I sat down with Sierra Moody, an Agnes Scott College junior majoring in Creative Writing, to talk about how she chose creative writing and what sort of books she likes to read.
Before creative writing, she was majoring in business management and before that international relations. When I asked how she finally landed on creative writing, she said, “I always wanted to do something creative. It was either going to be creative writing or studio art, but you try telling your African American parents you want to study art for an undisclosed amount of thousands of dollars. You know, you’re going to get a pretty strong argument against it! Really, it was decided over the summer to major in creative writing, because they were like, ‘We see you’re not too happy with this so pick what you want and get the grades.’ I was like, ‘Oh, late in the game, but okay, sure!’”
We continue to talk about how she ended up on the path to creative writing. In elementary and middle school, Sierra would fill a journal with stories she’d written. “I’ve always sort of been a day dreamer, get my head stuck in the clouds literally more than half of my day, every day,” she said. In high school, she found herself leaning more towards studio arts, using her creative drive to create drawings and paintings. After she went to college, she came back home one summer and found one of those composition books from when she was a child. “I was like, oh wow I actually really love to write!” Sierra told me. “And it’s easily applicable to all types of job positions and something I can have fun with as well. I’m learning a lot from rediscovering writing.”
“At first, I thought I was really hot shit, for writing short stories when I was little. I thought I was going to be the best darn writer I ever did see, and that sort of motivation/narcissism kind of led me to continue. But then taking these courses where I’m getting actual written criticism of my work is humbling me down some, but it’s still enough to keep me motivated to keep writing and get better. The best thing about writing for me is that it’s a physical piece of work that I can see. Over time, I can choose to make it better, but I can right away see what I was thinking and feeling put onto a page, which is a huge sense of accomplishment, even if its poorly edited or full of plot contrivances, a real mess on page. But when I put it down, I still get that sense of pride, that I got all of that out and its physical now and on paper, so I can do what I want with it.”
“So what do you write?” I asked.
“I work primarily with fiction and memoirs. I want to grow more into essays, and I’m absolutely terrible with poetry, but I want to get better.”
When I asked her what her stories are about, she said, “Really just random things. Like, I get a lot of awesome ideas when I’m around other people… It’s one of those things where the less I think about and the more I have my mind off it, a certain idea will pop up out of the blue. That’s what happened with this current assignment I’m doing with Introduction to Fiction. Really, that idea came up when I was over here last week.” She gestures at the apartment where we’re holding our interview. “It’s just one of those things where what inspires me is getting out of my own head for a minute and a half.”
From there, the conversation took a turn towards what Sierra liked to read. “I love genres like urban fantasy, and I do like a good romance every once and a while, or a good adventure or dystopian or fantasy. I can read almost everything, but I’m trying to grow more interested in science fiction and horror.”
“What inspired you to try and get into science fiction?”
“Octavia Butler did! For one of my assignments, I had to find a short story and write a paper about it for just about every week. I found “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” and I was just like… it’s more science fiction in a toned down dystopian sense that it could eventually happen. It deals with the aftermath of a cure for cancer, but I just liked the way it spiraled out and how easily applicable it could be for this society and what it says about women because…. Well, that’s a spoiler! It’s got a twist. A pretty interesting one too. That story was just like, wow, okay you literally just created a world in under thirty pages. So I was like, alright more science fiction like this!”
“Is that what you want to do with your own stories? Create a world in under thirty pages?”
She smiled. “I want to get better at writing environments and worlds, and I personally just love writing memorable characters because they kind of shape the world, so I have a lot more fun talking about it through their eyes than just through the outside view or a regular analysis. I always come up with characters first and then the world. I don’t know if there’s a right way to do it, but that’s how I like to do it.”
“I don’t know if there is a ‘right’ way to do it,” I said.
“Right!” she answered.
“So how’s the dive into science fiction going?” I asked.
“Not very. I just have stuff on my wish list and that I plan to buy, but with how many books are currently on my reading list… I’m most likely going to get to those in the summer, when I have enough time to sit down and read what I want to read.”
“Are there any authors you’re likely to recommend?”
“I love Neil Gaiman with everything in my heart, and really, the whole thing that kind of sparked my interest in reading again after that brief period in high school was American Gods. Like, it’s such a cool concept and he did it in such a way that it was like this picture of America. It looked like it did come from an outside view, but it went over the history and created this lore that coincides with the world we live in. It’s just an awesome idea to think about.”
“Oh, have you seen the American Gods TV show?”
“No, and I want to see it so bad! I don’t have cable, so maybe I’ll just buy the DVD and call it a day. And they’re making a Good Omens show this year. David Tennant’s going to be in it.”
Although she’s majoring in creative writing, Sierra says she probably could be a film studies minor too. Her interest in literature and film studies led her towards the Literary Ireland faculty led trip. “I was just like, wow okay, both interests with one trip! Plus, it made me realize how much of a cornerstone film and English and writing is there or just how much originated there. From what I’m learning right now, Ireland is proving to be way more important than I thought before.”
“So you’re in the literary Ireland class right now. What classes do you still want to take before you graduate?”
“Next semester I plan to take dramatic screenwriting. But it’s a matter of getting all the important, mandatory courses finished before I do anything else. Next semester is gonna’ be crazy. I kind of want to do the Writers’ Festival editorial thing, but I’ve also got my senior thesis, so I guess I want to do both. It’ll be my last year. Oh, and lots of people don’t know that the Writers’ Festival class is a full year thing, through fall and spring. Put that in there! It’s a commitment, but it looks pretty cool, and I’m willing to commit.”
At heart, Sierra is a creative. While she’s choosing to fulfill her creative drive with writing, she doesn’t know where the future will take her.
“I like writing. I like drawing. I like film. I like film criticism. With where all of my interests lie, I don’t know where my future’s going to go. I just want to hone the skills I have right now. I want to improve at that. Then, I can see where it goes, and if I can do something creative with life, I will not complain at all. Writing would be nice, but all creative stuff is nice.”