Today I'd like to tell you about Aften Szymanski.
Aften and I have traded manuscripts in the past and she has encouraged me in my writing. Although I have never physically met her, I feel like we have become friends.
She writes stories for young people that help them to deal with some of the crazy stuff that they have to face growing up. I read one called Liar Lindy Brant that brought back some of those awful feelings I had when I was in middle school and there were misunderstandings and mean kids who made the most of them.
Here are her answers to my four questions.
1. Tell me a little about yourself. Anything fun or goofy that we should know?
When I make ramen noodles I add tomato sauce, sriracha, lemon juice, and a little soy sauce. Sometimes I’ll add thin sliced onion, capers, or green olives to the cooking process, or green peppers. However, if I have any kimchi in the house- it’s all about kimchi in my ramen. I love ramen noodles.
I love to travel and have been to Germany, Haiti, Ecuador, and Mexico. I want to travel more, but since I’ve been married and had kids it’s been more difficult to find the time and money.
I startle easily. If you’ve been standing in front of me for three minutes, but I was looking down—as soon as I look up I will freak out at you. Also, don’t approach me in silence, from around a corner, or at night without first making your presence known well in advance.
When I was thirteen I purchased the script for Return of the Jedi so I could study writing from my favorite movie. I also bought Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a script. (I loved George Lucas works until Jar Jar Binks came to be).
After reading the scripts I bought I wrote a Christmas play and somehow convinced my siblings to play parts in it. I made them rehearse for a month and a half so they could perform for our parents. It was a tragic comedy about three self-absorbed elves who scheme to overthrow Santa, who they believe gets all the credit and does none of the work. They’re later tricked into believing Santa choked to death on a tainted cookie, and then have regrets when they realize they aren’t prepared for the social skills demands of Santa’s job requirements as well as coordinating the drops worldwide. Santa later laughs at them because he ‘totally played them’. They learn that everyone has a valued role in the production of Christmas joy and Santa tries harder to show his appreciation and recognition for the elves effort.
2. Where do you live and what is it like to live there?
I live in Star Valley, WY where there is snow a minimum of five months out of the year. My first year here it snowed on September first and we hid Easter eggs in three feet of snow when spring came. We invest in quality hot chocolates because it takes the drab edge off of winter. I own a lot of sweaters. I own no tan lines…
3. Tell me a bit about your family/home life (if you don't mind).
I’m a mom first, writer second, and part time educator third. Day starts with getting kids up and ready for school all except my youngest who gets to hang with me most days. Up at 6am, read scriptures as a family, breakfast, hair and out the door. I double check my list with things to get done and then drag around for another hour debating getting myself out of jammies.
It generally takes me until 10am to think straight. I’ll sometimes get a workout in before 10am, but not always. At 10 I get to work going over any revisions or writing done the previous day and from there plunge into the new days work. I tend to my three year old the whole time so it’s a very broken day’s effort, but I love that.
When kids get off the bus it’s homework, dinner, and reading time. We read every night. My husband’s reading The Hobbit to our kids for a second time now—it’s their favorite.
4. Why do you write? What do you write? Do you have any weird writing habits? (I know that's three questions; just tell me about your writing.)
I write at the kitchen table. I have no office space, which works well for a mommy-writer like me. My kids constantly interrupt me with needs, questions, demands, and hugs. It’s nice to be accessible as well as let them see that I am dedicated to the thing I love—writing.
Every day I make sure to write. Even if my only time is right before I switch my lamp off and fall to sleep. I have a standing goal of writing 500 words a day. I don’t expect more of myself because I have a lot of demands throughout the day and can’t always anticipate free time. But 500 is doable for me no matter what demands are set. It’s the way I unwind.
Weird habits? I fill empty Pepsi bottles with water so while I’m writing I can reach for what looks like a soda, but it’s really water. Except that it’s clear and Pepsi is the color of bubbling manure, so it only really tricks my mind if I’m totally into a scene and reach and drink without looking too closely at the liquid inside the bottle.