Sonya Cheney is a writer and zinester from Western Massachusetts. I met Sonya through Twitter a couple years ago, and we hit it off like forever friends who have never met. Sonya was kind enough to answer a few questions for my new series interviewing creatives living prolific lives.
1. When did you begin writing? Did you always imagine you would grow up to be a writer? Or did you have other plans for yourself?
When I was in second grade, there was a distinct moment I remember sitting on my parents' bed with one of those black and white marbled composition notebooks, scribbling in my first short story. Maybe that wasn't the first time I wrote for myself, but that was definitely the beginning, the tragic, downward spiral that would become the life of a writer. Haha. Then in sixth grade I began my first novel--I wrote it in neon orange gel pen!!--which panned out to exactly nothing (or, rather, something like twelve handwritten pages of only notes and scenes), and that's when I could really tell I was in it for the long haul—writing a novel at eleven years old? What an optimist.
I tried to be a responsible adult through college, going for English and secondary education, but I eventually jumped that ship and finished with just an English degree, because some part of me always knew that writing is what I'm meant for, even if it's a damn hard trip.
2. What drives your decisions about how you spend your time?
There's a constant battle in my head between depression and productivity, and my days are frequently formulated around those two. I'll spend two weeks (if I'm lucky) sleeping when I'm not at work or aimlessly clicking around the internet, lucky if I can manage two poems in all that time. Other times, I'll go full bore for a few weeks and come out with five chapters of a novel started and a new zine project started and finished.
Most days, though, it's a little bit of both: I'll work on as much as I can, a poem or maybe a chapter of a current project, and then get worn out, so I go online to pump myself back up.
3. Can you walk us through your creative process?
(Yeah, sure, just let me find the trail markers first...)
Almost every project I work on starts with some kind of list, more often than not more than one. There's usually a to do list, an ideas/topics list (especially for zine essays or plotting out the basics of a new novel idea), and a loose schedule that I almost never stick to.
Then I get to writing, though I have no real schedule or process for that. I'm in the terrible habit of writing when I'm ~*inspired*~, so once I usually start a project it's slow going if it isn't something with a set deadline like my lit zines are. My goal right now is to actually come up with a real process, even if it's something as simple as lighting a nice candle and settling down at my desk to write, rather than nesting on the couch with my laptop.
4. Tell us about your chickens!
Oh, gosh, the chickens! The chickens are a byproduct of my life goal to someday have a farm. So far they've been more low maintenance than I expected; some days I forget they're out in the coop. We've had them for three weeks now, and it's amazing how quickly they've gone from these peeping little balls of fluff to creatures that actually resemble chickens. So far my favorite part is that when I go out to check on them, they'll run to the door of the coop when they see me. It makes me feel loved. Of course, the problem now is that I want even more animals. The challenge is to figure out what else we can fit on our little lot.
5. What are the major influences of your work? Are there any writers or movements you admire?
I'm really into works that are rough and have a little less class than you might expect. What I mean is something that doesn't really resemble the classics. When it comes to poetry especially I'm fascinated by anyone who can write about something dirty and gritty (gritty feels so cliché to use, but it's true) and turn it into this beautiful piece. I'm kind of obsessed with Jessie Lynn McMains (Rust Belt Jessie), to be honest, which is funny to say because we're tumblr pals, but her writing is so inspiring to me. Her zines are exciting and emotional, and I can't recommend them enough.
I'm also really into Amber Tamblyn's poetry work right now. I saw her do a reading back in April and it was like some kind of religious experience; she is an absolute force, and if I can be half as amazing as she is when I grow up, I'll consider that a success.
In terms of novels, I'm all about YA. Every new novel project I come up with is young adult, probably because I am a perpetual teenager.
6. What projects are you working on now?
Oh, let's see. I just started a new perzine (personal zine) and released the first issue a week or so ago. I've been slowly piecing together some works for a chapbook of poetry and prose, with a rough release date of sometime in the fall.
And in an interesting turn of events, I've started working on a zine podcast. It's a case of wanting something that just doesn't seem to be out there and taking matters into my own hands. Whether or not it'll turn into something long term or not, I don't quite know yet. But I'm trying, so I'm giving myself credit for that much.
And, of course, I've always got other zines in the works, with the summer issue of my lit zine open for submissions, plus a one-shot Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanzine. I've basically got zine ideas pouring out of my ears.
7. Tell us about running a zine distro!
Starting a zine distro is probably the best project I've taken on all year. It's something I've wanted to do for about two years now. The best part is ordering so many different zines to read and consider stocking. Or maybe it's tabling at zine fests and finding people interested in what I'm doing. No, no, it's definitely giving people the opportunity to get their zines out there in a new way. Okay, there are a lot of best parts. The whole project is fabulous and I'm hoping that someday I can grow it into a physical shop, just something small but full of zines. For now, though, digital is working just fine.
8. What do you think is next? Is there something you haven’t had the opportunity to work on that you’ve been wanting to do?
The next thing on my list is actually blogging. I got really disillusioned with blogging over the last year or so, feeling conflicted and considering quitting (again) something like every other week. So it's on The List as something to buckle down and start really analyzing, figuring out where I'm at, where I want to go, and what I want my blog to look like, because I love blogging--I've loved blogging for the last ten years that I've done it--and I don't want the current atmosphere of a business-driven model to ruin that for me.
Thanks so much to the wonderful + amazing Sonya for answering all my questions. I am always stalking Sonya online checking out her cute house, garden, animals, and of course her life as a writer! I can't wait to see what original and exciting thing she will think up next.
You can follow along with Sonya and her adventures on:
**All photos taken by Sonya of her home, zines, and other cute things!