Writers, writing

Summer Writers Series: an interview with Trace Yulie

This is the latest in my series of Guest Posts where I’ve posed some deeply serious questions to some awesome writers. My questions are in bold.

Who are you and what have you done with the Real Trace?

I work in higher ed by day and write by night! It’s like a secret identity. Maybe too secret.

Harry Potter world: what house are you? And what animal would be your patronus?

I’m solidly GryffinClaw, and I’m pretty sure my patronus would be a tiny but fierce owl.

Are you a Thing Everything Through Before Acting person or a Great Idea Let’s Try It! Person?

Absolutely a leap-before-you-look person.

What got you into writing?

I can’t remember not writing, except for one distinct kindergarten memory of being angry about alphabet flash cards.

Why do you write now?

I write now because I believe I have stories inside me that only I can tell, and the act of creating those stories is exhilarating. And I feel like something essential about me is silent and sad if I go without writing for an extended length of time.

What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

I remember sitting in the back of my fifth grade classroom (the lonely, nerdy kid who switched schools midyear), and picking up a collection of Arthurian stories. Those stories completely enthralled me.

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

One sweaty Florida summer, I discovered Frank Herbert’s Dune and devoured the first three books. Something about the hot desert planet resonated with my sensibilities and my situation.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. Novik has such a command of prose and marvelous worldbuilding. I was hooked on the first page, and I adore her compelling heroines.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

I prefer to end with a chapter, but sometimes I wake up midchapter with the book on my face when reading in bed!

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

It’s impossible for me to overstate the influence that Le Guin’s work has had on me. Her thoughtful prose style. There’s a starkness, and a lush quality and a tenderness the stories exhibit. I’m drawn to work by writers who have similar sensibilities, like Maureen McHugh, Molly Gloss and Sofia Samatar.

How do you organise your personal library?

My books are organized by some mysterious brain pattern, I think. They’re not alphabetical but intentionally thematic, and I somehow know where everything is. I have a bookcase for each: favorite fiction/nonfiction books by women writers, books about writing plus current research for a stories I’m working on, books for more spiritual pursuits, stuff I should probably read eventually and works I’ve liked by dudes plus graphic novels and anthologies.

Creative writing in primary school, can you remember any stories you wrote?

My first story memory is of the Robotech fan fiction I passed around to classmates in elementary school.

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

I get a lot of inspiration from prompts or other activities that encourage randomness and combination, like scrambling words on book spines. I also like looking at visual art.

Is there anything you’ve seen passed around as writing advice that you really disagree with?

I think “writers write every day” is a tough standard and not right for everyone. Many writers have more than enough anxiety about creating and can do without advice like that.

I also dislike when writers talk about getting drunk as a metaphor for writing or a literal strategy, and when they talk about writing as though they hate it.

Let’s write clear-eyed and heady, joyfully and thoughtfully, even ecstatically, but not like we’re forcing or punishing ourselves.

What does your physical writing space look like?

My desk faces a wall where I’ve posted inspirational images and quotes plus a giant outline of my WIP. My bookcase of research and writing advice is next to the desk, and the desk itself is covered with notebooks, post-its and pens.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

I started a magical adventure story set in a rabbit warren, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back to that one.

Any advice for anyone looking to start writing?

Find your community. Let go of your shame/ego about sharing your words. Don’t read Writers Digest, read Locus. Don’t pay publications to look at your work.

—–

Trace is a science fiction writer, a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop class of 2010, and a contributor to The Future Fire . Trace served as an editorial assistant for Lightspeed Magazine’s special issue, Queers Destroy Fantasy.


photo by Amanda Petersen

She’s also a learning specialist for the University of California, LGBT mentor for the UCI Counseling Center and a former professor of developmental writing & Women’s Studies.

Trace is a big fan of teaching and learning as tools of empowerment. She might be obsessed with owls, drumming, utopias and dystopias and stories about time travel.

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