D. T. Friedman is a third-year medical student who lives with her Robbins textbook of pathology. She is a graduate of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp, and a member of the Liberty Hall and Codex online writers’ workshops. This is her first publication. You can contact her at DTFriedman AT gmail DOT com
Her story Even the Slowest Fall appears in the Spring 2008 issue of Shimmer.
Interview with D. T. Friedman
Where did the idea come from? A couple of places. The magic system popped up directly after a lecture during Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp workshop. The lecture was, “What is the price of magic?” He went on to do a worldbuilding exercise using the magic rules we came up with as a class, something about becoming less and less visible. Later, I came up with an idea about wizards who slow down in time whenever they use magic, set it down on a notecard, flipped it into the little box of notecards that sits on my desk, and waited for a story to show up for it.
The story showed up a half a year later, with a writing exercise through Mike Munsil’s amazing Liberty Hall online writers’ workshop. They sponsor flash fiction challenges every week and short fiction challenges on a slightly longer timeframe. Every participant has a certain amount of time to write a story based on a “trigger,” which could be anything from a picture to song lyrics. The picture that inspired this story was actually the one used for the Shimmer Art Issue’s cover.
Now, I usually default to science fiction when I do the challenges, just because I’m far more familiar with that genre. I really wanted to do a time travel something-or-another because of the pocketwatch tucked into the flowers in the picture…but this picture just felt like a fantasy story. Which made me a little nervous, because I don’t really have much experience with fantasy. The first thing I thought of, though, was Mr. Card’s lecture, and then my slow wizards. I was traveling so I didn’t have my box o’ notecards around, but for some reason I still had the idea in the forefront of my mind without having to resort to my paper-access memory. The seed of the story came from the trigger, which gave me the scene with Ensei and Tabor at the river bank.
How did the story change as you developed it? The Memory was kind of a surprise to me, but it ended up seeming like a logical consequence of the magic system I was using. How else would you take care of people who moved too slowly to care for themselves? When it originally showed up, I thought it was like a nursing home; everyone eventually slowed down and had to be cared for. But I thought that would make a strange population pattern, so I wondered if it wouldn’t be better if only a few people were capable of using magic to that extent. That’s when the Memory became a supplement to the oral history for each village, and when I found out that the villages were of the kind of pre-industrial society that would use an oral history, and when the magic system found its source in the river.
The other thing that changed was a small (but to me, very significant) bit at the end. When I originally hammered out the first draft to turn in before the Liberty Hall deadline, Tabor was the one who initiated the Sharing ceremony. Which would mean that she was still making all the decisions. Which would mean that she didn’t learn anything about Ensei’s view of their interactions, or just didn’t care enough to mature into someone who could be half of a partnership. And that bugged me. So, Tabor restrains herself, grows up at least that much, and helps Ensei create a more balanced relationship.
You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger? Well, I tend to be wordy. Really wordy. So whenever someone edits my work, I lose a LOT of words. And the stories tend to be stronger as a result. I think the editors at Shimmer cut at least a thousand words, without taking out any content. The fluff is gone; the story’s there.
How is this story like your other work? How is it different?I think this story is pretty unique compared to my other work. As I said, I trend toward science fiction when left to my own devices. This story feels more flowery to me, more earthy. And I kinda like that. I’ve actually been trying to capture that feeling for an aspect of the book I’m working on.
What writing projects are you presently working on? My writing projects are mostly on hold due to the fact that anything I do either interferes with my very limited eating or sleeping time, or takes away from my future patients. So it’s often hard to justify sitting down to write. However, everyone says you have to take time for yourself in med school, so I’ve still been trying to write in bits and trickles. My current projects include a short story about the aftermath of an unusual car crash, and a book that I’m adapting into a graphic novel with the help of a very good friend who is an incredible artist.
I also have a box sitting on my desk that’s full of notecards with all of the story ideas my brain tried to distract me with while I was studying over the first two years of school. I’m looking forward to playing around with those, too. Maybe I’ll manage some time during fourth year.
What authors, if any, have had the most influence on your work? The author who has had the most influence on my work has to be Orson Scott Card. When I decided to get serious about writing, I found his online workshop, Hatrack River. The place is a treasure trove of advice for new writers who have no clue what they’re doing, and a great support/critique/discussion group for slightly more advanced writers, as well. The people who hang out there were remarkably helpful, and gave me all kinds of advice when I was just starting out. I also read almost everything I could find on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy, and Mr. Card’s books were just fantastic.
Later on, I applied to his Literary Bootcamp program, and learned an extraordinary amount regarding how to find new ideas and improve my style. Since then, he’s been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my work. It’s clear that he’s very devoted to teaching, and I’d bet all his students have benefited from his influence.
Favorite short story you’ve read recently? Unfair question. How could I pick one? Some awesome stories I’ve read recently: “The Cookie Monster,” by Vernor Vinge. Freaking incredible. Also, “The House Beyond Your Sky,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum. And “The Dinner Game,” by Steven Eley, and “Magnificent Pigs,” by Cat Rambo.
What people have helped you the most with your writing? My parents with their undying support, my teachers with their patience. My awesome older brother, David, who told me to stop writing fanfic when I was thirteen and come up with my own worlds and characters to go with my stories. Orson Scott Card, and my freaking amazing fellow Bootcampers of the 2006 class. Everyone on the Hatrack, Liberty Hall, and Codex writers workshops with their insightful critiques and enthusiastic support. Between them, they really taught me just about everything I know.
What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Whenever I can. School gets in the way. Sometimes it’s as random as a sentence or two on my palm pilot while I’m waiting for my attending to show up for rounds.
What is your darkest secret? I don’t know. It’s hard to see it.
If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be? And why? I probably wouldn’t, actually. I’m pretty happy with my life.
Tell us about one place in your hometown that you love to visit and would recommend to others. Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. It’s an art gallery/studio that throws its doors wide on the first Friday of every month, and you can go hang out, listen to live music, eat free food, and invade the studios to chat with the artists about their work. Best way to spend a Friday evening.
What was the last CD you bought? The last song you downloaded? I’m on a Nickel Creek, Sarah Slean, and Jesca Hoop kick right now.
If you could hop on a plane tomorrow and go anywhere, where would you go and why? Boston or Sarajevo. I have a lot of friends in both those places that I haven’t visited for too long.
Cat or dog person? Love animals. Love them. Unfortunately, I became very allergic to most of them while I was in college. ::sigh::
Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? One, if her work is widely read. We experience reality through our perceptions. Change the universal perception of the lightbulb (for example, through a brilliant piece of literature), and it would be practically impossible to prove that the lightbulb itself did not change.