Author Interview #3: Leah Mueller
Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She has published books with numerous small presses. Her most recent volumes, "Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices" (Czykmate Press), "Death and Heartbreak" (Weasel Press), and "Cocktails at Denny's" (Alien Buddha Press) were released in 2019. Leah’s work also appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Bad Pony, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She won honorable mention in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.
Do you believe in writer's block?
Hell yeah, I believe in writer's block. I had it for years. All that time, friends were saying, "You really should write this down. Your life is so weird. Why aren't you writing about this?!" I wrote sporadically, with no discipline or consistency, until I was 55. Then it was like someone flipped a switch and I had to write or go crazy. Now, when I get writer's block, I try to at least take the time to write a 100 word poem. That loosens up the constipation.
Do you ever write under a pseudonym? Why or why not?
I wrote a couple of erotic pieces under the name "Leah Snapdragon." But that was really pretty silly, because I'd already published a book of humorous erotica, "The Underside of the Snake" under my real name.
Get it, girl.
What does it feel like to be rejected on a literary level? What would you tell others who are facing rejection, especially for the first time?
I deal with rejection like a telemarketer. For several years, I did arts telemarketing for theaters, museums and the Seattle Symphony. We had a saying when someone said no: "Next call." We could bitch and moan about our failure for a minute or so, then someone would say "next call", or we'd say it ourselves. That's pretty much my approach to literary rejections. Send out more stuff. Now, sometimes editors get into personal tiffs with writers and other editors, and then ban or censor them. That's a whole 'nother level of rejection, and I won't get into it here.
At what point would you/did you consider yourself a literary success?
Oh boy. This one's loaded, huh? I mean, it would be great to be like Charles Bukowski and have Black Sparrow Press show up on my doorstep and say, "Oh good, we've been searching for you. We want your stuff!" But that's kind of like expecting to go to Hollywood and land a soda fountain audition just because my hometown friends think I'm cute. Sure, I'd like to make my living as a writer. To me, that would be true success. But obviously I will settle for much less, like most indie writers do.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Oh yes. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. That's why it's sad that it took me so long to become one. But there's not much point in dwelling upon that, is there? Next call.
How do you develop your plots?
I'm a poet and memoirist, so most of my work is autobiographical. I've seen and done lots of weird shit, so I have much material. The great thing about memoir is that there's a built-in plot. You just have to chronicle it, like a journalist, then embellish the story a bit.
What was the inspiration behind "Farewell to Yet Another Adopted Homeland"?
I've been writing a lot of letters lately. Letter-writing is a vanishing art form. It's a great format for flash fiction or prose poetry. Since I'm getting ready to move away from the Pacific Northwest, I felt the need to write a sort of dear John letter. You know, it's not me, it's you. That sort of thing. I feel a lot of angst about the slow transformation of this region from a woodsy artistic environment to a tech playground. We're like the new Bay area now. Even Tacoma has gotten in on the action. Five years ago, we had almost no homeless tents here in Tacoma. Now there are hundreds. My husband has stage four cancer, and we're heading south to warmer and cheaper digs.
Do you listen to music while you write?
I often listen to music before I write, to get me into the mood. It's easy when you have YouTube. I used to have to get up and change records. That cut into my time and concentration.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
Harriet the Spy, hands down. I was obsessed with that book, and in love with Harriet. I identified with her despite the fact that I wasn't a rich New York kid with a home in Central Park. My own spy adventures were pretty boring compared to the ones in that book. But oh, I loved Harriet's brutal honesty.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I'm really into dance, as well as yoga. Ecstatic dance, NIA, gentle yoga. Those are my sustaining passions. I'm my husband's caregiver now. It's a role I never thought I'd need to take on so early in our lives. Russ is ambulatory and brilliant and a fighter, though. So I give back to myself whenever possible.