1. Why did you start writing?
"I started writing when I was about 10 years old. I kept journals, wrote lots of letters, poems, and stories. I tried to write a novel about a thirteen year-old girl from the midwest who wanted to be a ballerina and had a chance to move to New York City for dance school. I still have this novel attempt - it is in a bunch of tiny little notebooks including illustrations! I also read a lot as a child and decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I would pretend that I was a writer. I set up an office in my closet with a cardboard box for a desk and found some old glasses to wear. I messed up my hair and shoved a pencil behind my ear. This was my idea of a real writer - unkempt and busily scrawling away! This was inspired by a movie I saw called 84 Charing Cross Road based on the life of writer Helene Hanff."
2. Where do you draw inspiration?
"Writing makes me so happy and I absolutely love poetry. I am truly passionate about it and I draw inspiration from a variety of places - from my experiences, research for the book I’m working on, even from a pair of boots or a pile of logs in my yard. I tend to see poems everywhere! I frequently mine my old journals for material. I also participate pretty frequently in different generative writing classes and draw a lot of inspiration from those."
3. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"I use both notebooks and computer as part of my writing process. When I sit down to write, it is usually at a computer. However, I often get ideas when I am not sitting at the computer so I carry notebooks around with me everywhere. I keep one in my purse and one in my car so that I can jot things down on the go. I also use my phone to jot down ideas. For revising and editing I always work from a typed version on the computer but I have many first drafts that happen on paper."
4. How do you know when a poem is done?
"I know when a poem is done when I feel satisfied that I have completely expressed what I want to convey in a way that I find satisfying. When it feels like it flows and makes the impact I am looking for then I know I am done. It’s a gut feeling but it doesn’t always come easy and I often struggle with endings."
5. Who are your go-to poets/writers?
"My favorite poets include Maggie Smith, Nikki Giovanni, Mary Oliver, Rumi, and Maya Angelou. I love to read anything by Anne Lammott, Mary Karr, Dani Shapiro, and Elizabeth Gilbert. I have so many poets and writers that I enjoy reading but these are my go-tos."
6. What do you do when you’re in a writing slump?
"When I am in a writing slump, I try not to panic and tell myself that it will not last forever. I try not to get too down about it and instead just let myself be where I am. Sometimes it just means that it is time for absorption and stillness instead of churning out words. Meditation can be an effective way for me to spark creativity again. I will also often listen to my favorite books about writing such Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird when I am in a slump and these always get me excited about writing and inspire me!"
7. Would you like to share what current writing project(s) you are working on?
"I am working on trying to publish my first chapbook of poems, called Firmer Ground. I always have a variety of different poems in progress. Aside from poetry, I also like to write short creative nonfiction pieces and have a few in progress. I have been working for a while on an historical fiction novel based on the lives of my maternal ancestors. That is a huge project that involves both a lot of research and a lot of imagination. This year, one of my writing goals is to become more comfortable and confident with short story writing so I am focusing on learning and practicing that form as well."
8. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"I hope that people take away something that they can relate to and that touches or inspires them in some way. I hope people get a sense of hope and resilience. My poetry chapbook and my novel in progress have similar themes. Both deal with bridging the gap between generations and self, hurt and healing and explore the place where surviving and enduring morph into thriving and reclaiming. I feel that my work can serve as a reminder that even though things can get shaky, there is a way to firmer ground."
9. What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve been told or happened to overhear? Or what writing advice would you offer?
"I am a firm believer in Anne Lamott’s sh*tty first draft since you cannot edit what is not there. Sometimes I can write something in my head and type it up and it’s all there because I have thought about it thoroughly and for a long time. Usually, though, I need to write a bunch of junk I end up deleting but it will get me where I need to go. I think it often works well to write more than is necessary in initial drafts so a lot of my process is removing the extra. I often put a piece of writing away for a while before coming back to it to take a fresh look. I have trusted readers that I rely on to help me workshop my pieces."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough? Tell me all about it!
"Writing is not my full time job but I do have a full time job that I really love. I work as an attorney for a company that makes technology for people without natural speech. Our mission is to provide solutions that enable individuals without a voice to become successful communicators. Our mission is literally to give voices and I absolutely love getting to be part of the work that we do. It is very gratifying and inspiring to be part of something that makes a huge positive difference in people’s lives!"
Hear Beth read her prose "The Shawl."
Beth Mulcahy (she/her) is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and writer whose work has appeared in various journals, including Full House Literary and Roi Faineant Press. Her writing bridges the gaps between generations and self, hurt and healing. Beth lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and works for a company that provides technology to people without natural speech. Her latest publications can be found here: https://linktr.ee/mulcahea.
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