Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Post Author Alix Ohlin

Alix Ohlin's novel Inside (Knopf) and her story collection Signs and Wonders (Vintage) were both published on June 5, 2012.  She is also the author of The Missing Person, a novel, and Babylon and Other Stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

How/why did you start to write?

I started writing as a child.  I grew up in a house full of books, and reading was how I understood the world.  My Grade Two teacher, Grace Tugwell—I used her name in INSIDE, as a tribute—encouraged me to write special assignments outside of class.  I still have some of the things I wrote for her, like an illustrated fable that I stitched into a little book bound with construction paper.

How did you become an author?

After I graduated from university I began writing seriously, and secretly.  I thought I would cultivate my genius in private until I could spring it full-blown on the world with a series of brilliant stories in The New Yorker or something.  Eventually I realized it probably wasn’t going to happen this way, and I went to graduate school in creative writing instead.  There I began to publish my stories in literary magazines, and eventually got a book contract.

What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

It was a short story published in Western Humanities Review, a journal in Utah, in 1998.  It was actually part of a whole book-length story cycle, but I only published one story from it.  I still have the acceptance letter framed.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I worked a variety of jobs, like editorial assistant at a publishing company, temp, freelance writer, bookstore clerk.  I learned early on to make time for my writing around a work schedule, which was helpful discipline.  And working in book publishing and bookstores taught me a lot about the business that helped me as a writer—mainly by making me grateful for the people who devote their lives to those fields.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by art museums, eavesdropping, gossip, family history, strong coffee, and the work of other writers both contemporary and classic.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I don’t think much about platform building, but I do think about participating in communities of writers—both online and in person.  I believe in sharing ideas and offering support.  Maybe the best platform is to be a good literary citizen: be a reader, support independent bookstores and literary journals, be part of the conversation.

Parting words

Just because I’m excited about them, here are some recent books I’ve read and loved: Middlemarch, The Gate by Natsume Soseki, and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

Author website