MEMBER PROFILE: Bev Magennis



MEMBER PROFILE: Bev Magennis

When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I became a member of PEN Center USA in 2010 when I received an Emerging Voices Fellowship.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
I would have to say the Emerging Voices Fellowship has been the most meaningful thing about PEN Center USA. It gave me an opportunity to meet other writers, attend inspirational literary events, develop skills and insights through education, and receive hands-on direction in reading my work. It also offered public venues to do so.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
Freedom To Write means having the space to express every single idea, thought, belief, and opinion a writer wishes to express, no matter how controversial the topic. Of course, this pertains to political freedom, but I see Freedom To Write as the absence of censorship of any kind—spiritual, sexual, emotional, and psychological—topics that writers must be allowed to address without fear, and the results of which must be honored and protected.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
The one book I wish I'd written is a memoir. But whenever I've tried, the topic seems too complex and over-ridden with sentiment and emotion. I have a huge amount of respect for authors who are able to inspect their lives, sort out their personal circumstances, and present what they find with insight. Maybe one day...

What is your favorite quote?
I have two favorite literary quotes:
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”— W. Somerset Maugham
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”— Robert Frost

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
My ideal literary dinner guest would be Moritz Thomsen, the author that has been described as "the best American writer no one's ever heard of." Mortiz joined the Peace Corps at age 53 and spent a year in Ecuador. He returned after completing his stint and bought a farm with a young, native man. He stayed there for the rest of his life, embracing poverty, writing of his experiences as a farmer and his early life with clarity, objectivity, and emotional and intellectual investment. The man was not afraid of a sentence and wrote eloquently about the simplest things.

What are you working on now?
I am writing the story of a woman who lives alone, six miles from her closest neighbor in the New Mexico wilderness. A Mexican illegal immigrant shows up on her property and they develop a "relationship." The novel is written in the first person. I have just completed the first draft.

Bev Magennis was born in Toronto, Canada and immigrated to the US in 1964. She received an MA in Art from Claremont graduate school in 1971. After a 34-year career as a visual artist, she stared writing, inspired by the land and people of a remote New Mexico region where she lived for 17 years. In 2009, Bev was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop summer graduate class. She has been awarded a 2010 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, and received a 2011 Norman Mailer Fiction Fellowship. Her novel, Alibi Creek (Torrey House Press), is available in March 2016.


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