Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #39: Sarah J. Stevenson, a.k.a. aquafortis

h1 August 13th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

Sarah as a punkin' head babyWelcome, readers, to another installment of our usually-weekly interviews. Today is a Part Two of sorts, since we interviewed one half of Finding Wonderland, TadMack, two weeks ago. Now we’re getting to know the other half of Finding Wonderland, Sarah J. Stevenson, a.k.a. aquafortis. And yes, since TadMack sent us a sweet baby pic, so did a.fortis. So, let’s just have our little moment:



Since it’s Part Two, we’ll just assume that you already know how awesome Finding Wonderland: the Writing YA Weblog is – where a.fortis and TadMack talk about writing, share news and fun tidbits about the YA lit world, and hosted 7 (that’s SEVEN, people) interviews for the Summer Blog Blast Tour in June. And we’ll assume you also are familiar with their companion blog, Reading YA: Readers’ Rants, where they each post lovely, insightful reviews of the YA fiction they read.

But perhaps you haven’t seen a.fortis’s personal blog, aquafortis, where a.fortis talks about her artistic endeavors, travels, and other random stuff (which we’ll hear more about in the interview below). She also reveals the origin of her unusual screenname:

Welcome to aquafortis, the blog that bites. It bites because the term “aqua fortis” was the alchemical term for nitric acid, a necessary component in etching onto zinc plates for intaglio printmaking (which I happen to enjoy, though I use copper and ferric chloride now). It also bites because of my biting wit (uh…I hope), and lastly, it bites because it just does.

Oh, and she also has another blog, Castell Tywod. We’d love to tell you what it’s about, but we have no idea, because she writes it in Welsh. No, seriously. Welsh.

And there’s The Deckled Edge, the website for Imp Press, a fine art print studio Sarah runs with her husband.

a.fortis puts her art skills to good use in one of Finding Wonderland’s more unique features:

“One thing I started doing to give our blog a little extra something (hopefully something funny) was ‘Toon Thursday’—I used to draw cartoons for my college humor magazine (over ten years ago now, jeez) so I thought I’d try to do a more-or-less weekly cartoon related to writing and/or blogging. The inspiration, strangely enough, came from a very needlessly hostile comment somebody left on one of my posts. In thinking how I wanted to respond, if at all, I thought that using humor to deflect my utter aggravation would be a good idea for everyone. I also do a lot of posts about lit and kidslit stuff I hear on NPR, and items I receive in various writing newsletters.”

Add to all these accomplishments and abilities the fact that Sarah is about to become a published author, and you’re looking at quite the renaissance woman. As she told us:

A YA short story of mine, “This Is Jane,” received third place in the 2005 Write It Now short story contest, and will be in an anthology forthcoming (date TBA) from Blooming Tree Press. I have no idea when that’s coming out, as the date keeps being pushed back. I’m actually working on a few novel drafts—not all at the same time—but the one I’m excited about and currently finishing is called “The Latte Rebellion,” a story about a moneymaking scheme gone out of control. I’m hoping to finish up the revision by the end of summer (which could still happen…) and send out the proposal shortly thereafter.

We are pleased as punch to introduce a.fortis to our readers, and thank her for taking the time to stop by, even with all the other projects she juggling. Diolch! (That’s Welsh for thanks, I think. I just looked it up.)

* * * * * * *

7-Imp: What do you do for a living?

a.fortis: Basically, anything creative that I can get paid for (plus many things I don’t get paid for)—writing, editing, fine art, design (graphic and web), desktop publishing. My educational background is in creative writing and fine art, and I’ve known since I was fairly young that I wanted to be an artist. My husband is also an artist, but fortunately for both of us, he teaches full-time, so we get to do nifty things like eat and live indoors.

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

a.fortis: Three years on my personal blog; 2 ½ on Finding Wonderland.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Sarah at the Beijing Zoo last yeara.fortis: I first started my personal blog, aquafortis, in order to stay in touch with friends whom I might not always talk to on the phone. I figured if I was going to send five or eight people the same e-mail, I might as well just post some of the information onto the blog and not feel like a jerk for mass-emailing my friends. Also, I used to write a humor column for the website called “Weird Wild Web,” in which I talked about strange, funny, or stupid websites. In a way, I saw my blog as a place to continue posting weird links and making dumb jokes about them—again, without tormenting my friends with mass e-mails. I then started a second blog to practice writing in Welsh (one of my hobbies is learning languages, and Welsh is one of them).

After finishing up grad school, I joined a writing group, which Tanita was also a part of. Some time later I suggested the idea of using a blog to keep each other informed of interesting links, writing contests, conference impressions, etc., rather than bombarding everyone with e-mail or using up the limited space on our group website. Soon enough TadMack and I started our book “review” site, Readers’ Rants, so that we could recommend books to each other and the group. It didn’t take long to discover that there was a wide and varied community of lit bloggers and blogging writers, and it’s been a lot of fun to become part of that scene.

7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

a.fortis: That’s a tough one! When I wrote “Weird Wild Web” I used to be a huge fan of, but it hasn’t been nearly as active of late…There are so many kidlit blogs that I adore—Chasing Ray always floors me; Colleen is so insightful and articulate. I spend a fair amount of time on Flickr messing with photos and checking out friends’ photos. And I’m a total Google whore.

7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

a.fortis: I love traveling, cooking, eating, listening to music, enjoying a glass of wine or a beer on the couch with my husband, learning random languages, and doing artwork.

7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

a.fortis: Uhh….okay, here’s something I had forgotten about until recently, actually, which is why most people don’t know about it. During a post-baccalaureate year I spent at the San Francisco Art Institute (studying printmaking), I took an artist’s books class with the wife of movie director Barry Levinson. She ended up buying one of my artist’s books at the end of the semester. Also, I worked with her to write text for a one-of-a-kind picture book she was printing to give to a friend, and had my text edited by Barry Levinson, which was scary because the text was quite crappy. (I didn’t write picture books then, and I don’t do it now, either.) The reason why I forgot about this incident is that my year at the Art Institute was very traumatic and I tried to block it out.

Here’s a bonus thing most people don’t know: I play role-playing games. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

a.fortis: The new album by Chris Cornell, “Carry On,” especially his cover of “Billie Jean.” Lily Allen’s “Alright, Still.” Seu Jorge’s “The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions.”

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

a.fortis: I’m sure my answers would change if you asked me tomorrow, but today I’m thinking Neil Gaiman, Michael Ondaatje, and David Sedaris.

The Pivot Questionnaire:

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

a.fortis: I can’t choose just one!

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

a.fortis: Funny you should ask – I posted on my personal blog about this very topic (here and here).

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

a.fortis: Acceptance. Sincerity. Intensity.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

a.fortis: Condescending or patronizing attitudes. Meanness.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word?

a.fortis: I like “crap on a cracker,” but I also enjoy me a good f-bomb or some choice blasphemy.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

a.fortis: My cats meowing. My husband playing the bass. A melodious voice speaking Welsh.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

a.fortis: Anything really loud or shrill.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

a.fortis: Dairy milker. (I actually saw that one advertised in our local paper.)

12 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #39: Sarah J. Stevenson, a.k.a. aquafortis”

  1. I’m adopting “crap on a cracker.”

  2. Love, love, love the childhood photo! Thanks for another great interview. And I’m glad you posted this one, with links to TadMack’s interview, because I somehow missed that in catching up from vacation. Finding Wonderland is one of my favorite blogs.

  3. Thanks again, Jules and Eisha!! This was so much fun. You guys always do such an incredible job–to quote Wayne’s World, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

  4. I had the luck to meet Sarah at SCBWI, and I saw one tiny bit of her multi-faceted life when she told me about the Welsh language conference she had just returned from. But all this! She’s just layer upon layer.

    Great interview, j & e, and Sarah: Congrats on your short story sale and I’ll be looking for your book when it’s out!

  5. That afortis is one awesome gal! And her interview shows why she’s so cool–wicked smart, modest, and talented.

    Thanks, Jules and Eisha.

  6. Oh, and I have to add that I also missed TadMack’s interview, but will find it now, because she’s just as cool as Sarah.

  7. Hah!
    Someone else got ‘Sugar-britches-ed’ Good.

    The Welsh thing. Still, it kills me. Ordinary Girl Learns Welsh, language with no discernible vowels. I don’t know how she does it.

    ‘Nother great interview, guys!

  8. Sometimes I think the weird part is that I am relatively ordinary and learning Welsh–with no provable Welsh background. (Believe me, many people who learn Welsh are NOT ordinary…) And it helps when you find out that “w” and “y” are vowels–I swear.

    Hey–I couldn’t let you hog all the “sugar-britches.” 😀

  9. You earned your sugar-britches fair and square with that pic, Punkin’.

  10. Yay for Sarah. 🙂 Hug your cats for me!

    My neighbor likes to listen to Fleetwood Mac and sing along.

  11. Jules or Eisha, I can’t remember which of you goes all ape-sh– over those baby photos, but you once again made me laugh out loud. I just love that whole paragraph to pieces.

    Another great interview! Thank you!

    And Welsh? A.Fortis, you are awesome!

  12. Eisha handled this one, Robin. I got TadMack’s. We both like The Tiny And Cute. Who doesn’t, whether they admit or not?

    I will go on the record as saying, though, that I try to avoid “cute” for describing picture books. My grad children’s lit professor made that a rule for us in class, one I embraced and continue to embrace. I’m sorry. It makes me shudder, unless someone is otherwise explaining why else the book works. But to hear simply, “oh, that book is just so cute!” as a final analysis . . . well, it makes me want to throw things.

    But, as usual, I digress.

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