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Bethany Snyder loves the sea and semi-colons. She is an award-winning fiction writer, a voice-over artist, an amateur photographer, a cookie connoisseur, a Maine enthusiast, and a pop-culture junkie. Born and raised in Penn Yan, New York, Bethany received her bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts. She has received the Charles McCorkle Hauser Prize for prose from the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends at the Chautauqua Institution three times (2015, 2016, 2018), has twice been voted Best Local Author in the Best of Rochester (NY) awards (2017 and 2018), and was a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee.
MWS: Hello Bethany! Great to finally speak with you!
B: You too, Melissa!
MWS: I read you are a voice-over artist. Is it for just your local area or something that have reached our readers also?
B: Most of the voice-over work that I've done has been for corporate
training purposes. So you'd have to work at, say, Pepsi or Honda or Coldwell Banker, and then you'd hear me. I've done a radio and television spot in the Rochester, N.Y. area. Some of my stuff can be found on YouTube, but I'm not reaching a national audience unless you're employed by one of my clients!
MWS: Were there any authors, or books, that you disliked growing up but enjoy now as an adult?
B: That's a great question. I can't really think of any book or author that fits that, but I can think of the opposite. I used to love Stephen King, but I haven't enjoyed much of his writing in the past ten years or so.
MWS:He has certainly had some stories that I just couldn't get into in the recent years. I am more of a fan of his past work also. Your website hosts a list of your short stories and their links to find them. Which one that you've written would you say is your favorite?
B: I'm partial to two in particular. "At Ease" was inspired by a story my mom told when we held a memorial for my grandparents. She remembered how, when she and her brother and sisters were little, Grandma would stand at the stove and cook in just her slip, because it was so hot. I loved that image, and used it to start a sad, sweet little tale about a girl and her parents, and an unfortunate horse. That image still gives me goosebumps!
The other is "Home Run," which takes place in the little grocery store right around the corner from where I live. I live in a very small, rural town on a beautiful lake that comes to life in the summer. I wanted to capture the supposed dichotomy between "lake people" and "town people." The main character is a woman who has suffered a huge loss, and I was struck by the idea that the lake people might not think a woman like her would have great depth of feeling. It's just a quick little story, but the setting and the process the woman goes through has really stuck with me since I wrote it.
MWS:I do love that image, very heart warming. Are there other stories you have in the works that have a family history?
B: I would say that pretty much everything I write has a little piece of family tucked inside. A lot of my stories take place in locations like my Grandma and Grandpa's house, or my great-aunt's back yard.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my Grandma's kitchen, the round wooden table, and the yellow and white checkered curtains. That'll end up in a story at some point!
MWS: Do you think you will ever put out your own collection of short stories in book form?
B: I actually have a collection of short stories available on Amazon! It's called Copper and Stone, and it includes 12 stories. I'm hoping to put together another one before too long.
MWS: That's awesome! I will definitely look that up! A lot of author's out there claim that writer's block is a myth and just a symptom of stress. Do you believe in writer’s block?
B: I do. But I also agree that it's often a symptom of stress. I've definitely experienced writer's block because of stresses in my non-writing life. I've struggled to finish stories for a lot of reasons! I think writer's block is personal, and that getting past it is personal, too. Sometimes I need to just step away for awhile. Sometimes I need to sit with it and work through it and get something down on the page to keep moving. My mood and my emotions and my stress level (work, family, etc.) definitely affect my capacity to write and write well. I consider that a type of writer's block.
MWS:Closing Shop, is a short story in the Salty Tales anthology. Did you have a specific inspiration for it?
B: Definitely. Every fall I spend a week at a town on the southern coast of Maine, York Beach. "Closing Shop" takes place in a fictionalized version of it. In many ways, that town is my second home. When my friend Tanya discovered the Stormy Island contest, I knew immediately I would write something that took place there. I love being in Maine in the fall, and that's what inspired the line: "Fritz loves the low season—the empty beaches, the buttoned-up cottages, the bare tree limbs black against the open sky."
MWS:The only Maine I am familiar with is the fictional, Cabot Cove, from Murder, she Wrote. lol. The show always made me want to visit the state. What do you think, as a writer, is the most important thing to practice?
B: For me, one of the things I work hardest at in my writing is authenticity. It doesn't matter if I'm writing about a ghost in the basement of an
abandoned college or a woman who falls in love with a DJ on the radio — I want you, as the reader, to believe it's real. I want you to feel like you know my characters, feel their emotions, and walk alongside them through their darkest and brightest moments. So in terms of practice, I think it's key to find authentic voices for your characters. I love playing with the way people talk, cadence, rhythm, the pacing of sentences, the things they describe to the reader and how they describe them. All of that tells the reader who my characters are, and, hopefully, make the reader believe whatever it is I want them to believe. I don't subscribe to a practice in terms of, write this much every day, or at this time, or do these exercises. I find something that inspires me — an overheard bit of dialogue, ice skates in a soggy cardboard box, the snap of sheets hanging on a clothesline — and I think, who tells the story that includes those things? Whose voice do I need to find and share.
MWS:That’s an awesome answer! I agree! There are a lot of readers out there that think writers are competitive, and more about their own work than boosting another author. I believe the contrary. Do you feel there is more support in the writing community than most people realize?
B: I think there is, especially among writers who are really trying to break through and have sustaining writing careers. A perfect example: my friend Alex and I, both fiction writers, wanted to do more to connect with writers in our community.
We started a writing group, Keuka Writes, and over the past 4 years we've worked with over 300 writers and held almost 50 events. We do workshops, prompt writing nights, readings, and more. We've met so many great people who are doing all kinds of writing, from memoir to poetry to family histories. It's energized our own writing to be around fellow creative people. And I love teaching writing, and helping writers to make their work better. It's become a real passion for me.
MWS:That is an amazing accomplishment! I hope anyone in your area that didn't know about this before, now knows from this interview! If you could choose a character from any book to interview, whom would you choose?
B: Wow, that's a fantastic question. Because I'm gearing up for the final season premiere on Sunday, I'll pick Brienne of Tarth from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. She's my favorite character, and I think we'd have a lot in common. Except I don't know how to swing a sword or ride a horse!
MWS:YES! Game of Thrones! Waiting to see it myself, so excited about the new season! Brienne of Tarth is an amazing character, good choice! . Are there any genres you feel are overly done?
B: I don't know if it's fair for me to say a genre's overly done or not. Because people who love, say, dystopian YA fiction don't think it's overdone — they want more! I personally don't care for chic lit, so I don't need more of that. But loads of people do, right? If there's something that I wish would happen less, it's probably when people who are famous for other things, like movies or music, get book deals. I think that every time a publisher gives a book deal to an actress or singer, they should also give a book deal to an unknown, unconnected writer. Great idea, right?!
MWS: Brilliant! I love that idea, who do we petition to make that happen! LOL! Lastly, what are you working on now?
B: I have about 50 fictional irons in the fire! But my main focus right now is something that might be a short story, but could also be a novel that gets turned into a Netflix show.
I feel like it has a lot of potential. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say it's inspired by a classic horror story, but is told in a very timely and modern way. I hope! It's pretty fresh.
MWS: I look forward to reading it! Perhaps, even seeing it also! That would be something, wouldn't it? lol You read it here first if it happens! Thank you so much for speaking with me today, it has been an honest pleasure!
B: Thank you, Melissa! It's been fun answering your thought-provoking questions.
Find Bethany, and links to her readable works below!