5 Questions for Anne-Marie Yerks

5 Questions for Anne-Marie Yerks Voyage YA

Anne-Marie Yerks is a creative writer from metro Detroit, MI. A graduate of George Mason’s MFA program, her work has appeared in literary journals such as “Juked,” “The Penn Review,” and others. She is the author of DREAM JUNKIES (New Rivers Press, 2016) and LUSH (Odyssey Books, 2020). She has freelanced for many magazines, publishing non-fiction articles about wellness, fashion, real estate, crafts, home improvement, and education. A longtime writing teacher, she loves traveling to literary destinations and occasionally presents at AWP and the Winter Wheat Festival of Writing. Anne-Marie is also a certified seamstress (but prefers the word “sewist”), a fiber artist, and a beginning gardener. Contact her on Twitter @amy1620 or through her website (http://amyerks.wixsite.com/home). 

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V: What was the inspiration behind your novel, Lush? What made you want to tell this story?

AMY: I’m a professor in a creative writing program, one that attracts many sci-fi and speculative writers. This was never the direction of my own work, but grading their incredibly imaginative stories convinced me to give it a try. A piece I’d published with Five on the Fifth had a speculative plot about cats infused with a fictional psychoactive herb called cheather, so I decided to expand that idea into a longer work. For the novel, I gave these cats an owner, a young girl named Isla, and plopped her into a dystopian version of my grandparents’ farmhouse. Stupidly, I began writing without an outline or synopsis. Bad idea! I was soon lost in a tangled and directionless story set in a rural futuristic village called Naudiz, and it was a long time before I found my way out. 

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V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?

AMY: Stories are supposed to teach us something in an entertaining way. I’d like for the readers to acquire a lingering memory of the world of Lush, one that fuels their own imaginations and shifts their perceptions of reality. I’d also like to inspire a connection to nature: Lush has a theme of rejuvenation and rebirth—the characters are living in a time when the planet is healing from environmental destruction. Even though their government’s obsession with the past is oppressive, it’s how the Earth has overcome damage inflicted by the people of our own time. As a historical reenactment actress, Isla is the perfect person to bring her community into a new chapter. 

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V: What was the hardest scene of Lush to write?

AMY: There’s a scene where Isla is abandoned in the city by her hometown bus driver. In the first draft, he tries to kill her in order to avoid explaining to his higher-ups why he let her escape. However, the beta readers kept asking me why he did that. They seemed to like him and didn’t view him as a villain. So I had to rewrite and rework that scene many times in order to keep the bus driver sympathetic even though it’s not nice of him to take all her money and leave her on her own while she’s injured. I probably wrote that scene twenty times! 

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V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

AMY: I’ve been writing for a really long time, so this is an especially interesting question. I suppose I’d reassure myself that writing is a lifelong process, and that while you are writing and gaining piles of journals and rejection letters and story drafts that you are really building a certain kind of life, one that’s dedicated to creativity. Everything you write is an artifact of your psyche, your very soul. But it’s also OK to change what you write—I’ve pulled old drafts from my dusty files and reworked them and seen them published twenty years after the first words were put down. That’s what is supposed to happen. Don’t throw your old work away—keep it around, even when it’s an effort. 

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V: What are your writing must-haves?

AMY: When I was in my MFA program many years ago, I slept on a mattress on the floor because I was really poor and living in a group house with three roommates. I used a typewriter because the Internet wasn’t around yet, so I’d put the typewriter on a pillow and do my writing. It was uncomfortable to spend hours in that little bedroom with the typewriter and the sleep in the same place, so I longed for a desk with all my heart. Today, I have a huge wooden desk with a spectacular computer and printer on it. My desk is a portal to fictional places and everything else I do. Besides that, I must have a subscription to Poetry journal because I could probably never write anything as beautiful as the work I find in there. When I read creative work that surpasses my own, I have to try to pull myself forward. Maybe that’s not a must-have, but a must-do. 

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Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Anne-Marie read the first page of LushFind Anne-Marie’s video under the IGTV tab.

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