Interview with Karin Zirk by Lily Schultz
Dr. Zirk is a mythology enthusiast who has explored the connection between mythological trickster figures and literary archetypes. On January 21st, she will be teaching a class on the topic, called Generative Writing: Using Trickster Mythology to Create Change.
What first drew you to mythology?
As a teenager, Led Zeppelin brought the ancient myths thundering into my conciseness: the Viking conquerors of Immigrant Song and the blues of Willie Dixon. The ancient folk tales of England reimagined for a 20th century American teenager. I realized then that the old myths do not disappear but rather continuously perform in a way that captures the zeitgeist of the era.
What do you think is the strongest tie between writing and trickster characters?
Trickster disrupts old beliefs and creates space for new ideas. Deep, authentic writing takes not only the reader, but the writer as well, into new landscapes. Honoring Trickster energy can help our writing break through the hard packed soil and create space for seeds and weeds to sprout.
You have a Ph.D. in both Mythology and Depth Psychology – that’s amazing. Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us struggling with college?
Clarification – I have one Ph.D. that is in the field of “Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology”
As a full time student and caregiver with a full time job, I almost flunked out my first quarter of graduate school because I was trying to dazzle everyone. After that first quarter, I learned about “good enough.” Good enough was reading the last couple of paragraphs of each chapter in the assigned reading, the complete final chapter, and the table of contents while taking notes. Good enough papers were started as soon as they were assigned, even if all I did was take notes on my ideas and continue to develop them a little every week. Good enough was showing up to class each day, taking notes, and doing all the assignments. Good enough requires planning ahead.
What kind of process went into receiving the grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation?
I saw a notice in Poets & Writers about grants for writers who had not published a novel. The instructions were to send a SASE for further instructions. When I received the application, I filled it out and sent it in with the first chapter of my novel and the reason why I felt I deserved support. It pays to read the small print in great magazines.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Despite an overt focus on rational and logical thinking in our culture mythic narratives, images, and sounds are around us constantly and influence our daily lives, consciously or unconsciously. As writers, we have a special role to play in crystalizing beliefs and opinions from and for our communities. As Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote, “the Pen is Mightier than the Sword.”
Karin Zirk recently completed her Ph.D. in Mythology and Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute where her dissertation focused on using mythic artifacts to enhance well-being in family caregivers. She has received grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation for unpublished writers and her poetry, short stories, and scholarly articles have been published in small offbeat journals. She lives in San Diego and is deeply involved in protecting and restoring her local creek.
Lily Schultz is a high school junior volunteering with San Diego Writers, Ink. She enjoys writing, drawing, and video games, and runs a small blog on how to write injuries and fight scenes (http://blood-and-letters.tumblr.com/). She plans on going to college for interactive media design and turning her writing hobby into a career.