Friday, September 10, 2010

Fresh Voice Amanda Alley!

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the voice of Amanda Alley!

What is your ultimate writing goal?
You know, I just won’t be happy until I’ve published a novel, but I am realistic enough to know that I need to take it slow. Insert “baby steps” clichĂ© here, right? For now, I’m content to tweet, blog ( and toss around a few short story ideas. Blogging has actually been much more difficult than I anticipated, partly because I spent so many years focusing on non-fiction and partly because that “publish” button just frightens me. With one click, I’m on display. It’s an frightening and amazing prospect for me.

Why do you write?
I’m one of those ridiculous people who has been writing since childhood, and no matter where else life has taken me, I’m always playing with words. I was the kid who loved essay tests and composed poems while walking the dog. And when I was a manager, I’m pretty sure even my month-end reports had a narrative arc! You get the idea.

I am also a naturally introspective and bookish gal, but it’s more than that. As the baby of the family, I’m awfully fond of attention. I don’t think I even admitted it to myself until I joined twitter and felt a sincere urge to entertain my followers. They didn’t click “Follow User” just for me to talk about what color – usually taupe – I painted my toenails today. What a shock to think that I spent thirty years in wallflower mode, aka denial!

Have you worked to achieve your voice or is it just a natural style for you?
Oh, I have definitely struggled with voice over the years. I’ve spent a great deal of time researching ancient cultures and studying the social sciences, but facts not voice are the focus of that type of writing. And that is part of what’s been so difficult about my blog. I would write out these very sober but technically sound essays and think Where’s the joy in that? Delete. Delete. Delete. It’s only recently that a different voice has emerged and it’s one that wants to laugh a little more. Once again, I was caught completely off guard.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
Hermann Hesse is one of my biggest influences because he really struggled to reconcile his rational nature with his earthy, or sensual, impulses. It was so difficult for him to be a sexual being and erudite man and he taps into the darker side of our psyche in a very positive way. Growing up in rural Virginia, I really needed someone like him.

I also love Paul Auster and Milan Kundera for the way they challenge traditional story-telling. They blur the boundaries between author, protagonist and reader. They are intellectually demanding without being obtuse.

On a more personal note, I have had the privilege of knowing Elizabeth Eslami, author of Bone Worship (Pegasus 2009), since I was an awkward college student. Her unwavering dedication to the writing life is such an inspiration. Knowing her and seeing what she’s been through makes me feel like “real” people can be writers too.

What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
My mother recently asked me, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” There never was a moment when it wasn’t what I wanted. So many of the people I admire throughout history and in pop culture are writers. It takes me back to all those cheesey college entrance essays. “Who do you most admire and why?” Excluding the time I told one extremely snobbish college the tramp from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp just to make them uncomfortable, my essays were always about big thinkers and great authors.

I sincerely enjoy researching, thinking, corresponding and writing, so all the daily tasks associated with being a writer are things I would be doing anyway. The lingo is just different now. Instead of going to the bookstore, it’s market research and instead of messing around on twitter, I’m networking. Oh, and instead of doodling, I’m brainstorming. I especially love that one.

If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
With my hobbies, my options are writer or college professor. I always have to be studying something new. One time in Washington, my roommate came home and I had books sprawled all over the coffee table and was making comparative religion charts. I wasn’t in school at the time so he looked at me bewildered and asked what I was doing. “Well, I didn’t have any homework, so I gave myself some.”

If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
I don’t know if it’s there yet, but my goal is to be unpretentious.

What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
In his book Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote, “I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far.” Vonnegut gave me permission to have and pursue interests other than writing and literature and while it hasn’t been the most linear of paths, I feel like I still ended up in the right place and at the right time.

Amanda Alley is an aspiring writer who adores coffee, words, aromatherapy, mythology, wine and nature walks. She enjoys stacking wood, washing dishes, making outlines and giggling like a school girl. She divided her youth between Maryland and Virginia but did most of her growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Please join her in Athena’s Den where sometimes the sacred actually meets the profane, but mostly she compiles quirky lists. Check out

1 comment:

  1. Even baby steps will get you there eventually, and you'll have time to enjoy the scenery along the way. Gives you more to write about, too.

    Best of luck with your writing, Amanda. :)