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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH NICKI AVENA

 

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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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ERIN DORNEY

 

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

In junior high my friend Leah and I had a notebook we would pass back and forth to each other between classes. One of us would start a story and the other one would finish it… mostly thinly-veiled fantasies involving our various jock crushes.

How many drafts = done?

I’m a fan of the “first thought, best thought” model. When I go through too many drafts I lose the thread of the poem.

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

I just finished The Folded Clock by

Heidi Julavits which I almost gave up on but wound up loving so, so much by the end.

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

Starting new projects.

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

I don’t find many individual words to be beautiful. I like “rutch” which is (apparently) a Pennsylvania Dutch word that means to move with a crunching or shuffling noise? It’s so fun to say, especially calling your dog a little rutcher.

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?).

Hmm I don’t know about an online dating profile but I would be HEAVILY into Elnora Comstock’s Instagram account and probably ask her on a date to explore the woods and gather beautiful moths from the Limberlost together.

___

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

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Erin Dorney is a writer and artist based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is one half of FEAR NO LIT and the author of “I Am Not Famous Anymore: Poems after Shia LaBeouf” (Mason Jar Press, 2018). Recent projects include “Cento Box” for Container’s Multitudes series & “The Hidden Museum, 2018”, a collaborative conceptual art installation on display at the Susquehanna Art Museum.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH LAURA GROTHAUS

 

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I was four or five. It was a small, illustrated book about a rabbit. By middle school, writing was both a pleasure and a panic.

How many drafts = done?

I’m constantly editing, and some of the pieces I’m working on now have been stewing for eight years or more. While editing, I’m interrogating the politics of the work, its form, and its diction. I love to see the ways in which a piece grows as I grow older. A poem is done when it feels both honest and necessary.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying writing prolifically, knowing that these scraps will be the ones I’m editing in a few years.

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

I just finished The Fifth Season, which is fabulous, and I’m currently working my way through In the Language of my Captor by Shane McCrae, Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed, and The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber.

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

It’s hard to choose what excites me most! Certainly, the poetry community fuels me. I recently went to an amazing workshop hosted by Winter Tangerine. I love emotion, experimentation, and raw language, and I love witnessing what other people create at every age. I’m also excited by how poetry collections can function like essays, where fragmented pieces become a way of exploring a thesis or a story.

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

Oiseau, the French word for bird, for how it feels in my mouth, gathering the air in a big ball then throwing it out. And I’m recently obsessed with the fact that ghost and guest come from the same root word.

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?).

Rumors say Persephone is a sensation on OkCupid, just another polyamorous bride of death who’s only available half the year.

___

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

~

Laura Grothaus is an artist and writer from Cincinnati. Her work has garnered nominations for the Pushcart Prize and awards ranging from Poetry in Pubs in Bath, England to the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival in Cary, North Carolina. She has partnered with musicians, activists, and theater artists and loves to teach intersectional storytelling to all ages. When she was five, she lit her hair on fire with her own birthday candles.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JOE COSTAL

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

The fame. Definitely. I mean, I try to stay a regular guy. I’m out, having a cheeseburger with my family this one time, and this young girl just keeps coming up to us, and it’s embarrassing. Fine…I asked for this lifestyle, sure. Gosh darn it, my kids are just kids.

So, finally, I’m like, “Miss, I’m out with my family…please leave us alone.”

Then she’s like, “Sir, I’m your waitress.”

She eventually went away.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

Capri Suns with Sun Tzu.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

I had the pleasure of meeting Celeste Ng and Tom Perrotta through the amazing GrubStreet in Boston, and I think they’re both geniuses. But they’re both so cool. So funny and sweet. I’m not half as talented, and I’m obnoxious.

I don’t know them personally. But I am privileged to know so many brilliant authors who manage to be beautiful artists and top-notch humans. I could name dozens who have shaped my wok and my life. But…Peter Murphy, Emari DiGiorgio and Sonya Larson, as stand-ins for the dozens of writers I have become friends with through them and the amazing work they do in our industry.

Oh, and Michelle Junot is pretty groovy.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

The writing part. I have always felt the writing itself is the only thing keeping me from being a great writer. I already own the clothes and the disposition.

  1. What kind or creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I try to express each scene I write through dance. Otherwise it’s just a lot of nail-biting and self-bullying.

Bonus question: if you were a can of something, what would you be?

Whoop ass. I want people all over the globe threatening to open ME.

~

A+ for can of whoop ass.

Come out to Writers & Words next week, TONIGHT, 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Joe and the rest of our awesome lineup! Click here to see the facebook event!

Joe Costal must be old-fashioned because he years for properly punctuated texts and non-tweeting Presidents. His writing has appeared in dozens of magazines and journals, most recently published by Barrelhouse, Quirk Books & The Maine Review. An excerpt from his unpublished novel is forthcoming in Painted Bride. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University. He recently presented a workshop on voice at Grub Street’s The Muse & Marketplace in Boston. He lives at the Jersey Shore with his four children.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DIANE POMERANTZ

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

Getting started…(and writing reports)

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

Joseph Campbell or Arthur Miller

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally?Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

Ursula Hegl & Jacquelyn Mitchard (respectivly).

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

Being spontaneously metaphorical

  1. What kind or creative rituals or patterns do you have?

Even though I use the computer to write I must have five sharpened pencils and a full pad of fresh paper when I start to write

Bonus question: if you were a can of something, what would you be?

I would be a can of baked beans.

~

Come out to Writers & Words next week, September 11th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Diane and the rest of our awesome lineup! Click here to see the facebook event!

Dr. Diane Pomerantz is a clinical psychologist who has been in practice working with children, adolescents, and adults in the Baltimore, Maryland area for over thirty-five years. She has done extensive work in the area of trauma and child abuse and research in the area of personality development of abused children. She currently runs Healing Through Writing groups in her practice. She is a breast cancer survivor and has two wonderful grown children. She and her shaggy dog, Rug, live amidst tall trees on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Recent publications: Lost in the Reflecting Pool: a memoir – She Writes Press. Recent awards: Readers Favorite Award; 4 categories – Human Relations Indie Awards; Foreword Review Indie Book Award; Book Excellence Award. She is is an expert blogger for Psychology Today, and has had her work published in Motherwell Magazine, Story Circle Journal and She Writes.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH CLYNTHIA BURTON GRAHAM

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

Holding a story inside until l can get to it, makes me a not nice person to be around until l get the bones down.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

Too hard to pinpoint one (sure you’ve heard that before 😊) Stephen King, J. California Cooper, and N. K. Jemisin are at the top of my list.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally?Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

The ones above and more. Do know: Victoria Adams Kennedy

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

Catching my mistakes in the first revision. Ha.ha.

  1. What kind or creative rituals or patterns do you have?

Anything visceral and paratactic. I read a lot of different styles, but that’s why I really love John Hawkes and Cormac. Their sentences are like the gold standard of sentences for me. It’s like you can almost eat their words.

Bonus question: if you were a can of something, what would you be?

Dr. Pepper. My sugary drug of choice.

~

Come out to Writers & Words next week, September 11th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Clynthia and the rest of our awesome lineup! Click here to see the facebook event!

Clynthia Burton Graham is a passionate fiction writer who explores emotional, impactful, and defining moments in the lives of people of color. Her inspiration has been honed through the years. From listening to her aunt’s, grandmothers, and mother while hiding under the kitchen table to slinking beneath the window of the neighborhood barber shop, to walking the streets of Baltimore conversing with the homeless to the elite, she has cultivated the art of storytelling in her prose. She is a MFA graduate from the Creative Writing & Publishing Arts Program at the University of Baltimore, where she resides. Her work has been recognized by the Maryland Writer’s Association, the Hurston/Wright Foundation and her short stories have appeared in Persimmon Tree Literary Magazine, Pilcrow & Dagger Literary Journal, Academy of the Heart and mind, Skelter, and others.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH M.K. RAINEY

  1. What is your first memory of writing for fun?

My first memories are really of writing. I learned to read very early and my grandmother gave me my first journal at age 5. I’ve been writing in journals ever since and have a trunk full of over 30 filled books in my apartment. Those early journals are really funny because they’re mostly drawings. Here’s an example (see photo at the bottom). One of my partner’s favorite things that I’ve written was an entry in one of my high school journals where I wrote, “The world is like a cigarette.” I’ve no idea what it means anymore, but I’m pretty sure I still believe that.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Hahahahahahahaha.

See the previously attached picture.*

* photo below

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

Hmmm. Favorite book is really hard. The Lime Twig by John Hawkes, Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, anything Robert Coover, or McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh are all up there. But I have a David Mitchell quote from Cloud Atlas tattooed on my arm, so probably that.

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

Oh man. Writing has always been the one time when my ego would disappear. The infinite spiral of anxiety, worry, depression, etc. that makes me up disappears when I write and I feel like I can breathe. It’s just me and the story. I chase that feeling.

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

Anything visceral and paratactic. I read a lot of different styles, but that’s why I really love John Hawkes and Cormac. Their sentences are like the gold standard of sentences for me. It’s like you can almost eat their words.

*Previously referred to photo:

IMG_3305

~

“I write and I feel like I can breathe.” – This. Right. Here. Thank you for sharing!

Come out to Writers & Words in a few weeks, August 14th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear M.K. Rainey and the rest of our awesome lineup! Click here to see the facebook event!

 

M.K. Rainey is a writer, teacher, and editor from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the winner of the 2017 Bechtel Prize at Teachers & Writers Magazine, the 2017 Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest and the 2018 Montana Award for Fiction from Whitefish Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Collagist, 3AM Magazine, Atticus Review, Fiction Southeast, and more. She co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and lives in Harlem with her dog. Sometimes she writes things the dog likes.