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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH VICTORIA KENNEDY

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

The first thing I wrote of any substance (and for fun) was a long form poem in the 8th grade. It was for history class and I wrote about the Middle Passage. What made it fun was seeing my ideas take shape so quickly, the words flowing from me with hardly any effort.

  1. How many drafts = done?

The number of drafts varies with each project. I’ve finished some in two or three and others, like my current WIP, have required more. I’m on number four and counting.

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

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is the most memorable, but Indigo by Beverly Jenkins is a close second. They both demonstrate love in a time when survival was paramount.

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

The endless possibilities. There are so many variations on the theme of Black Love, the very idea of crafting a new story fills me with enthusiasm and hope. I always hope I get it right and that it will be authentic and well-received.

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

I’m attracted to the assonance of “s” words. (or maybe that’s consonance). I think they are sexy, when read out loud and translate well in love stories.

Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?  

I’d say both Ravens and writing desks are ravagers, consuming everything you feed them: paper, words, scraps, and ideas.

~

Love that raven/writing desk comparison! The real answer is that this is a nonsense question posed in Alice in Wonderland, but I am very impressed that all of our July readers managed to out-nonsense Lewis Carroll.

Come out to Writers & Words next month, July 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Melissa and the rest of our awesome lineup! Click here to see the facebook event!

Victoria Kennedy is a Baltimore-based writer whose stories range from fun and romantic to insightful explorations of cultural and societal challenges. Sometimes all these elements are combined to create stories of Black love and woe. Victoria’s work is included in The Dating Game anthology and the self-published collection, Where Love Goes, which includes “The Uninvited Guest,” adapted into an eponymous stage play. Her debut novel, Sometimes Love was published by Brown Girls Books. Learn more about Victoria on her website here

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH MELISSA BROOKS-CUFFEE

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

This is a tough question. I don’t really associate writing with fun. It’s more of an inner battle between my outside self, my inside self, and the rest of the world. That probably sounds awful, but it’s true, for me anyway.

I do have a memory from middle school that sticks out in my mind though. There was a story I had written about an angsty teenager who was trying to solve a murder (in case you’re wondering, the stepfather did it). I didn’t have a computer then, so I’d written everything by hand and stapled sections of the story together. My peers passed those pages around until they were ragged and were anxious to get from one part to the next. I remember when I finished it, I was so excited that I called my best friend, not realizing it was well past the average bedtime for an eleven-year-old. I can still hear her father asking me if I realized the time.

Anyway, it’s not necessarily the writing that brings me joy or feels fun. It’s putting those words into the hands of the readers. That is a feeling like no other.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Light theory suggests that if you add 2 to 4,000,075 and divide the uncommon denominator by the hypotenuse of 17 triangles you’d still never get an accurate answer to this question.

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

Right now I am reading The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton.

I was spending a lazy Sunday on Facebook when I came across an interview Mr. Hinton did with Oprah. I was immediately drawn to his story. He reminded me of my father. Maybe it was the salt and pepper beard and mustache or the way he spoke with so much love for his mother. It could have been his smooth brown skin, the cadence of his voice, or the light in his eyes, but in him I saw my father. And because of that, I could see my brothers and my sons. I knew that his story wasn’t just his story; it’s the story of all the men I love. It’s a story the highlights the importance of mothers. It’s a story of friendship. Of purpose. Of unconditional love. It’s a story everyone should read.

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

I think I answered this a little in the question about fun. I get excited about finishing and sharing my work. Having my work in the hands of a reader–it’s such a gift to be invited into someone’s home and heart in that way.

Have you ever read something that makes you question what you used to believe? Or maybe it’s made you think, “Wow, me too.” Have you ever had a book affect you so much that days after you finish, you’re still thinking of it?

It’s exciting and gratifying to know that someone may have that kind of a soul connection with something I’ve written.

I also get excited about helping my fellow writers reach that point. It can be hard to navigate the tricky feelings that come along with the refinement of a story. Helping others navigate those murky waters to uncover their vision and to reach completion is a beautiful thing. I know how amazing it feels to make that breakthrough. To share that moment with a fellow writer is awesome.

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

Love. Because it’s the root of everything good.

Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?  

They both speak to you in a language you don’t know but somehow understand.

~

I’m with you on LOVE, Melissa. I also LOVE your description of writing – “inner battle between my outside self, my inside self, and the rest of the world.”

Come out to Writers & Words next month, July 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Melissa and the rest of our awesome lineup! 

Melissa Brooks-Cuffee holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. To pay the bills she’s worked as a blog writer, social media manager, website designer, and telephone operator (next door to a hospital morgue).

Her essays have appeared in Skelter and Plorkology: Stories, Poems, and Essays.

She shares her heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny stories with readers in hopes that they’ll walk away feeling less alone and more comfortable in the skin they’re in. She is currently working on the follow up to her debut memoir collection, [/brāk-iNG/], which can be purchased at www.melissabrookscuffee.com.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH TAVOR

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

I must have been six or seven years old. I was sitting under my desk in my bedroom with the coolest tiny notebook (I was, and am, still into notebooks) writing a fantasy story about a witch, and her broom, and their adventures. I still have that notebook tucked away in childhood home of Chicago. I must admit, I didn’t really grasp the concept of character development, but the plot was very clear.

  1. How many drafts = done?

I’m not entirely convinced that a song can ever be “done.” What’s the fun in that? The way I sing a song varies every time I pick up the guitar, always looking for a stronger way to convey meaning. In songwriting, when I look at the words I’ve pieced together and the story or emotion I was attempting to portray, and I think to myself “there it is…” Well, that’s as close to finished as I’ll ever be. There was a song that I finished years ago, performed hundreds of times, and was completely happy with, it’s called “When the Rain Arrives.” As I was playing it a few weeks ago, I heard new words come out of my mouth to replace an old line. It wasn’t intentional or planned, but the improvised moment of creativity made me realize that what the song meant to me was entirely different now than it had been a few years ago. What I love about music is that it transforms with you and sometimes without you realizing it. It’s finished, but it continues to change.

  1. What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?
  1. What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

Performing and rehearsing are entirely different animals. I love the discovery that happens while I practice a song, finding ways to challenge my muscle memory, feeling safe to make terrible vocal mistakes. But performing is an altogether different beast. I am at my most vulnerable and passionate while performing and it’s the greatest cathartic exercise I’ve ever found. Unlike in practice, I hold nothing back on stage—mistakes and all. It feels amazing. It feels like such a true version of myself that I’m unable to express in normal situations.

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

Honestly, I have no idea. But my favorite chords are E and AM, especially when paired up. There’s a darkness to the major E and a hopefulness to the minor A that connects to something deep inside of me.

Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?  

Ravens are symbolic of change, prophecy, sometimes bad luck. At least at my writing desk, all of those things can be true, too.

~

Darkness/hopefulness, what more could you want? I hope you play some of these chords for us next month.

Come out to Writers & Words next month, July 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Tavor and the rest of our awesome lineup! 

Tavor is a folk and dirty-blues singer songwriter, based in Baltimore. Her fearless bluesy vocals and edgy lyrics illuminate the trials and triumphs of the everyday and the never-ending search for more.

Check out Tavor’s music here!

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JULIA FRIEDRICH

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

Fun? My first memory of writing was just feeling sad about a boy and inserting line breaks into my feelings. Behold: a poem. I still do this by the way.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Usually, as soon as I finish the poem I’ll call it done! Then, six months later I re-read it, I say fuck, and then I am never done with revisions. Never. It’s why I haven’t published yet. I think of my writing as painting and I keep wanting to add touch-ups and it drives me insane and takes up all of my time when I get absorbed. Right now? I just want to write more than publish. But, uh, this girl wants to go to get her Ph.D. in Poetry so it’s time to suck it up and publish and make that CV say “now go ahead and you just look at me.”

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

All right. Book of the moment. Anyone who knows me is going to laugh because I’m obsessed with The X-Files, but I’ve been reading Miss Subways by David Duchovny, and actually, I love it! Sidenote, we should all remember that in addition to being Fox Mulder, Duchovny went to Princeton and studied literature at Yale (didn’t finish his Ph.D.) and this is his third book. And he wanted to be a poet and novelist first before the acting career!

But, is my copy signed by Duchovny? Yes. Did I sniff the Sharpied autograph when I received the book and was it still fresh enough to smell? Oh…oh, yes it was.

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

Bit of an intro is necessary here: I think television and pop culture is having an amazing and frankly literary moment. The stuff that’s out there is so good–Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mad Men, and Bojack Horseman (yes, I’ll fight you on that one in particular if you disagree).

But, especially for me it’s all about Black Mirror. I love writing contemporary pop culture into my poems and I love writing about the virtual persona having lost its early internet anonymity (for the most part) and the invariable consequences of that, the differing content I put on different social media platforms, and instead of wondering if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it did it make a noise? Forget that. Now I write: if you didn’t digitally document it and no one noticed you–were you even there? That’s where I want my poetry to go.

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

My favorite word. Meanwhile.

I’m not telling you why. Meanwhile, I hope you kinda like some of my poems!

Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?  

Ravens understand the concept of revenge and spite and they won’t forget your face if you wrong them. I keep them on my desk.

~

Best answer to the raven vs writing desk question ever.

Come out to Writers & Words next month, July 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Julia and the rest of our awesome lineup! 

 

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DANA HARRIS

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

The pain of ripping my hair out in order to get started.

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

Toni Morrison

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

Don’t know: So hard to pick one, but okay…Lauren Groff

Do know: Baltimore’s own: The amazing Jen Michalski

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

Not being afraid to dig deeper into my characters thoughts and motives.

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

I always start out writing with pencil and paper. There’s something about the hand-mind connection. It helps me freewrite and keeps me from self-editing.

Bonus question: If you met Sean Connery, Divine, and the Olson Twins in a bar, whom would you talk to first and why?

Definitely Divine! He’d be the most bold, entertaining and hilarious, but also complex. He was never afraid to be vulnerable.

~

I’m with you on the pencil and paper method. Always my favorite way to start.

Come out to Writers & Words next week, June 12th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Dana and the rest of our awesome lineup! 

Dana Harris lives in Baltimore and teaches a discussion and writing program in prisons and after school programs. She is also Vice-Chair of the CityLit Project. In July, she begins the MFA in Creative Writing program at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. Some of her favorite things are making fig bourbon and body surfing. She lives with her faithful mutt Stella. 

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DANIELLE EVENNOU

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

Left-handed ink smudges.

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

I don’t drink, so it’d be coffee or tea. I’d go with Adrienne Rich. I got to see her read when I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University. I recall telling my creative writing professor at the time that it was like the Pope of Feminism had come to visit. Her passing is a terrible loss.

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

My favorite author that I don’t know personally is Jill Talbot. My favorite author that I know personally is Evie Shockley.

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

I wish that could correctly scansion iambic pentameter. (I think that the New Jersey accents I heard when I was growing may have something to do with my shortcomings in this area.)

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

I use my iPhone timer frequently when writing. For me, writing in a series of short, timed increments makes venturing into the unknown (or deeply personal) a little less scary. I also love writing in fast food restaurants. Chipotle is a solid standby, as is Shake Shack. Sometimes I go to Panera.

Bonus question: If you met Sean Connery, Divine, and the Olson Twins in a bar, whom would you talk to first and why?

The Olsen Twins! More specifically Mary-Kate. First, I would bum a smoke. Second, I would observe every detail of her ensemble and ask her a question about my favorite component. I watched Full House religiously as a kid and feel a deep connection to the Olsen Twins. If the conversation’s going well, I might try to convince Mary-Kate to do an episode of Fuller House.

~

I wish you all the luck in the world convincing Mary-Kate to do an episode of Fuller House. In this imagined scenario. Thank you, Danielle!

Come out to Writers & Words next month, June 12th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Danielle and the rest of our awesome lineup! 

Danielle Evennou is a writer who grew up in suburban New Jersey. For over a decade, she has kept herself busy by hosting poetry readings, workshops, and open mics in Washington, DC. Her poetry and memoir appear in apt, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dryland, and Split Lip Magazine. Her chapbook, DIFFICULT TRICK, is available from dancing girl press. With the help of therapy, she is learning how to calm the f*** down. Find out more about Danielle and her work at www.whatevennou.com.  

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH SHAUNNA JACKSON

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

Deciding what to write about next.

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

Beverly Jenkins.

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

Sidney Sheldon/Danielle Steele.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

NA

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

Not expecting the first draft to be great.

Bonus question: What kind or creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I have a set time to write each day. I usually turn on music that will inspire me for the project on which I am writing; gospel, jazz, slow jams, etc., but if I don’t need the inspiration and am ready to flow, jazz is my go-to background soundtrack.

~

I love jazz as a background soundtrack, I’ll have to try that. Thank you, Shaunna!

Come out to Writers & Words next month, June 12th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Shaunna and the rest of our kickin’ lineup! 

Shaunna earned a B.A. degree in Psychology and Social Welfare Services, and is completing her second term of service in AmeriCorps. She served 5 years as Parish Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, receiving the John Maxwell Million Leaders Mandate Certificate of Achievement in 2016, for exemplifying outstanding leadership by empowering, equipping and encouraging leaders.     Shaunna is the author of two published books, and is the owner of the blog, Occupy Purpose. She is a graphic designer and personal development coach. Many hats, one purpose; encouraging people to pursue passions and live a life of faith and purpose.