Compelled to Write: Altered Fluid on Being a Writer

What is a writer?  It’s a simple question.  Or is it?  I got back in touch with some of the writers from Altered Fluid, the speculative fiction writer’s group out of New York, and asked them what they thought.

Below, a handful of them go after the question with their usual mix of playfulness and incisive wit.

Brief bios of the authors appear after the interview.  For more from Altered Fluid, check out “Even the Best Stories Have Flaws” or “Stick to What You Love” or “The Joy of the Best Idea Ever”.


A writer is a __________?


PAUL M. BERGER: Person who is so fascinated with (or held hostage by) all the stuff going on in his head that he is compelled to put it down on paper.  On a regular basis.

KRIS DIKEMAN: Person who writes. Every day.

SALADIN AHMED: Person who finds the free food at cons.

E. C. MYERS: Person who is committed to improving her craft by writing a lot–and rewriting–for as long as it takes to succeed, whatever her definition of success is.

N. K. JEMISIN: Person who persists.  Anybody can write, but only writers keep at it, continually trying to improve, continually submitting despite rejection, continually believing in themselves.

GREER WOODWARD: Person whose coffeepot (or other maker of needed beverages) is always in good working order.

MERCURIO D. RIVERA: Person compelled to tell stories, who sits down and actually tells them.

DEVIN POORE: Person who re-works reality into their own image.

ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON: Person with an unhealthy tolerance for failure.

MATTHEW KRESSEL: A person who would curl up and die if denied the ability to express themselves.


Saladin Ahmed’s fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, IGMS, Clockwork Phoenix 2, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. His novel Throne of the Crescent Moon is forthcoming from DAW Books.

Paul M. Berger’s writing has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Strange Horizons, Interzone, Escape Pod, and Weird Tales, among other places.

Kris Dikeman is the author of “Nine Sundays in a Row.” Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, The Guide to Surreal Botany, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Year’s Best Fantasy 9, among other places.

N.(ora) K. Jemisin is the author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and the forthcoming The Broken Kingdoms. Her Clarkesworld short story, “Non-Zero Probabilities,” was nominated for the Hugo Award.

Alaya Dawn Johnson is the author of the novels Moonshine, Racing the Dark, and its sequel The Burning City. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Interfictions 2 and the forthcoming Zombies vs. Unicorns.

Matthew Kressel’sThe History Within Us” appeared in Clarkesworld and the “The Suffering Gallery” will appear in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He is the publisher of
Sybil’s Garage
and the co-host of the Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB with Ellen Datlow.

E.(ugene) C. Myers’ fiction has appeared in Sybil’s Garage No. 7 and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Shimmer Magazine. His first young adult novel, Fair Coin, is on submission with publishers.

Devin Poore is an assistant editor and non-fiction contributor to Sybil’s Garage, and a writer of short stories and novels in which the world isn’t quite as it should be.

Mercurio D. Rivera is a frequent contributor to Interzone with stories also appearing or forthcoming in Unplugged: The Web’s Best SF and Fantasy for 2008, Black Static, Nature, Electric Velocipede, Abyss & Apex and elsewhere.

Greer Woodward’s humorous short story “Home Swt Home” appears in Shelter of Daylight. Woodward lives in Hawaii and is a satellite member of Altered Fluid.


Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.  He is the staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly.  He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC.  He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.

2 thoughts on “Compelled to Write: Altered Fluid on Being a Writer

  1. Some to serious. Need a sense of humor to persevere. Took me five minutes to figure out how to spell "persevere".

    I'm working on my own sense.

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