The Zephyranthes

Interview with Warren Rochelle

Warren Rochelle is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. He grew up in Durham, North Carolina and received his BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the New York and Columbia University he earned an MS in Library Science. Later he earned his MFA at UNC Greensboro.Rochelle is an established writer with two novels Wild Boy, 2001 and his most recent Harvest of Changelings, 2007. He has also published poetry, short stories, academic essays, as well as a critical work on Le Guin, Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula, 2001.Warren Rochelle’s experience with publishing and teaching English majors gives him a lot to offer aspiring writers. 

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1.         What advice would you give young emerging writers?

Keep a journal and try to write something every day, even if it is a line or two. Read, read, read, and not just your favorite genre. Read everything.            

 2.         Where do you get inspiration for your novels?

From a lot of different places and people, which include: dreams, odd post cards, mythology, friends, family, students, colleagues (everybody is fair game!), the part of North Carolina where I spent my childhood, fairy tales, pets . . .           

 3.         Is the world of publishing as competitive as it is described?

Yes.           

 4.         To be successful in publication, how important is going to graduate school?

If you go to an MFA program with the idea that you will emerge a published writer, think again. If you write with your primary goal to get published, then you are not a storyteller. The story, the truth, must come first, the rest will follow. Yes, you do meet established writers and editors and literary stars in grad programs; some may be your professors. Yes, this could mean you get your foot in the door, a manuscript read. Sometimes. Don’t count on it. For me, the real value of an MFA program is the time you can devote to writing and just writing, with a supportive audience of students and faculty, who are committed to honest feedback.           

 5.         If one were going to apply for graduate school, would you suggest taking time off before applying? Does having published work already improve your chances of getting in?

Well, it can’t hurt to have published work already before applying to graduate school, and would improve your chances, but it does not guarantee acceptance. Graduate schools look at the total application, not just one part.           

I went to graduate school twice–for library school and then, 11 years later, for my MFA and PhD, and I think I did better the second time because I knew how much I wanted it and what I was getting in for. It’s not a bad idea to take a year or two off before going to graduate school.

 6.         What would you say is the best avenue for new writers to submit their work and get noticed? (literary journals, magazines, contests, etc)

All 3 are good venues for young writers: literary journals, magazines, and contests, including campus publications, such as newspapers and literary magazines, like AUBADE. Online journals and magazines are good sources nowadays as well.           

 7.         How were you first published?

I had a short story published in Graffiti, a journal published by a small NC college in 1978. The first story for which I was paid, “A Peaceful Heart,” was published by Aboriginal Science Fiction in 1989. As for the how, I sent out stories and sent them out and sent them out and sent them out…..           

 8.         Do you think the possibility for publication changes with age?

Yes. Writers mature, they grow up, their work evolves.           

 9.         How important is it to have an agent? Do you have an agent?

I wish I did! No luck yet. Yes, you can get published without an agent, but having one will make your life so much easier.            

 10.       Do you think particular genres influence the chance (or ease) for publication? For example, is poetry harder to publish versus short fiction, etcetera.

I am not sure. I think it depends on the journal to which you submit and what they are looking for.           

 12.       How would you rate the importance of keeping in touch with former English professors? What do you think are the greatest possible benefits?

Very important. Some of the greatest possible benefits, besides a potentially very rich friendship, include: letters of recommendation or introduction (to editors and agents and for jobs) or nomination (contests and awards), and advice and counsel and support.            

Find out more about Warren Rochelle at his homepage here.