Sabrina Banes, a writer and former journalist in Brooklyn, has a website, YA New York ( http://www.yanewyork.com ), dedicated to young adult literature. She has an unusual interview technique in which the interviewee also gets to ask questions of the interviewer. I will be posting the interview she had with me in short excerpts over the next several days.
Sabrina Banes: How did you become a writer?
Alma: I always wrote. It was just something I did. … One year when I was in New Zealand I saw this little flyer advertising a science fiction convention and this one featured Roger Zelazny. He was sort of a literary god to me. I essentially took one look at the flyer and my eyes went out. He and Vonda McIntire were hosting a writer’s workshop. I sent in a story six months before anyone else was even thinking about it and spent six months biting my nails. “Why did I send that story? Roger Zelazny is going to think I’m nuts!”
It was the first time I’d ever actually really spent any amount of time in the company of anyone who was a pro at this. And they treated us as junior colleagues, not like little kids.
[Alma got a copy of her story handed back with scribbles all over it. She was sitting next to Roger Zelazny. He didn’t have a copy of her story with him.]
He looked at me and said, “I have two questions. How long have you been writing?” And I told him what I just told you. He sort of nodded and looked at me and said “Do you write or read a lot of poetry?” And I said I did.
He looked at me and said, “It shows. You have a voice all your own. No one else will ever write like this.”
Every time I get stuck or discouraged or annoyed, those words are just written in gold in the back of my mind.
This happened in April. In June of that year he was dead.
Alma: How old were you when you started writing?
Sabrina Banes: My mom says I was four or five. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. It’s like having a disease.