Leigh Statham: “What if the Arts Were Illegal” in DAUGHTER 4254

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One of the benefits of having a blog that’s been around for a little while (even if I took a break in the middle there…hush, don’t judge!) is that I get to visit with folks that I’ve hosted before and see what they’re up to. Join me as I chat with Leigh Statham about the benefits of getting a low-residency MFA, Leigh’s literary boyfriend, her vision of a world without art—terrifying, I know!—and more.  

It’s been a while since I’ve had you on the blog. What have you been up to since the release of THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE MUCH TOO SPONTANEOUS GIRL?

Hey Emily. It’s good to be back. I’ve actually been very busy with grad school. I just finished an MFA in Young Adult Fiction from Converse College in South Carolina. Getting an MFA has been a dream of mine for a while now, and this just happened to be a good time to make it a reality. I’m back writing full time now though, and hopefully I’m a better writer for it.

Tell us a little bit about your latest book, DAUGHTER4254You’ve called it a “what if the arts were illegal” kind of story…how does the novel explore that issue, and why is it so important to you?

That’s exactly how I came up with the idea for the novel. I keep seeing schools and government programs making deeper and deeper cuts into their arts funding. Everything from painting to kindergarten to poetry programs in universities across the country are in danger. I took this troubling phenomenon and fast forwarded into a future where no one stands up to stop the trend of devaluing arts and artists. Then I took it one step further and outlaws everything that makes people individuals, names, colors, agency. I wanted to make a society where the focus was on survival. DAUGHTER4254 is the main character in this place and she’s a naturally creative girl with no outlets. She is constantly told there is something wrong with her and she needs to assimilate or face dire consequences. I know it’s far-fetched, but I hope her journey serves as a cautionary tale about where we are headed in our own American society. 

In previous novels, you’ve done an awesome job of weaving steampunk into the story line. This dystopian book is a new avenue for you. What do you love about writing speculative fiction, and how do you mingle fact with fiction to tell a story?

No matter what genre I’m writing in I try to pull in as many facts as possible. I try to make sure my readers are grounded in a world they can understand while I spoon feed them fantastic elements to (hopefully) enjoy. In my PERILOUS JOURNEY books, I spent a lot of time researching the Golden Age of Piracy and emigration from France to Canada. In DAUGHTER4254 I pulled a lot of my inspiration from the Cultural Revolution in China. You can read my books and take them at face value, but if you dig a little bit deeper, there is a lot of truth and history to learn from between the lines. 

What was it like to earn your MFA from Converse College, and do you recommend low-residency MFA programs? What’s the biggest lesson you learned along the way?

It was a really amazing process. Like you said, I chose a low-residency program because it fit my life as a mother and publishing author. If you are a few years post undergrad, serious about writing and learning more about what’s been done, is being done, and how to do it, I highly recommend an MFA program. There are all sorts of programs designed for all sorts of writers and schedules. It’s hard to get that kind of attention to your work and detailed feedback in any other way. Plus the reading lists were fantastic. I found so many new authors, both adult and kidlit, to love and follow. 

I think the biggest lesson I learned along the way is to be open. Listen to what people are trying to tell you about your work. Even if it’s painful. Keep your mind open and sort it out. What are they actually trying to say? Is it a good point? Is more than one person saying the same thing? (If so you probably better be listening!) And does this make me want to work harder and create better work? I also made a point to try and give the feedback to others that I was expecting for myself: kind, thoughtful, specific details, laced with at least one or two sincere compliments. 

DAUGHTER4254 was published by Owl Hollow Press…and now you have a short story in Owl Hollow’s anthology, PICK YOUR POISONas well. Why Owl Hollow? What do you love about working with them?

Owl Hollow is a fantastic little press out of Utah. I’ve worked with their editors on other projects here and there in the writing world, and I know the level of quality they hold themselves to and the depths of their commitment to quality books. When they approached me about DAUGHTER4254 I was more than happy to work with them to make it what it is today. The staff at Owl Hollow hasn’t disappointed me. From editing to marketing to answering my really stupid questions, they’ve been amazing. 

What didn’t I ask that I should have? Whatever it is, please answer it here!

I honestly can’t believe you didn’t ask me who my literary boyfriend would be if I could pick anyone! I thought that was a standard question for all YA authors! Just kidding, but for reals, if you had asked, I’d probably say Magnus Chase. I have a thing for dead Viking guys right now. 

BIO

Leigh Statham is the author of several short stories, lots of bad poetry, and three novels for young adults. She lives in North Carolina and has an MFA in YA lit from Converse College. She is currently working on perfecting her spray tan and a novel in verse and hopes to someday teach all her chickens how to fly. 

Image

One of the benefits of having a blog that’s been around for a little while (even if I took a break in the middle there…hush, don’t judge!) is that I get to visit with folks that I’ve hosted before and see what they’re up to. Join me as I chat with Leigh Statham about the benefits of getting a low-residency MFA, Leigh’s literary boyfriend, her vision of a world without art—terrifying, I know!—and more.  

It’s been a while since I’ve had you on the blog. What have you been up to since the release of THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE MUCH TOO SPONTANEOUS GIRL?

Hey Emily. It’s good to be back. I’ve actually been very busy with grad school. I just finished an MFA in Young Adult Fiction from Converse College in South Carolina. Getting an MFA has been a dream of mine for a while now, and this just happened to be a good time to make it a reality. I’m back writing full time now though, and hopefully I’m a better writer for it.

Tell us a little bit about your latest book, DAUGHTER4254You’ve called it a “what if the arts were illegal” kind of story…how does the novel explore that issue, and why is it so important to you?

That’s exactly how I came up with the idea for the novel. I keep seeing schools and government programs making deeper and deeper cuts into their arts funding. Everything from painting to kindergarten to poetry programs in universities across the country are in danger. I took this troubling phenomenon and fast forwarded into a future where no one stands up to stop the trend of devaluing arts and artists. Then I took it one step further and outlaws everything that makes people individuals, names, colors, agency. I wanted to make a society where the focus was on survival. DAUGHTER4254 is the main character in this place and she’s a naturally creative girl with no outlets. She is constantly told there is something wrong with her and she needs to assimilate or face dire consequences. I know it’s far-fetched, but I hope her journey serves as a cautionary tale about where we are headed in our own American society. 

In previous novels, you’ve done an awesome job of weaving steampunk into the story line. This dystopian book is a new avenue for you. What do you love about writing speculative fiction, and how do you mingle fact with fiction to tell a story?

No matter what genre I’m writing in I try to pull in as many facts as possible. I try to make sure my readers are grounded in a world they can understand while I spoon feed them fantastic elements to (hopefully) enjoy. In my PERILOUS JOURNEY books, I spent a lot of time researching the Golden Age of Piracy and emigration from France to Canada. In DAUGHTER4254 I pulled a lot of my inspiration from the Cultural Revolution in China. You can read my books and take them at face value, but if you dig a little bit deeper, there is a lot of truth and history to learn from between the lines. 

What was it like to earn your MFA from Converse College, and do you recommend low-residency MFA programs? What’s the biggest lesson you learned along the way?

It was a really amazing process. Like you said, I chose a low-residency program because it fit my life as a mother and publishing author. If you are a few years post undergrad, serious about writing and learning more about what’s been done, is being done, and how to do it, I highly recommend an MFA program. There are all sorts of programs designed for all sorts of writers and schedules. It’s hard to get that kind of attention to your work and detailed feedback in any other way. Plus the reading lists were fantastic. I found so many new authors, both adult and kidlit, to love and follow. 

I think the biggest lesson I learned along the way is to be open. Listen to what people are trying to tell you about your work. Even if it’s painful. Keep your mind open and sort it out. What are they actually trying to say? Is it a good point? Is more than one person saying the same thing? (If so you probably better be listening!) And does this make me want to work harder and create better work? I also made a point to try and give the feedback to others that I was expecting for myself: kind, thoughtful, specific details, laced with at least one or two sincere compliments. 

DAUGHTER4254 was published by Owl Hollow Press…and now you have a short story in Owl Hollow’s anthology, PICK YOUR POISONas well. Why Owl Hollow? What do you love about working with them?

Owl Hollow is a fantastic little press out of Utah. I’ve worked with their editors on other projects here and there in the writing world, and I know the level of quality they hold themselves to and the depths of their commitment to quality books. When they approached me about DAUGHTER4254 I was more than happy to work with them to make it what it is today. The staff at Owl Hollow hasn’t disappointed me. From editing to marketing to answering my really stupid questions, they’ve been amazing. 

What didn’t I ask that I should have? Whatever it is, please answer it here!

I honestly can’t believe you didn’t ask me who my literary boyfriend would be if I could pick anyone! I thought that was a standard question for all YA authors! Just kidding, but for reals, if you had asked, I’d probably say Magnus Chase. I have a thing for dead Viking guys right now. 

BIO

Leigh Statham is the author of several short stories, lots of bad poetry, and three novels for young adults. She lives in North Carolina and has an MFA in YA lit from Converse College. She is currently working on perfecting her spray tan and a novel in verse and hopes to someday teach all her chickens how to fly. 

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