Meet the Members: Richard Cunningham

“Through WLT, I’ve learned the value of being a part of a writing community. I find that just being around other writers, whether it is over coffee, in a class, or at the annual WLT conference, always recharges my creative battery.”

-Richard Cunningham

A member of the Writers’ League for five years and WLT Board Member, Richard lives in Houston, Texas.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Richard Cunningham: Nonfiction pays the rent! I’m a science and technology journalist who writes magazine articles and books for large companies, primarily in the energy sector. I joined WLT around 2011, soon after I took a shot at writing historical fiction for fun.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

RC: I would like to meet Ellen Feldman, the author of Lucy, Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, Next to Love, The Unwitting, and most recently, Terrible Virtue. I’d ask what she is working on now and what drew her to the subject.   

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

RC: Just one book? Oh, no! I would probably pick something like Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. I’m reading it now for the third time.  

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

RC: That’s easy. Through WLT, I’ve learned the value of being a part of a writing community. Civilians don’t understand what it is like to stare at a blank page or computer screen, waiting for the right words to come. I find that just being around other writers, whether it is over coffee, in a class, or at the annual WLT conference, always recharges my creative battery.  

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

RC: When I’m writing fiction, I am definitely along for the ride. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that the process of creating characters and plots often reveals things about myself that I hadn’t considered. I like being surprised. I think most writers would agree. Call it “fiction,” but our stories and characters are not made from scratch. You could argue that most fiction is autobiographical, whether we like it or not.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

RC: I haven’t read a Texas-related book that was published in the last twelve months, but a recent one I often recommend is Ann Weisgarber’s excellent historical fiction, The Promise. It is the story of a young pianist who is forced to leave her comfortable home in Dayton, Ohio, only to begin a rough-hewn life in Galveston, Texas. She arrives just in time for what locals still call “the Great Storm,” a hurricane that remains the nation’s most deadly natural disaster. Weisgarber’s plot is not only clever and compelling, but also historically accurate. I look forward to reading it again.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

RC: I’ve written two historical novels so far, and I’m working on a third in the series. I self-published Maude Brown’s Baby in 2012. It’s available on Amazon and Kindle. The sequel, Three Good Leads, is being reviewed by a publisher that I hope will want to promote both. The first two novels are set in Houston and Galveston in the final turbulent months of 1918. The working title for book three in the series is A Shameful Silence. It was a Historical Fiction finalist in the 2017 WLT manuscript contest.

Thanks, Richard!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Patricia Holmes

“I am a published author [now] and couldn’t be happier. I guess my message to others is to just keep doing what you enjoy and you may end up being exactly what you always wanted to be.”

-Patricia Holmes

A member of the Writers’ League for two years, Patricia lives in Houston.

Scribe: In what genre do you write?

Patricia Holmes: My first published novel, Searching for Pilar is fiction, but it is inspired by true events. I have also recently published essays about current social trends, including “The Lingerie Party” and “Tips for Men Who Still Don’t Get It.” Both were published in the past six months by Texas Lawyer. I enjoy telling stories with a social message. I have also written memoir pieces about what it was like to be a woman breaking into the legal profession in the early 1980’s, but I haven’t decided on a final format in which to present them.

Scribe: What writer would you most like to have a drink with and what are the first questions you would ask them?

PH: Amor Towles. Your knowledge of Russian history and culture is so accurate. What did you do to become so knowledgeable? Were you working on A Gentleman in Moscow for all of the twelve years since your first novel, The Rules of Civility?

Scribe: What book would you want to have with you on a desert island to keep you sane?

PH: Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I first read it in high school and I reread it about every ten years. I love Tolstoy’s writing and his social message. My PhD dissertation was a study of his theories on power and non-violence as a tool for revolution and his influence on later activists.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

PH: I attended the Agents and Editors conference last June. It was an amazing experience! All of the panelists were informative and I met some interesting writers. The Writers’ League put on a great panel in Houston at Brazos Bookstore earlier this year. I learned useful information about how book stores select books to sell and creative marketing tips from the panelists.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

PH: I love the process of writing and the self-discovery that comes with it. Although Searching for Pilar is not at all autobiographical, the exploration of the importance of family, different types of love, community, and the existence and role of God in our lives, has allowed me to explore feelings I had never verbalized. I can see myself writing a memoir and a study of ethics in law firms in the future.

Scribe: What is one recent Texas related book that you couldn’t put down?

PH: Joanne Fox Philips’ Revenge of the Cube Dweller is set in Tulsa and Houston. I read it nonstop while on a plane trip and couldn’t stop laughing. It’s about a clever, middle-aged, female internal auditor of a mid-stream energy company who uncovers and reveals fraud, pomposity and greed. 

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

PH: My 94-year-old mother has a motto that I have embraced: “Just keep moving.” I have been fortunate to have had several careers in my life. I went to the University of Missouri to be a creative writer/journalist, but ended up falling in love with non-US history. So, I got a PhD in Russian and South Asian History instead. After teaching at the Universities of Missouri and Tennessee, I took a research and administrative job with a big law firm in Houston for four year while I had my two beautiful daughters. Law school followed. I spent the next 30 years in a fulfilling career as a public finance lawyer, writing trust indentures and offering statements that resulted in the building of hospitals and other non-profit enterprises. After retirement, I finally went back to my original goal of being a writer. Now I am a published author and couldn’t be happier. I guess my message to others is to just keep doing what you enjoy and you may end up being exactly what you always wanted to be.

Thanks, Patricia!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Jeanette Hargreaves

“I write to help me find my own sanity!”

-Jeanette Hargreaves

A member of the Writers’ League for one year, Jeanette lives in Austin, Texas.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Jeanette Hargreaves: Mommy Blogging and Self-Help Curriculum.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

JH: I would ask the real Saint Paul, “Tell me what happened on the road to Damascus, or is that just a legend?”

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

JH: Any of my own writing – I write to help me find my own sanity!

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

JH: Attending classes and interacting with members has helped me to learn some publishing lingo and enhance my professionalism.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

JH: I think I will write a book about my life coaching work, helping moms who lose their temper. I’d love to go on a book tour where I meet moms and make a difference in their lives.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

JH: Hands down: Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown. What’s not to love about these chapter titles? “People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In,” and “Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.” Yes, ma’am!

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

JH: The moms I work with are strong women who don’t normally ask for help and they are stuck in patterns of anger and shame. (I’ve been there too, and it stinks.) If you know someone like that, please send them to my website. I have an online business, so I can coach anyone in the world. The interwebs are cool like that!

Thanks,  Jeanette!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet The Members: Evelyn Palfrey

“I have never attended a Third Thursday meeting where I didn’t learn something I needed to know.”

-Evelyn Palfrey

A member of the Writers’ League for twenty years as well as a Writers’ League Board Member, Evelyn Palfrey lives in Austin.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Evelyn Palfrey: Romantic suspense for the marvelously mature.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

EP: Octavia Butler. Is there an unfound manuscript of the third book in the Parable series?

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

EP: Audio of Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

EP: Too much to tell. I have never attended a Third Thursday meeting where I didn’t learn something I needed to know.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

EP: I would love to write science fiction.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

EP: I loved reading Michael Noll’s short story in Best American Mystery Stories 2016.

Thanks, Evelyn!
If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Marit Weisenberg

“I would like to always have a work in progress. No matter where my career takes me, it keeps me sane to always be working out a story.”

-Marit Weisenberg

A member of the Writer’s League for one year, Marit lives in Austin.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Marit Weisenberg: Young adult fiction.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

MW: E.B. White. I have so many questions! First, I’d want to hear about the early days at The New Yorker.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

MW: Pride and Prejudice for sure.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

MW: I’ve loved seeing the breadth of classes offered and how different topics related to craft are approached. As soon as I read the descriptions, I want to take each and every one of the craft class but I know I should take the business ones as well.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

MW: I would like to always have a work in progress. No matter where my career takes me, it keeps me sane to always be working out a story. It’s also a way to know what I’m thinking about and what I want to explore. For now, I want to stay in the young adult genre.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

MW: Amanda Eyre Ward’s The Nearness of You. It’s about motherhood and exactly what makes a family, all through the examination of surrogacy. Especially interesting is how states have different laws in place regarding parental rights and surrogacy. The book takes place in Houston but complications ensue when the action travels over state lines.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

MW: I’m very excited for the sequel to my first novel, Select, to come out on 10/9/18. It’s titled Select Few. The series is a duology so it was hard but also satisfying to say goodbye to the characters I’ve lived with for the past five years!

Thank you, Marit!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Mia Zozobrado

“[The Writers’ League] has reminded me that everyone has a story to share, and their voice is the best voice to share it.”

-Mia Zozobrado

A member of the Writers’ League for one year and a current Writers’ League Board Member, Mia Zozobrado lives in Austin.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Mia Zozobrado: I’d like to dabble in narrative nonfiction, YA fiction, op-eds . . . essentially, I’m keeping all the doors open! Except poetry. I’m a pretty terrible poet.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

MZ: I’d have to go with Maggie Stiefvater, author of several YA series — including my personal favourite, The Raven Cycle saga. I think the first question I’d ask would be how she managed to write such a detailed teen romance story without it becoming a cliche “girl meets boy and falls in love” story. I am usually not a fan of romance-driven plots, and with The Raven Cycle, the romance is definitely a focus but it becomes so much more than that, and kept me turning pages until the end.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

MZ: I’m going to go with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. It’s the only Harry Potter book I’ve read differently every single time I’ve reread it.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

MZ: That there are a lot of people braver than me! Putting my writing out there has always given me a lot of anxiety — it’s so refreshing to be surrounded by a group of people who feel the same fears that I do and are running after their passions at full speed anyhow. It’s also reminded me that everyone has a story to share, and their voice is the best voice to share it. It truly is a phenomenally refreshing group of people to be surrounded by.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

MZ: I’ve always been most enamored by fiction writing, specifically for young adults, but I think that sharing my story will take a more honest route. I wouldn’t be surprised to see myself gravitating more towards nonfiction.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

MZ: I’m still reading it, but Chelsey Clammer’s Circadian is quite an interesting collection of essays — witty, personal, and consistently forcing a moment of pause and reflection at the end of each section.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

MZ: I recently adopted a pup named Ronan, and he is absolutely wonderful!

Thanks, Mia!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Robert Ashcroft

“I met a lot of really great people at the Agents & Editors Conference last year, and it showed me that there was a thriving writing community in Austin.”

-Robert Ashcroft

A member of the Writers’ League since 2017, Robert Ashcroft lives in Round Rock, Texas.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Robert Ashcroft: I primarily write science fiction these days.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

RA: Friedrich Nietzsche. I would ask him to analyze his legacy from the viewpoint of the twenty-first century. 

If we are talking fiction it might be Ryu Murakami. I would ask him if Frank the American, from In the Miso Soup, is all in Kenji’s imagination. I have a lot of thoughts on what this might mean–for the story in the literal sense and also for Japanese/American relations in the metaphorical sense.

With non-fiction (and I realize this is cheating), it would definitely be Jon Ronson. He’s had his finger on the pulse of the crazy that was boiling up around the world for decades, and his works should be required reading in schools. I would ask him what keeps him up at night these days.

If we are talking poetry (this is the last one I swear), I would ask William Blake, “What’s all this I hear about a rough beast, slouchin’ around?”

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

RA: The Brothers Karamazov. I could study it alone on an island for years and there would still be things left to discover. Or maybe Ulysses. These are books that I read before I was really capable of understanding what they had to offer, so I should really re-read them at some point.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

RA: I met a lot of really great people at the Agents & Editors Conference last year and it showed me that there was a thriving writing community in Austin. These connections led to workshops, critique groups, and a lot of really good friends.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

RA: So much of writing is based on community. Mostly I would love to stay in Austin for a few more years and really just enjoy the city.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

RA: There are so many good books. I’m good friends with Alexandra Burt, so Remember Mia and the Good Daughter should be on everyone’s list. I just finished Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias as well, and it was an amazing read. I also really enjoyed Atomic Sea, by Jack Connor, though it came out a few years ago.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

RA: I want to write novels that I’ll be proud to read in forty years. The Megarothke was a huge part of my life and will be going forward, but I would like to add a few more books to the shelf in the coming decades.

Thanks, Robert!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

An Interview with Rachel Starnes, Summer Writing Retreat Instructor

“Writing has always been my way of figuring out what I think, and the genre of nonfiction is such a wide open place for exploration.”

-Rachel Starnes

Rachel Starnes is the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir The War at Home: A Wife’s Search for Peace and Other Missions Impossible. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from California State University, Fresno and her BA from the University of Texas. Her essays have appeared in The Colorado Review, Front Porch Journal, and O Magazine. Born in Austin, Texas, she has lived in Scotland, Saudi Arabia, Florida, California, and Nevada, and is currently on the move again with her husband, two sons, and a puppy.

Rachel is teaching a class called “Exploring the Essay: Building the Essential Foundation for Short and Long From Nonfiction” at the 2018 WLT Summer Writing Retreat. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Scribe: Your class explores the many forms the creative essay can take. How could writers unfamiliar with the nonfiction genre benefit from your class?

Rachel Starnes: This class will give a good intro to the wide and varied landscape of contemporary nonfiction. It’s a broad genre with a lot of potential and growth right now, and I plan to hit the high points of its development going all the way back to Michel de Montaigne. The goal here is to convey what a dicey proposition it’s been, historically, to say we’re going to write about “the truth,” whether it’s a chain of events that took place, an encapsulation of one particular moment, a portrait of another person’s life, or someone’s own lived experience.

Scribe: Even for the most personal of essays research may be required. How does an essayist go about researching their own life or memories?

RS: We’ll talk a lot about primary sources — photographs, diaries, interviews, artifacts — and their limitations. There are a lot of tools one can use to get at the “truth” of a situation, but the goal here is not to compile a court document or a definitive record. This kind of writing is as much about process as it is about answers. Often, the most interesting parts of the work are the parts where the details refuse to come into focus. Leaning into that, exploring why certain parts are unclear, allowing for alternate viewpoints or competing narratives— those are research methods as well, and often lead to enhanced narrative credibility and a more interesting, multidimensional story. I think a lot of nonfiction writing is about knowing what conversations need to happen off the page, or when to confess to your uncertainty about something and create space in the narrative for possibility.

Scribe: What are the essays or memoirs that have had a big influence on your own writing?

RS: Joan Didion’s collection The White Album and her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, James Baldwin’s essay “Notes of a Native Son,” and Mary Karr’s memoirs The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit immediately come to mind. I was blown away by Leslie Jamison’s collection The Empathy Exams, Rebecca Solnit’s collection Men Explain Things to Me, and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s The Fact of a Body. I’m excited to be discovering new voices I love all the time.

Scribe: As a writer, what was it that attracted you to the nonfiction genre?

RS: I’m drawn to the idea that there are things we don’t say, either because it seems too hard or it’s considered taboo. I think the true stuff of life often exists in those conversations we’re afraid to have, or the parts of life that have left us tangled up or with the vague feeling of “this keeps happening to me and I don’t know why.” Writing has always been my way of figuring out what I think, and the genre of nonfiction is such a wide open place for exploration. I also think that the more we explore our own areas of contradiction, uncertainty, or discomfort, the more we widen the frame for others to do it as well.

Scribe: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from teaching nonfiction?

RS: That the old saw is accurate: truth is stranger than fiction. I’ve learned that the people around me are an inexhaustible source of stories. Also, that there’s hope in the idea that a lot of our stories, while fascinating and unique in the particulars, are universal in their themes.

Thank you, Rachel!

For more information on the Writers’ League of Texas 2018 Summer Writing Retreat, click here.

An Interview with Stacey Swann, Summer Writing Retreat Instructor

“The discussions and exercises we do can be just as helpful to the writer who has already written several novels […] as the writer who is on their first novel attempt.”

— Stacey Swann

Stacey Swann’s fiction has appeared in The Bridport Prize Anthology 2017, Epoch, Memorious, Versal, Covered W/ Fur, and other journals. A past Stegner Fellow, she teaches with Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and in their Novel Certificate Program. She is contributing editor at the literary journal American Short Fiction.

Stacey is teaching a class called “The Fiction Hatchery: Moving Ideas to the Page Through Characterization, Plot, Setting, and Theme” at the 2018 WLT Summer Writing Retreat. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Scribe: What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting your own novel?

Stacey Swann: For me, as I began my first novel, my greatest challenge was overcoming my fear of the size of the project. Before that project, I had only written short stories. The idea of writing hundreds of pages around a single idea seemed so daunting. I had to have faith that, if I just kept writing, more ideas for the plot would start to appear. I think that’s why, as a teacher, I’ve become such a fan of different kinds of foundational work at the beginning of project. It helps generate those ideas even before the bulk of the drafting begins, making the length feel less intimidating.

Scribe: In your class, you will discuss how to start a new writing project. What, in your opinion, is the best way to get started?

SS: I always tell my students that the best way to go about a project is the way that feels right to them, specifically. I know that sounds vague! But the fact is that writers all have very different processes, and there is no one right way to finish a novel or a short story. Some writers love to draft with no set agenda and want to surprise even themselves when they write. Other writers really need the structure and scaffolding of an outline, even if it is a very vague and sketchy one, to help them at the beginning of the project. You have to observe your own reactions as you write and hone in on the things that seem the most fun and the most rewarding to you as you work.

Scribe: Not all writers sit down and figure out their stories’ conflicts before they start. How important is the early story-mapping process?

SS: As I mentioned above, there’s a portion of writers that like the conflicts to reveal themselves as they draft the scenes, rather than knowing the conflicts before they begin. But even for those writers, having a general sense of the direction they are heading initially can really help with momentum. Doing that foundational work doesn’t have to mean mapping out the exact events that your characters will grapple with. It may just mean knowing the general type of conflict. For example, in my own novel, I knew some of my characters would be grappling with whether they could forgive a loved one for infidelity. But I didn’t know the exact type of infidelity when I began writing, or what the motivations for the characters were. Those things only solidified for me as I actually began drafting.

ScribeYour work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. Would you say that story development is just as important for shorter pieces as well as novel writing?

SSAbsolutely! Whether you are writing a four page short story or a four hundred page novel, thinking deeply about your characters and what’s at the heart of the project—why it’s important to you, the writer—not only can make the drafting an easier process, it can also deepen the complexity and depth of the finished project.

Scribe: What level of writer is your class best suited for?

SS: One of the reasons I love the Fiction Hatchery class is that the format can work for writers of every level. The discussions and exercises we do can be just as helpful to the writer who has already written several novels and/or short stories as the writer who is on their first novel attempt or is trying their hand at a short story for the very first time.

Thank you, Stacey!

For more information of the the Writers’ League of Texas 2018 Summer Writing Retreat, click here.

Meet the Members: Amber Royer

Writing forces me to keep learning, face new challenges (every novel’s a unique puzzle to build and solve at the same time), and grow as an empathetic person every time I look through a new set of eyes.

-Amber Royer

A member of the Writers’ League for three years, Amber Royer lives in Dallas.

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Amber Royer: I write comic space opera, which means it’s science fiction where character development trumps everything else. I’ve also dabbled in writing about time travel, virtual reality, lovesick AIs, and robot dogs.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them?

AR: Mark Twain. His travelogues are both hilarious and personal (though no one seems to know — or care — which parts are actually true). I would ask him what it was really like to travel in the late 1800’s and what real events were too weird, sad, or boring to put into the books. I love to travel, too, and I think it would be amazing to take one of his books and go some of the same places to see how the world — and people’s perceptions of it — have changed. I play around a lot with history in my own writing, and in the “Chocoverse” (the universe for the book I have coming out this summer) there is a race of long-lived aliens where individuals alive in my protagonist’s time could have overlapped the later years of Twain’s lifespan.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

AR: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That way I could just read back over the descriptions of the Guide’s cover: large friendly letters that say Don’t Panic. Because I have no idea how to build a boat or a short-wave radio. So if I’m on a deserted island, I’m pretty much doomed. Wait. Can I change my answer to a guide on how to build boats and short-wave radios out of driftwood and coconut husks?

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

AR: How many amazing writers there are in Texas — and how supportive they are of each other’s goals.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

AR: My debut novel has just been released, with a second one to follow next year. I’ve also got a couple of other projects in the works. They all have one thing in common: a sense of fun, while playing with standard science fiction tropes. Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Every writing project makes a writer stronger, and I’ve got quite a few stored safely out of sight on my hard drive. I’ve been teaching Creative Writing for about a decade now, and I’ve learned something from each of my students. Writing forces me to keep learning, face new challenges (every novel’s a unique puzzle to build and solve at the same time), and grow as an empathetic person every time I look through a new set of eyes. Writing helps decrease stress and increase mental agility, so I see it as helping to keep me balanced.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

AR: I write science fiction, but I read in a number of genres, and when I think Texas writers who use Texas as a setting effectively, the China Bayles mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert comes to mind. China owns a herb shop in rural Texas, so she’s alert to Texas plants in her surroundings – and they often serve as clues. This series is a cosy where you are guaranteed to learn something about botany. I’m a few books behind, but the twenty-sixth in the series just came in April.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion! 

AR: My debut novel, Free Chocolate was released on June 5, 2018 from Angry Robot Books, and the launch party is on June 7 (that’s tonight!) at Interabang Books! Telenovela meets Space Opera in a galactic battle to control the only thing Earth has that a hungry galaxy wants: chocolate. Bo Benitez, former paparazzi princess and daughter of Earth’s most famous celebrity chef, gets caught in the middle. Barnes and Noble’s SFF blog named it one of the top 25 SFF debuts to watch in 2018.

Thanks, Amber!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!