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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH GWEN VAN VELSOR

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

Can I say everything? I’ll do anything to avoid it. Walk the dog, take a shower, wash the dishes, reorganize my inbox. I hate writing right up until the moment I run out of time, or someone interrupts me, then all of a sudden I can’t live without it. Also, I really dislike typing. My constant journaling over the years has trained me to feel the words with the motion of handwriting. I don’t get the same good vibes when typing.

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

This is tough to answer because the thought of actually meeting and conversing with someone I admire gives me the cold sweats. I would probably clam up and spit out cliches, “I love your book sooooo much!” That said, I’d love to chat with Natalie Goldberg over milkshakes and french fries. We’d write furiously in our journals until the ink runs out of our pens.

  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 is Abigail Thomas, best known for her memoir A Three Dog Life. Her books remind me that it’s ok to be a person in the world with weird thoughts about life. My favorite author that I do know personally is Cija Jefferson. Her book Sonic Memories gives me that fuzzy, spine straightening feeling when you relate to every single word the author writes.

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

I wish, oh I wish…(hands clasped, looking at stars), I wish I were a REAL writer. Nah, but seriously, I wish I had more confidence. I will dwell on an idea, a sentence, a draft, for years before telling a soul about it.

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

As a Julia Cameron junkie, I practice the art of Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three, full-size, handwritten pages done in the morning before completing any tasks for the day. The pages are non-negotiable, mostly full of dribble, and a fool proof way of clearing my head and creating space for the good stuff to come through.

Bonus question: how many weddings are you going to this year?

Only one, not until October. It’s too bad, I love weddings.

~

Aw, shout out to Cija, our fabulous host, and equally fabulous writer! And I totally agree about journals vs typing. Even if I can’t read my own handwriting half the time, I always prefer pen and paper.

Come out to Writers & Words next month, May 8th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Gwen and the rest of our kickin’ lineup! 

Gwen Van Velsor writes creative nonfiction and pseudo-inspirational prose. She started Yellow Arrow Publishing, a project that publishes and supports writers who identify as women. Raised in Portland, Oregon, Gwen has moved many times, from sea to shining sea, now calling Highlandtown her forever home. Her major accomplishments include walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, raising a toddler, and being ok with life exactly as it is. Her memoir, Follow That Arrow, was published in 2016.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ANTHONY DOBRANSKI

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

The parts that aren’t writing – the outlining, the planning. I have a very oral sense of composition, loose and aloud. I recognize the need to build a plot and character lattices for my sentences and stories to curl around but it’s grunt work to me.

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

Philip K. Dick. He wrote flawed human people in crazed sad worlds. I have all his novels. I think. 42 of them, anyway, bought mostly in the early 1980s in the bookstores of several countries.

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

I am hugely impressed with author Jeff VanderMeer, as an artist – Annihilation blew me away – but also as an excellent writer on both creativity and career-planning.
My favorite author who I do know personally – who was in my wedding party – is Geoffrey Kabaservice, a pundit and historian best known for Rule and Ruin. https://www.amazon.com/Rule-Ruin-Moderation-Destruction-Development/dp/0199975515

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

The downside of loose composition is that there’s a lot of editing. I would like to write fewer words in the first draft that I have to throw out later. At a panel, Holly Black said that this was “hacking your process” and that it was hard to do. She’s right.

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

In first drafts, I can’t pick up where I left off or skip ahead. I have to look a couple pages back, make a couple fixes, pick up the feeling. I write better standing up. If I start looking at tech sites hoping gear will improve my productivity, there’s definitely writing that needs to be done. The trick is to get through that phase without actually buying any new gear.

Bonus question: how many weddings are you going to this year?
None, to the best of my knowledge. I’m 51 but with young children, so out of the main wedding zone.

~

Ah, the wedding zone is a thing, for better or worse.

Come out to Writers & Words next month, May 8th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Anthony and the rest of our fab lineup! 

Anthony Dobranski writes fantasy and science-fiction novels with big ideas and personal stakes for untraditional characters, in crisp, stylized language. He grew up in the Washington DC area and lives in the city now. When not writing or reading, he likes odd movies, inventive theater, and skiing black-diamond bumps.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH LAURA B. PLASTER

  1. What’s your favorite thing about writing? 

That I’m not doing dishes or heavy lifting.   Or, that it gives me a reason to notice and a reason to think about the noticing.

  1. How often do you get new ideas? A thousand a second, or every 12 years when the moon is full and the stars align?

I suppose it depends on whether or not I’m paying attention and whether or not a child is screaming because I won’t let them eat hand sanitizer (real example from this morning). When I open my eyes or ears or nose to what’s around me, I get a lot of leads I want to follow and my trouble is knowing which one to choose and then, of course, finding the time to do it.

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

 Impossible question.   Ok, I’ll stick to poets:  Marie Howe, I’d say, or Elizabeth Bishop. The second part is just as hard…I got to know so many incredible poets up in Brooklyn through an organization called Brooklyn Poets (check out the Poet’s Bridge through them–wonderful resource for posting work and finding yourself an editor/mentor.)   That whole crew–Jason Koo, Joe Pan, Nicole Callihan, Jessica Greenbaum, Patricia Spears Jones, V. Penelope Pelizzon, among many others–provide me so much inspiration, encouragement and hope.

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

Honest answer:   I reread a lot of favorite fantasy fiction (young adult and otherwise) as a stress reliever–Lloyd Alexander, Tolkien, Ursula Leguin, Madeleine L’Engle. My go to poetry reread is Marie Howe’s “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.”

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

Sigh. Working on it. I used to have a certain spot at a certain table at a certain coffee shop in Brooklyn and I haven’t quite find my Baltimore nook yet. I love having my back up against a wall, literally.  Corners are important, so are mornings. Life goal is to be less precious about where and when I write and make it happen. For instance, I made myself do this interview even though it’s 3 in the afternoon which is my least favorite time of day to work with words!  🙂

Bonus question: April is the month when a lot of Aries are born; do you hate them? 

Nah, they’re fine. 😉

~

Correct answer to the Aries question.

Come out to Writers & Words TONIGHT, April 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Laura and our other rad readers. Check out the rest of the line-up on facebook here

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH NICOLE CLARK

  1. What’s your favorite thing about writing? 

The words. I really like words.

  1. How often do you get new ideas? A thousand a second, or every 12 years when the moon is full and the stars align?

This might be TMI, but I tend to get great ideas when I’m PMS’ing. I think my mood (read: hormones) during that time of the month makes me naturally prone to self-reflection and creative impulsiveness. And to eating too many French fries. I’m trying to harness my inspiration (and my cravings for starch). I’d like to figure out a means to throw a halter around it and tell it to heel when I need it. I’m finding if I just show up to my laptop with the intent to write, that helps create a means for ideas to pop into being.

  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 her but wish I did: Annie Dillard. Also, I was at Writers and Words in February when local author Jeannie Vanasco read portions of her new book The Glass Eye. I bought the book and read it in a matter of hours. Her writing is dark and fantastic, and I’d love to meet her. Just gonna put that out there.

So, I don’t know any authors personally. See above. #lifegoals

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

Eek. I don’t re-read books very often. That said, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a book I’ve read twice. I first read it when I was twelve and adored the character Scout Jean Louise Finch, so much so that I looked into the legal process to change my name to Scout. My parents weren’t keen on the idea, so here I am, still Nicole. When I read it as an adult, I did so with a more complete appreciation of Lee’s brilliance and her ability to present two versions of the same character in one story line – the little girl Scout who is experiencing the events of the plot, and the adult Jean Louise who is telling the story. Also, there is a Radiolab episode that features Jenny Hollowell’s reading of her short story called “The History of Everything, Including You” that I’ve listened to at least ten times. Each time I listen to it I think, “Damn, I wish I wrote that.”

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

I throw paint when I’m at a creative impasse with my writing. I have an unfinished basement filled with pieces of wood I’ve salvaged from Baltimore alleys, canvases of unwanted fine art I’ve bought from thrifts stores and gobs of cheap acrylic paint in plastic tubes. I get stuck more often than not when I write and will go months without writing a damn thing. During these dry spells I throw paint on the wood and the cheesy art I nab from Goodwill. A lot of it ends up on the brick walls of the basement. Down there, there’s no messing up. All you have to do is chuck some color around and watch where it lands. Eventually, I come back to writing.

Bonus question: April is the month when a lot of Aries are born; do you hate them? 

They can’t help that they were born in April versus a super duper cool month like, oh I don’t know, say, July. #NoteveryonecanbeaCancer.

~

That’s two Cancer readers this month! Interesting. Us Aries are outnumbered. I also appreciate your TMI answer to #2 – it’s not TMI at all. We’re all friends here.

Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, April 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Nicole and our other rad readers. Check out the rest of the line-up on facebook here

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH COLETTE SHADE

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

Staring at a computer screen. I should probably take Wendell Berry’s advice and stick to a pencil and paper.

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

I’ve always admired Carson McCullers, but she died due to complications from her alcoholism, so perhaps that’s an insensitive choice. Maybe Joan Didion.

  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 maybe C.E. Morgan. Her 2016 novel The Sport of Kings is one of the few recent novels that deals with political economy in any meaningful way. The novel follows two rich white characters (descended from a slaveholding family) and one poor black character (descended from one of their escaped slaves) between the 1980’s and 2006. At one point, the black protagonist has to sell drugs after his working mother loses her TANF and food stamps because she forgets to declare her car as an asset. She later dies because she can’t afford healthcare to treat her lupus. Our choices in life are circumscribed by economic and historical forces beyond our control, and any fiction that does not take this into account is missing something.

In terms of writers I do know, what does it mean to know somebody in this day and age? Angela Flournoy wrote an incredible novel in 2015 called The Turner House, about a black family in Detroit whose home is underwater. We follow each other on Twitter, and we met once at a reading she did. I don’t know if that counts as someone I know personally, though. In terms of nonfiction, everyone I know who writes for Jacobin, Current Affairs, and BookForum is really sharp. Also, I once met Thomas Frank at a party and told him he was my hero, but I’m sure a lot of people tell him that.

  1. What about your discipline do you wish you were better at? 

With regard to my essays, I wish I didn’t get so nervous when I interviewed people. With regard to fiction, I wish I were better at constructing plot.

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

I like to wake up early in the morning and get really hyped up on black coffee. I call it “getting coffed up.” I have a large Bodum French press that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was twenty. I grind up six tablespoons of this Guatemalan dark roast coffee from Trader Joe’s. It’s really oily — which I love — and there’s always a bit of oil that floats on the surface of each cup, and this sludgy detritus that settles at the bottom. After about two cups I feel euphoric, and very focused. In this state writing feels almost effortless. I feel like I can see patterns and connections and motifs. I can quickly type out all my ideas if I’m just starting a piece, or organize those disparate ideas into an outline, or flesh out that outline into a final draft.

Bonus question: April is the month when a lot of Aries are born; do you hate them? 

I don’t put a lot of stock in horoscopes, so I’m going to say no. However, I’m a Cancer, and apparently, we don’t get along with Aries because we’re sensitive and emotional and they’re fiery and brash.

~

I don’t put a lot of stock in horoscopes either – I’m an Aries, and I don’t think I’m fiery, but who knows.

Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, April 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Colette and our other rad readers. Check out the rest of the line-up on facebook here

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH GINA MYERS

  1. What do you love the most about writing in your discipline (poetry, fiction, etc)?

I frequently joke that writing poetry is easy and doesn’t take much time. You can scribble some lines down on a napkin at a bar, call it a poem, and be done. However, the reality of it is quite different for me.

  1. Who are you reading right now? Any shout outs or recommendations? 

I’m close to finishing up Lester Bangs’ Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, which I am really enjoying for Bangs’ meandering and smart reviews. I’ve also been reading the collection Nice to See You: Homage to Ted Berrigan. Edited by Anne Waldman, this collection gathers together work by some of my favorite writers. As far as recommendations go, I highly recommend Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, which was a standout for me this past year. It is a very powerful collection and recently won the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. At one point—specifically when I finished reading the poem “38”—I was so moved/shaken by the power of the work that I had to sit the book down and walk away from it for the rest of the day.

  1. Do you ever write from personal experience (memoirists, duh, stupid question), and if so, where do you draw the line when writing about your life? 

 I frequently write from personal experience and haven’t encountered a line yet.

  1. Kurt Vonnegut once said ‘When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’ How does this make you feel?

Not good. I wouldn’t presume to know what a legless and armless person feels like.

  1. Do you often write outside of the genre you are representing at Writers & Words?

Yes. In addition to poetry, I write nonfiction—mostly book reviews and essays.

Bonus question: What sort of inanimate object will you be in your next life? If you’re into that kind of thing.

Hopefully a couch or a bed. Or maybe a beach chair. I’m really tired and need a vacation.

~

I hope you get your couch life, Gina. 

Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Gina and our other rad readers.

Gina Myers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Model Year and Hold It Down, as well as numerous chapbooks. She lives in Philly where she runs the Accidental Player reading series and co-edits the tiny (thetinymag.com).

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JAMESHA CALDWELL

  1. What do you love the most about writing in your discipline (poetry, fiction, etc)?
  • Poetry has given me the range to feel powerful. In my poetry I am interviewing myself in a sense and within each poem I have the creative ability to be as blunt, mystic, critical, humorous, fictionalized, or as real as I want to be about things I feel passionate about.
  1. Who are you reading right now? Any shout outs or recommendations? 
  • PLEASE checkout ‘Kindred’ by Octavia Butler. It’s the epitome of excellence.
  • I’m currently diving into ‘A Taste of Power’ By Elaine Brown, while also starting the Black Panther comics! (Shout out to the Reginald Hudlin run of the issues!)
  1. Do you ever write from personal experience (memoirists, duh, stupid question), and if so, where do you draw the line when writing about your life? 
  • In short, I try not to draw any lines as of recently. I think though I have been extremely open within my writing about the oppression and trauma that I’ve faced in result of being a vocal black woman in society, I’ve just most recently began to allow myself to explore ‘the origins of my birth’ (I like to call it) just because it’s emotional truth that I’ve been embarrassed about for so long. It’s been an uncomfortable writing journey so far, but I can’t be an authentic writer with purpose without it.
  1. Kurt Vonugut once said ‘When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’ How does this make you feel?
  • Like an armless, legless woman, with a sharpie in her mouth.
  1. Do you often write outside of the genre you are representing at Writers & Words?
  • I’m dibbing and dabbing into more of a memoir/narrative type of writing style. Its been cute so far. (Does tweeting count as a writing genre…because if so…)

Bonus question: What sort of inanimate object will you be in your next life? If you’re into that kind of thing.

  • I would honestly want to be Beyonce’s microphone. That’s a blessing within itself.

~

Rock on, Jamesha! Who wouldn’t want to be Beyonce’s microphone? 

Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear all of our other fantastic readers.

Jamesha Caldwell is a multifaceted Baltimore bred poet whose work surrounds the plight of her environment, black womanhood, and all things hip hop. Jamesha’s work can be found in a multitude of publications, stages, and the hearts of those who choose to listen. 

 

5 BURNING QUESTIONS JOYCE LOMBARDI

  1. What do you love the most about writing in your discipline (poetry, fiction, etc)?

It’s how I know what I’m thinking. I get to the end of a personal essay and go aha! That’s what that meant.

  1. Who are you reading right now? Any shout outs or recommendations? 

Coming late to the TaNehisi Coates party but glad I was invited.

  1. Do you ever write from personal experience (memoirists, duh, stupid question), and if so, where do you draw the line when writing about your life? 

 I draw the line at the people who have their own ringtones on my phone.

  1. Kurt Vonugut once said ‘When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’ How does this make you feel?

Lucky. When I write, I crouch and pace. Once the words start, my whole body gets in on the action.

  1. Do you often write outside of the genre you are representing at Writers & Words?

Nah. My attempts at fiction were awful in my teens, horrific in my 20s. I did some poetry slams at the Nuyrican Cafe in NYC back in the day, but now I get my spoken word jones out in courtrooms and hearing rooms, a genre I think of as competitive storytelling.

Bonus question: What sort of inanimate object will you be in your next life? If you’re into that kind of thing.

Inanimate object in next life? off-shore wind turbine, for sure.

~

Thank you, Joyce! Come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Joyce and our other fantastic readers.

Joyce Lombardi is a nonfiction writer and lawyer-turned-lobbyist. She writes about water, sex and gender, and sometimes race. Her work has been published in, e.g., Salon.com, the Village Voice, Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Style and is upcoming in the Chicken Soup series. 

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JOANNA C. VALENTE

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

I was 11 and listening to Tori Amos and pouring over her liner notes and had just read some Emily Dickinson poems, because I was a really cool 11-year-old with lots of friends (not). So, I did what all baby poets do and wrote a poem about the moon.

  1. How many drafts = done?

To be honest, I don’t have any hard and fast rules about drafts. Sometimes, I write one draft, and then sometimes I write 20 drafts. It really ranges for me. On average, I would say about one or two drafts after I’ve had a decent amount of time separating me having written the poem and the editing process. I think, for me, the most important part of the editing process is taking time away from the poem, so I can have less bias and more clarity.

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

Mrs. Dalloway or Orlando by Virginia Woolf. There’s just so much in there.

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

Having a “small” amount of space in order to create a narrative, a cinematic moment of sorts, and then abstract it and muddle it up a little. I feel like poems are films that were stomped on a few times.

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

Stuff. I love the word stuff because it’s so informal and can be used colloquially, like seastuff.

Bonus question: What kind of people do you most enjoy associating with, and what is your favorite type of sandwich?

Punks. I love anyone who is a rebel, who sees life differently, who fights for their beliefs, who doesn’t believe in the status quo. My favorite type of sandwich is definitely an open-faced tuna melt.

~

Moon poems = best poems. Thank you for sharing, Joanna!

Writers & Words is coming up fast this Tuesday, February 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe with our first reading of 2018. It’s going to be a good year, I can tell already. See you all Tuesday, and be sure to check out the event and our other rad readers on the old bookface here!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH KEM JOY UKWU

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

I tried writing a novel when I was a pre-teenager. I wanted to create a trilogy of stories. I remember creating characters and writing pages on paper.

  1. How many drafts = done?

It could be argued that stories are never completed, even after publication. Potential edits can be everlasting. It is possible that there could be no finite number of drafts that would finish a story but if it did exist, it would depend on the story. Some of my stories are done. Others are done – for now.

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

Two of my favorite books are If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black and Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans, both short story collections.

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

The end of writing the first draft. Knowing that it is done and just starting at the same time. The possibility of potential and the promise of progress.

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

Love. The need of it, the want of it, the ignorance of it, the glow of it, the gift of it, the loss of it. Love, when defined and provided in its purest form, is amazingly powerful and powerfully amazing.

 

~

Thank you, Kem, for sharing! Love your love of love.

Writers & Words is happening RIGHT NOW at Charmington’s Cafe. Swing by, grab some coffee and some words and have an excellent end of 2017, friends.

(facebook event)

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