Breaking Down the TWC Wall with Marinca a.k.a. QuaintObsessions
Sarah: First, let me say thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I’m stoked about it!
Marinca: Thanks so very much for having me, I’m so honoured to be interviewed! That’s never happened to me before!
S: So, tell us about when you started writing, what made you start, and what’s kept you writing.
M: Well, I suppose I started writing when I was four years old and I wrote a little poem about a dying butterfly … I was such a cheerful child! But after that I mainly stuck to making up imaginary worlds and songs until I started writing poetry and stories in my teens. I had a bit of a hiatus in University when I started to feel as if what I wrote was nothing compared to what real poets and writers did, and trained as a teacher instead. But I was never really able to stop, the poetry just kept coming, and longer stories ran alongside it. For a while I wrote poetry on the train, and worked on my series of myth-based urban fantasy novels whenever I could steal a second – four in the morning, or late at night on weekends. The characters just wouldn’t leave me alone! My students started telling me to just go home and write it all down. But it wasn’t until I began to discover that I have chronic illness and I gave up teaching that I started to take it seriously and write much more. Seeing the words arrange themselves the way I intended them to, and seeing characters develop, and laughing at my own dialogues, has been such a high that it keeps me writing. Being able to share some of it with wonderful, enthusiastic people also helps a great deal.
S: Let’s have a moment of silence/gratitude for that dying butterfly. I’m sure its sacrifice is appreciated by all of your readers. I’m curious, do you still happen to have that poem about the butterfly?
It sounds like writing has always been with you and always will be. I’m glad you’ve kept it up.
There are a couple of things I’d like to talk about. You said you quit for a while because you didn’t feel that your work compared to other people’s writing. I know I’ve felt (and still feel) like that at times. While it can help with growth as a writer it also has the capability to make someone quit all together. What would you say to someone who was wanting to quit based on how they saw their own work in comparison to someone else’s?
What did you teach? Do you miss teaching? I hope you are feeling better and that your health continues to improve, for sure.
M: You know what, I do think I kept that poem around somewhere. I might look it up!
The thing about comparison is, what I’ve found is that the best quality for any artist to have is a sense of uniqueness. A sense that they are doing entirely what they do, and what no one else would do, even with exactly the same material. That makes someone’s voice or signature instantly recognizable. And whatever it is that makes you yourself, that is the thing you have to bring across. Putting as much as possible of what makes you tick, what makes you passionate, into your work.
Another thing is that everyone has a different kind of timing. Whatever you work on has to come out at its own pace. There’s no sense in looking around and thinking everyone is ahead of you. You are without a doubt miles ahead of them in something else. So I’d say enjoy the work of others for what it is, because it’s amazing to read or look at or listen to something beautiful that someone made. Pour yourself right into your work and make sure you finish it, at a pace that works for you.
I taught English Literature to first years in University, and then I taught secondary school, so 11-18 year olds, English Language and Literature. I do miss it at times, it was often a lot of fun, and the students especially were great. I miss them the most. I’m really proud of some of the things I got to do, like teach kids to write poems about the contents of their pockets, or perform Edgar Allan Poe stories in costume as Ligeia for Halloween. I poured pretty much all my creative energy into it though, and I know that if I’d been able to keep teaching, I would never have been able to write so much. So I’m just glad I got to do it when I could.
My health is always up and down, and it’s been something I’ve had to adjust to and contend with on a day to day basis, but it’s a privilege too, in a way. Because I’m forced to make choices about what I do with my time, and I can’t afford to waste any energy. So it’s taught me to be incredibly vigilant about making sure I get to do what is important to me, and not to worry too much about the rest. I enjoy life so much more because if I do something, I’m really invested in it. Some days can be really awful, but I think that in general, I’m a much more cheerful and loving person now, because I just don’t have the time for negativity anymore.
That’s a very good way to think about it. I’m sure that piece of advice will help a lot of folks out there, it will certainly help me. Putting yourself into your work is also solid advice, darn right. Do you think there is such a thing as putting too much of yourself into your work?
It sounds like it was very rewarding and you were good at it. Good teachers are hard to find, and I bet you were a gem of one!
Chronic illness is difficult to contend with. Based on what you’ve said it sounds like you manage as best as you can, I admire your strength. Do you think that it has been a source of motivation for you?
M: I think you can put too much into your work if what you do wears you out completely. If it gives you less energy than it gives you. If I finish something I believe in, I hum on the energy of that for a long time. That’s also why I love writing together with other people so much- that means energy multiplied. And in that way, as well, I think that if you focus too much on your own little world and don’t expand it by reading others, which I also love to do, or by working with others, pouring yourself into your work can be limiting. Some writers are worried that their voice will be too much influenced by others, but I’ve never felt that way. When I read something that resonates with me, it always inspires me to write something very much my own. And when I subconsciously imitate someone else’s voice, because I like the sound of it, it enriches mine. I pick things up from it that blend with my voice and I pick up new ideas along with that.
Thank you! I like to think I didn’t do too shabby a job. I do know that sometimes I was that person a kid could trust when there were no others, and I’m happy to know that I was able to help, and I wouldn’t mind doing that again someday.
My illness does motivate me, and in a much more realistic way than wildly going back and forth between boundless ambition and the sense that I would never get anywhere used to do. Right now, I focus my energy far more, and I am letting go of the brakes I had on myself, the things I would hold in. I don’t have the time to overcome mental blocks and judge myself harshly all the time, so I just have to let go and say things the way they need to be said in the moment. I’ve become far less perfectionist, because I’ve had to accept that I’ll always be imperfect. And actually, the more I’ve accepted my own shortcomings, I’ve realised that I love others because of their imperfections, which make them human and themselves, and not because of ways they may be flawless. I’ve become much more open to accepting help and kindness from others as well, and I’ve let go of trying to please people that refuse to understand what I can and cannot do for them. That has made me a far happier person, and I like myself a lot better, and that motivates me as well to believe in myself. Which in turn gives me a lot more energy for writing.
S: Very nicely put, I’m glad I asked that question. I do hope that people take what you’ve said to heart, it’s very good advice. For those that have not yet done a collaboration with another writer on tumblr, what would be some advice you’d give them on who to approach, what to write about, or just the process in general?
It’s great that you’ve used it in a way to cut yourself some slack. Sometimes it’s easier to be hard on yourself than it is to be kind to yourself. Keep that kindness, you deserve it.
M: It is a good question, I’m really glad to be able to discuss it! You ask excellent questions, truly, I’m glad to let my mind go over these things and see where I’m at myself!
As for collaborations, I’ve been finding that other writers are always really nice if you ask them if they want to work with you. It’s a different adventure for each person you work with, and timing is also an issue – the time has to be right, it might take a while until you’re both in a place where you can work together, or it can be spontaneous and just happen. I’ve found that it can add a whole new dimension to knowing someone to write with them, and the combination of two personalities is always immensely interesting and beautiful to see. It’s nice to choose something you’re both interested in exploring, such as a particular form or topic. But I’ve been meeting people I could just about write about anything with, and discovering that it is utterly addictive when that happens.
I do want to hold on to the kindness, both to myself and to others. It’s difficult giving kindness to someone who doesn’t believe they deserve it, so I try to remind myself that I deserve it and to remind others of that as well!
S: I know I enjoy your collaboration pieces and they’ve opened my eyes to some tremendous writers on here.
Perfect. Kindness for yourself and for others is something I strongly believe in. It’s amazing what a little bit of it can do.
Alright time for some name dropping. Tumblr writers, who are your favorites? Feel free to elaborate as to why you enjoy their writing.
What authors/poets outside of the tumblr world have inspired you?
What piece of yours do you feel is your best work?
How do you feel about the wall in the TWC? Was it ever a barrier for you? How did you accomplish bringing it down?
M: There are so many excellent writers here that I honestly could spend all day reading beautiful writing, and I will inevitably leave people out who I’ll feel guilty about forever, but that’s life, so here goes. You yourself, of course, Sarah aka wednesdayshambles, original voices like yours inspire me most and with poetryriot you’ve introduced me to a great many amazing writers. The inimitable street-heart-posts, taedhg, dovesdanceatdawn, dustseeker, ofsoliloquies, not only do I enjoy reading their work immensely, they always give me new ways to look at writing and even life as well. Stunning writers ghostsista and midnightxmasquerade have given me much more confidence in taking a different angle to mythology by showing me an example with their voices. Anagramgirl is an absolute joy to write with. Onlylivingforwords, secret-silent-speculations, recherche-enigma, shefrolics, aubriestar, lilrowboat, tridancer, thornsides all write in ways that move me and make me smile in turns. Polkadottedsmile, soulreserve, cornelisrage, alwaysthegrieve-deactivated2015, wordswritteninsilence, themusingstranger, wulfriek, shentoncarrington, braveheartswhisper, each have sparked ideas for me and an appreciation of their writing in so many different ways. And of course I am intensely grateful to wonderful writers dhritspoetry, lzlabs, salondelarose and merseawaves for not only inspiring me with their writing but letting others see my work as well. I am so thrilled to have met so many amazing people and to have been allowed access to their awe-inspiring words and art.
Outside of Tumblr – is there such a thing? Oh I’ve been influenced by so many people I don’t even know where to begin! When I studied literature, the late Romantics were my favourites – Keats, Byron, Shelley, and then in Ireland I explored Yeats for years, he had so many different phases and I love what he did with myths and the occult. Dorothy Parker, her poetry is so wry and her stories are incredible. Colette, Anais Nin. I have an extensive erotica collection, Victorian erotica especially is a world of its own. I love the novels and stories of Shirley Jackson, she combines subtle horror with humour so amazingly well, and fantasy from the Kushiel’s Dart series by Jacqueline Carey to Terry Pratchett. Katherynne M. Valente’s work stuns me. And I love reading current poetry from Sinéad Morrissey to Marilyn Hacker. Also, graphic novels and comic artists like Jess Fink, Noelle Stevenson, Craig Thompson, Alison Bechdel. Music influences me hugely, Wrongchilde, Paper Aeroplanes, Placebo, bands with excellent lyrics and voices, that’s always what matters most to me.
Actually, what I think is my best work so far and are things I haven’t published yet and I’m thinking of maybe getting out there under my own steam. I’m working on a small collection of fairy tales, and I love where that’s going so far. Those stories definitely have my heart in them. And I’ve written a story in prose poems called Songbird that I’m thinking of making into a small book because I love how that turned out. So there might be more news on that in the near future!
I think the thing for me with the TWC is that I really enjoyed finding out that there were so many great writers on Tumblr, and that I slowly forged friendships and in that way, didn’t even experience much of a wall. I would like for people who write to feel welcome among the writers on Tumblr, to feel like they can share what they write and get a positive reception. I think often people are uneasy about starting to put their work out there – I know I was terrified in the beginning! – and I hope that a welcoming community feeling will make it easier for writers to let their voices be heard.
S: Wow, thank you for putting me in there with all of those very talented and lovely people. You’ve named quite a few of my favorites on here.
Another list of great writers! Some of these I haven’t read, I’ll definitely check them out. Our tastes are very similar, so I bet I’d like them as well.
Tell us more about these collections. Are the fairy tales what you would consider traditional fairy tales? Will your tumblr fans be able to acquire both of these collections? If so when???? I’d like both please!
I’m glad to hear the wall wasn’t much of an issue with you. I like your idea of a welcoming community. I agree, sharing what you’ve written is terrifying. It took me a long time to get over that, even know it jumps up to bite me on occasion. Do you have any advice for anyone on how to limit the fear of sharing their work?
M: Thank you, I’m incredibly glad to hear that! I hope more people will like the idea of purchasing some work of mine! I’m still working on the fairy tale collection, it’ll be seven tales in all. Songbird, the prose poem pamphlet, I’m done writing, but it needs editing and formatting and all those hard-work things that you know so well go into the making of a book. That will take time, but I’m aiming for early December for both.
The fear of sharing. Well, let me let you in on a little secret. For years and years I didn’t allow a single word of mine out into the world. Even though I’d published some work when I was studying, I lost my nerve. I had no public voice whatsoever because I thought what I was doing wasn’t good enough to be seen. Essentially, I was waiting to cross some magical threshold where I’d believe my work was perfect. That never happened.
What changed was that I stopped believing in perfect. I actually notice that what people tend to respond to most is work that came right out of an emotion or moment. Edited some, sure, but still just simply written down from the moment and put out there. Ever since I’ve allowed myself to live in the now instead of the future or the past, I’ve found it easier to share work. Because if it doesn’t work, there’s always the next moment, and the next, and the moment after that.
I still get self conscious sometimes, when I discover a typo ages later, or no one responds to a piece, or there’s criticism that seems unconstructive. But I’ve always survived those things, and I think anyone can. It’s so funny to me how terrified I was in the beginning, no one read me yet I chiseled for ages. I think a little nervousness now and then keeps you on your toes. But in general my motto is, if you’ve got something to say that you feel deep down is worthwhile, say it. Today. Not when it’s as perfect as you think it needs to be.
S: I know I look forward to reading both and I bet others do as well. December, perfect timing, I’ll try to be patient until then.
Great words of advice, I relate to everything you said. It’s impossible to be perfect and I too find myself struggling with the idea that it needs to be. I’m sure many more would agree and I hope we can all take that advice to heart.
I feel like I’m forgetting a lot of questions that I wanted to ask. My memory isn’t the greatest, unfortunately. Now I’d like to ask some unconventional questions. Ready?!? GO!
S: How do you feel about bananas?
M: When I hear the word banana I always have to think of that Dimitri Martin joke about not being able to spell banana – going from ‘bana’ -too short – to ‘bananananana’ – oh, too long. I like that. This is what makes me feel happy about bananas, but other than in banana ice cream, which I love, I don’t eat them very often.
S: Is there a mammal that freaks you out?
M: Bats don’t freak me out, but I do love them – especially that they are the only mammals with true flight, that’s amazing. I think it’s a shame that bats are seen as scary, because they are actually really nifty and cute. It makes me happy seeing them swoop overhead at dusk.
S: What is the oddest thing that you own?
M: Oh wow, my interests run towards the quaint, so there are some odd things that I have … I have a trilobite fossil, which looks quite freaky. Basically it’s a big ancient water beetle, petrified. I was obsessed with trilobites as a kid, especially how big they could get and how long ago they lived. They also support my theory that after the world ends, insects will be all that’s left. Insects and jellyfish. Those are pretty hardy too.
S: What do you consider to be the most important piece of furniture in a house?
M: The bed. You can basically do anything in a bed, but it isn’t much of a house without one. A bed can function as a couch, a desk, and a dining table, but I’ve never had a good night’s sleep on any of those things. When I had a tiny apartment in Amsterdam, one room was basically just a bed, and I could easily have spent all my time in there, as long as I had an unlimited supply of tea. And possibly chocolate.
S: What is your favorite word?
M: It changes all the time, which is the great thing. Discovering new favorite words is something I really enjoy. When I notice using a word too much I move on to the next. I used to love the three-syllable ones – incandescent, iridescent, opalescent – but now I often favor a simple word, like silver or nightfall. Often favorite words will start off a poem and then I just leave off that first line when I edit it. My vocabulary always has to vary, I love reading people who have an interesting vocabulary, and I like to read their work over and over so that the sound patterns linger in my mind.
S: All very interesting answers, I’m impressed! I never knew they made banana ice cream, I’ll have to see if I can find some to try out.
Two more questions. Any words of wisdom you can give us? Is there anything else you’d like to add to this interview?
M: Oh, do try it. Love banana ice cream. And caramel. And mint chocolate chip. Pistachio, the greener the better, it has to be glow-in-the-dark. And lemon and strawberry. Yes, I’ve been known to eat ice cream for breakfast. Lunch and dinner too. Definitely. Though not usually all in the same day.
Famous last words! Well – I’d just say, don’t worry too much about what others think and stay true to whoever you need to be in the moment. We all have different sides to ourselves, and sometimes, a side needs to develop that other people don’t have much time for, because what you’re doing is daring and new and makes others shuffle in their comfort zones. Do it anyway, go with who you need to be. Take risks in life. Sure, you might get hurt. You’ll survive, though. And a good experiment is worth it.
S: All on my list of things to try, I could make a day of it. I’ll be sure to let you know what I thought about each of them.
What great insight to end an interview with, absolutely fantastic advice!
I must say I’ve enjoyed doing this interview, thank you again for agreeing to do it. As you know this is the first one I’ve done, so I was a little nervous about it, but it was so great learning more about you and how your mind works. It’s been a great experience for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself as much as I have.
M: I have enjoyed myself immensely! Your questions were brilliant, I loved answering them. It’s truly an honor to have been your first interview subject, thank you so much!
Make sure you follow the talented quaintobsessions and look for more information about her collections coming out in December.
Be kind and stay rad.
To be mentioned by the poet you adore…swoon <3