk” was a finalist for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Short Prose Award. It is a YA story about a girl caught between love and God in a camp of cider-swilling punks and squatters in the UK. While intoxicated, she witnesses a grotesque event that changes her worldview and makes the decision clear for her. I took a lot of the elements of setting and characters from the story out of my own life – when I was in my early 20s, I lived in the UK and spent a lot of time squatting. Squatter’s lives are compact- they live and love and cry and celebrate and experience profound tragedy and violence in very short periods of time. When squatting, you can easily fit a lifetime of experiences into a year or less, and that leads to a lot of rearranging of your beliefs and priorities and future plans. I wanted to write a story that captured that discombobulated feeling of first starting in a community like that, so I wrote a first-person present-tense story about how this first-time squatter experiences the lifestyle and the ways in which her own worldview shifts after she experiences both the good and the bad that this lifestyle seems to embody.

 

4. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself
and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to
communicate the things you already know?

I don’t really know much, and don’t think I write to teach, but to learn. My writing is always a surprise to me – I never know exactly what I’m capable of generating when I put fingers to keyboard. I’m not trying to communicate the things I already know, but the things which I need to learn. When I look over my writing from 5, 10, 15, 20+ years ago , I can see that so much of it was my trying to understand various abstract concepts by writing about them in spaces where I could control all the variables – the setting, characters, plot, etc. I seem to be able to learn best not through having something explained to me, or by reading about it, or by doing it, but by writing about someone else doing it. Only by writing about how they thought and felt about it, what they smelled, who they affected, etc. can I really learn something properly, in a way that I can reference again and again throughout my life. Something I created sticks with me more profoundly than the life lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.
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  1. […] Fans of my short story “For the Love of Ciderpunk,” (finalist for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose Prize and published in Best New Writing 2012) will be happy to know she got me to spill all about how I came up with the grotesque events and unforgetably colorful characters who really made that story. It has everything to do with  the things I learned and the people I met while communally squatting various places in the UK in my early 20s.  You can read all about it on her blog. […]