How To Be A Fiction & Humor Writer: Meet D. Arthur

Current City: Split my time between Buffalo & Brooklyn, NY

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Hi D! Welcome to The Boss Diary! Tell me how you started as an Author

So glad to be here, Nkay! Thank you for having me! I have always really loved writing. When I was younger I would hide in my closet and write “novels” about pop star witches in purple composition notebooks. I also used my livejournal as a place to share some pretty overwrought emo poetry. This dream kind of fell by the wayside for a few years as I pursued a more “practical career” in corporate human resources. Luckily, I started taking improv classes for fun, and became really immersed in the New York comedy scene as a performer, producer, and writer. Getting published by The Belladonna Comedy—a women run humor site that publishes work by women and other marginalized genders—was a big turning point for me in realizing that writing was more than just a hobby. In April, I left a full-time job to really try to pursue this thing! I still work odd jobs (leading scavenger hunts in NYC) and less glamorous writing jobs (remote copywriting work), but I have made a point to free up time and space to invest in my writing in hopes that down the line that will pay off. Since then, I have published short humor, fiction, and essays, and I have had really exciting opportunities to volunteer as a fiction reader for two literary magazines (SLICE and Split Lip). 

You have an incredible writing portfolio. So impressive! Can you tell us about the process that you go through from your first draft, down to the final publication of your work?

Thank you! Sometimes you have to throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks! I’m a quick and sloppy first-drafter. I like to say that I am kicking over the toy box to see what I want to play with! A lot of my first drafts are long and rambling, but they help me uncover ideas that might not have emerged if I sat down with the goal of writing a polished draft from the get-go. For editing, I like to go one element of a time, so maybe I will address character first, or plot, or setting. Having other writer friends whose work I trust is a huge part of the process, you need to have good readers who will catch  mistakes that you might miss when you’re too close to your own work! 

For final publication, I submit, submit, submit. Tools like Duotrope and Submittable help me find publications to submit to, and track my submissions. I also love using twitter to follow writers and publications that I like in order to find opportunities and places to submit. Fit is so important! Sometimes the most prestigious publications might not be as good a fit for the voice or style of a piece as a more niche pub would be. 

Unfortunately, another big part of the process is rejection! It often takes me a handful of submissions to place a piece. It’s smart to be strategic about where I am submitting when, and also knowing when to take a piece back to the editing stage if it really isn’t connecting with any publications. Sometimes putting a piece in a drawer for a few weeks (or even months) can help create the distance to come back to it and make it perfect!

I think its so cool that you split your time between Brooklyn and Buffalo. What’s your favorite thing about living as a Writer in New York City? And, where do you find most of your inspiration?

The best part of NYC is the huge writing community and the access to events, readings, workshops, etc that come with that! I get a lot of inspiration from just walking around and being attentive to my surroundings. I like to email myself ideas as they come to me, so I have a whole “ideas” filter in my email. I also love creative input, like reading and watching film or tv, in order to have creative output. One of my favorite writing spots in the city is right across from a movie theater, so sometimes I will go see a movie if I am feeling blocked! I have gotten inspiration from a huge range of movies big or small, from The Florida Project to Ladybird to Coco

Everyone has a purpose, and it’s so refreshing to find women who are truly living out their dreams.. How would you define your own purpose?  

My purpose is twofold. In my own art, I like to use humor to illuminate some of the struggles of being a woman, but also to highlight the strength and joy in overcoming those struggles. As a member of the artistic community—producing reading events and working on lit mags, my purpose is finding ways to elevate underrepresented voices in the artistic community—LGBTQ writers, women writers, writers of color, and other traditionally marginalized voices. I volunteer for an organization called VIDA that tracks the gender breakdown of writers featured in literary magazines. 

Who are some of your favorite business women or entrepreneurs that you look up to and have inspired your work? 

I am super inspired by Emma Straub, a best-selling novelist who opened up a bookstore in Brooklyn in May 2017. Books are Magic is not only an insanely adorable (and instagrammable) hotspot packed with amazing books, but it is also a community gathering space in Brooklyn for readings, book launches, and more. I also love Lauren Groff! She is a crazy talented fiction writer (her novel Fates & Furies was one of Obama’s summer reading picks a few years back), and she is also super vocal about ways in which the literary community can be better at supporting and raising up women. Recently, she refused to answer a question about being a working mother, citing the fact that she’d prefer not to answer until men with children are asked that question just as often. 

Tell me one thing that most people may not know about you. 

Even though I am outgoing, I consider myself an ambivert (both introverted and extroverted). I spend a lot of time socializing, performing, being active in my community, and as much as I love it, I sometimes need solo quiet time to recharge (and binge watch RuPaul’s Drag Race). 

Are there any projects you are working on, and/or upcoming events that we should know about?

I am currently writing a ton of short fiction that I am hoping to eventually have published as a collection of short stories. Later in the Fall, I am helping behind-the-scenes with the book launch of New Erotica for Feminists, a humor book written by Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Davis, and Carrie Wittmer—the editors of The Belladonna Comedy! Everyone in NYC should come to the book launch at Books are Magic on Friday, November 16th. 

Name one thing that your hometown city is known for that some people may not know

Buffalo has a small but strong lit scene! Peach Mag is a really cool online lit mag run out of Buffalo and founded by Rachelle Toarmino, a poet who is a native of Niagara Falls. The Just Buffalo Literary Center hosts a lot of reading events, and free youth workshops. Overall, I think Buffalo is an underrated place to be for emerging artists.

What would the “18-year old you,” say to you today?

“Don’t forget the joy in what you do! You write because you love it, even when it is hard work.” Also, probably, “woah cool, you have a dog now!!!” 

Before you go, what is one piece of advice you would give to women out there who are looking to create a life that revolves around their true purpose, and possibly write and publish their own book? 

One of the most important things is finding out what lifestyle and approach is going to be best for you to pursue your goals! There are a lot of myths around writing and this vision of a tortured artist who spends all day in an attic pounding on a typewriter and channeling their muse, but a lot of the time writing is something that (luckily!) you can fit around the rest of your life. There are successful published authors who have families, other full-time jobs, different life commitments, so don’t feel like you need to quit a job or move to the middle of nowhere to write a book. While I am thankful to have more time dedicated to writing right now, some of my best work was done at the coffee shop at 6 am before heading into an office. Sometimes it takes trial and error, but figure out the conditions in which you can be the most productive. If you’re not financially, mentally, and physically healthy in a way that allows you to pursue your true passion, then you won’t be able to have good output! Also, write what you want to read, don’t  just write what you assume other people will want to read!

Fave 7:

  • Summer activity: Dog park with my pooch, Drake!
  • Restaurant in your neighborhood: Tacos Lokos 4ever – a breakfast taco window in the back of a bar 
  • Podcast: Call Your Girlfriend with Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
  • Lipstick: Schiap by Nars
  • Color: rose gold
  • Social Media App: GoodReads
  • Disney movie: Hercules is an underrated gem, Megara is a badass who grapples with her desire for independence and what it means to be a strong and independent woman in love!!!!

Random 7:

  • If you won $20 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with that money? Buy a house in the hills of Tuscany, and run a fully-funded writing workshop/retreat for underrepresented voices (with tons of homemade pasta and wine…) 
  • How would you describe your best friend in 3 words? Hilarious, supportive, driven
  • What is the last good book that you’ve read? The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
  • What is the best concert that you’ve been to? Kesha’s Rainbow tour
  • Number one travel destination in the world that you would like to visit? 
  • Who is your current celebrity crush? Lakeith Stanfield is an absolute dreeeeam boat, and I love the work that he is in (Get Out, Atlanta, Sorry to Bother You). His partner Xosha Roquemore is also gorgeous and hilarious, so maybe I’d just date them both? 
  • 3 things on your bucket list? Publish a novel, be on Wheel of Fortune, visit all 50 states