Sunday, January 8, 2012

Alexis M. Smith

Alexis Margaret Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Portland State University, and Goddard College, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing.

From a Q & A with the author about her debut novel, Glaciers:

How long have you been working on Glaciers? Do you remember how it began? How has it evolved from the beginning?

I have been working on Glaciers for the last five years, with some breaks. It began as a series of prose poems about my childhood in Alaska. I was in my second or third semester of the MFA in Writing program at Goddard College. During the winter residencies I would fly out to Vermont from Portland for a week of true winter. Walking through the snowy woods to the library, listening to the creaking trees and feeling the cold on my face, really brought me back to being a kid on my grandparents' homestead outside Kenai.

The story has evolved a lot. When I started writing I was a footloose twenty-something bookseller, and now I'm a homebody thirty-something single mom. In the early days of writing, there was so much more angst--mine and Isabel's. The first year as a mother knocked the impulse to navel-gaze right out of me. My focus, and Isabel's, turned outward, to other people's stories.

Many writers have a few practice novels in the drawer. Is this your first novel?

No other novels in the drawer--just drafts of this one. This was my practice novel, in many ways. I learned so much about writing and being a writer from this book. Practical things like, how to write at the laundromat (and other unlikely places), and how to trick your brain into forgetting the internet (key: keep a big dictionary handy). And, other things, too--structural and stylistic and thematic things--but the most important thing being that writing a novel is more about getting shit done than about being a certain kind of thoughtful, articulate, creative person.

Why did you choose to have the novel take place over only one day? What benefits do you have as a writer with this structure?

I'll admit to being a big fan of Mrs. Dalloway, so that was a huge influence. I love how Virginia Woolf uses...[read on]
Visit Alexis M. Smith's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue