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5 Burning Questions With Michelle Elvy

Michelle Elvy is one of our featured writers at our August 13th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

We were a family of storytellers. As a kid, I wrote and then performed plays with friends or my brothers for the family. They were sometimes adaptations of fairy tales, sometimes made up. I also wrote radio plays with a friend. We recorded them on our small tape deck and roared at how funny we were. I do not know where those tapes are today, but it’s likely a good thing they are lost.

How many drafts = done?

As many as it takes. As an editor and manuscript assessor, I’ve worked with many different kinds of writers, and it’s clear that every piece and every writer will require a different framework (including time) for editing. Sometimes the polishing goes quickly – but sometimes there is deeper work to do, once you step back and look at the whole. I enjoy this process immensely – for me, it’s not a list of tasks that need to be done but part of the creative process. Usually, in the editing phrases, something new emerges. One can be continually surprised at what is lurking beneath the surface, waiting to come out. For my new book, the everrumble, I did not set out to write it all as a whole, though I did write a set of connected stories mostly within a one-month period of time. Then it took more than a year to let it sit, to walk away and come back – and to see how the pieces fit together and formed the story. It was a really wonderful experience because I did not feel rushed about it.

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

Hmmm. Tough question. I go back to certain authors again and again: Ondaatje, Proulx, Barth, Didion. Also Nathalie Saurraute’s Tropisms. Michael Ende’s Momo is a classic that is a family favorite – our boat (our home since 2003) is named after that character. If I have to name one book that I value more each time I read it, it’s John Barth’s Tidewater Tales. It is complex and layered, critical and intelligent – and yet ultimately joyful.

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

If we are talking about short form writing (flash fiction, prose poetry, etc.), it’s seeing something small and sculpted into just the right shape. This goes for my own writing as well as the work I read as an editor. I think small fictions, like poetic writing, can work as a tool for any writing. The small form also encourages experimentation – and that is really exciting.

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

I am going to answer this with an excerpt from my new book – because the character Zettie is a person who stops talking in order to listen. She tunes into the sounds of the earth, and words. This is from a chapter called ‘Book Notes’:

… she began collecting book notes as
she read, adding to her first entry and crowding her
little book with letters that fascinated her. As her
knowledge of languages grew, she kept one book
that had special notations – the ones she pulled
out repeatedly. There was Little Tiger, catching
two fish so that he might eat one and put the other
back – a gift of life, and such joy (Janosch, Post
für den Tiger); and arguments about truth and
perception (Flaubert/ Nadeau). Also proverbs such
as giza likizidi, kucha kunakaribia – when darkness
becomes more intense, dawn is near: useful in many
applications.

In the margins of the pages, she also developed
the habit of adding phrases she turned in her mind,
over and over; phrases like Man lernt nie aus
(German, you never stop learning); Fingertoppskänsla
(Swedish, finger tips moving, or intuitively thinking)
and Hapana bahari isiyo mawimbi (Kiswahili, there
is no sea without waves).
And this, her favourite word: levande ljus (Swedish),
for candle. Living light.

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?).

Momo – she is an odd girl with a wonderful mind and big heart. The right person would have to come along to ‘get’ her.

___

Michelle Elvy is a writer, editor and manuscript assessor. She is Assistant Editor for the international Best Small Fictions series and founder of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and National Flash Fiction Day NZ. In 2018 she co-edited Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. Michelle’s poetry, fiction, travel writing, creative nonfiction and reviews have been widely published and anthologized, most recently in The Feminine Divine (Cynren Press 2019), New Micro (W.W. Norton 2018), Ofi Press (2016-2018), Manifesto: 101 Political Poems from Aotearoa New Zealand (Otago University Press 2017) and Borderlands & Crossroads: Writing the Motherland (Demeter Press 2016). Her new book, the everrumble (Ad Hoc Fiction 2019), is a small novel in small forms. michelleelvy.com

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5 burning questions with Marlene Trestman

Marlene Trestman is one of our featured writers at our August 13th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

For me, to be honest, writing has never been “fun.” It has been deeply rewarding, a source of personal pride, and indeed one of the tools of my trade as a lawyer, but it has always involved hard work compounded by self-doubt. Holding a copy of my first book for the first time? Now, that was fun.

How many drafts = done?

I can’t answer this question with a number of drafts, but I can tell you that excluding the numerous online drafts that were never printed, just the printed versions of draft chapters for my first book, Fair Labor Lawyer, fill a large banker’s box. The best description of my writing process is food-themed: I start out with a huge pot of watery, bland, broth which I keep cooking, seasoning, and reducing until it blends into a bowl of thick, rich, gumbo.

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

For the book I am currently writing, I keep nearby Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. Not only a literary masterpiece, it sets a gold standard on how to transform a mountain of interviews and archival research about six decades of complex American history into a beautiful narrative by telling the deeply moving stories of a few principal subjects.

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

I love the research (often accompanied by long hours digging through documents in distant archives) that necessarily goes into non-fiction writing. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as the ultimate satisfaction of figuring out a difficult puzzle.

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

“Wordsmithery” is a favorite of mine. It’s such a wonderful set of syllables that precisely identifies the skill of finding the correct words and putting them together in a pleasing and purposeful way.

“Feminist” is also a great word for me simply because of its seemingly relentless power to generate controversy. Some of the world’s greatest feminists refused, or only reluctantly allowed themselves, to be identified as such.

___

Marlene Trestman: Former Maryland Assistant Attorney General Marlene Trestman retired from her 30-year law practice to write the biography of her trailblazing mentor, Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin (LSU Press, 2016). Inspired by Margolin’s childhood and her own, Trestman is now writing her second non-fiction book, Most Fortunate Unfortunates: New Orleans’s Jewish Orphans’ Home, 1855-1946 (LSU Press, forthcoming). More information at www.marlenetrestman.com.

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5 burning questions with Israfel Sivad

Israfel Sivad is one of our featured writers at our  August 13th reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

My first memory of writing for fun was all the way back in 1984. I was only seven years old. I’d just seen Return of the Jedi in theaters, and I was so sad the Star Wars saga was over. I dug up a wide-ruled notebook my mother had given me, and I started writing a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. I never finished the project, but I was so proud of it. My favorite line was: “Boom! Boom!” went the rebel guns. “Grrrr!” said Chewie.

How many drafts = done?

As many as it takes. Sometimes, I feel a poem is done as soon as I’ve finished the first draft. In other instances, I might have to rework the lines over and over again until I’m able to say precisely what I intend. I have no hard and fast rule. Sometimes, I’ll spend a whole day crafting a poem. Other times, it will take more than one sitting. The poem is done once changes start making it lose its vitality. I’ll usually work something until I look at it and say, “That’s overworked.” Then, I start stripping things back away to return to the heart of what I wanted to say.

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

My favorite book of the moment would have to be James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s very much the book I’ve always wanted to write – a slice of life story that contains a whole world of metaphor and symbolism. In my opinion, it makes the argument that mythology exists in our day to day existences. We simply have to know what we’re looking for.

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

I love discovering the structure of a poem. Words are simply words until you fit them into a structure. Then, those words begin forming a poem. Some of the structures I use are based on classical motifs. Others, I invent solely for the poems I’ve written. I’ve used mathematical formulas, random generators and pure inspiration to come up with structures. But every poem I write has a very strict structure, and I love trying to fit words into those. The most exciting part is when the structure reveals itself as somehow relating to the content. That’s when I feel like I’m really in a groove, when the form and content merge together so that I no longer see one without the other.

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

Wow, this is a tough one. I haven’t had a favorite word in over a decade, and back then it was always a profanity. I loved the sound of profanities, the shock of power a sound could convey. I never believed in profanity. I believe words are only words. They have no power outside of context, and the amount of meanings that a word life “fuck” or “shit” could have is mindboggling. They can be positive or negative, violent or peaceful, all depending on context. But they’re almost always somewhat shocking.

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?).

One character who I think could make himself come across as very appealing in an online dating profile (although, dating him would be a whole other story) is Nikolai Stavrogin from Dostoevsky’s novel Demons. He could easily describe himself in a manner that sounds very appealing – interested in the high and lofty things in life, independently wealthy, privately educated, and he probably would do just that. Simply so he could get the satisfaction of having another person be into him. Then, he’d probably make a charming first impression with his good looks and honesty, but he’d also cheat on his partner and not respect his or her feelings. In fact, he may treat somebody horribly just to get some sort of twisted satisfaction out of seeing how they might respond. Definitely not the person you want to be dating… as inviting as he may appear at a first glance.

___

Israfel Sivad is a Washington, DC area-based poet and writer. He is the founder of Ursprung Collective and the lyricist for indie rock group One & the Many. His writing is known for offering cryptic commentaries on human nature, heavy with references to contemporary culture and mythology. His most recent collection of poetry, We Are the Underground, was released in November of 2018.

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5 burning questions with Mika Quinn

Mika Quinn is one of our featured writers at our July 9th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

The story I wrote in the second grade is the first thing that comes to mind. I wanted to write my own personal version of Dork Diaries, a series I loved at that age. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but I learned from it; it told me how to take criticism, constructive or otherwise.

How many drafts = done?

About 3 or 4. I’m extremely indecisive, and a bit of a perfectionist on how I want my stories to feel, and what I want them to say, which means I go through a lot of paper.

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

I have a list of top three favorite series– The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, is at the top of that list. I discovered this book in the fifth grade and fell in love with it. I’ve been reading the series ever since.

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

The people. Writers are immensely intelligent, creative people, and we’re a bit of our own species, but the way that we tell stories is so impactful. I love that we’re bold enough to tell those stories, even if they might make some people sad, or uncomfortable, or angry, and we all tell them in so many different ways. We just write what we think the world should hear, and hope that they listen.

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

Minuscule. It’s just the most dignified way of saying small, and as someone who is small, I     love it.

Bonus question: what is one thing you would eradicate if you had the power to eradicate just one thing in this world. [can you tell my favorite word is eradicate?]

If I could eradicate one thing in this world it would be the mental illnesses that can be extremely difficult to endure and treat, like depression, anxiety, dementia; all of the illnesses that cause so much pain for those who have them and their families.

___

Mika Quinn started writing in the second grade, inspired by a beloved childhood series, but stopped soon after. After a five year hiatus from the worlds inside her head, she started writing again in the seventh grade, when she was given an assignment wherein she had to write a short narrative for her English class. That assignment started a story that is still being written, renewed her love of writing, and made her realize that she wanted to become a writer. Now, Mika is a rising junior in high school, writes everyday, and lovingly welcomes the worlds beyond her own.

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5 burning questions with Adam Tedesco

Adam Tedesco is one of our featured writers at our July 9th reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

In or around 6th grade I began writing lyrics for a band I didn’t have, influenced mainly by punk, hardcore and heavy metal. Within a year or so, after being introduced to the poetry of Rimbaud and Comte de Lautréamont and the art of Hieronymous Bosch and Francis Bacon, I began writing poetry.

How many drafts = done?

At least one. I have written poems that were published after one edit and poems that I have been editing for years.

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

At the moment I am obsessed with a book called Autobiography of Death by the Korean poet Kim Hyesoon (translated by Don Mee Choi).

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

My believe in, and practice of, poetry is close to if not religious. It can provide us a way to transmit experiences that otherwise exist beyond the limits of language.

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

Pupusa. I salivate uncontrollably when I see or hear this word.

Bonus question: what is one thing you would eradicate if you had the power to eradicate just one thing in this world. [can you tell my favorite word is eradicate?]

Capitalism.

___

Born in Upstate New York, poet and video artist Adam Tedesco is a founding editor of Reality Beach, a journal of new poetics. His video poems and site-specific work have been screened at MoMA PS1, &Now: A Festival of Innovative Writing, No Nation Gallery, and the New Hampshire Poetry Festival, among other venues. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in FanzineFenceGrammajubilatLaurel ReviewPowderkegPrelude, and elsewhere. He is the author of several chapbooks, most recently ABLAZA (Lithic Press, 2017), ISO 8601:2004 (Really Serious Literature, 2018), and Misrule (Ursus Americanus, 2019). His full-length poetry collection, Mary Oliver, was published by Lithic Press in February of 2019.

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5 burning questions with Tim Fitts

Tim Fitts is one of our featured writers at our June 11th reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

A great friend of mine in third grade began writing ‘novels’ of eight pages, handwritten, to be sold for five dollars each. I remember writing basically the same story over and over with variations in names and places – just like I do now!

How many drafts = done?

Sometimes 2-3, usually 20-60.

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

No Country for Old Men.

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

The rhythm when the ideas are cooking. Editing at night, getting jazzed about the morning session, then letting all of ideas breathe and the thrill of the radio feed.

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

Parlay. It sounds exactly like what it is. I’ve only used the word once, and used it to describe a figurative winning. It felt so good, and I can remember the exact time and place, the same way people in my parents’ generation remember hearing of the Kennedy assassination.

Bonus question: What is your favorite shape of the moon?

Head-on, the image of Marilyn Monroe.

___

Tim Fitts is a writer and photographer from Philadelphia. He is the author of two collections of short stories. His stories have been published by journals such as The Baltimore Review, Granta, The Gettysburg Review, among many others.

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5 burning questions with Margery Bayne

Margery Bayne is one of our featured writers at our June 11th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

One holiday, probably Christmas or Thanksgiving, I recall sitting on my dad’s lap and dictating a story for him to write down. I believe it was about an elf (think Keibler cookies type elf) who went to a party, ate too much, and got a stomach ache.

How many drafts = done?

Depends completely on the individual story.

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

My list of “favorite books” is pretty long. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, which I read in 8th grade, is the book that made me want to be a writer. I always have to give it first credit in my favorite book hall of fame even if it isn’t my current or ultimate favorite.

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

Pulling off that moment, that scene, or that line of dialogue that makes you just feel things.

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

Isolating a word by itself, I was always partial to “nonchalant.” The way it rolls off the tongue is just fun. The way you be nonchalant but “chalant” isn’t a word. It sounds like itself, with a cool, almost pompous confidence… I myself am never nonchalant. I am the all the antonyms of nonchalant. If “chalant” was a word, that would be me.

Bonus question: What is your favorite shape of the moon?

Crescent. Specifically waning crescent. I had to look up the term, but I knew instantly in my head that shape was my favorite. There is just something aesthetically pleasing and mysterious about a crescent moon.

___

Margery Bayne is a librarian by day and a writer by night. She enjoys the literary and speculative, and is a published short story author and an aspiring novelist. In 2012, she graduated from Susquehanna University with a BA in Creative Writing and is currently pursuing a Masters of Library Science. She’ll read anything from children’s chapter book to YA graphic novels to mainstream bestsellers as long as it has a good story. In her time not spent reading or writing, she enjoys origami, running, and being an aunt.

http://www.margerybayne.com