Issue #26: “Swan’s Place” by Kathryn Magendie
Two young girls, one black – one white, find friendship in a small town, then together seek refuge in a clearing near a pond, where a black swan, representing freedom, provides safe harbor from life’s injustices.
Our interview with Kathryn Magendie:
Please tell us about yourself:
I am a writer and freelance editor, and Co-Managing Editor/Newsletter Editor for the Rose & Thorn Literary Ezine. I live in Western North Carolina on “my mountain,” which overlooks the Great Smoky Mountains. My essays, short stories, photography and poetry are published in both online and print publications. This year, I won first place in a short story contest and that was sweet! I’m in the query process for two of my completed novels, and am working on a rewrites for the third, and a first draft for a fourth—yes, I’m nuts and jittery and completely discombobulated—too many years went by where I could not write as I’d always dreamed, so there’s no stopping me now (she says with hubris, picturing all manner of things that surely could stop her and taking that way too far in her imagination before she stops herself and…and…). Readers can visit my website at www.kathyrnmagendie.com.
Tell us about your story. What was your inspiration for writing it?
When I lived in South Louisiana before moving back to the mountains I love, I took walks along the Louisiana State University lakes, and there! quite unexpectedly floated a beautiful black swan—out of place among the usual waddling ducks, cranky geese, awkward turtles, winter’s white pelicans, raspy-voiced egrets, and the occasional wayward alligator. Something in the swan’s serenity, the bit of defiant loneliness, the unique beauty taken for granted stirred voices calling to dreams, wishes, ideas, and I knew I had to find the story there. I must have a character “speak” to me, for I am not good at “plot-driven stories,” so I was happy when Sheila began talking, and there came the story of two young girls seeking sanctuary, and the Swan’s Place that provided it.
When did you first begin writing and why?
Not to sound like a cliché, but since I was a young girl I wanted to write stories—I read voraciously, and the imaginative nature of those authors inspired my little-girl wants and wishes. I was taken away to places I may never have seen except through an author’s eyes, and felt things I may never have felt except through the characters’ voices—I wanted to give what I’d been given. I wanted a voice. Despite the little girl wants, I didn’t get that chance to write until I was in my forties.
Besides literary short stories, what else do you write?
I write novels, two of which are in the dreaded query process. I write creative nonfiction, and I’m thinking seriously of finding a place for my collection of nature-inspired essays. For a time I tried freelance writing (columns, restaurant reviews, and feature stories) but found that isn’t to my taste. And, I write an occasional bad, but hopeful, poem.
What do you think is most challenging about being a writer?
The solitary nature of the writing life. Further, my head is full of voices, those of my characters, my inner critic, the editor, the people whom I imagine are reading my work, and what they think of my words. My way of seeing the world and the people in it can be complex as I become distracted by a laugh, a smile, a tic, an arch of brow, a unique phrase or word, the very nature of people and their body language is recorded even when I try not to be this way. It’s hard to carry on a conversation when there are so many voices and the actions that come with them stomping around in my head!
What do you think is more rewarding about being a writer?
Someone contacting me about something I have written and saying, “Thank you for writing this, it was just want I needed,” or “I really enjoyed what you wrote.” That feedback, the “love” or interest I receive from readers is invaluable. Writers have this need to be loved; we are shameless.
What is the greatest book you’ve ever read and why do you think it is great?
Oh! I was afraid you’d ask this (smiling). There are too many to list, since each time I read a really good book it is right then my favorite. So, I will say that books I read as a child (and I have them lovingly stacked on this very computer hutch as reminders while I write) were my great books, my influences, my introduction into language, scene, and character: Black Beauty, Grimms Fairy Tales, Call of the Wild, The Black Stallion, Tom Sawyer, The Incredible Journey, and others. Of course the great Shakespeare calls to me at times, too.
What one piece of advice would you give to new writers?
Never give up, even in the face of rejection or harsh criticism—it is always about the writing, the language; always. Who do you write for? Write for You first; find the pleasure and fulfillment in this, and everything will fall into place. If you find the empty spot is filled, the ache is eased, the itch is scratched by the writing for You, even if you are multiple-rejected, then you must not give up; however, certainly there are those who may stumble upon their artistic talents in art, or music, or theater, and all the while they’ve found frustration on the page until the way clears and that “Oh! This is it!” moment comes…follow it, what do you have to lose?
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
Even though I can be reclusive and never like to answer my phone (I am a true phono-phobic!), I love to receive emails from readers, so do not be shy about writing to let me know if you liked my story, or if the story affected you, made you feel, think, dream, or even if it inspired you to write a better one than I ever could imagine! Remember I said that writers just want to be loved, and we are shameless in our pursuit of it?
Thank you, Kathryn!