What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I write in my attic, which has a quiet yet archetypal vibe. I got these cool little Umbra Bulletboards recently which hold encouraging post-its (“Be prepared each day to confront your own self-sabotage” or “Please keep doing this”) and photos related to my current project. A clean desk would be helpful and calming but I’d rather be writing than cleaning or organizing my desk. I have lots of notebooks and pens scattered around as I keep intending to start a daily journal. Books, of course, are everywhere. Books I want to read, books I should read, and books I have read. I recently started a little shelf for plays, which I’m so excited about. I also have many, many nature identification guides, including one on the insects of Eastern North America and a really entertaining one on fireflies, glow-worms, and lightning bugs.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Here’s some advice for other writers but also advice for myself: don’t care so much about pleasing everyone with your writing. Know that some people are going to like what you write and some people are not going to like what you write and that’s okay. Remember a person’s opinion of a story or a book generally says more about their reading preferences than about the quality of the story or the book. Also leave positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for the books you love. And if you read something you love, drop the author a line and let them know. I’ve made some lovely and important friendships with other writers this way, by reaching out, or by having people reach out to me.
Lastly, a writing friend recently gave me this piece of advice: “It’s in their [the publishing world’s] best interest for you to be nice, but it’s not always in your best interest to be nice.”
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
I just finished Devil House by John Darnielle, which I enjoyed. I’m looking forward to checking out his first novel Wolf in White Van and music from his band The Mountain Goats. My daughter and I have been loving the Jackaby series by William Ritter—a paranormal historical horror-ish detective set-up that is wildly fun and funny and such a pleasure. I’ve been reading and rereading Donald Barthelme’s Sixty Stories too—I love his conscious use of non-lyrical language, his absurdity, his non-sequiturs, and his humor. And I started reading (and memorizing) poetry again this year, specifically the poems of Sylvia Plath.
Other than writing, do you have any other creative pursuits? What do you do to relax?
I enjoy taking photos and identifying plants and insects (see my Instagram page—@debbieurbanski—or, perhaps more exciting, check out my iNaturalist page at bit.ly/3q52HTC). I’m in love with hiking too and spend a lot of time with my family out in the forests of Central New York along the Finger Lakes Trail.
What trends in speculative fiction would you like to see gain popularity in the next few years?
I love mashups of genres (Fiction! Literary fiction! Horror! Poetry! Personal essays! Science fiction! Fantasy! Lyric poetry! Etc.!), I find the places where genres meet and overlap and intersect to be full of energy. I think there’s a lot of good writing happening at those intersections right now and I’m eager to keep reading and writing there as well.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I’ve been working on my first novel After World for a long, long time. It’s about the end of humanity and it’s finally going to be published by Simon & Schuster in the next year or two. I’ve also been exploring this idea of speculative essays (see this piece I published in Granta, excerpted online at bit.ly/3R8Du6o, or this essay in The Sun: bit.ly/3TBaZjp). I have a story included in the very excellent Terraform anthology (bit.ly/3cF0WsZ) that came out in August 2022 as well.
Spread the word!