Thursday 20 December 2012

Writer - Cherie Magnus

Welcome to my interview with writer, Cherie Magnus.  Enjoy.

Cherie Magnus

Hello Cherie.  Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Cherie Magnus and I am an expatriate from Los Angeles, living in Buenos Aires since 2003, where I dance and teach tango with my Argentine partner.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve written all of my life. I wrote a book, Coffee Shop Dreams, about raising children in the arts, but it was never published. My travel essays, book reviews and dance critiques heve been published regularly in magazines, newspapers and professional journals. I’ve written a blog, tangocherie, since 2006.
What first got you interested in writing?
I don’t know. I was an only child and always writing poetry and stories, sometimes a “book,” I suppose to entertain myself. I read voraciously and love words, so it was only natural I would want to write. In school I was always singled out as a fine writer of compositions, and I was selected for advanced workshops at University. 
Do you attend a writing group?
I go to the English Writing Group of Buenos Aires, and joined at the beginning several years ago. Before moving to Buenos Aires, I lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and hosted my own writing group of memoirists.
Why do you attend a writing group?
Because writing is such a lonely and isolated job, it feels good to join like-minded people who struggle with the same issues. It’s also very helpful to have feedback when I’m in doubt over one thing or another. And if I can also help someone else, so much the better. 
What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
What genre(s) do you write?
I write essays, usually critical, of dance, culture, music, travel, as well as memoir. I’m very opinionated and emotional and I enjoy imbuing an experience with my ideas and thoughts for the reader. 
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I don’t read or write horror, science fiction, romance, because genre fiction is formulaic.  Nor do I like series. 
Have you ever had anything published?
Hundreds of book reviews and travel articles of mine have been published over the years. And this year I published my own book, The Church of Tango: a Memoir.
I did publish my memoir myself with CreateSpace, and it’s available from and in paper and also for Kindle. I prefer paper, but many readers are switching to ebooks.  
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
Yes, I sent out many queries for Coffee Shop Dreams, and often submitted the requested first three chapters, but no one wanted to publish it.

I’ve sold several travel articles on spec after queries to various print magazines. 
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
Depends. Since I don’t write fiction, this really doesn’t apply to me. But when I begin a column, essay or blog post, usually I end up with something I hadn’t thought of before. Through the writing process new conclusions come to me. 
Do you have an editing process?
I self edit a lot, and listen to suggestions from my writing group. Before I published my memoir I hired a professional editor, who helped me enormously. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
Music, culture, spirituality, color, dance, emotion. 
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
My characters are all real people; sometimes I tweak their names a bit for their privacy and sometimes I use their real ones. Often I combine several characters into one with one name. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I’m a word person, and especially now that I don’t live in a culture where my native language is spoken, nor can I communicate in English to my partner, writing fulfills the need to express myself in English. 
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
“It’s the process, Cherie!” – John Nichols.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Join a writing group, but be sure it’s not group therapy or simply positive reinforcement. 
How important is it for you to share your writing?
The writing process isn’t complete until somebody reads it, until communication takes place. 
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
I’ve entered a few. Recently I won one about my own personal “tango,” and I submitted an excerpt, “The Key,” from my memoir. The prize was to have it set to original tango music and sold on iTunes. 
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
I’ve attended and enjoyed such shows, but it would be the last thing I’d ever do. However that being said, I have enjoyed doing readings and discussion of my own book.

As part of my job as a librarian, I used to have to give book talks and I never felt I did the books justice. The books were so much better than my presentations. 
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Reading of course, and I used to love travelling but can no longer afford to do so. I’ve been in the tango world since 1997, and enjoy very much teaching tango in Buenos Aires with my partner. We also were Finalists in the 2006 BsAs Tango Championships.
That sounds amazing.  I've got two left feet, so I'm quite jealous!  What types of things do you read?
I read historical fiction, history, biography, literary fiction.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations? 
Many! “If you want a happy ending, that depends of course, on where you stop your story.” – Orson Welles.
That's lovely!  If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
A great dance film.
There's still time.  What are you working on at the moment?
A prequel to The Church of Tango, which takes place from 1960-1963.
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
The Church of Tango 
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
The world doesn’t need another book, but maybe we need to write one.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
LEAVING SAN MIGUEL (from The Church of Tango: a Memoir. Mirasol Press, 2012) 
In the evening flocks of grackles wrote V’s against the mango sky. The setting sun shone through the dusty dome windows of Las Monjas one block west, and I could see the towers of five more colonial churches from my rooftop. Almost every day beneath the windows of my apartment passed processions of pilgrims, celebrants, or mourners. The Virgin sat on the back of a pickup truck or thirty schoolchildren carried an enormous Mexican flag or peppy tuba bands and old men, hats in hand, walked behind a hearse… 
            Once again I had to bid a painful farewell to good friends, a mixed group of beloved people who had welcomed this stranger into their homes, lives and hearts. I was going to miss the man selling cigarettes and sodas on the corner, the flower seller who made the rounds of all the bars and restaurants every night, the girl who practiced her cello while working in the gallery below my apartment. I was worn-out from the partings and leave-takings of the last twelve years. But in Mexico, where nothing was as it seemed, “manana” didn’t mean tomorrow, and “Adios!” was not goodbye.  
            …After more than a decade of searching, it looked like my future would be in other places, other hemispheres. I missed Los Angeles and the United States, and if wishes could make it so, I would still be living with my family in our house in Los Feliz under the Hollywood Sign. I had twice paddled in the River Styx, and now I’ve been blessed with the chance of forging another life. I would have designed a different path for myself, but my life unfolded without consulting me. 
© Cherie Magnus
Thank you very much, Cherie.

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