Have you donated to Alpha yet? For just $5, you get a copy of a short story anthology written and illustrated by Alphans, and trust me, it’s awesome.
If you’re interested in applying, remember that the deadline is coming up on March 3rd. You should probably start your story. (I finished my first submission story an hour before the deadline. I got in, but I really, really don’t recommend that path.)
Interviews with Alpha alumni continue! Yesterday, Sarah Brand posted a great interview with Jill Hardy that you should definitely read.
For today’s interview, I talked to Malina Suity. She attended Alpha in 2005 and 2006, and then came back in 2007 as a staffer. She has a BA in English and Medieval Studies and a Masters in Public History. She’s written high and historical fantasy short stories, and is currently researching a historical mystery novel set in the 1930s.
How did you hear about Alpha?
I was a freshman in college, procrastinating on an Art History assignment, when I stumbled on what I thought was a reading Tamora Pierce listed on her website. I had been a fan of hers since middle school, and I was excited to tell my sister about the reading we could attend that summer. I clicked on a link and it brought me to the Alpha website. I had been dabbling in writing since I had started reading Tamora Pierce novels, but I had never really finished a story. So, I decided to give it a try. I talked to my advisor and she read my story when it was finished. I sent it off and was wait-listed until I heard at the last minute that someone had dropped out and I could attend Alpha. Fortunately, I live about 40 minutes away from where the workshop was held, so it wasn’t a very big hassle to change my summer plans.
Why did you decide to be a staff member?
Well, they weren’t going to let me come back for a third year otherwise. But really, I had been the oldest student in the group my first and second year (technically in my second year I was no longer a teenager). I liked helping out the younger writers. I felt that some of the lessons I had been learning (and pointedly NOT learning) in my history literature, and writing courses in college could benefit the new Alphans coming up. And, actually, I felt that I had so much more I could learn from the staff and the new students.
What do you think young writers gain most from Alpha?
I have written most of my body of work at Alpha. This is because of my own work ethic and stress levels – I’ve been in school for most of the time I have not been at Alpha – but I find myself at my most creative when I am around other creative people. By bouncing ideas of of each other formally and informally, sometimes by just being silly, Alphans inspire each other. I’ve seen and experienced first-hand the way these working relationships and friendships last years and span miles. Alpha provides young writers with the kind of support network every writer should have.
What are your top three favorite Alpha memories?
The Realistic Dialogue Lesson I gave my second year. I was so nervous, but it turned out really fun and helpful for people. It gave me a lot of confidence in my own ability to teach.
Workshopping a story on our own time with two students, out on the grass in front of the dorm during my staff year. It was a great, open dialogue of what worked and what didn’t and how to make it even more awesome than it was already.
I can’t pick one – but all the pop-culture, book, movie, music conversations that led to my recommending all the things I love and find new things to love by listening to other nerds.
If you could give advice to young writers going into Alpha, what would it be?
If you don’t write a good story, you don’t send your story out to publishers, you don’t finish your story, or you never revise your story – even if you never complete anything or never write at all after Alpha – you don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed. One day, when you want to, or you feel you have to, you’ll get back to it. And the Alphans that you knew and many more you didn’t will be there to help you start up again, to inspire you, and to tell you where it’s awesome and where it might need a little work. Seriously, don’t stress about your creative process. It won’t make the piece better and it will make you feel worse.
How has Alpha continued to impact your life in the years since?
Alpha has given me lasting friendships that have trickled into other parts of my life. I lived in New York City with a friend I met at Alpha. I found a friend from grad school a place to live in DC for a few months with a friend I made at Alpha – and now they’re friends! And every year, a bunch of my favorite people come back to my favorite city (Pittsburgh!) and I get to see them.
It’s also given me a sometimes vague, sometimes clear goal of what I want to accomplish with the stories in my head. Even if, after both degrees are done, I still can’t find the time to get my ideas down on paper, I know that one day I will. Then, I will still have the tools and the support to get those ideas into print.