Friday, January 9, 2009

Team Spotlight: Interview with mshalston

Interviewed by fauxsure
How did you come to sell your work on etsy? Do you sell your stuff through any other venues?

I received an e-mail from my husband at the beginning of December saying, "You can sell books through Etsy!" My response was, "But they're not handmade." I was very happy to hear that as long as I had written them, I could sell them. And I have since added my first handmade book to my shop, so that's exciting.
As for selling other places, I have a bookstore section on my website for my novel, my collection of plays, and my comic. My novel, A Girl Named Charlie Lester, is also available through most online bookselling venues and you can order it from any brick and mortar bookstore. But my visual art is only available through Etsy.

What do you hope your buyers will get out of your work? what do you hope to communicate to them through your work?
Mainly, I hope buyers will find my work thought-provoking or, failing that, entertaining. Because I mostly write about people interacting with each other, I feel like there's a universality to my stories. And I hope that the people who read them will experience a connection that is sometimes lacking in "serious" fiction and, truth be told, life.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Oh...everywhere. People I see on the train. Hypothetical conversations that build from a word or two overheard from strangers who are talking too loudly. Sometimes it's music. One of my illustrated poems that's currently in my shop was inspired by the music of Raymond Scott. I don't think he was ever actually the front man of any jazz band in any night club, but I like to pretend that he was.

Are there other art forms/ craft traditions that you think influence your work?
I feel as if my visual art is definitely beholden to the cartoons of Chuck Jones. There's a relief print I'm currently working on that is skewing very sharply in the Dr. Seuss direction. I may get a call from his lawyers. And all of my writing is definitely influenced by my status as a theatregoer. I was introduced to the theatre at a very young age and it influenced every notion I've ever had about what's funny, what's touching, what dialogue should sound like, what's good, and what's not.

What is your typical creative process like? What kinds of stages do you usually go through when making your work?
For writing, I try to finish a first draft before editing. That rarely occurs, but I try. After the first draft is done, I'll go back and revamp or rework scenes, building bridges or adding segue. Sometimes the final product is dramatically different than the initial version. For shorter works, I rarely need more than two or three drafts before it's complete. For a novel, it's closer to six or more. And then I need feedback before I can continue. I'm lucky to be surrounded by smart people who love to read. For visual art, I'm not sure I have a specific set of steps to follow. I had an drawing professor who once told me that she was of the "do whatever works" school of art. And I think that's how I try to attack visual art. I'll draw or paint and if it's not working, I'm fine with drastically altering something. For example, one print I have in my shop was originally a painting. There's sheet music in the background of the piece and when it came out smudgy, rather than pristine, I poured water over it to aggravate it. And when it dried, I was much happier with the outcome.

Tell us a little about your approach to the written word. What's important to you as a writer?
Oddly enough, the most important aspect of writing fiction (for me) is truth. If I'm writing a scene or exposing a character's thoughts, I want them to seem real. I think that stems from a friend advising me while I was writing my first novel. I told him there was a lot of sex in it and I worried that it would distract from the story being told. He told me not to worry, that it would be fine as long as the sex scenes were real. I took that to mean that if they weren't just for titilation, if I could showcase all the awkward moments in sex, the bad and the good, then it would be successful and not at all distracting. Especially considering that I was telling a story about a girl who ages eight years throughout the tale. Of course she has sex. That's only natural.

What sorts of materials do you like to work with?
Words. They're in my writing, of course, but they're also in my visual art. I'm very attracted to a picture that also asks me to read.

Do you also buy things on etsy? What sorts of items appeal to you?
I do! I'm actually planning on buying soap today. I'm also partial to hats (cloches, to be specific), art, books, zines, and little toys! There's a specific plushy friend that I want to purchase as soon as I next get paid...

Are there other creative projects you are involved in outside of your work that can be found on etsy?

I'm currently working on a two-person show, involving a pair of women who represent generations of females all the way back to prehistory. It will highlight how each woman first grasps her imminent mortality. Also, I'm working on my second novel, a satirical piece about the state of literature and the state of entertainment in the US. There are quite a few short stories and a couple of comics. Oh, and I'm the contributing editor of apt, an online literary journal. We just turned three years old and are looking into publishing a print issue or anthology of our best pieces from 2005-2008.

Besides art/ crafty stuff, what else do you like doing in your free time?
I love to travel. I love visiting members of my chosen family. I love singing and acting and laughing.

Does your queer identity come into play in your work?
Most definitely. There are several of my pieces that I like to call "the gay ones." Besides A Girl Named Charlie Lester (which mostly predated all my own same-sex experiences), they're the short stories and poems and plays that are largely about LGBT men and women. I write them because, for me, they're second nature. I have more friends who are gay or who have had a same-sex encounter than who haven't.

What are your hopes for the Queer Etsy Street Team? What brought you to join?
I hope we all form strong bonds with each other. That's what any community should have. Also, I hope we're all able to quit our day jobs. I joined the Queer Etsy team because it felt like a place where I belonged.

See more of mshalston's work at

No comments: