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31 March 2005




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Laurel Winter: A Dip in the Gene Pool April 2005

Laurel Winter was born in Montana and attended Montana State University in Bozeman for three years. In 1980 she married and moved with her husband to Wisconsin, where they lived for a year and a half before moving to Rochester, Minnesota. A poet and fiction writer, Winter won Rhysling awards for poems "why goldfish shouldn't use power tools" (1998) and "egg horror poem" (1999), and a World Fantasy Award for novella "Sky Eyes" (2000). Her first novel, YA fantasy Growing Wings (2000), was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, and in 2003 she won the $25,000 McKnight Fellowship for an excerpt from her YA Do Not Attempt This at School. Her poetry collection A Galaxy in a Jar appeared in 2004. She is divorced, and has two grown twin sons, Nicholas Nye and Zachary Miles.    
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Laurel Winter's Writing

Excerpts from the interview:

“The very first science fiction book I remember reading was To Luna With Love, about this group of kids going on a field trip to the moon. Just as they're about to leave, holocaust breaks out on Earth, so they stay till after they grow up, then go back and they're the new humans. That was pretty cool! But at first I did not have access to a lot of science fiction. My second cousin's wife really opened that door in my life. She introduced me to Heinlein, Tolkien, and drinking tea.

“YA fiction is still my favorite thing to read. Part of that is the themes, and probably my own case of arrested development. As a writer, part of it is the length too, because having come to writing from poetry and slowly working my way up to 'that story is three thousand words long!', full-length adult novels seemed scary.

“My first novel, Growing Wings, came out in 2000, and it became a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. (Not bad for a first novel!) At first I didn't even know I was writing a novel. I thought I was writing a short story. I had this image of a girl's mom coming in and touching her back every night, to see if anything was happening. Then, when this girl is going to sleep one night her mom finds these bumps on her back and tells her she's growing wings, and that when she was a girl she grew wings and her mother cut them off. Then I just started what I call 'thinking with my fingers.' ”


“Being a misfit when I was a kid was the best thing that ever happened to me. Every bit of teenage unpopularity, all the boys I liked who liked my younger sister -- all of that. (I have two slightly younger sisters, and a much younger brother.) The whole misfit-finding-herself theme is going to be huge for me, probably for the rest of my life! It's one we can relate to, especially in genre fiction. In spite of the fact that geekdom is now cool, they still can't relate to the general population very well. They may have that cachet, but it doesn't mean they can talk to people and be friends. (My son who just started at Oberlin is a lot happier now, because he's among his own kind.) At least the techie geeks have lots of money, but unfortunately I'm not that kind, just the Trivial Pursuit sort -- a generalist rather than a specialist.”


“Last year, I was driving in Colorado in the summer time, when there were people on the road in boats and RVs; construction trucks; stupid drivers. I was behind this little Suzuki 4-by-4 when we got stuck in traffic -- dead stop. To the right of the Suzuki was one of those trucks that say 'England' on the back door. So I thought, 'Suzuki England: what I great character name!' I played around with that in my head for a little bit and decided Suzuki England writes poetry on the soles of her shoes and she knows how to disappear (she gets it from her mother).

“That's all I knew when I started writing this novel on August 31, 2003. I got a little way in, stopped, and had to ask 'What is it about this girl?' I decided she was three-quarters elf. She's orphaned early in the book and cast out into the world, so this one is about finding your way, figuring out where you're going and how to get there. I love Suzuki England. It actually has more plot than most of my books. (Maybe I'm getting into plot. Whoa!) And I'm still writing lots of poetry, and I'm also an artist -- painting, drawing. I've had some little ten-minute plays produced. I like to do a variety of creative pursuits, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to do so.”

The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the April 2005 issue of Locus Magazine.

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