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5 Burning Questions with Kristina Gaddy

Kristina Gaddy is one of our featured writers at our March 10th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

At some point in my precocious childhood, sitting around with a notebook writing who knows what, thinking I was fancy.

How many drafts = done?

As many as it takes. I’m a fast writer (and I love writing), and a slow editor (and I like it much less than writing).

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

My favorite book of the moment is Jane Alison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative. I really enjoy analyzing structure in storytelling, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, writing or film/TV. Alison goes deep in mostly fiction to explore non-traditional structure, suggesting that we don’t always have to have the “narrative arc” we’ve been told we need.

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

I love sharing fascinating stories that people don’t know about, but should! In history, we often get limited narratives, or people just think it’s boring because it’s already happened, but I want the new, the innovative, the motivating in history. I think there’s always new stuff to learn and share with writing about history.

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

Hmmm…. I don’t think I have a favorite work. I do tend to overuse obviously, if that counts.

Bonus question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

All the people, alive or dead, who aren’t getting credit for the awesome sh*t they do.

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Kristina Gaddy is the author of Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis (Dutton 2020). She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and her writing has appeared in local and national publications including The Washington PostBaltimore magazine, OZYBitch online, and Narratively. She’s currently working on her second book, Well of Souls: Searching for the Banjo’s Lost History. 

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5 Burning Questions with Barbara Perez Marquez

Barbara Perez Marquez is one of our featured writers at our March 10th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

The story on my bio is probably it, before then I wasn’t much of a reader or a writer, but that student collection was a whim entry and it led to a printed anthology. Holding it and realizing that there was this way to spread the reach of our feelings was a life changer.

How many drafts = done?

I usually sit somewhere between 3 to 5. It’s less so about the amount of drafts meaning any progress and more so about “how many times did I reread and refine in a way that hindered the actual progress of it.” It’s a slippery slope to make sure you are actually writing and not just carving at the same section over and over again.

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

All time favorite would be “Tell Me What You See” by Zoran Drvenkar, I’ll recommend that book for as long as anyone lets me. Currently, I am working through “How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse” by K. Eason.

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

One of the more astonishing things about writing is that often we create things very close to our heart, not just to share ourselves, but also to connect with readers. The ability of a piece of writing to reach beyond words and relate to others is a wonderful experience.

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

“Vaina” – Probably the most multipurpose word in the Dominican vocabulary, translates roughly to “thing”, used in a variety of ways to signal to something that you either cannot recall exactly or don’t know for certain. The word is also the word for the fruit born by the Inga tree, those rattling bits that shake in the Summer breeze on trees.

Bonus question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

Growing up I was surrounded by Latin-American literature, so I grew up looking up to Salomé Ureña, both as a person and as a poet. A lot of my writing was also influenced by the works of Gabriel García Márquez. I urge those looking to expand their bookshelves to look into their work and other Latin-American creators!

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Barbara Perez Marquez was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. She writes short stories and fiction, usually using coming of age and LGBTQ themes in her work. During her career, she has also been an editor for several publications and projects. Her work was first featured in a student collection in the 7th grade, the same year she decided she wanted to be a writer. Since then, she’s been featured in Manhattanville College’s Graffiti and Tinta Extinta. Her latest work, The Cardboard Kingdom, is a graphic novel about a neighborhood of kids having a summer adventure and is out now from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books. Book two, The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast, is due out in 2021. Barbara lives in Baltimore, MD with her fiance and their dog, Eliot.

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5 Burning Questions With Donald Illich

Donald Illich is one of our featured writers at our March 10th reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I was about seven, and I recall writing a story about exploring under the Earth, meeting monsters and other creatures.  I don’t remember for sure if I drew pictures to go along with the story.  Where I found the idea for it, I don’t know, unless maybe comic books or a show on TV.  But I do believe it was around the time when I first became interested in books and libraries.

How many drafts = done?

It varies.  A lot of poems are finished after one or two revisions, sometimes only cosmetic changes.  I write a lot, and I always hope lightning strikes that way.  Some poems, though, require me to workshop them or find help from a good editor, along with further revisions on my side.  I’m don’t think there is any hard or fast rule.

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

My favorite book-of-the-moment is Wallace Stevens’ “Collected Poems.”  I can open it to any page and find something interesting and often bizarre.  It feeds my writing, even if I don’t have any idea what Stevens is talking about.  Sometimes that’s the same with Ashbery, though less often.

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

I like fooling around with words.  When I get a phrase or line that sounds right/musical, that’s a big joy, especially when it results in a twist ending or ending that clicks just right.

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

I think I use the word “want” a lot in my poems, along with “sky.”  “Want” appeals because I like “desire,” which keeps every human life going.  “Sky” is omnipresent in our lives and is where the moon is located.  Why wouldn’t any poet not be interested?

Bonus question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

Rilke inspires me.  It’s impossible to reach his standard, but I guess I can use him as my patron saint of poetry.  Probably that is true of a lot of people.

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Donald Illich has published a poetry collection, “Chance Bodies,” and a chapbook, “The Art of Dissolving.”  His work has appeared in “The Iowa Review,” “Fourteen Hills,” “Poet Lore,” “Map Literary,” and “Nimrod,” along with several other journals.  He lives in Rockville, Maryland, where he works as a technical writer for the government.

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5 Burning Questions with Erika Franz

Erika Franz is one of our featured writers at our February 11th reading. Check out our interview with hers below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I definitely did some David Eddings inspired fantasy stuff in junior high that I remember—not the sort of text I am proud to be inspired by, but that’s as an adult looking back. I found some much older Sci-Fi stuff when my mom sent me a bunch of my old files a few years ago. It included a rather sweet story about humans returning to Earth with new alien friends they picked up along the way. I’m afraid I didn’t stick with it long enough to get to a rising incident, though, so not sure where the conflict was going to come from. In AP English Comp, I first learned to enjoy challenge particular of writing non-fiction.

How many drafts = done?

Oh boy. If I figure that out, I will let you know. It doesn’t equal a specific number for me, though. Fewer drafts go into a flash piece, in general, because I generally have already figured out what I am writing. Longer pieces necessitate more drafts, though really long pieces get a lot of work along the way.

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

I am still pretty high of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg. Probably my favorite read of the last decade or two. I don’t read in one genre exclusively, but I like books that can use historical materials well, and accurately allow that Queer people of every stripe existed before we had all of the modern terminology for our respective identities. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks does that really well, too.

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

I’m fascinated by narrative power. Especially in a country where we have collectively built an identify that is largely based false narratives we have mythologized, I think the diversity in our narratives is so important in legitimately healing this country and pulling us back from the precipice we’re living on right now. At least, I hope that we can still achieve that. Maybe that isn’t what excites me, but what compels me or gives me purpose.

 

What excites me is probably seeing a through-line emerge in historical research where a what-if can be inserted that makes us think about what we know about history and how we know it can be at odds with each other. Trained historians know this, obviously, but a lot of mainstream historical knowledge is either mythologized or antiquated or written for political control of a population and without any reference to what the diversity of primary sources reveal about the past. I like getting to suggest those conflicts, playing with how history gets disseminated or how things actually were in contrast to the myths and assumptions. And it isn’t always historical material, but a through line from one piece of an idea that connects to another piece of an idea that, ultimately, becomes a story.

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

Ooh. This is hard. I like words for different reasons. Some I like specifically because of how they sound when I say them: gazebo. Some I like because they have an onomatopoeic sound aligns with their meaning: defenestrate. Some I like because they have so many meanings attached to them—this isn’t the best example, but it is the best one I can come up with for the moment: sure. (Have you ever received sure in a text, divorced from facial expressions, and tried to deduce how it is being used?) Some I like because of the word’s history: augur.

Bonus question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

I love Alexander Chee. I do my best to model myself as a literary citizen on him and his graciousness with others and with both the literary community and the LGBTQ+ community (to say nothing of the Korean-American and extended immigrant community).

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Erika Franz (s/he, hi/hers) is a queer author living in Baltimore with an amazing wife and fluffy pets. Erika’s fiction has been published in the The First Line, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. Find Erika on the internet at www.erikafranz.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @ETFranz.

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5 Burning Questions with Mathangi Subramanian

Mathangi Subramanian is one of our featured writers at our February 11th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

When I was five, maybe six years old, my mother went back-to-school shopping at Sam’s Club in Madison Wisconsin and got a huge, shrink-wrapped pack of spiral notebooks. She gave me one to “play with” and I started writing stories. Most of my characters back then were White – I didn’t realize you could write stories about people of color, because I hadn’t read any.

How many drafts = done?

Done? What does done mean?

I’ve never counted, but really, even after I turn in copyedits, I think of a million things I could have done differently. I consider something done when the changes I’m making are small, nit-picky things, like word choice and comma placement, rather than adding or deleting scenes. But I’m not sure if I ever really feel done.

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

Abandon Me by Melissa Febos for memoir, and Perla by Carolina deRobertis for fiction. (These are my books of the moment. I don’t know if I could ever choose a favorite!)

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

I love writing and reading books that allow characters to be their full, layered selves. Representation is so important to changing what is wrong with our culture, and allowing everyone to live and breathe in all of their identities is essential. I like creating stories that do that, that give us all a little more space to fearlessly be ourselves.

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

My daughter is four so I read a lot of picture books. Lately, I’ve been really into onomatopoeia just because it’s so much fun: nothing livens up a story like a good “kachunk” or “splat.” Thanks to preschool science, I’ve also gotten into cloud names – cumulus, cirrus, status, they’re all so poetic and so perfectly correct for the cloud they describe. My daughter is also really into inventing words – she’ll say something and then asks me if the word exists, and if it doesn’t, I’ll tell her to make up the definition. It’s my new favorite game.

Bonus Question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

My friends in India who are out in the streets right now protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act in India. It’s a terrible, Islamophobic, casteist law, and some of my dearest ones are writing and marching and risking their lives and safety to protest. I admire them, and I wish I was there with them.

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Mathangi Subramanian is an award winning Indian American writer based in San Jose. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Award and named a Skipping Stones Honor Book. Her middle grades book Dear Mrs. Naidu won the South Asia Book Award and was shortlisted for the Hindu-Goodbooks prize. Her essays and op-eds have appeared in The Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, Ms. Magazine, and Zora Magazine, among others. A former Fulbright Scholar, public school teacher, and senior policy analyst at the New York City Council, she holds a doctorate in communication and education from Columbia University Teachers College. 

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5 Burning Questions with BobbiRush

BobbiRush is one of our featured writers at our February 11th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

The first thing that comes to mind, I’m already blushing and shaking my head at myself. I had to have been 6 or 7 years old when i decided to write a love letter to the keyboard player of my church. We called him brother Marcel. The letter never made it to him. It was taken by my aunt Sylvia. I will never forget that I’ve done that. I’ve always enjoyed love letters.

How many drafts = done?

I’d say at least 3 drafts equals done, to me. After you’ve made a mess with lines and arrows , directing the the flow of your words for a good fit. Then it’s finished.  Maybe. Is anything ever really done ?

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

I have so many favorites, but my ultimate still, is Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange

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

What gets me most excited is that I can say whatever I want. I can share feelings and experiences. I enjoy the thought of writing possibly being taken too far.

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

I don’t think I’ve come across a favorite word just yet. Nothing gets me going like a good F bomb. I’ve not quite fallen in love with a word , more than I’ve fallen for the way words in general are used. Hopefully soon a word will find me.

Bonus Question: who inspires you the most, living or dead, real or fictional?

My mother has been inspiring me more in her living death than ever before. She’s always someone I think on. She was a fighter. She was a believer. She did everything she wanted to do. She created the life she wanted for herself. Even living with kidney failure, she created.
After my mother there is Ntozake Shange. She’s a sound, a taste and a movement. She is the woman who reminds me of a woman I’ve always known and been with. I just love them.
Be Good.

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BobbiRush is a writer from Baltimore, Maryland. She’s been writing for 12 years of her life. She turned to journaling at the age of 15 to help cope with the death of her Mother. She had no idea she was nurturing a true passion. Bobbi created The BlueFaceProject, a home base for the writing she produces via her WordPress site. She’s a self published author of 2 books. ‘Words (Feeling… Feelings) , which speaks for someone who’s ready to understand themselves and the world around them. A book filled with self talk, poetry and prose. PUSSY, her ear catching, 2nd self published book is in the tone of a young woman who’s been speaking her self into existence. Bobbi has written for local Baltimore publications such as Tortilla Gurl, BMore Art and True Laurels. She has the many voices of black women writers for 5 years and hopes to keep nurturing her own personal language. Bobbiblueface.wordpress.com 

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5 Burning Questions with Jalynn Harris

Jalynn Harris is one of our featured writers at our December 10th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I was a super private kid. I started keeping a journal around the age of 7. 50 journals later and I realize I’ve being doing a longitudinal study on myself. I love research. The first journal I remember was bright pink with a feather glitter pen. I loved sitting in my purple room tattling to the page about my brothers and our pinecone fights or bragging about the igloo we made winter of 2002.

How many drafts = done?

Text is living. And, as the writer, I don’t think I have the say on if something is done. I feel like that’s the job of the editor or classmate or friend who has exhausted the “what does that line even mean” question.

I have such a hard time with re-vision b/c it’s the only time I’m not in a state of meditation when my writing. The first drafts generally happen in trance, totally focused on getting the sounds and shapes in the right order before 11:59 when my submission is due (I’m in grad school). Each poem deserves two things: 1) heavy revision while it’s being written and 2) significant time apart from me.

If I come back and it feels true and exact, then I’ll say it’s “done”. But writing is living and the process is way more important than the product.

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

Two phenomenal books from this past month of reading: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Alison Bechdel’s the Essential Dykes to Watch Out for

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

I’m always fascinated by the magic of poetic process. There’s always that moment when I first sit down and I’m like: can I do this again? But once I follow the string of whatever image, sound, or feeling I am meditating on, then the poem writes itself.

It’s the poem writing itself that both freaks me out and excites me. A few weeks ago, I was working on a piece and had two word docs open. I’d pulled all the words I liked from the 1st word doc into the 2nd. I was furiously writing in the 2nd word doc and it just was not coming together so I stopped. When I looked up, I read the words left in the 1st word doc and it was obvious that the poem was actually right there. I was like, “woah, uh, where’d that come from?” That’s what I mean by the poem writing itself. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking credit for my work b.c so many moments like that happen to me.

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

The other day I was reading a note in my journal that said: All words are big words. I don’t know if I heard that somewhere or if it came from some part in my brain but it’s true: I like big words. I like all words.

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Jalynn Harris is the winner of the 2019 Enoch Pratt Free Library Poetry Contest. A Baltimore native, she is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Baltimore where she is the inaugural recipient of the Michael F. Klein Fellowship for Social Justice. She is also the founder of SoftSavagePress— a press dedicated to promoting works by Black people. Her work has appeared in Transition, Gordon Square Review, Super Stoked Words, Scalawag Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, and BmoreArt