Dantzel Cherry, Dances With Words

By day, Dantzel Cherry teaches Pilates and raises her daughter. By night and naptime, she writes. Her baking hours follow no rhyme or reason. Her short stories have appeared in Fireside, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy’s Edge, and other magazines and anthologies.

Dantzel CherryOn your website you discuss the art of finding “What does my beginning need?” What sort of process do you go through to answer the five questions about “What else does a beginning need?” before you start writing?
Here are the five points from that post:

A protagonist with at least one strong, defining, trait that will definitely come into play in the scene.
A strong, clearly-conveyed motivation for that protagonist.
An interesting conflict that is easily understood regardless of setting.
Highly polished writing.
A twist at the end of the scene. – get them to keep reading past what amounts to a one-note character, simple setup, and hints of an intriguing world.

I fall somewhere between writing with an outline and writing by the seat of my pants. Usually at least one of those five points, paired up with whatever my original reason for writing the story, seeds the rest. The highly polished writing is the one I worry the least about until I’ve worked out the other 4. 🙂

Cats in SpaceYou blogged about “The grouchy ones want to feel special too.” Does this apply to characters you write and how do you deal with those pesky ones?
Yes, I think it applies, but not just to ‘the grouchy ones’ – which, for reference, refers to my experience teaching music to 3-7-year-olds and finding ways to encourage the grouchy ones to sing. Anytime we reduce someone to a stereotype, whether real or fiction, we are doing them a disservice. Everyone is multi-faceted, and everyone wants to feel that they are special. Nearly everyone behaves better when they are shown a little kindness first, especially before they’ve ‘earned it’ in our eyes. In the real world, this translates to giving that jerk that rushed ahead of you in the supermarket line the benefit of the doubt. In fiction, it translates to at the very least figuring out why they’re acting in such a stereotypical way – if you know what’s making them tick, you’ll know what people/places/experiences/etc they would need to encounter to allow them to show another side to their personality. When they run across those people/places/experiences, there’s your chance.

How does it feel to be honored by your alma mater’s English department?
Really good! Pocatello, Idaho doesn’t have a large writing community (or maybe they did, but I never found it!) and the creative writing program didn’t really ‘encourage’ SF/F writing, particularly the head of the Creative Writing program, but I got support from several other English professors who I’ll always think of fondly. Having the English department reach out to me was a pleasant surprise.

Dantzel CherryYou retweeted Ursula Le Guin turning down the offer to blurb an all-male sci-fi anthology. Care to share some of your thoughts about Ursula Le Guin and her response to the editor?
I still have a way to go before reading all of Le Guin’s work, but everything I have read impresses me and encourages me to think a little deeper, to examine my perception of the world. I recently read an article by Margaret Atwood, who was reflecting on Le Guin’s impact on herself and the writing world. I agree with Atwood’s summation that ‘in all her work, Le Guin was always asking the same urgent question: what sort of world do you want to live in?’

I can’t imagine that the world Le Guin (or myself) would want to live in includes an editor asking a woman to use her popularity and influence to promote a series which, from its very premise, would never allow her to contribute her own work, most particularly when female writers already experienced so much bias and exclusion in the science fiction publishing world.

I can only hope that if I received a similarly insulting offer that I’d be able to deliver it with the same class that she did.

I’m attaching Le Guin’s response to the editor below, for reference.

Dear Mr Madziewicz,

I can imagine myself blurbing a book in which Brian Aldiss, predictably, sneers at my work, because then I could preen myself on my magnanimity. But I cannot imagine myself blurbing a book, the first of a new series and hence presumably exemplary of the series, which not only contains no writing by women, but the tone of which is so self-contentedly, exclusively male, like a club, or a locker-room. That would not magnanimity, but foolishness. Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here.

Your truly,
Ursula K. Le Guin

Galaxy's Edge Mad Scientist Journal is going to produce a science fiction anthology for women written by women. What are some differences women bring to science fiction writing?
Half a world of perspective, which has been largely missing from both fiction and history. Only valuing a male perspective or male authors is like seeing the world with one eye – it gives you terrible depth perception.

Who is your favorite author and why?
You’re making me pick just one?! Shannon Hale for her characters, Brandon Sanderson for his world-building, and Melissa Mead for her amazing ability to build beautiful, funny, heartbreaking flash fiction.

What is a writing project you’d like to take on?
Aside from my current novel, I am intrigued by the idea of collaborating with someone else for a story. I love what happens when two compatible writers pool their knowledge and talents, and it’d be fun to play with at some point. Not so much a James Patterson-type partnership, I think, but more like Rachael K Jones’ and Khaalidah Muhammad Ali’s “Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship”. One day…


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