During the fall, we had the opportunity to interview Sam Szanto, a writer from Durham, England. Her collaborative poetry pamphlet, ‘Splashing Pink’ will be published by Hedgehog Press in 2023. She won the Charroux Poetry Prize and the First Writer Poetry Prize, and has been placed in many other contests. Sam’s poems are published in journals around the world including most recently in The North 68 guest-edited by Andrew McMillan. She has also won a number of short fiction contests and had her stories published in numerous journals in print and online. Her short story collection ‘If No One Speaks’ was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2022 and is available for purchase on Amazon. Find Sam on: Twitter @sam_szanto, Facebook sam-szanto and Instagram samszantowriter, and on her website samszanto.com.
We hope you enjoy hearing from her as much as we did!
What is your favorite thing about being an independent author?
My favourite thing has to be the other independent authors I’ve discovered: getting to know them and reading their writing has been brilliant. Since having my short story collection published by Alien Buddha Press this summer, I’ve met so many other authors who have also been published by ABP, from all over the world. I’ve never met any of them in person but thanks to social media, many of them feel like friends; it’s opened up opportunities like writing a collaborative poetry pamphlet (with Annie Cowell) which will be published by Hedgehog Press in the spring. I’ve also realised how difficult it can be for an independent author in terms of publicity and marketing – when you’re an introvert as I am, it’s difficult to keep on pushing your work but you also know that if you don’t no one else will! Because of this, I’ve started trying to create opportunities for other independent authors, such as through my blog at samszanto.com/blog where I interview writers – one of my posts got almost 200 views so I like to think it’s helping in a small way.
Are there any specific literary magazines you prioritize submitting to? What are some of your favorites?
Obviously you guys at Duck Duck Mongoose are my favourites 🙂 Apart from with you, I’ve been lucky enough to be published by some great magazines in the last couple of years. Most recently, I had three poems accepted by Jack Caradoc at Dreich, who responded in less than 24 hours to my submission which is a first! I also have a lot of love for Livina Press, Blue River Review and Impostor Lit who all published my work this year and were really pleasant to deal with and took so much care with the production.
I really just want to submit to places that seem friendly, ideally don’t charge submission fees and have a fairly quick turnaround – which is asking a lot, I know! I’m so grateful journals like you exist, and that there are so many opportunities for both writers and readers nowadays. I can remember when most submissions were on paper, and the ease of sending everything out through a site or email is to be cherished!
Speaking of favorites, who are some of your favorite writers?
Ahh, so many… poetry-wise, I’m currently reading ‘The Blue Book’ by Owen Sheers which is fantastic as is everything he writes; I also love Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Moniza Alvi, Rilke, Neruda (I think every poet I’ve ever interviewed myself says Rilke and Neruda!)… fiction: Kate Atkinson, Tessa Hadley, Joyce Carol Oates, Taylor Reid Jenkins… so so many, I could be listing all day.
As a freelance writer, how do you suggest other writers sustain a freelance position?
Not easily! Writing rarely pays the bills.. I also tutor and do copy-editing and proofreading, but I am also lucky that I have a husband with a more traditional 9-5 job. As I also have two children still at primary school, time is limited! I’m in awe of people who work full-time and also manage to put out books, but I also understand that writers need to write, even if it is at 5am.
Where do you draw inspiration, specifically for “who says teenage girls can’t be witches?” (published in Duck Duck Mongoose Issue 2: Light as a Feather)
The inspiration for that particular poem came from a newspaper article about old films that people watched as teenagers. When I was around 16, and there were fewer options for watching TV (I’m from the generation that rented films on video from Blockbusters), I was obsessed with the film ‘The Craft’ about a group of teenage witches – I also had a book of spells that I would try out. Often newspaper articles do inspire me, but it depends – I love to overhear a conversation and make that into a poem, although it happens rarely!
Do you have any favorite writing prompts or ideas for starting a new piece when inspiration doesn’t strike?
I think just write anything and something usually comes out that you can shape. Or go for a walk, see what you see – or sit in a cafe and see what you hear! Read a newspaper and see if that’s inspiring. There’s also some great writing prompts in Tony Hoagland’s book ‘The Art of Voice’; it’s a great book for poets wanting to improve their craft generally.
What is your favorite mode of writing? Do you prefer poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or something else?
I absolutely cannot stick to a genre! I love writing poetry but I also love writing fiction. I’ve had a short story collection published but my first poetry pamphlet is coming out soon too. I’m also writing a novel.
Do you have anything in the works that you are able to share a little bit with us about?
As I mentioned, my collaborative poetry pamphlet, ‘Splashing Pink’, which I wrote with Annie Cowell, is coming out with Hedgehog Press in the spring. It’s a dialogue between us about motherhood from different perspectives – she recently became a grandmother, whereas my children are still quite young. I’m very excited about it, and hope it gets a good reception!
Sam Szanto is a writer from Durham, England. Her collaborative poetry pamphlet, ‘Splashing Pink’ will be published by Hedgehog Press in 2023. She won the Charroux Poetry Prize and the First Writer Poetry Prize, and has been placed in many other contests. Sam’s poems are published in journals around the world including most recently in The North 68 guest-edited by Andrew McMillan. She has also won a number of short fiction contests and had her stories published in numerous journals in print and online. Her short story collection ‘If No One Speaks’ was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2022 and is available for purchase on Amazon.
Find Sam on: Twitter @sam_szanto, Facebook sam-szanto and Instagram samszantowriter, and on her website samszanto.com