Interview with Featured Member Lily Iona-MacKenzie
Raised on the Canadian Prairies, under cumulous clouds that bloomed everywhere in Alberta’s big sky, Lily Iona MacKenzie soon realized that all objects are in motion, waiting for stories to illuminate them. They were her
first creative writing instructors, scudding across the heavenly blue, constantly changing shape: one minute an elephant, bruised and brooding. The next morphing into a rabbit or a castle.
She soon realized that all objects are in motion, waiting for stories to illuminate them. The clouds’ shifting form also schooled her in the various possibilities open to her as a writer. So did Jack Frost’s enchanted creations that enlivened the windows in wintertime, forcing her to view her surroundings as if through a bewitching prism. These early experiences helped her to envision multi-dimensional characters. No wonder magical realism pulses at the heart of her narratives, and her work celebrates the imagination.
Lily Iona MacKenzie has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 165 American and Canadian venues. Fling!, one of her novels, was published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Curva Peligrosa, another novel, was published by Regal House Publishing in 2017. Freefall: A Divine Comedy was released in 2019. A sequel to Freefall, The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up!, will be released on October 15, 2021. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011, and her poetry chapbook No More Kings came out in 2020.
Three Questions for Lily Iona MacKenzie
What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers?
You need to treat your commitment to writing as deeply as you would to a partner you were marrying. The act of writing itself will take you on a rocky road with many ups and downs, just as most marriages do. So you need to hang in there during dry times when the writing seems evasive and you’re having trouble getting published. The writing should primarily satisfy a need in yourself to express whatever wants to be released. Then the other aspects will fall into their appropriate place.
What are your writing habits?
When I was helping to raise two stepchildren and also was teaching college level rhetoric, I discovered that if I wrote just one hour a day, in a year I could complete the first draft of a novel, as well as poetry, short fiction, and essays. I’ve continued that practice, fitting in the hour when I can to a busy schedule, adding to it when it’s possible, and I now give myself weekends off. As my bio indicates, this practice has given me plenty of work to publish.
I use a laptop computer and can’t possibly sit at a desk to work. So I roam the house, landing wherever I can feel most private and most comfortable.
How long have you been hooked on the creative art of writing?
I was a high school dropout and left home at fifteen, traveling from Calgary to Vancouver in search of my mother who had left my younger brothers and me with my stepfather (my brother’s biological father). In my mid-twenties, I experienced a deep depression, at which time I started keeping a daily journal and have been doing so ever since. I somehow knew then I was a writer, but, a single parent, I wasn’t able to return to school until my early thirties. I started out thinking I would be a social science major, but at the beginning of my junior year, I realized my heart was in the humanities, and that decision led me to major in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. Later, I earned two masters, one in Creative Writing and the other in the Humanities. I’ve been writing in multiple genres ever since.
Why did you start a blog?
Realizing I needed to build a “platform” as a published writer, I started blogging back in 2009, and it’s become a kind of public journal. It offers an opportunity for me to reflect on the process of reading and writing, as most of my posts do, and I now have almost 400 faithful followers! I submit a new post every Monday, hoping it will offer inspiration to my followers and anyone else who happens on my blog.
In addition to writing, Mackenzie loves drawing, painting, collage, and playing the piano while singing her heart out. She’d love to meet other artistically inclined writers, and to mentor other writers, as she’s doing currently in the creative writing classes she’s teaching through the University of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning.
She might also be interested in editorial review exchanges if the project is right.
To read a sample of Lily Iona MacKenzie’s writing, check out The Sexism Lily Iona MacKenzie Faced as SF’s First Female
Longshoreman: Silicon Valley isn’t the only boys’ club in the Bay Area (The Bold Italic). Her site is LilyIonaMackenzie.com.
THE CALIFORNIA WRITERS CLUB was started by a group of writing professionals in the early 1900s. The Berkeley Branch is the founding branch of the statewide Club, which now has 19 branches and around 2000 members throughout California. We are the third oldest writers’ club in the country, currently celebrating our 100th year serving Bay Area writers.
The CWC is a nonprofit professional organization open to writers in every genre and at every level of experience, from novice to published. Our purpose is to promote fellowship and to provide practical information that supports all members in achieving their publishing goals.
We offer or have offered meetings, speakers support/critique groups, a newsletter, writing contests, a chapbook, readings, and workshops.