Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Poetry Editor Fred Marmorstein

I hope you all have been enjoying getting to know the different SFC Team members. It’s been lots of fun interviewing them and even finding out a new thing or two myself. Well this week I have our SFC Poetry Editor Fred Marmorstein with us. Fred taught secondary school Language Arts for seventeen years before devoting himself full-time to writing. He holds degrees from SUNY-Binghamton and New York University, and has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He currently lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.

I want to thank Fred for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know you have a daughter and have to find time to write just like many of here who read The Writing Mama. Now some of us have younger children at home while others have grown up children and then still others have teens. So here is the first question…

VS: How old is your daughter? Toddler? Elementary age? Pre-teen? Teenager? 

Fred: I have a 13-year-old daughter.

VS: So a beginning teenager. I just went through those years now I have to worry about my son asking to drive the car or go on a date. I don’t think my heart is ready for either of them. Okay so as a dad, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Fred: I achieve balance through activities that provide me time to reflect like backpacking, gardening, and going to the gym.

VS: I can’t tell you how many of the women are thinking, “Would that be nice. Instead I have to find time to clean the house and make dinner.” LOL. But it is nice to hear a dad’s point of view to this question. Now Fred, how long have you been writing?

Fred: 38 years

VS: Okay, I think you have most of my interviewees beat. Not that it’s a contest. So what inspires you to write?

Fred: I’m inspired by other writers: Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Dickinson. I’m also exceedingly curious about human behavior. Why do we create stories? I’m inspired when I uncover something that I did not know was there.

VS: Just so you know…I have the whole Dickinson’s collection. Big fan myself. Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?

Fred: As the Poetry Editor, I review writers’ poems and provide feedback. I work with a wonderful assistant and give her, when necessary, the support she needs. I also have to approve the final draft of poems sent to SFC for the editor’s final approval.

VS: Okay now with SFC stuff to do and having a family life, what is a typical writing day like for you?

Fred: Sometimes, I get up at 5 am and write for two hours before work. Sometimes, I stay up until 1 am.

VS: A man after my own writing heart. Expect my day job is being a stay-at-home-mommy and Chef Editor at Halo in my home office. I know it can be hard finding writing time and sometimes family don’t always understand the need for us to write. Is your family supportive of your writing?

Fred: Yes.

VS: That is wonderful and very to the point of the question. Now here is a hard question Fred. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Fred: More like a mountain. There is no cure. If you want to work through your writer’s block, stop writing and do anything else. Give your mind and ideas time to percolate.
Set writing aside for a while.

VS: Great advice. What was the first thing you ever had published?

Fred: I had a poem titled “The Frozen Tree” published in the local newspaper when I was thirteen. And I got a check for $5.00!

VS: Now you are the Poetry Editor, but what type of books do you mostly write?

Fred: I have just finished a middle grade novel.

VS: Wonderful and I hope you’ll share with us how submitting process goes later down the road. Okay, Fred can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Fred: Writing for me is like laboring through a jungle; hacking for days, weeks, months until I discover – unearth – some monument, some idea that has not been there before. Success comes very slowly, and I wait to find that sense of achievement. I work with children’s lit for the same reason: the effort, the strain, the conflict of finding the right story and the right words.

VS: I guess this next question is going to be like a repeat. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Fred: The freedom to choose any idea and make it my own.

VS: Good save to a possible repeat question. So what is the most difficult part of writing?

Fred: Knowing that revision is just around the corner.

VS: So true Fred. So can you share with us the best writing advice you ever received?

Fred: I met Maxine Kumin at a writer’s retreat I was lucky enough to be accepted to.
She asked me how old I was. When I told her I was 23, she said “Go out and live your life some more.”

VS: That’s great advice for anyone of any age. You can’t stop living no matter what is happening in your life. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?

Fred: No. I love doing both.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Fred: After two and a half years, I’ve completed my first novel. It’s a tall tale set in America’s Old West mythology about a ten-year-old boy who wants to rid the world of vegetables.

VS: Sounds like a book kids will want to read. I don’t know any kid who likes eating vegetables. LOL. Can you share with us about your writing space?

Fred: Dining room table. “Quiet Room” at library. My car. Sitting on top of Brown Mt. in the Shenandoahs. Wherever I can.

VS: Lots of inspiration with so many different writing places that is for sure. Fred, what would we be surprised to learn about you?

Fred: I’ve worked at least 15 different jobs.

VS: Wow, we’ll have to have you back just to talk about the different jobs you’ve had. With that, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?

Fred: I’d like to believe that the physicality of a book provides some sort of comfort or reassurance that we haven’t lost touch, literally and figuratively, with the immediacy of reading. The revolution of the microchip distances ourselves from the tactile form of connecting. I guess hugging your Kindle as you drift off to sleep is already a reality.
The electronic age of publishing will continue to miniaturize. We will soon have books on 3D glasses.

VS: I’m afraid you might be right. I still love cuddling up with my kids and I don’t see a computer being the item of choice to read that way, but what do I know. Kids today won’t know any different nor will their children. Okay, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Fred: Don’t give up. 

VS: I love it. Straight to the point again, but very true statement as well. Fred, we’re getting to the end of this interview I would love to know what well known writers do you admire most?

Fred: I mentioned some already. But I also admire Stephen Donaldson, Keats, Richard Peck, Wideman, Shel Silverstein, and PD Eastman.

VS: You should get together with my hubby. You like many of his authors. I have shelves of books by most of these authors. Another writing question, do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?

Fred: I’ve entered but never won.

VS: But you most likely agree that the practice is worth it. Okay, last question; is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Dad”? Had to change that from ‘Mama’.

Fred: Love what you write no matter what.

VS: Fred, I thank you again for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing dad and SFC Team member. It has been fun having you.


  1. Terrific insightful interview!

    Best wishes,

  2. Great to get to know more of the mag's staff! Great interview!

  3. Nice interview. I'm with Fred on publication: don't give up!