Q&A With WriteByNight Consultant Cecily Sailer
Cecily Sailer (Austin, Texas) holds an MFA from the University of Houston and writes regularly for The Texas Observer. Cecily has taught creative writing workshops through Writers in the Schools Houston, The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, VetsArts Cooperative, and Inprint; she has also taught undergraduate literature and English courses in Texas and English as a Foreign Language to students and teachers in Seoul, South Korea. More recently, Cecily administered the community- and school-based creative writing programs for youth and seniors offered by Badgerdog Literary Publishing. Her work has also appeared in The Austin American-Statesman, Texas Monthly, The Austin Chronicle, and Gulf Coast.
Where are you from?
Houston, Texas, which I left as soon as possible, making it as far as Austin, only to return to Houston for graduate school. But I’m now on my second stint in Austin, wondering if I’ll move between Houston and Austin eternally (probably not… Austin is great).
Where did you study?
The University of Texas, where I received most of my education at the college paper, The Daily Texan. I also studied history and journalism. Later, the University of Houston for an MFA in creative writing and literature.
How did you get your start as a writer?
As a kid, I read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and decided I should be a writer. I wanted to harness the power of words to completely absorb and transport us (it was a little vain of me to think I could do it). I banged away on my mother’s boxy Apple computer, writing a novel that was horribly derivative of some other book I’d read as a fifth-grader. In college, I wanted to learn “novel writing,” but they didn’t really have that program, so I got a job at the student paper and at least had something published a few times a week. While working as a TV producer after college, I took my first creative writing class, did all I could to get into a graduate program, and finally did. Long story short: I’m all over the map, and still struggling to be a writer. Or a better writer.
Who are some of your influences?
I love Lorrie Moore for her amazing sentences and vocabulary and her ability to cultivate a loneliness I can only attribute to her prose. I love Kurt Vonnegut for being a genius. Alice Munro is a beacon in the world of fiction. Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote and Molly Ivins for their reportage. Miranda July for her quirky and delicious imagination and metaphors.
What is your favorite thing about educating writers at WBN?
My favorite thing about working with WriteByNight writers is they often share that initial trepidation about whatever it is they’re writing–it’s not good enough, it’s not worth writing, it’s impossible to find the time, it’s too dang hard. I don’t love that they feel this way, but I love knowing that, as we work together, we’ll both discover how wrong they are. Not to sound like Stuart Smalley, but it is good enough, it’s worth writing–yes, the time is hard to find, but it can be done–and it is hard, really hard, but they have more gumption and talent than they need. The writers I work with are creating something interesting and important. It’s rewarding to cheer them on and see them accomplish something they felt they couldn’t initially envision.
What is the last book you read and what did you think of it?
I got swept up in The Hunger Games tsunami, and I have no regrets. I’ve certainly read more literary books, but the book is well plotted, there’s a strong female character, and life and death stakes. Winner. I heard the movie doesn’t do it justice.
What’s the last movie you saw that was based on a book and how was it?