Meet the Author Series: Introducing Erin Moran
Some time ago we started to interview writers about their writing journey, the writing successes they have faced and the losses. We started this blog series because we believe in the community of writers helping writers, and what better way for writers to learn than from authors?
Our Meet the Author series feature this month is Erin Moran. Erin is a journalist and poet based in Philadelphia. Her creative work has been published by Sword & Kettle Press, Sea Foam Mag, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine and elsewhere. As a journalist, she freelances for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia magazine and other outlets. Moran curates, publishes and hosts readings and artist events for a quarterly literature & arts zine, Suburban Springtime. You can find her at ernmrn.com or follow along on Twitter or Instagram.
We asked Erin a couple of questions about her magazine Suburban Springtime, her journey as a freelance journalist and poet, as well as her advice for writers starting out.
Q: When did you start the writing journey? What really pushed you to start writing?
A: I feel like I’ve had two different writing journeys: one as a journalist and one as a more creative writer. My journalism career was kind of born of my desire to write creatively. When I was 13, right before I started ninth grade, my high school cut the only creative writing elective. The closest alternative was a journalism class, so I enrolled, ran the school paper and never looked back. It all seemed really natural after that, with journalism anyway.
I didn’t write much poetry during that time. Before high school, I used to fill notebooks with short stories and poems and song lyrics, even though I didn’t play any instruments. From ages 14 through 17, I dedicated all my time to the newspaper. I remember writing a scathing review of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. I did keep extremely extensive journals during this time, though. Pages and pages every day. I wish I still journaled like I did at 16.
Then at 17, I had an inexplicable William Blake phase that got me back into reading — and then writing — poetry. I don’t really know what sparked that, but by the next year I was doing my first readings and publishing my creative work.
Q: What type of writing do you do? A: I’m a freelance journalist, so I spend a lot of my time writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Sometimes that takes a great deal of my energy and it’s hard to work on more creative projects. When I’m not working, though, I write poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction. Right now I’m working on a poetry chapbook as well as a full-length poetry manuscript. I’m trying to get more stuff out there this year.
Q: Tell us more about Suburban Springtime and why you started it. A: Honestly, Suburban Springtime kind of started on a whim. After graduating college in August, I entered this kind of slump. I suddenly had all of this extra time, but I wasn’t using it for anything even remotely fulfilling. I wasn’t even reading much. I don’t know what I was doing. So one day I kind of just got sick of doing nothing, so I decided to start a new project. I knew I wanted it to be a collaborative project, to hold me accountable. So I put out a call for contributions to a literature and arts zine about suburbia, nostalgia, family histories, identity crises, boredom. I called it Suburban Springtime.
The theme kind of grew from this weird post-graduation nostalgia I was experiencing. I was reflecting a lot on my childhood, my growth, my teenage years. I was wildly depressed as a teenager. Those years were rife with trauma. I don’t feel safe in my hometown in the suburbs of New Jersey. When I do visit, I don’t leave my mom’s living room. I get scared to go to Target. So why the hell was I sitting in my safe, warm, South Philly apartment, completely romanticizing those years?
My mom’s family had lived in the same town for generations. My mom graduated from the same high school as I did, then later she taught there. My grandparents met as sophomores at the rival high school. We joke that my brother will buy my mom’s house someday. I wanted to explore all of these things and I wanted to hear other artists’ thoughts.
Q: What would you say are your favorite writing “wins?” A: Most of my biggest writing “wins” are completely personal. They rarely have anything to do outside recognition or traditional success. I think I’m most proud of myself when I’m completely honest in my writing. That’s always a huge win for me. Even if it’s not my best work, even if I’ll never send it out for publication, even if it will never be part of some bigger project. Sometimes it’s just so hard to get past these completely self-made, internal barriers. Sometimes I’ll sit down to write and I just know I’m trying to hide things from myself. Sometimes I don’t allow myself to be honest. Sometimes I feel like I need permission to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m the most proud of myself when I successfully challenge those thought patterns and just go for it.
Q: Do you have a writing routine? What inspires you to write? A: I wish I had more of a routine! I’m a very messy writer. Right now I have four Google docs open: one's a half-finished essay, two are just random notes and fragments, the last is a poetry submission I’m trying to put together. This isn’t a good system! I keep trying to work on a bunch of projects at once and I just end up overwhelmed and frustrated. I’m so stuck in the habit of using my laptop for all writing except traditional journaling, but I think if I tried to use a pen and paper more often, it might alleviate this problem a little bit. I’m so easily distracted. I start a new "poetry journal” document each month and they’re all full of disjointed thoughts and one-liners and ideas. Sometimes poems! But not as many as I’d like.
I don’t think any one particular thing inspires me to write. At least not all the time. During warmer months I like to go out walking or sit in the park and let this crazy weird and wonderful world inspire me, but I’m more jaded during the winter. I write a lot more about my chronic pain disorder. I write about trauma. I write less about birds this time of year.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a new writer what would it be? A: Just keep doing it! And read a lot. Read more than you write, but write every day. I don’t always take that advice, but I try my best. Honestly, though, self-promotion is probably more important to a writer than reading, or even writing. You have to be able to advocate for yourself, to put yourself out there and to promote your work. It helps to make writer friends. It feels more natural to promote yourself when you also have friends to promote and friends promoting you.