Oyster River Pages: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
Martha Clarkson: Practice makes perfect. And mostly, be open. Don't reject genres (I've never liked to read plays but once upon a time, I did not like to read short fiction either. I would take a book from a shelf and put it right back if I saw it was short stories. In my first fiction class, I insisted on workshopping novel chapters, instead of short stories. Then I had to stop and say to myself, "you are afraid." And being afraid meant i had overcome it by writing short stories and reading them.)
ORP: When did you first learn that language had power? What was that experience like for you?
MC: I was 12 when I had my first poem published. I was shocked. Then I realized, wow, this medium has the chance to say something. And moreover, i loved the brevity of poetry, and the challenge of "speaking" with few words.
ORP: What does becoming a “better” writer or artist look like to you? How do you define success?
MC: I have a separate design career (full-time work) so one aspect of success for me is just finding time to write. And acknowledging that all i need to do is get words down. They don't have to be excellent, they just have to be put down on paper. To the above, "practice makes perfect," --- it does. Sometimes i write almost a whole story in my head, and swear I can conjure it back up when I'm at a computer, but it doesn't happen. No excuses, write it down, write all the fragments. Success is also when something you've written moves someone.
ORP: What advice would you give someone who has never been published?
MC: First of all, make sure you want to be published. Don't pursue it if you're happy just creating. Many are. It doesn't mean less. It means it's what you want. If you do decide you want to be published, toughen up. There will be more rejections than acceptances. Take critique well. Pursue critique. Find trusted readers. Read trusted work. Don't give up.
ORP: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better artist as an adult, what would you do?
MC: I knee-jerk react with "spend more time on it." I wish i'd been obsessed. I imagine I had oodles of time I could've been perfecting my craft, getting ahead of the game. But realistically, you can only do what you can do. I wouldn't be the person (or writer) I am today if I hadn't come on this particular journey. Good or bad, I can't change it. Sure, I wish i'd written fiction earlier, wish I'd read a wider range of literature younger, wish, wish, wish, ach...no! Just do what you can do today, push yourself, and plow on.
Martha Clarkson manages corporate workplace design in Seattle. Her poetry, photography, and fiction can be found in monkeybicycle, Clackamas Literary Review, Seattle Review, Alimentum, Hawaii Pacific Review. She is a recipient of a Pushcart Nomination, and is listed under “Notable Stories,” Best American Non-Required Reading for 2007 and 2009. She is recipient of best short story, 2012, Anderbo/Open City prize, for “Her Voices, Her Room.” Her work can be viewed at www.marthaclarkson.com. Read her story “In the Pink” from Issue 2 here.