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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. 

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH TYRESE COLEMAN

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

My first writing memory for fun was actually in response to an assignment in kindergarten. I wrote a book called Shirley’s Blocks, titled after my Aunt Shirley, about a girl who really wanted a particular set of blocks, but was unable to have them. I remember creating the illustrations and dictating the story to my teacher (writing the whole story was a little too advance at five years old). I loved creating that book and it stuck with me throughout my life. My teacher submitted the book to a nationwide contest and I won a gold medal.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Well…generally, its about two to three, however a first draft can take me years because I edit as I write. So, but the time I am done with a first draft, the piece is pretty much complete. But this is for stories and essays. Check back in with me when I start something longer. I think that will be a different process entirely.

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

I don’t know if I have a favorite book, so my favorite book-of-the-moment would be An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I absolutely loved that book.

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

Figuring out how to say what I see in my head. And then, figuring out how to say it in a way that no one else has said before. Its challenging, but when you get it right, it feels so good.

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

A friend of mine pointed out that I use the word “slick” a lot. I think subconsciously, it’s a favorite word of mine. I’ve used it in pretty much everything I’ve written without even realizing it.

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

I hear “raven” and I automatically think Baltimore Ravens. The Baltimore Ravens are like a writing desk because I am not fan of either one of them. The NFL is trash (yeah, I said it!).

~

Slick is an excellent word, and you are an excellent writer, Tyrese.

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

 

Tyrese Coleman

Tyresecoleman.com

Writer of the forthcoming collection, How to Sit, from Mason Jar Press.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DAN BRADY

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

I started writing comic books in third grade after taking an illustration class over summer break. I love creating cliff-hanger endings for each issue and trying to come up with witty dialogue between my heroes and villains. I still have a bunch of them in my basement.

  1. How many drafts = done?

It varies but the average is probably around 10. That’s usually one solid first draft and then loads of tinkering with the tiny pieces to see where they fit best.

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

Favorite book of all time is Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires. For poetry, my book of the moment is Catie Rosemurgy’s new Bloof chapbook called First the Burning. I also just finished Tommy Orange’s There There, which is some of the best fiction I’ve read in a long time.

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

I love that poetry—both writing and reading it—helps me understand myself and the world better. My favorite poems are very generous in the way the interpret the world and they’re always showing me new things to be grateful for and excited about. Each poem is a new way to open one’s eyes.

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

I’ve always loved the word “autumnal.” I love the fall with its crisp weather, changing colors, and sense of fleetingness. I like that “autumnal” has a quality of allusion to it. It’s not autumn, but it’s like autumn or representative of autumn. In stories and poems and songs, I like when it feels like something is sadly coming to an end but is not quite ended yet. That’s autumnal.

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

A raven is like a writing desk because they’re both harbingers of death, metaphorically at least.

~

I would LOVE to see some of your 3rd-grade comic books, Dan. That would be amazing.

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

Dan Brady
http://www.danbrady.org
Author of the poetry collection Strange Children (Publishing Genius, 2018), and two chapbooks. Poetry Editor of Barrelhouse. Lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two kids.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH GRANT GOODMAN

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

The title of the story was Super Spider. Get this: it was about a talking spider who had super powers. He lived in a world full of other talking bugs who needed an awful lot of saving. This was in third grade and it is pretty clear that my interests have basically stayed the same, no matter how old I get.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Ugh. Let’s see. There’s the very first draft (“filling the sandbox with sand”) that no one gets to see. The second draft (“getting rid of unnecessary sand”). Probably a third draft (“building basic sand castles”). The third draft goes to my editor and some beta readers. Once those come back, it goes through at least two more drafts before I’m ready to send it out into the world.

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

Let’s try this “living in the moment” thing that everyone’s talking about. In June, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness hooked me. I did not want to put it down at all. The main character lives on a planet where a chemical agent made it so that everyone can hear the thoughts all men and animals…and it killed all of the women. Definitely meant for older teen readers.

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

I love dreaming up new worlds full of magic and tech. My creativity is definitely my super power, so when I get to use it at maximum force, I really feel like I’m in my element. You know how Aang sometimes enters the Avatar the state and he feels unstoppable? It’s like that.

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

Currently, my favorite words are “You’re welcome.” I am SO behind the times here, but I saw Moana for the first time in July and loved it. Ever since, I’ve been playing the song, “You’re Welcome” each morning. It makes me smile.

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

Both of them would be terrible ice cream flavors.

~

Ha, they WOULD both be terrible ice cream flavors, you’re right. Love that.

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

Grant Goodman
www.GrantGoodmanBooks.com
Author of the Agent Darcy & Ninja Steve book series.

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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!