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Five Burning Questions with Joey Sheehan

WW-April2019

Joey Sheehan is one of our featured writers at our April 9 reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I don’t really know how to answer that except to say that writing is something I can identify with and can give context and articulation to my experiences and my vision of the world. I got into writing through rock and roll and I got into that through a history of abuse, a predilection towards drugs, and a sexually alternative lifestyle. I heard The Velvet Underground when I was 13 and that’s when life really began for me. Before that, I just felt like a monster instead of a misfit. From there, I found my way to William Burroughs, Jean Genet, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll. All that stuff.

What is your favorite genre to read, and is this also your favorite genre to write?

I read a lot and I write a lot. I had the opportunity to ask Patti Smith a couple years ago about the difference between writing as orgasm and writing as narrative when her second memoir, M Train, came out. She said it’s not all that different and that it’s just a matter of looking out for the punchline. I think I see what she’s saying. I keep a journal and would like to see more of my prose in print but writing prose is typically not as ecstatic as writing poetry is for me.

Describe your ideal writing situation.

The city is very important to me. I walked away from a very minor drug habit recently. I hadn’t done any drugs in many years and I found myself just gravitating toward it out of boredom and, I think, just to shake things up and find a new perspective in my writing. What else am I gonna do? Hang out at a yoga studio? A microbrewery? See some shit movie at the Parkway? That’s what Baltimore seems to be these days. If those are my options, I’d rather have drugs. The Baltimore I know and used to be a canvas for me to paint my poems onto is gone. All the spaces that had always felt like such a part of me are under occupation by the upwardly mobile. It’s creepy.

What is something you would love that your readers know about you as a writer?

Instead of drugs, I’m doing yoga now.

What is your most re-read book, if any, and why?

Instead of answering this question, I will name the books I am rereading most at the moment. Art in the Light of Conscience is a collection of poetic theory and criticism by the Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva. This book continues to be life-altering every time I pick it up. It also reminds me of the necessity for writing poetry in times of upheaval. I am not a revolutionary and don’t want to be a part of anybody’s hashtag utopia so to read Tsvetaeva calling from poverty and exile from post-revolutionary Russia is a reminder that my craft and my vocation are not vain or unimportant. On the contrary, poetry resonates deeper from periods of upheaval. I will also recommend Ishion Hutchinson’s recent book, House of Lords and Commons. This man is just an incredible poet. Nothing more to be said.


 

Joey Sheehan is a poet from Baltimore city. He has work published here and there in Anti-Heroin Chic, Porridge Magazine, Five::2::One Magazine, Memoir Mixtapes Volume 2, and a few others.

 

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ARIELE SIELING

 

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

When I was in third grade, I wrote a story called “2 Inches Tall” for school, in which I visited my best friend’s dad at work (he was a Chemist) and knocked a bottle of the table and then became two inches tall. I had so much fun writing it, but I got a B because it wasn’t believable. Then in 8th grade, I wrote an essay on food during the Renaissance period—and I wrote the entire thing in second person. I got an A on that, but my teacher told me not to do that on any state exams, haha. After that, I went all out on short stories, poems, whatever popped into my head.

How many drafts = done?

My first book got 27 drafts, but after that, I refused to count. I think the easiest book only had about 9. I typically go through the book several times myself before sending to beta readers, then several more times after the beta readers send back feedback, then at least one more time before sending to the copy editor, and then two or three more times after that. It’s a process, but worth it.

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

Just like everyone else, I have about 80 favorite books, but the one book I always go back to is Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery. I read it for the first time when I was about 10, and I connected with it then, and I connect with it now. I love the descriptions and the story, and I love the way Emily thinks and does things. I’m going to cheat though, and also include Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini, The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudy Canavan, and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

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

I love The Zone—being in that state of writing where you don’t hear, see, or feel anything else except the world you’re creating. I recently read that when writers are in The Zone, it gives them the same endorphin release as when runners get a runner’s high. But I also love words, and the way the same words can have a completely different meaning, simply because of the way you’ve arranged them or the perception of the person reading them. Writing creates a strange, ethereal kind of connection with others—it’s like telepathy, time travel, magic.

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

Petrichor is my favorite word. It means the smell of the earth after the rain (or something to that effect—basically it describes the smell of wet dirt). I love description and I love sensory detail, so words like petrichor help pinpoint some of those sensations that I feel and see and notice without having to write paragraphs of description. I’m always looking for new words too—a couple of my new favorites are rubatosis (the uneasy awareness of your own heart beating) and sonder (the realization that the strangers around you have a life as vivid and complex as your own).

Bonus question: if you were a month, which month would you be and why?

It kind of depends on where I live, but in Maryland, I would pick October or May. I love watching the seasons change, and in May it’s easy to watch winter turn to spring turn to summer—the browns and greys shifting to pale greens and yellows, and then into dark greens and deep blues. It’s really stunning. And the same thing happens in October—the greens darken until they’ve shifted to browns and yellows and orange, and then it’s just the barren branches of trees contrasted against a grey sky. I go for a walk every day during these months, and it seems like something looks just a little different every time I go outside.

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Come out and see Ariele read on Tuesday, March 12th – here’s the facebook event!

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Ariele Sieling was born and raised among the trees and her dad’s honeybees. She began writing at an early age, and now has two scifi series, Land of Szornyek and The Sagittan Chronicles, and a children’s book series called Rutherford the Unicorn Sheep. She has been featured in numerous anthologies (most recently Beamed Up by Amphibian Press), Bewildering Stories Magazine, and Bee Culture Magazine. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, a dog, three cats, and a fish. You can learn more at http://www.arielesieling.com or follow her on Instagram @arielesieling.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH LAURA A. HAZAN

 

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I remember in 6th grade I wanted to write a book about my class. After school ended that year I wrote the teacher a letter and asked her if I could have her planning book so I could remember all the things we did that school year. I guess I was always a researcher.

How many drafts = done?

Infinity. I’m not sure I ever feel like anything is really done.

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

All-time favorite is hard to choose. I have different choices for different reasons, like Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates for the hard, bitter truth of suburban life. Atonement by Ian McEwan for the beautiful writing. Handmaids Tale for the disturbing plot so well-told. Currently I’m enjoying The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce.

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

First let me admit I have no discipline. I am not a writer who sits down every day and writes – even though I want to be that person. When I am disciplined and writing regularly my favorite part is reading my words the next day and finding myself surprised at some of the words, dialogue, phrases I wrote the night before – when I find a bit I really like I have to remind myself that I actually wrote it.

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

Clompy. It’s a word my son made up when he was about five to describe the head of an adult sitting in front of him at a theatre. “I wish that lady would move her clompy head.” I’d never heard this word before but immediately understood what it meant. If Shakespeare can invent words than so can my kid.

Bonus question: if you were a month, which month would you be and why?

I’d be February, not because I’m cold but because I like the slow movement in the winter months. There’s no expectation to go someplace because the sun is shining. It’s a month to stay home and be cozy. I love being cozy.

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Come out and see Laura read on Tuesday, March 12th – here’s the facebook event!

~

Laura Hazan is a librarian with the Enoch Pratt Free Library where she runs the bi-monthly Light Street Writers Exchange. She completed her first novel, Little Boxes, while attending the “Your Novel Year” program at Arizona State University’s Piper Writing Center where she was instructed and mentored by best-selling novelists Michael Stackpole and Jean Rabe, among others. She is still seeking representation for her novel. In addition, her work has been published in Natural Bridge, Sauce Magazine and Strongly Worded Women an anthology for the #yearofpublishingwomen. Laura is a resident of Baltimore and lives with her son, her husband and their one-eyed dog, Boh.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ASHLEY ELIZABETH

 

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

My first memory of writing for fun actually started with a school assignment. In 4th grade, we were tasked with creating our own folk tales. We only needed to write one, but I continued to write and write them at home. I was obsessed with creating my own world and being in control. For poetry, however, writing for fun started in middle school when I was getting bullied.

How many drafts = done?

Sometimes one, sometimes five, sometimes fifty-seven. My heart has to be finished with a piece before I consider it finished, which never really happens. I mean, it’s come close, but sometimes I re-reed work months or years later and change some things around.

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

That’s so hard. My favorite book that I’m currently reading is The Cruel Country by Judith Ortiz Cofer. I’ve been reading it over and over to help with my grief, but it is written so beautifully. Another favorite of mine, both to read and to teach is House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The voice really speaks to me. Both authors were introduced to me during undergrad, and I cannot get enough of them.

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

When my work resonates with others, when it helps them without me even trying. I also like playing with language and sound. Poetry, and writing in general, are such amazing worlds to be in. You create your safe space. You create your rights and wrongs instead of being dictated to. Something else that I appreciate about writing is the fact that my voice can change people. Doesn’t happen often, but the possibility is there.

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

My favorite word is truth; it feels good leaving my lips, but also because truth is relative. No two truths are always exactly the same. It’s a simple word, but one with a deep meaning. I also like the word moue. It was one of the words I found in a thesaurus when I was writing my first novel.

Bonus question: if you were a month, which month would you be and why?

I would be April. Not only am I an April baby, but there is both a sadness and a joy in April, and I feel like that encompasses who I am. I have great days and some not so great days, but in the end, I have grown for it.

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Come out and see Ashley read on Tuesday, March 12th – here’s the facebook event!

~

Ashley Elizabeth is a 20-something year old poet from Baltimore who draws inspiration from her city, her people, her space, and her body. She has been featured in online journals such as Rose Water, Passages North, yell/shout/scream, and For the Sonorous among others. Ashley is also Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. She habitually posts on twitter @ae_thepoet

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH CHARLIE BONDHUS

 

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

That’s hard to say. Writing’s simply something I’ve always needed to do. What’s my favorite thing about eating? The taste of the food, the range of possibilities, the community around the table. All of that applies to what I love about writing.

What is your favorite genre to read, and is this also your favorite genre to write?

I tend to prefer what might be termed experimental poetry. I like work that does interesting things with negative space, lineation, and syntax. I also really like narrative in poetry, especially when experimental forms are used to advance the story. All of this applies to my own recent writing as well.

Describe your ideal writing situation (think writing space (Office? Shed? Attic?), routine or no routine, snacks available).

I either write in cafés or at home. I enjoy the café setting for the energy. If I stay in the house too long, I tend to get restless.

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

“Lugubrious” is fun to say, and the sound suggests the meaning.

What is your most re-read book, if any, and why?

Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette. It does everything I described in my answer to the second question. I love that it creates its own mythology and tells a compelling epic in well under 200 pages. Another perennial favorite is Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. It’s a hybrid text written well before hybrid texts were common and it brings together race, pre-Christian spirituality, language, and genre in really amazing ways.

Bonus question: If you could live in any folk tale or fairy tale world without the danger of dying, where would you live?

The world of King Arthur, or really any imagined Celtic past.

And it’s not a fairy tale, but I’ve always wanted to be a starfighter pilot in the Star Wars universe.

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Come out and see Charlie read on Tuesday, February 12th – here’s the facebook event!

~

Charlie Bondhus is the author of Divining Bones (Sundress, 2018) and All the Heat We Could Carry (Main Street Rag, 2013), winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry His work has appeared in Poetry, The Missouri Review, Columbia Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Nimrod, and Copper Nickel. He has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers (UK). He is associate professor of English at Raritan Valley Community College (NJ).  More at: http://charliebondhus.com.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JOCELYN BROADWICK

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Getting to think deeply, reflect, process, create, and then share that creation with others—in everything I write, I’m seeking connection, looking to identify with readers who can say, “Me, too,” and hopefully helping us all to feel a little less alone in our wandering

What is your favorite genre to read, and is this also your favorite genre to write?

I nearly exclusively read nonfiction—specifically, memoir—and exclusively write nonfiction—specifically, memoir, essays, and flash nonfiction. I honestly can’t imagine writing anything that’s not true. I just don’t know how to but greatly admire those who can and do!

Describe your ideal writing situation (think writing space (Office? Shed? Attic?), routine or no routine, snacks available).

In my bed, under the covers, and wearing comfies with my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 on my lap. I have a mug of coffee, a flavored seltzer water, and a bag of White Cheddar Cheez-Its on the bedside table nearby, and my cat, Ginger, is curled up next to me. It’s early morning, completely quiet, and all notifications on every device I own are silenced.

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

Fuck. FUCK! Fffuuuccckkk. I grew up quite religiously and was never allowed to curse. Now, every time I say it, I derive a genuine sense of release and pleasure.

What is your most re-read book, if any, and why?

I never re-read anything. There are SO MANY books out there! I always want to get on to the next right after I finish.

Bonus question: If you could live in any folk tale or fairy tale world without the danger of dying, where would you live?

Narnia

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Come out and see Jocelyn read on Tuesday, February 12th – here’s the facebook event!

~

Jocelyn Broadwick is a writer, editor, and college professor. Her essays and flash nonfiction have appeared in The Aerie, Paradigm Literary Magazine, Seltzer, and the Yellow Arrow Journal. She’s also been a featured blogger for Neither Liberal Nor Arts and The Baltimore Sun’s #MDreads Community Network. Currently, she is working on a memoir of unexpected freefall after her marriage and a collection of essays in which she desperately tries to grow up before turning 30. Jocelyn earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Find her reading vintage smut during Highlandtown’s First Friday Art Walks and online at @jocelynbroad.

www.jocelynbroadwick.com

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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.

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

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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.