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Mary McMyne

Lilith, fiction, Issue 27, June 1, 2014

A recipient of the Faulkner Prize for a Novel-in-Progress and a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Mary McMyne earned her MFA in fiction from New York University. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction can be found in Pedestal Magazine,The Los Angeles ReviewPainted Bride QuarterlyNew Delta ReviewWord Riot, and many other publications. Her poetry chapbook, Wolf Skin, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She lives with her husband and daughter in northern Michigan, where she teaches at Lake Superior State University and serves as co-editor of Border Crossing. Visit her website to learn more:

Get to know Mary...

When did you start writing? I wrote my first novel, about a boy who takes off in a cardboard-box spaceship, when I was nine. It fills two blue spiral-bound notebooks, labeled "Part I" and "Part II," which are safely gathering dust in my basement. 

When and what and where did you first get published? My first publication was a satirical article introducing Babelfish translations of classic poetry for Exquisite Corpse in 2002.

What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why? Critical retellings of epics, folktales, and myths fascinate me. Grendel, John Gardner's retelling of Beowulf from the perspective of its famous villain, is one of my favorite novels because of the way Gardner uses Grendel's voice to explore the epic poem's religious complexities. Donald Barthelme's novel, Snow White, is another favorite because of the way Barthelme uses real-world documents like court transcripts and case files to show the psychological absurdity of the folktale. Another story that truly resonates with me -- and continues to do so, each time I read it -- is "She Unnames Them," Ursula K. Le Guin's story about Eve walking out of Eden. Le Guin's language is beautiful and intricate, as usual, but the real reason that story has stuck with me is the statement it makes about the destructive power of names. 
How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? Reading so many retellings, over the years, I've come to believe that the very best have a clear reason for being; they exist not only to adapt or expand a familiar story, but also to say something, however subtly, about the original and the culture that produced it. I don't sit down to write a retelling unless I have some really powerful energy about the original: sometimes I'm drawn to a character who seems neglected, other times -- as was the case with a retelling of the Odysseus myth I wrote -- I hate the story and feel an uncontrollable urge to "correct" it. In this case, after reading Le Guin's story, I felt compelled to explore the character of Lilith, who appears to be left out of Le Guin's version of Eden, along with most others I've read.

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