Maura Glynn-Thami is a doctor AND she writes. That’s got to come in handy for her writing. She took some time out to answer a few questions.
Tamago: When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
Maura: A long time ago, but I didn’t have the guts to do it right away. I was going through some old papers this week-end, and found something I wrote when I was 17, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the time I concluded that writing would be best, but that I needed to go live a little first. I wasn’t anticipating that it would take 35 years, but I am finally getting serious. Still not grown up, though!
Tamago: What kinds of works do you usually enjoy writing? Do you have any themes you come back to?
Maura: There seem to be a variety of voices in my head. (I know, there are meds for that kind of thing.) I’m pretty new at this, so I’m still exploring. I like fantasy, sci-fi and mainstream fiction, and would be comfortable writing any of these. Realistic fantasy seems to be where I am the most at home. I’ve learned that I like writing in first person, and that the quality of the prose is important to me. Underlying themes seem to be nature and technology, breaking out of isolation, and of course, the ever popular struggle with mortality.
Tamago: How does your work as a medical professional help you with your writing?
Maura: Doctors learn to be pretty observant, and to create patterns from seemingly unrelated symptoms to make a diagnosis. That helps in writing. I can also write very realistic depictions of trauma, illness, childbirth and various bodily functions! But most helpful is the incredible privilege of working with people in very intimate and intense situations. Doctors get to witness and learn about scenarios they could never have made up.
Tamago: Which writers are your influences?
Maura: Where do I begin? Ursula K LeGuin, Arthur C Clarke, Andre Norton, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card, Diana Wynne Jones, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Lofting, Madeline L’Engle, Susan Cooper, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, C.J. Cherryh, Chaim Potok, Maya Angelou, all come immediately to mind. More recent discoveries are Nancy Kress and Connie Willis. I could go on and on: Louisa May Alcott, Rita Mae Brown, Oliver Sacks, Lewis Thomas, Frances Hodgson Burnett, G.K. Chesteron, T.H. White, James Baldwin, James Joyce, Mary Stewart, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, and a whole bunch of poets, but I think I’d better stop here!
Tamago: How did you come to apply for Taos Toolbox?
Maura: I took a class with Nancy Kress at the Hugo House in Seattle, and she mentioned Taos Toolbox. As you know, she is an excellent teacher, and I trust her advice. Besides, the opportunity to step out of my own world and spend two weeks in the mountains with a bunch of crazy writers sounded like a lot of fun. And it was.
Tamago: What advice would you give to someone who is going to a writing workshop?
Maura: Lock your ego in a very strong cage. It would be crazy to take two weeks and spend a lot of money on a workshop if you already knew everything there is to know about writing. By taking the class you’re admitting that you are not a pro, so listen. You just might learn something! At the same time, it is good to remember that your fellow students are just that — students. They’re not pros either. (Though Nancy and Walter are pros, and well-worth listening to!) You don’t have to believe or act on everything you are told. And you need to realize that nothing you write will please everyone. We all like different things. There’s no accounting for taste!
Tamago: What are you working on now?
Maura: I’m still working on the short story I wrote in Taos. It has grown into a novella, and is now almost 30,000 words. I’ve also written a few other short stories, and am just starting a slightly dystopian YA novel set about 50 years in the future.
Tamago: What is your dream project?
Maura: I don’t really have a dream project as yet — I’m not that far along. Right now I’m just trying to learn how to write fluently and frequently, so I can be more productive. My dream state would be to be able to practice medicine part time, maybe to participate in medical relief programs such as Doctors Without Borders, and to write part time, to keep things in a better balance. Medicine can be amazing, but to have most of your life scheduled into 15 minute visits can be confining.
Tamago: Where do you hope you will be as an author in 10 years?
Maura: Published! (Hopefully sooner than that.)
Tamago: Where can readers find more of your work?
Maura: In my head, I’m afraid, or my laptop, if they can find it. I am just starting to submit things. I recently received my first rejection letter, but also a little piece of mine will be published on the Everyday Fiction website on Jan 16. (I was inspired by Gerald and sent something in.)