Good morning everyone! Today you are in for a real treat. After brainstorming with a fellow blogger, I have a new blog feature to add to A New Look on Books – a writer’s feature. Each month I will post a two part feature. The first part will be an interview with the month’s author and include a short bio. The second part of the feature is a sample of the writer’s work. Sounds fun right?
Everyone give a big welcome to January’s writer, a former professor of mine at Arcadia University who writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. *claps*
Meet Tracey Levine.
Tracey Levine grew up in northeast Philadelphia and teaches creative writing and film courses at Arcadia University where she coordinates the creative writing concentration for undergraduates. She earned a BFA in screenwriting from University of the Arts, an MA in English from Arcadia University, and a MFA in fiction from Syracuse University. She has worked on many documentary projects for WHYY and her creative writing work has appeared in Verbal Seduction, Metropolis VoxPop, Literary Mothers, The Literary Yard, The Halcyon Review, Corner Club Press, Streetlight Mag, Eunoia Press, Crack the Spine, and The Philadelphia City Paper. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her cat and boyfriend. She is a yogi and plays darts in a dart league and is hard at work on a collection of short fiction and a longer thing.
Now onto the interview…
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I am one to believe, although I am not necessarily spiritual in any way, that people are naturally inclined towards certain things naturally. But, having said that, exposure and nurturing are certainly important. My dad was a movie buff, a man obsessed and quite knowledgeable about film. It was his hobby and it was pretty extreme as he had nearly a thousand VHS tapes of films that he’d alphabetize, had a pretty awesome home theater that he couldn’t afford, and he’d sit me and my sister down when we were very young and just show us movies. We watched mostly classics and then he’d tell us the stories about how they were made and about the famous actors’ real lives, and eventually it escalated to quizzing us on which films were nominated for Oscars in which year… I loved it! And film (I have a BFA in screenwriting), but I always was drawn more to the stories. I was a quiet and more solitary child and my parents got a divorce when I was eight, so I remember spending a lot of time thinking about stories of the things that happened in our lives so that I wouldn’t forget, and also because my sister and my cousin Vicky (very close like a sister) would ask me to retell the ‘story’ of a really fun day we had or something like that all of the time, and they encouraged me and relied on me in many ways to entertain them like this. Eventually I started writing stuff down, and reading. I read everything- classics, books of the movies I’d seen, even my mom’s Daniel Steele novels and Stephen King (which I was too young for at the time). I also know that I fell in love with the solitary act of writing and the control of it. It was just me and it was up to me to make it work, to figure it out, which is delightful and also really scary. And insanely difficult which any writer is all too familiar with.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
You know, this is a tough question. I spent a lot of time in school with artists, mostly visual artists, and they were forced to write these artist statements whittling down all of their projects, these really complicated and fairly convoluted things that sort of defied language into a few sentences. I always thought they sounded so dumb and didn’t honor the work in most cases and I was glad that my writing teachers really never forced me to do something like that! I write a lot from my real life and I know that many people have said that my writing is intense. And I know that I try to be fearless as much as I can. If I want to write something I certainly never think well, ‘I can’t,’ for any reason. I let it come when and how it does, and then I deal with it afterward. I do not think of audience when I am writing. I also usually do not deal with paranormal things (although I did sort of write a time travel story last year that I’m still working on) or fantasy. So I guess I am a realist.
How did you come up with the titles for your stories?
A lot of my story titles come from songs or from some tangible pieces of language in the story itself- like I just titled a story I wrote about an abortion based on a bit of language found on a poster in the story. But titles are tough. I’ve learned to try and give the stories a name before I start writing, and most of the time they stick. Sometimes not. I had a teacher in grad school who would never accept anything untitled because without a title, something doesn’t exist and is essentially soulless. That has stuck with me and I really can’t ever write something that doesn’t have a title.
Is there a message in any of your stories that you want readers to grasp?
To create anything artistically you have to have an ego, but I think that any writer does not ever want to get to a point where they think they are right. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time and isn’t that what life and making stuff, and writing, is all about? So as far as message is concerned, I want my readers to think about what I am giving them, but I also want the writing to live on its own. I wrote it, I put it out, and then it becomes what it needs to or it mutates, or whatever. I think that the best stories are debatable in terms of what they really are about and they are somewhat open-ended. But I don’t want to write something that is confusing or purposely disorienting because that can be obnoxious. I just never want to tell my readers what they should think about the work, and I hope that they don’t feel that way after reading.
How much of your stories are realistic?
Most of them but not always my life.
What are you currently working on?
A collection of short stories with a novella, and I went back to a novel-length project recently that I had worked on based on my experiences working at a pet store.
Click here to visit Tracey’s blog!
Check back tomorrow to see Tracey’s non-fiction piece entitled Cosmic Bonds forthcoming in Crack The Spine magazine!