Click here to read Anna O’Brien’s “Gran’s Centaur.”
Anna O’Brien is a freelance writer and veterinarian in Maryland. She is a contributing editor for the magazine Horse Illustrated and has had fiction published in The Reject Pile, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Cease, Cows. She is a reader for The Indianola Review. She likes fat, slow dogs and fast bicycles. She has one of each.
1. What made you want to become a writer?
I’m not sure if there is only one thing that made me want to be a writer. I think mostly it had to do with the joy I found in reading, how intimate a story can be if the writing is honest and true. Writing is the one thing I’m good at so I sort of just continued with it.
2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?
The creativity I read in magical realism pieces makes me drool. It’s so good. I’m not a huge fan of hard core sci-fi or fantasy but just plain literary writing can be very dry and, I’ll just say it, boring. Magical realism, for me, is the perfect balance between the two. I love taking something, either a character or a situation, and imaging: what if? The fact that magical realism has no boundaries, no rules, makes it that much more enjoyable. Writing in this genre is basically playing around in dreamland.
3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?
Two things. Firstly, joining a local writers group. The support and camaraderie has been so good for me, plus hearing the objective, constructive feedback when my pieces are up for critique. Being surrounded by writers who actually write is immensely inspiring. Secondly, my slow realization and coming to the understanding that writing, like any craft or hobby or job or sport, takes practice which requires discipline and time dedication. I’m an endurance runner, so comparing writing to training for a marathon makes sense to me. You don’t wake up one day and simply run 26 miles. It takes months (sometimes years) of training to get to that point. Same for writing. You don’t wake up and suddenly, based on pure inspiration alone, write the next best selling novel. It’s going to take time, practice, perseverance, and sometimes pain to get where I really want to be as an author. There are no short cuts.
4. How would you describe your writing practice?
I try to carve out time in the early morning to write. That way, I know I’ve gotten at least some writing in for the day, despite whatever may be thrown my way later. But nothing’s nicer than a quiet evening on the couch spent writing. That’s a luxury and more an exception than the rule. When I’m not feeling particularly creative or inspired, I’ll set a timer and just tell myself to get something down over the next 30 minutes. Taking that first step is the hardest part.
5. What are you writing now?
I’m struggling to finish a short story about some flowers that grow plates of food instead of blooms. I don’t know why it’s been so hard to finish it. I think maybe because there are many ways it can be told and I haven’t yet settled on how exactly I want to tell it. Plus, what’s come out so far is darker than I first intended. Isn’t it weird when that happens?
6. Where can someone find out more about your work?
I write a monthly blog called VetWrite. I’m a veterinarian in my day job and in my blog, I interview other vets who are writers, artists, and musicians. I like to explore the boundary between science and creativity and how it’s expressed in the veterinary industry. I’m also a contributing editor for the magazine Horse Illustrated and a blogger over at HobbyFarms.com. On my blog you’ll find more examples of both my fiction and non-fiction writing.