By Jamie Portwood, Writespace Administrative Assistant
The word volunteer, by definition, is a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. In other words, a volunteer makes a gift of herself. A volunteer says, “I have these talents and abilities and I want to use them for a good purpose.” It is one of the only ways we can choose how our gifts and talents and abilities are used. That choice alone makes it an act of self-care. In fact, research shows that volunteering has immense health benefits, from decreasing the risk of depression to reducing stress to increasing a sense of purpose to developing relationships.
I know that volunteering with Writespace has done that and more for me. When I first moved to Houston, I felt disconnected and isolated, all alone in the fourth largest city in the country. By happy accident, I found a flyer for upcoming workshops at Writespace. I decided to take a workshop and loved it. I kept taking workshops. Then I noticed that Writespace was asking for volunteers.
It was, I think, the first time that I was grateful for the administration skills I had acquired as an office manager. As soon as I began volunteering with Writespace, I felt like I had been plugged in. I met other volunteers who became friends, instructors who became friends. I became a part of the thriving arts community in Houston. I found a purpose that fulfilled me like nothing else. I belong to an organization that supports writers like me. What greater joy than to be a part of an organization that has given so much to me and other writers!
Volunteering with Writespace was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Today we’re delighted to share an interview with Reverie Benedetto, our second 2019 Writespace Emerging Writer Fellow!
For the past year, Reverie has been able to participate in
all the Writespace workshop programming she would like--absolutely free! Read on to learn more about Reverie’s work, inspirations, and more.
Tell us a bit about your writing! What genre do you like to work in and why? What projects are you currently focused on?
I enjoy working on adult speculative fiction stories, primarily science fiction and low/urban fantasy with elements of mystery. I like to step out of the bounds of our current reality – the things that we’re familiar with – and get weird and experimental! My current project is Seeking Starlight (working title, first book) and No More Kings (second book), a speculative noir duology about a naïve young detective getting more than he bargains for when he tries to track down the person who nearly killed him. Over the past few years, I’ve taken the time and effort to design and create visual references for all my characters. Distinct, memorable character design is something that’s very important to me.
What writers, artists, musicians, and so on have inspired your writing and why?
I am a huge fan of Ursula K. Le Guin! The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favorite science fiction novels. Reading about someone else’s ideas on society, science, and life outside of our known reality through creative fiction helps broaden my scope as far as going about my own writing. Admittedly, I have read a criminally small number of books in the past few years. My
attention span for written or audio-only works is very poor, especially when I’m stressed. I have a much better attention span for TV shows. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is my ‘keystone’ for fast-paced, character-driven stories. It’s quite campy, but fun to watch and analyze. I grew up with a goth mother, so my taste in music leans heavily on The Cure, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, and
the like. It’s emotionally evocative music!
What is your writing kryptonite? What do you struggle the most with when writing and what have you been doing to get better?
I am an anti-pantser. I have this problem where I can’t just get a first draft on paper – the first draft has to be THE best draft, something flawless. Obviously, that’s impossible, but I’m very insecure, so it’s been difficult to get over. To counter it, I’ve been reading new stories and re-watching/re-reading old ones that I enjoyed and making personal commentary on them: what I like, why I like it, and how I could possibly incorporate it into my own writing. Looking at structure has helped me the most, since that’s what I really struggle with.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I have always been annoyingly verbose, both in speech and in writing. I still am. When I first started writing, I was in that stage everyone goes through where they think the more words they’re putting on paper, the more intelligent they sound. Having someone sit down and cross out all the filler words and unnecessary adjectives in my writing was a mind-blowing experience for younger me. Concise language is powerful!
Why do you write? What drew you to pursue writing in the first place?
At first, I wrote to distract myself from a difficult home & school life, as well as from untreated mental illness. I projected myself onto my own characters. I made them gay, transgender, chronically ill, the whole nine yards. Characters like that weren’t (and still aren’t) common in media for children and teenagers. A lot of people say the best art comes from a place of suffering – I must laugh, because had I been given more resources and opportunities to expand upon my skills during my childhood, and had my family been encouraging instead of dismissive, I would be a much more confident, productive adult. People who say things like that have no idea what it’s like to have your creativity, the very light in your soul snuffed out by the people who should be fueling it.
I still write for myself, but I’ve learned to look to my friends and fellow writers for advice when creating stories. To make other people happy with my writing, particularly those groups so often ignored in creative fiction, is the greatest honor I could achieve.
What is your favorite--and least favorite!--thing about Houston and why?
It’s Houston. Clutch City! Where no matter how many times we’re swept under, we never drown. The willpower, the perseverance that the people of this city have, the compassion that we have for one another during times of crisis – it’s unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. The constant traffic and road work on major freeways is also unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere.
What books have you read recently that you particularly enjoyed? Tell us about them!
I’m currently reading Sunburnby Laura Lippman. It’s a mystery similar in theme to Gone Girl. The narrative is structured in a way that allows each narrating character to come and go as they’re relevant without being confusing or difficult to follow. It’s given me insight on how I want to go about structuring my current project’s narrative.
As an Emerging Writer Fellow, you get to attend as many Writespace workshops as you’d like! Which one did you enjoy the most (so far!) and why?
Doing the all-day Novel Pacing workshop with Mark Haber was a delight. Mark is personable and always has great advice for me. As I’ve said, pacing and structure is my weakness, but I went home with several ideas for my project after this workshop.
Do you have any social media or websites you’d like to share with the Writespace community?
My (professional) Twitter is @revbenedetto! My website reveriebenedetto.comis in the making.
We want to extend a huge thank you to Reverie for taking the time to chat with us! If you’re interested in finding out more about the 2020 Emerging Writer Fellowship, visit our site here. Applications for 2020 will open in December 2019.