In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Maya Beck
1. Tell us about your CNF piece, “Weekly Specials,” in Volume 21. How did it come to be?
My family moves around a lot, and one of the discussions we have about that is over what stores are present and which are missing. I feel it brings a bit of stability to be able to buy the same comfort foods your parents cooked for you as a child.
I also think a lot about the stories hiding in overlooked places, and I think that’s why I’m attracted to unusual forms. I don’t believe in limiting stories to specific forms with specific rules that are only and always in books. If you get nosey enough about someone else’s shopping cart, you’ll find a story.
2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?
To paraphrase one of my favorite manga: I don’t write to escape reality; I write to face reality. I like stories that give me something to take back into reality, so if it doesn’t shift who I am, I’m not interested. I’m particularly uninterested in work that claims to be universal but is parochial, limited, and not for me to read, like Hemingway.
That said, I have a pretty broad taste. The Book of Night Women helped me see my ancestors as human and layered. My Hero Academia engages my earnest inner child and inspires me to pursue my dreams when I’m feeling burnt-out and jaded. Recently, I’ve been reading essays from The Collected Schizophrenias in order to better understand my mother.
3. How does the current political climate influence your art or creative process?
I used to feel panicked and urgent all the time because so many of my overlapping identities were under attack. (I’m a black woman who was raised Muslim, grew up lower-income, and identifies as queer). But I tried to really sit with the Toni Morrison quote that “The function […] of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work.” Nowadays, I realize that just being myself to my fullest is resistance enough. My current form of rebellion is to let my work be as happily black or femme or Muslim or queer or lowbrow as it needs to be.
4. What does your creative process look like? How does the environment you are in shape your work or where do you like to write?
I never know what people want to hear when they ask about process. A method of drafting, editing, or creating ideas that others can emulate? I feel like everyone has to develop an individualized method that fits their goals, values, and lifestyle.
That said: I do a lot of preplanning in my head, so it looks like I write quickly. Sometimes, I draft on paper and edit as I transcribe to digital, but I always save in the cloud. I’m still learning how to revise, but I like to set drafts in the closet for a couple of months first. I use The Snowflake Method for longer works, and recommend Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction for general writing advice. I’ve written in notebooks while building trail in Montana and on Google documents during lunch breaks at a temporary job, so I want to say that environment doesn’t matter as long as I’m in the right headspace. A good playlist certainly helps.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
Too many, but that’s how I like it. I am trying to find an agent for a kids’ book, torn between revising another kids’ book or writing a new one, and I told the state of Minnesota that I would “write and revise a body of speculative short stories (50,000 words/ten stories minimum) as preparation for publication,” so I guess I’d better get on that!
Congratulations to Maya on being a 2019 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant recipient! Visit Maya’s website here and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.