Glynda Francis Q & A with Eastern Iowa Review
Chila: Your essay, "Yard Patrols," is language-dense and poetic, yet uncommonly common: you talk about animals that enter your yard spaces during typical Kansas City days and nights. Why did you choose that topic and what process did you use in forming the essay? How long did it take you from start to finish?
Glynda: Answering the last question first, the piece itself took just a bit over three weeks, but that’s writing time worked around job and other obligations. However, I’d already detailed much of the material for it in my journals, so it really just needed form and attention to language. From a Lakota dictionary, I found the word okpa’ zan, meaning to slip one’s own in and under, to weave one’s own in between things. If applied to the creation of a written work, it’s a layering concept in which many levels are expressed at once, all related, but just as in a weaving, we don’t always see the warp threads though we know they’re there because they support the weft. A little over a year ago, I’d written a haibun piece about tomatoes (scheduled for publication in 2016). The form seemed a good choice for "Yard Patrols" because I could layer the apparently unrelated haiku segments around and under the top layer of prose, like pieces of subconscious peeking through the conscious veil. The main difference I employed was in making the prose sections longer than the one or two paragraphs typical of haibun. As for why such a subject, it’s because I’ve lived in many places, seen many things, done many things, I struggle with a core of rootlessness. Seeking, finding adventure and wonder in small things and common encounters is one of my daily anchors to hold restlessness at bay. Wonders amid the commonplace, even amid drudgery.
Chila: You work as a veterinary receptionist and you obviously love animals. Tell us how that came about, that love for animal kind.
Glynda: All I know is that I’ve always had an exceptionally strong affinity with them, for them. It's one of the few things I've ever taken for granted.
Chila: Like mine, your education is diverse and has progressed in stretches and fits; not everyone's life transpires in a way that they can easily work at a bachelor's or master's degree out of high school. Discuss that, your educational journey.
Glynda: From my earliest years, my family moved repeatedly, so my education reflected a broad range of experiences and focal levels in schools. That continued when I started college, so I have credits scattered over four states and five colleges. My family went through several boom and bust cycles, and I had to stop within a semester of obtaining my bachelor’s degree to support them through a bust period. I’ve always had good study habits, however, and as a dedicated bibliophile, I pick up used textbooks on many subjects. I never really stopped being a student. In retrospect, although the degrees would’ve been nice proof of education, I doubt I could have afforded the time or finances to pursue in formal university settings the many studies that interest me. I loathe stagnation. I don’t stop learning.
Chila: If you could name only three authors who have influenced your writing the most to bring you to the place you're at currently, who would they be, and why?
Glynda: Only three? I’ll try. Robert Holdstock: I learned beautiful and thoughtful prose can use everything in a writer’s arsenal for an awesome story full of suspense and wonder. John Barth: His short stories were my first introduction to experimental fiction and metafiction. They made me rethink how stories are put together and broadened my concepts of what story can be and accomplish. Loren Eiseley: His essays showed me that writing on scientific and realistic topics could be as absorbing, as gripping, as any fiction. Ask me this question next week or month, and there’ll be three others, and three others after that. James Joyce, Annie Dillard, Alexander Pope, Joseph Campbell, Greer Gilman, Barry Hughart, Terry Pratchett, and more.
Chila: What are your writing plans for the next ten years? Do you have something especially important you want to tackle?
Glynda: Projects I’m especially passionate about: In fiction, my science-fantasy milieu provides a vehicle to explore themes of friendship/enmity, isolation, belonging, aging, and prejudice as well as cybernetic enhancement and space travel. Nine short stories and one novella are completed; four more short stories and another novella are in progress at various stages. A novel-length sequel to a steampunk short story is currently bogged down in historical and technical research. For realistic fiction, I’ve been assembling the bones of a novel about identity and edges for nearly a year. This isn’t my strongest genre, but the story is an utterly compelling one for me. Although I’m relatively new to nonfiction/essay writing, topics I want to explore in focused essay series are animals/nature, machining, and the life of a transient. There are always the short pieces--flash fiction, poetry, heat-of-the-moment stuff.
Chila: You and I are in our 50's, each has been married for several decades, and we have a similar educational background and philosophy of life. I look to you as a friend and influence. Do you think there are others like us out there, those who have struggled to get where we are in the literary realm, who entered it late, in a way, entered it by going against the grain of the artistic-indifference of the religious branches we were involved with, and now are fighting to get caught up, to make a difference before it's too late? If so, what would you say to them, to me, to keep us headed in the right direction? What do you say to yourself about these concerns?
Glynda: Yes, there are others like us. Although I had minor publication successes through the 80s/ 90s, the biggest issue that kept me from submitting more work was the frequent moves. Being so transient meant never knowing what return address to put on an SASE. On the other hand, the moves also kept me from investing heavily into any particular denomination or individual church. Subsequently, my time attempting faith-focused writing was brief--no more than four years--but after seeing the artistic indifference of some religious factions, the general substandard quality of much writing within that niche, and the squabbling over whether an author/work/genre was doctrinally sound according to this/that religious branch, I left. Faith-based writing has to be able to stand in the same arena as the rest, and it stands or falls on craftsmanship. What can I say that hasn’t been said before to encourage others? Read widely, read attentively. Study the best. Without a broad reading base, you can’t develop the apparatus against which to measure your own work. Be aware that you don’t have to like what you read to learn from it. Personally, I don’t enjoy the works of Sylvia Plath, but I gained insight about pacing as well as about word choice and sentence/paragraph construction for particular effects. I don’t enjoy Wm. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, but I learned how stream-of-consciousness works, as well as how to fit voices to characters and sustain them. You won’t know what you can achieve unless you try.
I appreciate these thoughtful answers from a kindred spirit. Best wishes & hopes for great success to Glynda. ~Chila
Over the years, Glynda Francis has been published at Pleiades, Hillock, Midwest Poetry Review, and Tradeswomen, among others. Besides writing, she also occasionally commissions artwork, does machining, and resorts to herbal remedies when possible.