5 Burning Questions with Cameron MacKenzie

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Cameron MacKenzie read for us 2019 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

I’ve been grading too much, putting my English classes online, editing friends’ work, and otherwise taking care of my kids. My wife and I have a decent homeschool schedule going for our 2 year old and 6 year old. I’d say we’re doing OK. We’re lucky.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’m hip-deep into a novel about independent housing contractors and the MS-13 gang in Northern Virginia circa 2002. I was working in construction in NoVa then, and I could see how the gang had begun to infiltrate the hispanic community. With all the dynamics of race and class that situation brought about, it started to feel like a story I had to tell. It’s tough to get it right, though. I’m trying.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

Tie between Hard Rain Falling (Don Carpenter), and The Autumn of the Patriarch (Marquez).

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Incredibly generous. The city is growing rapidly, so a lot of new voices are coming in every year. We’ve also got Hollins University nearby, and the mountains are dotted with amazing writers that not enough people know about, like Mary Crockett Hill and Evan Lavender Smith. I’m finding that folks are very excited to work together to help one another succeed, and it feels like we’ve begun to make this community something really special.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Knowing other writers is absolutely essential to your own success. This means you need to be a good listener, a good reader, and a generous person. Go to open mics and other events and try to meet people. Be honest about who you are and what you do and what you want to do–you will find people are more receptive than you might imagine. Volunteer in whatever way feels natural. The effort you put towards helping others in their work will be repaid tenfold.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

In a single day I cycle through this entire list about three times.


Cameron’s work has appeared or will soon appear in J Journal, Salmagundi, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Cutbank, and The Rumpus, among other places. His novel The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career (MadHat Press), chronicling the rise to power of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, was published in 2018. His collection of essays, Badiou and American Modernist Poetics (Palgrave Macmillan) was also published in 2018.

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