What is your first memory of writing for fun?

In high-school AP English we students were supplied a weekly list of challenging vocabulary words. The assignment was to write a short story that incorporated all of the words. Students were allotted extra credit if we read our stories aloud to the class. My teacher finally allowed me and three friends, to make it a group activity because our collective storytelling became so extravagant; long, absurd jests and satires. We would spend all of 7th period art class distracted, pouring over these narratives to submit the following day. I remember one specific fanciful plot-line about a pirate with no legs and two hook hands who dragged his body, using said hook hands, to the top of Mount Zion during the war of the clones. I remember taking such smug, satisfaction in reading this stories aloud for some reason—the confused looks on classmate’s faces while delivering these weekly oddities. I stow these writings on loose-leaf paper fondly in a manila folder, like other precious documents, under my bed.

How many drafts = done?

Hmm… two? Three? One thousand? Sometimes I can read and reread a story dozens of times and continuously find a sentence to tweak or a word that better fits a sentence. And sometimes there is exquisite beauty in unedited verbiage that flows out of me like a summer garden hose and it’s one and done.

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

After taking a long, quiet survey of my bookshelf I will nominate The Philosophy of Andy Warhol as my favorite. A friend recommended this book to me in college and I’ve reread it since then several times. It always brings me peace. It makes the world around me feel promptly in order. Andy has a way about him that I just can’t argue with. While I’m reading his writing, I simultaneously feel like he is reading my thoughts. I highly identify with his demureness, peculiarity, whimsy, and muses at what it is to be human and our private idiosyncrasies.

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

The only thing better than having an anecdote effortlessly rush through my fingertips is coming back to something that was written on the fly, one week, a month, or even a year later, and still really enjoying whatever it was that belched its way out of me via flurried, sporadic enthusiasm.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

I sat through a lecture this summer at National Geographic, where I work, and listened to a geologist speak to a theory based on mysterious shadow that’s been cast on Mars. I became enamored with the language she used. There is something very poetic, sensual, and earthy about scientific language, something that transcends the senses. I collected a short list of words/phrases that phonetically soothed me as she spoke: Noachian, seasons of mars, salmon moons, silica, zirconium, proxy, hydrology, amphibian, etc.

Bonus question: what literary character do you think would come across as really appealing and not appealing on an online dating profile? Think about what they would write about themselves online (would Mr. Darcy write nice things about himself?).

While Henry Miller uses himself as a protagonist in his novels, I think I would pause on his profile for a long while before making a cringing left-swipe. I would expect him to have a very limited, if not nonexistent bio, but hundreds of bands or Spotify interests instead. He would have one stellar cover photo, very hip, sitting before a typewriter. The rest of his photos would be vague, blurry, with poor lighting in dim bars, or distant surfing shots. Would make one question the artistic integrity of the photos: whether avant-garde or simply unflattering crop jobs. Wholly, his profile would carry the essence of someone who frequently sleeps on sullied couches or lives out of a van. My loins would urge me, sweating, to swipe right, just to see, just to dash a single toe over a craggy line dragged through wet pavement with a rusty pocket knife, to take a whiff of danger. However, my logical brain would soon come rushing in screaming “Swipe left! Swipe left!”, reminding me of that one ex who slept with dishware under his bed and how unpleasant that experience was.


Come out and see Nicki read on Tuesday, December 11th – here’s the facebook event!


Nicki Avena was born and raised in the woody tangles of the sunshine state. She moved from Florida to Washington, D.C. in 2014. Nicki is a practiced economist with her time. While the sun rules overhead, Nicki works in downtown DC as a graphic designer. Moonlighting as a fine artist, she diligently nurtures personal, creative projects, including writing and painting, inspired the foibles of the human journey. Additionally, she finds theories of intuition, anthropology, and the curious habits of plant life titillating. She is fascinated by the natural world and feels most comfortable beneath the open sky.

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