Artist's Corner: Libby Howe, Prose Writer
Besides being a blogger for Silhouette, I have the absolute pleasure to serve as a fiction editor. The submission process allowed me to read fantastic work from writers throughout the Virginia Tech community. After making the excruciating decisions on the three stories we wanted to feature in this semester’s edition, my co-editor and I work-shopped with the authors of our chosen stories. Through her deeply ruminative style and carefully constructed images, I was drawn to Libby Howe’s piece and shortly thereafter had the honor of meeting her.
Libby is a graduate of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate English department and now continues her studies as Masters of Literature student. Her prose is carefully insightful, quietly stirring, and she’s a spitfire in person. There is a sharp intelligence behind her remarks, though she’s extremely approachable and easy to chat with. I asked to sit down after working with her, wanting to speak more about her process as an artist.
AD: What draws you to write prose?
LH: When I try to write longer things, it tends to fall apart. Shorter prose has just always been my thing. I can see small scenes and write smaller, more meaningful moments more than I can write long, drawn out stories.
AD: What topics do you find yourself writing about?
LH: So much of it is things that aren’t fictional. You get so much from things you see and experience. I’m drawn to what’s real. I don’t think I’ve ever done sci-fi and I don’t do “fiction-fiction.” I do creative nonfiction. All my writing is things that I have experienced or wish I had. I really like picking out something super small, like a nose, building things around it. I want to investigate how they are important to the human experience and if they’re necessary.
AD: When do you feel your writing is most successful?
LH: When I’m writing about things that I’ve experienced or an experience that I wish had gone a different way. A lot of my writing is centered around how I think something should have been. It’s sometimes wish fulfillment but some of my other pieces are just asking “what if?” The tiniest moment can change everything so what if it had turned out in a different way but that different isn’t necessarily good.
AD: What's your favorite piece and why?
LH: Probably, I don’t know.
AD: Cool, all right. What do you feel was your most unsuccessful work?
LH: I took Scott Saunders’ mystery writing and found out that I can’t write mystery. I’m really bad at it. You could either completely see what’s coming at the end or it comes out of left field. I wrote two pieces for the workshops and they weren’t god-awful but I got a B in that class. The thing with Scott Saunders is that you’re going to get an A unless you completely don’t get what’s going on and I got a B. I can’t write mystery stories so at least I learned that.
AD: How does a challenging piece affect your writing process?
LH: I stop writing it. If we had a prompt for any of the creative writing courses I’ve taken and I started writing something and then get this vibe that things aren’t coming together because—I have a picture for a story and I start writing but then the pictures get all muddled. I stop. I always have plan A, plan B, plan C for my writing and usually I end up writing plan C. Plans A and B fall apart and then I hit C. Generally, I think if you have to force writing, it’s probably shit, so I stop and move to the next plan.
AD: Do you have a favorite place to write?
LH: Starbucks. I’m not going to lie: it’s the Turner Street Starbucks. I people-watch and I never write about the construction workers, teachers, or cadets going but I just like watching them. I also like the window seats.
AD: Do you have a set of people who you always share your work with?
LH: I have one friend who’s an editor at The Collegiate Times who is honest with me. He’s straight up about what works and doesn’t and I always show things to him. Not really anyone else, though. I’m kind of “mine” about all my work.
AD: What do you feel are the benefits of sharing your work (in a class, a publication, etc)?
LH: I have a bad tendency of putting my work in a folder and forgetting about them forever so sharing is really forcing me to work shop. Otherwise it dies in my folder!
I am very excited to share Libby’s work in this semester’s edition of The Silhouette! Be on the lookout for “Noses and If We Really Need Them” coming out this November.