Interview with Sunday’s Featured Member Terry Tierney
Terry Tierney is our featured member for the meeting this Sunday, April 19th. His first book of poetry The Poet’s Garage is due to be published in May by Unsolicited Press. Terry Tierney hails from the Midwest, but has planted roots in the San Francisco Bay Area where he lives with his wife, their enthusiastic golden retriever and two inquisitive kittens. After serving in the Seabees, he completed his BA and MA at Binghamton University and a PhD in Victorian Literature at Emory University. He taught college composition and creative writing, and he survived several Silicon Valley startups as a software engineer. His poems and stories have recently appeared in Typishly, The Mantle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Front Porch Review, Jersey Devil Press, Rogue Agent, The Lake and other publications. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel, is set to release in 2022.
Six Questions for Terry Tierney (Followed by a Bonus!)
What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers?
Writing is breath. Never stop breathing. Write every day. The more you write the better you get, and it’s important to have rough drafts to edit. The process of editing is where the best writing emerges, but you have to continually stoke the furnace with raw material. For a first draft don’t think at all about editing and concentrate on free flow of ideas. Some days it might be one line or a few linked words, but try to end each day with more words than you had the day before.
What one thing has helped promote your writing most?
Like many writers, promotion feels like an unnatural act. Setting up my website, Facebook author page, and social media accounts has been helpful, but the best help and support comes from networking with other writers. This includes going to readings and conferences, reading at open mics, and joining the CWC, in particular.
What are your writing habits?
Typically I write in my journal first thing in the morning and mine ideas, sometimes dreams, by brainstorming and free association. Occasionally I ponder a writing prompt. If I have an outline for a story or an essay I often cruise for several hours before I putter out. I edit when I start to feel drained of new ideas. But everything stops if I feel a poem coming on.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger I wanted to be an engineer or a soldier, since my father and all my uncles served in the military. But I was drawn more and more to writing, first as sports editor for my high school and college newspapers, then general news and editorials, especially in response to the Vietnam War.
What other writers inspire you?
Probably Jack Kerouac inspires me the most, though I have several, including John Keats, Percy Shelley, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Jane Austen, George Eliot, and a large number of modern poets, beginning with T. S Eliot. I credit Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg with inspiring me to write poetry, but Kerouac as a unique artist and character stole my heart. You might say my feeling for Kerouac is more than a crush—I want to be Kerouac. That said, I have also gone through similar attachments to Wallace Stevens, John Ashbury, Ted Hughes, Ernest Hemingway and others. When I love an author, I tend to read their entire canon, and I feel a sense of loss when I finish.
Do You Listen to Music when You Write? If So, What?
Music is a great background for writing, but I find I cannot listen to vocals. My preferred genres are jazz and classical music, though I tend more often to queue up jazz. Miles Davis is one of my favorite artists, and his album “Bitches Brew” has carried me through several writing sessions. The unstructured feel of the tunes sets my mind free.
Bonus! A Poem by Terry Tierny
As work-intensive as it can be to put our ideas into words, doing so is only the beginning of the writing process. Revision (“re-seeing”) is what allows us to mold our raw material into art. But where to start? And how do you know when you’re (ever) finished? Tanya Egan Gibson will share with you the process of how a freelance editor assesses a manuscript, marks it up, and comes up with a plan for revision, distilling the process into 7 tips to help you bring an editor’s eye and experience to your own work.
Karma is president and web mistress for the Berkeley California Writers Club. She runs Future Is Fiction Communications, where she helps authors and other creatives spread the word about their projects. She writes poetry, and essays. She loves writing about music and politics.