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5 Burning Questions with Rachel E. Hicks

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Rachel E. Hicks read for us in 2019 – read what she has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

It’s been a tough season due to handling my daughter’s health challenges. Creativity is hard to come by when I’m in crisis mode. However, I’ve set myself a goal of completing my poetry manuscript by the end of 2020, so I’m pushing hard on that. I also recently became the editor of Among Worlds magazine, a quarterly digital publication by and for adult “third culture kids” (TCKs—people who spent most or part of their formative years in countries or cultures different from those of their parents; also known as “global nomads). (If that describes you, I’d love to hear from you!)

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

Besides the magazine, I’m currently working on my first poetry collection, which I hope to complete by the end of 2020.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

The Heart’s Time by Janet Morley (book of curated Lenten poetry) and Selected Poems, 1931–2004 by Czeslaw Milosz. (I can never pick just one.)

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

I’ve lived in Baltimore for over six years, and I’ve found the writing community to be eclectic, generous, encouraging, grassroots, and diverse.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Writers are people. Don’t be afraid to get to know writers in your community. But don’t use the community just for what it can do for you—volunteer where you can, treat others like humans, celebrate the success of others.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

I’m probably at #2, except that I don’t have a dog—yet. We just bought a puppy for our daughter (as a therapy dog), and my amazing sister-in-law is housetraining him for us since we don’t have the bandwidth AT ALL for that.

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Rachel E. Hicks’s poetry has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Little Patuxent Review, Relief, St. Katherine Review, Gulf Stream, and other journals. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she won the 2019 Briar Cliff Review Fiction Prize, and her poems have been finalists in several competitions. She is editor of Among Worlds magazine, an associate editor at Del Sol Press, and a freelance copyeditor. Find her online at rachelehicks.com.

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5 Burning Questions with Michael McKeown Bondhus

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Michael McKeown Bondhus (formerly Charlie Bondhus) read for us in 2019 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

I’ve been keeping up with poetry, but my big news is that I finished my first full-length play, Minus World. If you’re a fan of old school Nintendo, specifically Super Mario Bros., the title should be familiar.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

 I’m working on a series of poems exploring some of the activism I did over the past year with a Brooklyn-based anarchist cooperative. I was involved in a couple anti-ICE demonstrations and direct actions. I also did some work around climate justice and resisting the over policing of people of color in the MTA.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

 Kris Bigalk’s newest poetry collection Enough (NYQ Books) is a great read tracing the arc of a failed relationship. I also finally finished Our Word is Our Weapon (Seven Stories Press), which is a collection of letters, poems, and stories written by Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Our local bookstore in Asbury Park is transforming into a cooperative. This is great because it gives local writers and readers a reliable space for events. I’m so honored that they’re hosting the Zoom reading of my play! If you’re interested in ordering books from a small business, check them out! https://asburybookcoop.indielite.org/

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Attend local events and talk to people. I don’t just mean the people giving the reading or presentation. I met one of my good writing friends at a talk on prosody at Poet’s House in Manhattan. I barely remember the event but it was through my new friend that I connected to a lot of the queer writers in the city.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Floating between 1 and 3 on any given day.

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Michael McKeown Bondhus (formerly Charlie Bondhus) is an Irish-American writer. He’s 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, Poetry Ireland Review, The Missouri Review, Columbia Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, 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 Mathangi Subramanian

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Mathangi Subramanian read for us in 2019 – read what she has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

Writing has been hard, but I did start dabbling in dystopian fiction, which was fun. I’m not sure if it’ll ever see the light of day, but imagining a world even worse than this one is making me grateful for my day to day. I also just completed an online course on supporting parents experiencing pregnancy and infant loss, which I hoped would help me become an abortion doula, but that plan – like so many others – is now on hold indefinitely. Other than that, I have mostly been homeschooling my preschooler and eating my husband’s delicious home cooking.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

 I’m writing a memoir about pregnancy loss, adoption, immigration, caste, and motherhood. I’m also spending a lot of time painting and crafting with my four-year-old, and now consider myself fluent in the elusive language of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s Glue. I used to be a teacher, so designing creative homeschooling lessons has also been a really rewarding outlet for me. I’m lucky my daughter doesn’t mind being a guinea pig!

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

It’s a tie between Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

 Diverse, dispersed, and very kind.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Put yourself out there. I’m building a community in a new place right now, and am constantly reaching out to authors being like, “Hi, you don’t know me, but we both write! Wanna hang out?” I’ve made some great friends that way. I’ve also been ignored, but it’s fine – I figure my approach basically filters out everyone except the kindest, so I’m sticking with my system.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

#3.5 : Milano cookies all day every day

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Mathangi Subramanian is an Indian American writer and educator based in San Jose, California. Her latest novel, A People’s History of Heaven, was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Her middle grades novel Dear Mrs. Naidu won the South Asia Book Award. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, Zora Magazine, and Al Jazeera America, among others. She holds a doctorate in education from Columbia Teachers College and is a former Fulbright-Nehru fellow.

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5 Burning Questions with JP Allen

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. JP Allen read for us 2017 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

After finishing a poetry MFA at JHU in 2017, I stayed and taught in Baltimore for a year, I moved from Baltimore to Durham, NC, in 2018. I attended a few writing residencies and conferences, but my writing’s been slow. I’m currently working in marketing for User Interviews, a tech startup; sounds like a run-of-mill “day job,” but I actually really enjoy it, and am very thankful to have work during the pandemic.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

Honestly, not much. It’s a weird time. I have been translating a few poems from Spanish into English as part of an upcoming anthology of Costa Rican poets. The editor assigns each poet in the anthology to a different translator, which I think is a great way to get more folks involved and to keep the translations as stylistically diverse as the originals.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

The Nickel Boys. I’ve never really tried to read multiple works by the same author in a row, and I thought I’d give it a shot with Colson Whitehead because I like his books so much. I just started The Intuitionist—really interesting to read someone’s earlier work after their most recent, most highly-praised book.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Honestly, I wish I knew more about it! I’ve been to a couple of readings, but I was keeping to myself even pre-quarantine. I do want to shout out one arts space in Durham: The Mothership, a coworking space, shop, and event venue (one of whose founders is the poet Megan Bowser) that hosts occasional Art Parties—includes readings, but artists in all genres share their work.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Just go to stuff and if there’s a moment where it feels natural to start a conversation or participate in a reading, go for it, but don’t feel like you need to push things or “network.”

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JP Allen’s poems and translations have appeared in The Offing, Southern Humanities Review, Waxwing, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in poetry from The Johns Hopkins University and scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Narrative Magazine.

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5 Burning Questions with dave ring

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. dave ring read for us in 2017 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

I’ve been reasonably productive!  I have both a novella and novel in revisions, and a handful of short stories either in the world or forthcoming.  I’ve also launched a small press, Neon Hemlock, putting out zines, queer chapbooks and speculative fiction.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’m in the middle of edits for Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World that Wouldn’t Die, an anthology of resiliency and post-apocalyptic stories.  It’s coming out in August.

I’m also working on a short story with post-apocalyptic vampires set in Silver Spring.  Think Jewelle Gomez meets Only Lovers Left Alive.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

 I tore through Docile by K.M. Szpara right when everything started.  Now I’m reading Rosewater by Tade Thompson.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Cocooning, vulnerable, resilient.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Reach out and volunteer some of your time!  It can be hard at first, but I volunteered with OutWrite one year and then the next I was accidentally the Chair.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

I’m vegetarian, but I think I’m hovering right at hot dog fries right now.

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dave ring is the chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival in Washington, DC. He has stories featured or forthcoming in a number of publications, including Fireside Fiction, GlitterShip, and A Punk Rock Future. He is the publisher and managing editor of Neon Hemlock Press, as well as the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was from Mason Jar Press. More info at www.dave-ring.com. Follow him at @slickhop.

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5 Burning Questions with Carolyn Eichhorn

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Carolyn Eichhorn read for us in 2017 – read what she has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

I had a great writing year after reading with W&W, publishing some new stories and essays, and really feeling part of the writing community. My day job became pretty complicated, inspiring me to write a collection of darkly funny short stories, mostly as therapy, and those are now available on Amazon. I’ve since started a healthier job, moved in with my SO, and I’m hoping to get back to my novel-in-progress.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’ve not written much during the pandemic as working from home and the stress of social distancing exhaust me. Also, it’s hard to find quiet time trapped in the house with loud (but loved) people. I may need to invest in some noise canceling headphones!

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I’ve been on a Harlan Coben binge, most recently finishing The Woods.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

My writing community is not large, nor is it necessarily bound by my zip code, but they are mighty fine writers and readers, generous with their feedback, not intrusive as writing buddies, and just generally awesome humans.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Connect with writers who you like as people first, make sure you are giving as much support as you are seeking, and give each other space and opportunity to write.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

6) I may never go back to real pants.

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Carolyn Eichhorn has loved mystery and thriller fiction since she discovered Nancy Drew as a child. Now she writes her own spooky and twisty fiction. Her work been published by Oscillate Wildly Press, Fiction Southeast, and Gimmick Press, and her stories have won the Plant Hall Spooky Story Contest and placed in the Tales of the Dead event. Her collection of short stories, Ten Dysfunctions of My Teams is available through Amazon. You can follow her on twitter at @BmoreCarolyn and find her blog at GroundsforSuspicion.blogspot.com.

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5 Burning Questions with Cameron MacKenzie

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Cameron MacKenzie read for us 2019 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

I’ve been grading too much, putting my English classes online, editing friends’ work, and otherwise taking care of my kids. My wife and I have a decent homeschool schedule going for our 2 year old and 6 year old. I’d say we’re doing OK. We’re lucky.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’m hip-deep into a novel about independent housing contractors and the MS-13 gang in Northern Virginia circa 2002. I was working in construction in NoVa then, and I could see how the gang had begun to infiltrate the hispanic community. With all the dynamics of race and class that situation brought about, it started to feel like a story I had to tell. It’s tough to get it right, though. I’m trying.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

Tie between Hard Rain Falling (Don Carpenter), and The Autumn of the Patriarch (Marquez).

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Incredibly generous. The city is growing rapidly, so a lot of new voices are coming in every year. We’ve also got Hollins University nearby, and the mountains are dotted with amazing writers that not enough people know about, like Mary Crockett Hill and Evan Lavender Smith. I’m finding that folks are very excited to work together to help one another succeed, and it feels like we’ve begun to make this community something really special.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Knowing other writers is absolutely essential to your own success. This means you need to be a good listener, a good reader, and a generous person. Go to open mics and other events and try to meet people. Be honest about who you are and what you do and what you want to do–you will find people are more receptive than you might imagine. Volunteer in whatever way feels natural. The effort you put towards helping others in their work will be repaid tenfold.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

In a single day I cycle through this entire list about three times.

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Cameron’s work has appeared or will soon appear in J Journal, Salmagundi, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Cutbank, and The Rumpus, among other places. His novel The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career (MadHat Press), chronicling the rise to power of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, was published in 2018. His collection of essays, Badiou and American Modernist Poetics (Palgrave Macmillan) was also published in 2018.

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5 Burning Questions with Barbara Perez Marquez

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Barbara Perez Marquez read for us 2019 – read what she has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

My reading happened right before quarantine came into effect, which honestly was nice to be able to leave that reading reenergized before staying at home came into effect. I was also the MC for an online reading through Yellow Arrow Publishing, which showcased latina writers in Baltimore and DC.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’ve been focusing on writing posts for my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/MustacheBabs), as well as keeping busy working on a few original comic scripts.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I’ve revisited a few favorite reads during this time, including: “Swimming Studies” by Leanne Shapton and “No One Belongs Here More than You” by Miranda July.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

 Southeast Baltimore has a lot of creative energy, I think it’s an untapped spring in some ways, since it takes a bit of finding some days.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Don’t be afraid to reach out! I think because writing is sometimes a quiet activity, people think writers must also be the quiet types, but more often than not, they are happy to chat and help along in whatever ways they can.

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Fries are life!!!

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Barbara Perez Marquez was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. She writes short stories and fiction, usually using coming of age and LGBTQ themes in her work. During her career, she has also been an editor for several publications and projects. Her work was first featured in a student collection in the 7th grade, the same year she decided she wanted to be a writer. Since then, she’s been featured in Manhattanville College’s Graffiti and Tinta Extinta. Her latest work, The Cardboard Kingdom, is a graphic novel about a neighborhood of kids having a summer adventure and is out now from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books. Book two, The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast, is due out in 2021. Barbara lives in Baltimore, MD with her fiance and their dog, Eliot.

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5 Burning Questions with Susan Buttenwieser

Susan Buttenwieser is one of our featured writers for a 2020 reading which has been postponed, but we wanted to introduce you to her anyway. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I always loved making up stories. remember writing stories in elementary schools in these cool homemade notebooks that my teacher made out of lined paper stapled between wallpaper samples. The material alone made it really fun. When I was a kid, my family used to go away every summer with another family for a week, and one of the boys in that family would make up plays that all us kids would act in—he was really a genius and went on to become a comedy writer and show-runner and a life-long friend. Being immersed in story-telling in that way had a huge impact on me.

How many drafts = done?

One thousand

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

That question is too hard, but recently I have so loved Olive Again, Ask Again Yes, Girl, Woman, Other, Say Nothing, and On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous. But the book that got me excited about writing and books was Charlotte’s Web which I read and re-read so much as a child, and was read to me. And then I had the complete pleasure of reading and re-reading it to my daughters. Every word in that book is perfect.

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

Two parts—when I connect with an idea and can begin to craft a story, and then when I feel like I have revised it enough so that its readable. The part in between is torture.

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

Right now it’s hope and I have this great quote from Phillip Pullman on an index card taped up by my desk, which is from the aftermath of the June 2016 Brexit vote. “Hope is the name not of a temperament of an emotion, but of a virtue. It’s our duty to hope.”

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

A mixture of all five

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My fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in Epiphany, the Atticus Review, KGB Bar Literary Magazine, Failbetter and other publications, and I contribute news articles to Women’s Media Center, and been awarded several fiction fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I teach creative writing in New York City public schools that serve high poverty neighborhoods, with incarcerated women at a maximum-security prison, with older adults, and with incarcerated women at Rikers Island and their families.

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5 Burning Questions with Ann Quinn

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Ann Quinn read for us 2018 – read what she has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

The writing has been slow but a few nice poems have emerged. I began teaching at the Writer’s Center and through Yellow Arrow and Moonlit, and even since going on Zoom, I love it as much as I thought I would.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

I’m reading War and Peace and The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) and journaling and occasionally scratching out something like a poem. I’m also starting to put some of my ideas on teaching poetry into a book.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I’m loving those two long books I just mentioned. I’m participating in A Public Space’s book club read of War & Peace—about 12 pages a day. And I set my own page goal for The Woman in White. It’s so great to have a small, achievable goal for each day.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Baltimore: those who show up to events and classes tend to be young and hard-working. I miss seeing people in person, though I’m also loving being at home.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Show up for readings and workshops and share your work when you can—often readings have an open call at the end. Read other peoples work, buy it if you can, and talk to them!

Bonus question: What level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

1 and 5, unless it’s raining when it’s more like 2

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Ann Quinn is the poetry editor for Yellow Arrow Journal and conducts writing workshops at The Writer’s Center, for Yellow Arrow, and at writer’s conferences. Ann holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Catonsville, Maryland with her family. Her award-winning work can be read in Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Little Patuxent Review, Vietnam War Poetry, Haibun Today, and other journals and is included in the anthology Red Sky: Poetry on the Global Epidemic of Violence Against Women. Her chapbook, Final Deployment, is published by Finishing Line Press. Visit her at www.annquinn.net