Saturday, July 31, 2010

My next interview is with Broad Universe colleague and friend, Elissa Malcohn.

Elissa Malcohn's writings have appeared in magazines and anthologies for more than three decades. When not writing, she enjoys performing song and spoken word at open mics and crouching in odd positions to photograph bugs. She lives in Florida with her partner, Mary, and freelances in communications.

1. What are the best ways to contact, follow, learn more about, or otherwise stalk you, Elissa?

My main website contains links to my blogs and social networking pages, plus the latest in publication news. You can go directly to or do a Web search on either my name or "Malcohn's World". I can be reached via e-mail at
deviations [at] earthlink [dot] net

2. Tell us a little bit about who you are and your writing. What can readers expect from your work?

Peter Graham's adage, "The golden age of science fiction is twelve," literally applies to me. I was weaned on New Wave science fiction, which focuses on social issues, taboos, and "inner" versus "outer" space.

I was a big fan of the original Star Trek. When that show went off the air I started reading anthologies like Robert Silverberg's Alpha and Damon Knight's Orbit series, Anthony Cheetham's Science Against Man anthology, etc. In 1972 I subscribed to Galaxy magazine. Within a couple of years I'd started submitting my own stories to them, thus beginning a long and hallowed tradition of collecting and cherishing my rejection slips!

I still consider my writing to be in the New Wave tradition; I've heard it also fits into a subgenre called New Weird. "Lazuli" (Asimov's, Nov. 1984), which alone made me a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, is a science fictional treatment of childhood sexual abuse. More recently, "Hermit Crabs" (Electric Velocipede #14, 2008), which features at-risk teens, made the recommended reading list in The Year's Best Science Fiction, 26th Annual Edition.

My novelette "Flotsam" (Asimov's, Oct./Nov. 2009) was inspired by a CNN "Planet in Peril" segment. In that same issue my poem "Derivative Work" updates Frankenstein to include the controversy surrounding genetic patents. My story "Judgment at Naioth" in the Dybbuk Press anthology She Nailed A Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror (now available for pre-order at Amazon) is a Midrash, deconstructing scripture in Samuel I and Samuel II.

My Deviations series explores the cultural, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas surrounding literal and social cannibalism. Two peoples, the Masari and the Yata, have been forced by ecological circumstances into the roles of predator and prey. But multiple and conflicting societies have also arisen, with people on all sides who break the rules.

3. You've had a lot of success with electronic copies of your work. For a lot of writers - and readers - this is still new ground. What has been your experience with downloads by readers? What do you use for your format and such? What advice can you give to authors (and readers) looking to venture into more electronic formats?

I'll start with a disclaimer: I give my books away. I've got a PayPal button on my website, and I thank those readers who have sent in donations! I also thank anyone who has clicked on other links I've provided, such as those to the Preditors and Editors defense fund. Also, if Covenant, the first series volume (available in limited quantities as a trade paperback) is ordered through this Amazon link, a few pennies will go to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.

Several factors drove my decision to release the series as free e-books. My small press publisher went under, just when the current recession was getting into full swing and just before the second volume, Appetite, was to be released. Not long afterward, I read Jeffrey A. Carver's excellent article, "Psst! Wanna Buy a Free Ebook?" in the Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009 SFWA Bulletin. At that time, free e-books were seen as a way to help drive sales of paper editions, but I didn't think in those terms. My sole purpose was to attract a readership, especially since Covenant had already generated some momentum that I wanted to keep.

Once I got my rights back, I re-released Covenant as a free e-book in March 2009. Between the three sites whose numbers I track -- Manybooks, Smashwords, and Obooko -- Covenant had taken eight months to surpass 1,000 downloads. Last month I released the fourth volume, Bloodlines, which topped 1,000 downloads in three weeks. So I'm thrilled! I don't know how many downloads have come from my Deviations website, but I use Google Analytics to track the number of visitors, who so far have come from 83 countries on all continents but Antarctica. New e-book sites are cropping up all the time. I'm still learning as I go along, and recently added my series to Open Library.

I also participate in Operation E-Book Drop, through which authors provide free e-books to personnel serving overseas; and Books For Soldiers, which provides CDs of free e-books to personnel in remote areas with little or no Internet access.

I convert my books into eight formats on my website; Manybooks and Smashwords offer even more. EPUB is compatible with the most e-book readers. HTML can be read directly off a browser. MOBI is Kindle-compatible. I reflow PDF files to fit different-sized screens. My blog entry here points readers to e-book reading and writing freeware, including the highly-versatile Calibre, and shows what several formats look like on my computer screen. I don't yet have an e-book reader, myself.

I encourage distribution of my work, but with the caveat that my books contain mature themes and situations. The series is not YA.

4. What's your current project, and what can readers look forward to in the near future?

I've just written and submitted an entry to a contest sponsored by Woodview Coffee House, "to document in song the threat this oil disaster poses to our Gulf Coast way of life; to celebrate the beauty that is threatened by this manmade disaster; and to encourage alternate means of producing energy which are safer, cleaner and renewable." (Woodview's website has details.) It's the first time I've entered a song-writing contest, not only writing the lyrics but also composing the music and recording its performance. The contest results will be out next year.

As for prose, I plan to release TelZodo, the fifth and next-to-last Deviations volume, in December, and will release the series conclusion next year. I'm also learning the nuances of audiobook production and hope to produce a recording of Covenant by the end of this year.

Poetry is forthcoming in the Dark Scribe Press anthology A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock; Dreams and Nightmares #90; Mythic Delirium; and the July/August Star*Line. In May I released a chapbook of 30 Science Sonnets. Written during National Poetry Month, each sonnet, originally posted on my blog (index here), corresponds to a day in April and is based on a science-themed news story from sources like Discover, Nature, Science News, and organizations like the Association for Psychological Science, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health.

5. What is the greatest lesson you've learned, so far, as a writer? What new lessons are you looking forward to?

My personal mantra is, "Nothing is wasted." That covers a lot of ground. The years I spent not writing for submission benefit my writing now. So, too, my work in other artistic media and other activities, because everything nourishes everything else.

I also subscribe to the "love your crap" approach, because I write a lot of crap. I get frustrated and tear my hair out. But I also know that while I'm making myself bald, I'm heading in a direction I eventually want to go -- even if I learn that I have to change that direction completely.

The lessons I look forward to are those I can't predict -- that's what makes them lessons! From a crafting standpoint, my biggest challenges often involve getting the tone of a story where I want it. Sometimes I think I'm writing about A and then I discover I'm really writing about B. Sometimes I have to change the form itself to get where I want to go -- my poem "The Last Dragon Slayer," forthcoming in Mythic Delirium, began as a short story that wasn't working at all. If I could wish for a lesson, it would be one that helps me work more efficiently, but I think the greater lesson comes in valuing that haphazard process for what it is, and for what it can teach me through all the chaos.

At the risk of sounding cryptic, writing for me is at one and the same time everything, and it also isn't the point at all. It's about relinquishing control in the creative process, but it's also about taking responsibility for one's choices, creatively and otherwise.

6. You recently donated your hair to "Matter of Trust" to help clean up the BP oilspill. Can you tell us more about the project and what's going on with the efforts?

I live in Citrus County, Florida, a short drive from the Gulf of Mexico. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion I discovered the work being done by organizations like Make Mine Bluegreen, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, and Matter of Trust's Hair for Oil Spills Program. I especially liked the idea that hair from salons and fur from pet groomers could be put to constructive use instead of thrown away -- and I discovered that several businesses in Citrus County were already involved in the program, at least one of them for years.

The volunteer warehouses are currently full of donated hair and fur, and energies are now going toward making and deploying hair booms. After sending several boxes of donations from salons and groomers, I participated in a "BoomBQ" to make the booms themselves. The Matter of Trust press release page has the latest developments.

7. Since my Blogathon is supporting rescue horses, can you share some of your equine experience? What do horses mean to you? What lessons or experiences have they given?

I had an indirect, unexpected, and magical encounter with horses while making hair booms.

Tampa BoomBQ 6

Above, I'm holding horse hair mailed to Tampa from Pennsylvania. When I first reached into the box, I marveled at how silky and luxuriant it was and first thought I was handling human hair from a salon. But I couldn't imagine one person having that much hair, and it had an animal odor that I couldn't place. Renee, the BoomBQ coordinator, took one whiff and said, "It's horse."

I haven't had much direct experience with horses, although I now live in horse farm country, within walking distance of a community with 28 miles of riding trails. I grew up with cats in Brooklyn, NY. But animals, both wild and domesticated, have been my teachers in many capacities. In a very real way, horses are now helping the Gulf. I lived in the Bay State for 20 years, so am also glad to give something back to Massachusetts.

8. What is a question you wish more people would ask you - and what would that answer be?

When I lived in Boston I was a member of SpeakOut, whose motto is, "Ask us anything!" I apply that to myself as well. I'd love to hear from readers! So I'll turn that question on its head and ask people: How can we best keep in touch?

Thank you, again for your support of the Bay State Equine Rescue!!

Thanks for this interview, Trish!

If you enjoyed what you read, check out more by Elissa via the links above. Also, consider joining Elissa in helping the Bay State Equine Rescue by clicking on the link below.

Click the apple to donate now to help the BSER horses!


Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering if you would like to do a donation exchange thingy? I'm blogging at: for Lions Clubs International: my email address is: born2fly83(@) Thanks, and hope everythings going well!

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Absolutely! :) I just sent you my receipt. THANK YOU!

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