The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Collective covering a local writer and a North Shore space(s) s/he associates with writing. Questions? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give us your best writerly bio. Full disclosure: I am 44 years old. I started out as one of those angry young Gen-Xers studying writing as an undergrad 25 years ago. My first published piece, back in 1995, was a darkly comedic short story about a disgruntled clown driven to murder, entitled “Welcome to the Goddamn Circus.” From that youthful place, I eventually progressed to my older years and became predictably nostalgic, writing out-of-time period pieces, essentially historical melodrama. Short stories have been published here and there since, none of which I am particularly proud. My novella, The One Friend Philosophy of Life, a tale of two girls facing graduation from the sheltered life of Catholic school into whatever lay beyond, set in 1990, was published by Caffeinated Press in 2016. My magnum opus remains, however, a short story collection titled Unredeemed, a look at various experiences of fictional characters dealing with mental illness. Most of the stories in this book were written years before its publication, when I was in my 20s, and so they may have that feel of the “angry youth” I mentioned earlier. My voice has changed radically since.
Tell us about a North Shore Write Space. I am one of those old-fashioned folks who writes longhand in a 3-ring binder, so I don’t need wifi or even an outlet to work on my stories. All I really need is blue ballpoint pen, some looseleaf paper, and some (very) large cups of coffee. I go through a lot of ink, paper clips, and staples. But this makes it easy for me to move about town and continue working, from the couch in my own living room to location to location: the workplace cafeteria; doctor’s waiting rooms; everywhere in between. The Salem Diner, if not too crowded, provides a great place to sit and scribble away. I also belong to the North Shore Writers’ Group, and attend Friday evening write-ins in downtown Salem. The entire city of Salem is my writing playground!
When I’m in Salem, not writing, I’m … I am in Salem almost all of the time. I’ve lived here for going on 20 years, and work at Salem State University, from which I graduated with an MA in English in 2006. I don’t have an overly exciting life; the small things fill me up. I love spending time with my two 15-year-old sons. (Parenting takes a lot of time and energy!) My husband and I are big fans of doing pub trivia, seeing movies, and walking about downtown Salem, visiting all of our favorite shops
What are you working on now? My current project is one which may be an overly-grand plan for a collection of shorts with the working title Go Ahead and Laugh at Me. Meanwhile, some of those stories have veered off from my vision. One of them, titled “Ignis Fatuus,” is begging to become a novel; others took fantastical turns that I hadn’t been intending. There are stories in process about a mysterious rash, one in which the protagonist is certain her houseplants have become sentient, and another featuring a street magician with a truly dark talent.
And finally . . . This is the first three paragraphs from a story entitled “What Lillian Wants:"
I was seated in the café area of the Harris Teeter when she walked up to me and asked wasn’t I the girl who taught the ikebana class at the adult learning annex last spring? It pained me to have to admit that, no, I was nothing so exotic as a botanical artist, just a receptionist at a racquetball club, that I knew nothing about the placement of orchids and everything about fifty-minute court times. “You look a little like her,” she said, then stood there until I moved my bags of groceries from the chair opposite me so she could sit down. With her Betty Boop spit curls and little red mouth she looked like an anachronism, an escapee from a time when talking pictures were all the rage. She was tiny, not even five-feet, and dressed in a miniature lavender suit. Reaching across the little round wrought-iron table she said, “I’m Lillian.”
Learn more about EC Hanlon at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005808436074