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Five Burning Questions with Kanak Gupta

Tonight’s featured poet is Kanak Gupta. Below are her answers to our five burning questions. Don’t miss your chance to hear her work in person tonight at Charmington’s at 7p.m.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I thought I wrote my first poem (and my first non-school assignment piece of writing) when I was six. It was called “If I Could Fly” and was written in all of fifteen minutes. It had 5 rhyming couplets and each one started with ‘if I could fly’…so all in all, pretty terrible. But hey, it made the yearbook! However, I ran into my first grade teacher a few years ago and she fondly remembers me giving her these four line poems all through the year. (What a teacher’s pet.) Maybe my brain repressed the memories to save me the embarrassment, or I just didn’t realize I was writing “creatively” until it was pointed out to me. Either way, my point is, my brain cannot be trusted.

How many drafts = done?

Draft until published (and only because I can’t edit it anymore).

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

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini for now. Hosseini’s protagonists aren’t heroes who change the world, they’re just beautifully complex, engaging humans who tell the story of a country through their own lives. It’s the only book that’s ever made me cry. Also, reading Urdu swear words in an English bestseller makes me so happy.

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

It’s ability to accept absurdity. And alliteration.

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

Rhythm – It has no vowels which makes it a snowflake, the word itself has a very rhythmic almost onomatopoeic sound, it’s associated with music, which gives it so many more brownie points, and if you say it with a rolled R, just the most amazing mouthfeel.
A close second is randomosity, which isn’t a real word, but my one true aim in life is to make it one. Randomness just doesn’t seem to capture just what a beautiful and rare phenomenon it is to find something truly random. (I feel very passionately about this, as one should.) Thus, randomosity.

Bonus question: This reading is our 4th anniversary reading. What is something you either have done for four years straight or something you hope to do for that amount of time?

I have an alarmingly short attention span, I don’t think I’ve every really done anything for that long. Does writing count? Or wasting too much of my time watching movies and TV?  Though, I would very much like to have a four-year period in my life, at least, during which I live in a different part of the world every year. Now I just have to find a job that pays me to do it.

Born in India and raised in Dubai, Kanak Gupta (pronounced Kuh-nuck) is currently trying her luck in Baltimore, as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University. She is the winner of the 2018 Enoch Pratt Free Library Poetry Contest and has had poems published in Little Patuxent Review, her second grade yearbook, and her “I’m a writer” notebook. She likes reading, writing, and living stories.

 

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5 Burning Questions with Christine Davis Merriman

This Tuesday, Oct. 9, we’ll feature two fiction writers–a slight departure from our normal structure! (Spooky, we know.) One of our two fiction writers this month is Christine Davis Merriman.

Below are Christine’s answers to our 5 Burning questions (and a couple of bonus ones for our in honor of our 4th Anniversary):

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I wrote my first story just about as soon as I learned to use a pencil. In a black-and-white composition book my mother bought me to use in kindergarten or first grade, I printed a story about an amazingly strong little mouse.

How many drafts = done?

For me, that number is incalculable and, perhaps, infinite. Shall I begin the count with the first conversations I had with characters in my mind?; memories of stories that first came to me in early childhood?; early chapter versions extrapolated from short stories written as an MFA candidate forty or more years ago?; the first full manuscript submitted to my publisher about seven months ago?; a series of edited versions produced after input from copyeditor, content editor, style and format editor, and history fact checker?; a newer version in which chapters were rearranged to make the chronology work better?; an expanded version in which a scene has been added or dialog expanded to develop a theme or reveal a character more fully? Even now, as I read the first published version of my debut novel, potential revisions come to me: “I could have said it better that way” or “I should have crafted that sentence or that paragraph differently.” How many drafts is that?

And don’t forget, each reader will take in a slightly different version, filtered through her or his interpretive lens.

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

My favorite book-of-the-moment is Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour, which is about nuns and the Irish-American community they serve in 20th century Brooklyn. In reading the book, I began noticing (and trying to learn from) the way McDermott immerses the reader (seamlessly, from page one) in plot and setting (including sights, sounds, smells) and at the same time develops character (using gesture, physical appearance, dialog, and internal monologue).

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

As a fiction writer, I get excited when I am in the shower and an epiphany or an enlightenment of theme comes to me, or when I go for a jog down a country lane and my characters begin to talk with me, revealing something new about themselves.

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

My favorite word is psithurism, which means the sound of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves, a sound I love to hear while sitting outside on my balcony; it’s a soothing and comforting sound. Hearing it, I feel as though the trees are whispering to me. The pronunciation of the word itself is onomatopoeic and imitates the sound it refers to.

Bonus question: This reading is our 4th anniversary reading. What is something you either have done for four years straight or something you hope to do for that amount of time?

I retired in 2017 to focus on writing fiction. I hope to continue writing fiction for four years straight so that I can complete the Lissa Power series, which I have just begun with my debut novel.

Here’s the projected lineup:

At the Far End of Nowhere: Set in Baltimore and northern Baltimore County, this novel takes Lissa from age four through 22 and portrays the unique bond between young Lissa and her elderly and eccentric father. Published in September 2018 by Green Writers Press.

Where Everything Begins: Lissa awakens from her sheltered American childhood as she spends her junior year abroad in France (1973–74) and travels around Europe. This novel is a work in progress.

Culture Shock (provisional title): Lissa experiences a whirlwind year of activity and culture shock when she returns home from France to finish college and pursue her dream of becoming a writer. This novel is still in the conceptual stage.

More Lissa Power Novels: I anticipate writing additional novels that follow Lissa through marriage, motherhood, divorce, and beyond. Stay tuned!

___

CHRISTINE DAVIS MERRIMAN, a Baltimore native, completed her MFA in Imaginative Writing–Fiction at UMass Amherst forty years ago. As an undergrad, she won Towson State University’s John S. Lewis Fiction Award for a collection of short stories, and was eager to pursue a career in fiction. Then “life” intervened, with marriage, a son, divorce, a second marriage, and a thirty-year career at Johns Hopkins. In 2017, she retired, put down her technical writer’s pen, and completed her debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere. Christine and her husband live in a 1929 farmhouse in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.

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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. 

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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.