5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH MALKA OLDER

  1. What’s your favorite thing about writing?

That moment when an idea emerges in my brain and it feels exactly right.

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

Fiction, although sometimes I enjoy reading and writing non-fiction too.

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

Ipod on shuffle, tea at hand, laptop that does not overheat. A few projects that are very different in tone, setting, approach so that I can switch around if I get stuck on one.

  1. What is something you would love that your readers know about you as a writer? (That you love cats? That you edit pieces literally 1,000 times before they see the light of day?)

When I start a novel I rarely know much about the plot, because I like to read books that surprise me, and writing books that surprise me is, possibly, even better (see answer to #1).

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

Probably LotR, but that’s just because I re-read it SO MANY TIMES as a kid. If anything could challenge it maybe Jane Eyre?

Bonus question: May is National Hamburger Month and National Egg Month, among other undoubtedly more important observances. Thoughts?

Mayday special: hamburger with a fried egg on top.

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As another LotR fan, I salute you.  Come out to Charmingtons on Tuesday, May 9th and hear Malka and our other wonderful readers at Writers & Words!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH LEON THORNTON, JR

  1. What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love how words provoke an emotional connection or response (whether good or bad) with readers.

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

Poetry is my favorite genre to read and write.

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

Though the ideal place to write/type is at a desk, thoughts and ideas come to me anytime and anywhere (i.e. shower, car, while watching television, etc.).

  1. What is something you would love that your readers know about you as a writer? (That you love cats? That you edit pieces literally 1,000 times before they see the light of day?)

Although poetry is only one aspect of my being, it is an important part of me. It is a creative tool that allows me to sculpt my raw emotions into what I hope to be a living, breathing masterpiece.

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

Wow! Great question. Probably Native Son by Richard Wright or poetry by Langston Hughes. In my opinion, Native Son is one of the greatest novels I ever read in high school. Although I did not grow up on the Southside of Chicago, I empathized with the fictional character Bigger Thomas. As a child, I recall watching television commercials in the 1970’s and wondering why very few people looked like me. I, too, grew up in an apartment in a poor environment, and wished my mom and dad could buy the expensive brand name cereals, all of the time, as opposed to the “No Frills” or “Knockoff” brands. In addition, the inequities of life inside and outside my town were quite evident whenever I rode the bus or my parents/friends drove me through other towns in Nassau County, Long Island, NY. I remember thinking concrete was just as nice a green grass – but not as soft. I was always jealous of white students from other public schools, because their baseball and football fields had plush, green grass whereas our fields had crabgrass, weeds, or missing grass. Similar to Bigger Thomas, at times I felt like I was looking through a knothole in a fence at others who fully embraced, enjoyed, and proudly wore the fabric of American Society.

Bonus question: May is National Hamburger Month and National Egg Month, among other undoubtedly more important observances. Thoughts?

That’s interesting! Now I love a good hamburger and a hardboiled egg! Still, a whole month dedicated to an egg speaks volumes about our society. I don’t know, perhaps labeling the month of May as National Hamburger Month and National Egg Month is simply a way to promote nutrition (although these are not the most nutritious products). Or perhaps it is just a clever way for the meat and poultry industries to promote their products and boost sales. Regardless, we should always put more focus on more civic-minded and important observances during May, such as Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage, Jewish-American Heritage Month, National Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Month, National Mental Health Month, or National Physical Fitness & Sports Month. If not, then it is an unfortunate example of how far we have come as a society – and how much value people put into certain causes (i.e. egg vs. human health).

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Thank you for highlighting many much more important national observances in May, Leon. I feel like ‘egg vs. human health’ would be a good title for something.  Come out to Charmingtons on Tuesday, May 9th and hear Leon read his poetry at Writers & Words!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JUNG YUN

  1. What’s the worst thing about writing?

Wanting to write and not having the time. I’ve been traveling a lot lately and something in my brain shuts off when I’m away from my desk and books and chair. In a hotel room, it’s pretty much guaranteed that no writing will take place. Just lots of Law and Order watching and self-loathing.

  1. Have you read any good books about writing, or do you stay away from such things?

Ben Percy’s essay collection, THRILL ME, explores some of the similarities and differences between literary fiction and genre fiction. The essays are accessible and engagingly written for writers at all levels, and it’s particularly fun imagining Ben’s one-of-a-kind voice as you read them: https://www.graywolfpress.org/blogs/most-terrifying-story-youll-ever-hear

  1. Describe your thoughts on writing (either your own or in general) using as many power verbs as possible.

Writing frustrates and confounds. It interrupts dinner and weddings and sleep; it doesn’t have manners. It demands attention, attention, attention like that needy friend you sometimes want to jettison but secretly can’t imagine your days without. 

  1. What is it about your discipline (fiction/poetry/nonfiction/other) that draws you to it?

When I first came to the United States, I didn’t speak English and was very slow to develop my language skills. Because of this, I constantly watched people, studied them, assumed what might be going on in their minds because I couldn’t understand what was coming out of their mouths. I’ve been doing much the same ever since, using fiction as a means of understanding people, real and imagined.  

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

I re-read J.M. Coetzee’s DISGRACE every five years or so. It’s vicious and brutal, angry but stylistically spare. I find something new to admire every time I read it and will continue going back to it until that sense of discovery ends. 

Bonus question: If you won a trip anywhere in the known, unknown, and fictional universe(s), where would you go and what would be your first item of business once you arrived?

My childhood self would want to be miniaturized and go live with THE BORROWERS for a week.

~

I could not agree more about The Borrowers.  Come out TONIGHT, April 11th at 7 pm at Charmington’s to hear Jung and our other fantastic readers share their words!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH LYNNE PRICE

  1. What’s the worst thing about writing?

I never know when it’s time to sit down and do it. Often my ideas come when I’m not ready to sit or when I don’t have anything to catch it (like a pen and paper). I’m not one of those amazing people who can hold a phrase or an idea in my head without writing it down. Once it’s written down, I can keep it in my mind and ruminate on it forever and it infiltrates my whole being but if I don’t write it down immediately it’s just gone.

  1. Have you read any good books about writing, or do you stay away from such things?

I love “A Choreographic Mind: Autobodygraphical Writings” by Susan Rethorst. As a performer/choreographer, I love how she likens the processes of writing and dance making and how she writes with her body. This is absolutely what I do and I love seeing such an embodied approach to thinking about “making.” It’s probably not exactly what you are asking for, as it isn’t like a manual for writing but I don’t care. [insert tongue out emoji here]

  1. Describe your thoughts on writing (either your own or in general) using as many power verbs as possible.

Writing is challenging, especially when it challenges you to challenge your own weaknesses. I am constantly challenged to find ways to challenge my readers and also to challenge myself creatively and also challenge myself intellectually… oh, you meant as many DIFFERENT power verbs as possible… oops

  1. What is it about your discipline (fiction/poetry/nonfiction/other) that draws you to it?

I was raped as a child and kept that secret until is slowly started spilling out as an adult. I only shared it with my own parents and siblings two+ years ago. I spent so much of my life holding things in and even trying to deny they existed that it became my one outlet for working through the secrecy and the silence. I’ve only just started sharing my writing with others, submitting to places and reading my work aloud. It’s so empowering to write something and share it with people, and to have my thoughts and my words take up space.

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

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver. At least, that is my most recently most re-read book. My mentor, Sharon Mansur, gave it to me when I graduated from grad school and everytime I go through it I find something new. Those poems are so deep and so beautiful. I cry a lot when I read it.

Bonus question: If you won a trip anywhere in the known, unknown, and fictional universe(s), where would you go and what would be your first item of business once you arrived?

These are exactly the kinds of questions that stress me out.

~

Writers & Words is a stress-free zone, don’t worry. Come out on Tuesday (this Tuesday!), April 11th at 7 pm at Charmington’s and see for yourself.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH KAYLA SMITH

  1. What’s the worst thing about writing?

The worst thing about writing is the hours and hours I spend agonizing over what to write without ever actually writing one word. This makes up about 80% of what I loosely classify as “writing.” As in, if someone asks me what I’m doing today and I tell them I’m writing, I likely mean walking aimless miles with a blank stare mumbling to myself. If I put in enough hours/days of that, I can then put it on paper pretty painlessly.

  1. Have you read any good books about writing, or do you stay away from such things?

I don’t read many books that focus only on writing. (Do captivating books on the subject exist? If so, do let me know.) But I do like several essays on the subject. David Foster Wallace’s “The Nature of the Fun.” Joan Didion’s “On Keeping a Notebook.” I like teaching George Orwell’s “Why I Write.” I have not read Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir yet, but it’s on my list of things to read soon.

  1. Describe your thoughts on writing (either your own or in general) using as many power verbs as possible.

Sometimes writing eviscerates you mentally and then hides in the corner while you compose yourself enough to approach it again. Sometimes it allows you to purge the emotions you couldn’t absolve any other way. Sometimes it organizes the emotions so you can better observe them. It’s either torturous or therapeutic.

  1. What is it about your discipline (fiction/poetry/nonfiction/other) that draws you to it?

I majored in fiction writing in college. I always knew I wanted to write fiction because fiction is what I’ve always loved to read. It was halfway through college when I discovered creative nonfiction and realized that there was a place in the world for the writing I’d been scribbling in notebooks, letters, and secret blogs since I was a little girl. I think I had not fully known before that personal writing counted as legitimate writing to anyone else until I read Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That” and Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I went to grad school for creative nonfiction because I realized that nonfiction felt natural and more urgent for me than fiction had. (Though I’d still love to write more fiction in the future.)

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

There are so many. All of Faulkner’s novels, because they contain this magic for me that I feel I can never, ever get enough of. Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep because sometimes I feel that she conveys my thoughts better than I do. Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient because it remains one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. All of Tana French’s books because there is perhaps no one who writes psychological mysteries better and because they allow me to vicariously live my fantasy of being an undercover detective. Also the number of times I’ve read the Harry Potter series is shocking.

Bonus question: If you won a trip anywhere in the known, unknown, and fictional universe(s), where would you go and what would be your first item of business once you arrived?

This changes daily. At this moment, I want to go to Venice during Carnival. My first order of business would be to find a costume and spend a day stealing hats off of people’s heads as I walked around the city on stilts.

~

In any given room of people in any given place, I wonder how many times the collectives masses have read Harry Potter, added all up. If you have a guess, come out to Writers & Words on Tuesday, April 11th at 7pm at Charmington’s and let us know! Also, more importantly, come and hear Kayla’s wonderful words, and the rest of our April readers.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DANIELLE REED AKA THE GIRL GENIUS

  1. What’s the worst thing about writing?

Looking for a perfect word.

  1. Have you read any good books about writing, or do you stay away from such things?

My favorite by far is Stephen King’s “On Writing”—yes THAT Stephen King! Brilliant book. And “Elements of Style” which I own several copies of.

  1. Describe your thoughts on writing (either your own or in general) using as many power verbs as possible.

Affirming. Evoking. Restoring.

  1. What is it about your discipline (fiction/poetry/nonfiction/other) that draws you to it?

When I figured out what I could actually do with it. Outsiders have a very narrow view of what poetry is/should be. It’s a powerful thing to be able to change the perception. The fact that you can take old forms and modern topics and build them into something meaningful—you can do this ad infinitum and never come up with the same thing twice.

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

Alice in Wonderland. It’s my absolute favorite book. I’ve had various copies over the years. Surface level it’s a child’s tale about daydreaming but dig in it a bit and you find all sorts of layers and nuance. I also appreciate the words themselves—this book introduced a ton of words into the English language.

Bonus question: If you won a trip anywhere in the known, unknown, and fictional universe(s), where would you go and what would be your first item of business once you arrived?

Um… offhand I’d say the South Pacific—more specifically Tahiti. First thing I’d do is breathe. No, seriously—a good way to get a sense of place is to breathe the air. It’ll always smell different from home.

~

Curiouser and curiouser.  Come out and chat with Danielle Reed, aka the Girl Genius about Alice in Wonderland and Stephen King at Writers & Words on Tuesday, April 11th at 7pm at Charmington’s.  Our winter break has lasted much longer than we anticipated (stupid snow) and we are stoked to be back!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH TERRI STEEL

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

I began writing plays at age five and directing (read bossing around) my little friends inside our backyard shed.

  1. How many drafts = done?

 

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

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. It planted the seed for my desire to write memoir. I also adore Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird for her richness in characters.

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

Excavating the absolute truth of my past and the discovery of what that is, and connecting with readers.

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

Silence. Because I can hear it.

Bonus question: The apocalypse starts tomorrow – what are the first three steps to ensure your survival?

I would gather my family, cook a great meal (with wine) and share stories as the apocalypse unfolded.

~

Wine is a great way to wait out the apocalypse. We’re stoked to feature Terri Steel and our other great readers at our March 14th Writers & Words at Charmingtons, 7pm.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH JENNIFER LEE

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

It was fun in 7th grade social studies, when I had the amazing Kenneth Link as a teacher. My handwritten paragraphs covered half a page, I wrote from the heart, from the mind, and I loved it. Later came a lot of bad poetry. Much later came fiction.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Whatever it takes. At least three.

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

Murakami’s 1Q84 stands out. Also 10:04 by Ben Lerner. Maybe I like any book with numbers in the title.

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

When I first read this question, I interpreted it to me the discipline that keeps me writing, and what is exciting about that is simply the fact that I have it. Discipline is hard. Then I realized the question was probably asking me what excites me about fiction. I love it when I sit down to write a specific scene or chapter, a section where I pretty much know what is going to happen, and watching all the strange new things I invent in the moment of writing appear on the page as well. It still seems kind of magical to me.

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

I don’t know. I like the words everyone else hates, just to be obnoxious. Give me moist, give me fickle, give me groovy. Words should never be hated, that is like hating a color. Who hates a color? You just haven’t seen it in its best context yet. Speaking of which, color words are some of the best: vermillion, indigo, magenta. Wow.

Bonus question: The apocalypse starts tomorrow – what are the first three steps to ensure your survival?

I think I would have had fun with this question sometime in the safe and distant past. Now it just makes me sigh.

First, load the car. I won’t list all the stuff I’d take, because that would be cheating on the three steps rule. It will be too late for me to buy a gun, there won’t be any left in the stores, so I will have to do with out. Second, get my kids. They are all I would care about when the apocalypse happens, and the only reason for doing this dumb survival thing anyway. Last, head for Canada, by whatever means possible.

See, it isn’t as much fun to think about anymore, is it? Thanks, Cormac McCarthy.

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Your inclusive position on words (should never be hated) could also easily be applied to people. Thanks, Jennifer! We’re so excited to feature Jennifer Lee and our other great readers at our March 14th Writers & Words at Charmingtons, 7pm.  February was not the same without you: bring on March.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITERS & WOODS WRITING RETREAT

  1. So, planning a writing retreat you say? What’s the deal?

Yes we are! March 16th – 19th we’ll be spending a long weekend in some cabins in the woods for some productive, relaxing writing time.

  1. Ok that sounds cool, but does it cost an arm and a leg?

We don’t want your arms or your legs, don’t worry. The cost is $175 which includes a private room in a shared cabin, one optional activity a day (hiking, hot springs, etc), three meals a day (BYOM – M is for meat), limited booze, heat & electricity (no wifi), and the company of other rad writers.

  1. Where are these magical cabins?

Wild and wonderful West Virginia, in Cacapon Resort State Park. The cabins self-identify as tiny houses. Who doesn’t love a tiny house? Literally no one.

  1. This sounds great! But I thought Writers & Words was a reading series; why are you doing a writing retreat?

That is correct, we are a monthly reading series. We’ve been doing readings for two years now, and by far the best thing about it are the cool people we meet each month. We thought a retreat would be a new and different way to support and grow our community of writers. Also, we like doing fun things, and this will be fun, so we’re doing it.

  1. I’m sold. How do I apply?

First go here to our website, fill out the quick questions at the bottom of the page, and wait to hear form us. Space is limited; we’ll let you know mid February if you nabbed a spot. We’ll be taking applications till February 17th, but get in there quick so you don’t miss out.

Bonus question: is West Virginia the Best Virginia?

You’ll have to come to our retreat and decide for yourself!

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Reminder- we will we taking a short winter break in February, however, we’ll be back on the second Tuesday of the month on March 14th featuring Wallace Lane (poetry), Terri Steel (non-fiction), Alex Hacker (Wildcard), & Jennifer Lee (fiction).

Questions about the retreat? Email us at writersandwords[at]gmail[dot]com

See you in March!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH TERI ELLEN CROSS DAVIS

  1. What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?

I like having an outlet for the excessive emotions I tend to feel.

  1. What is your least favorite question in regards to your writing? (ex. How’s it going? When are you going to write the next Harry Potter?) ?

When people ask if I am going to write a poem about them or give me suggestions on poems.

  1. What is, for you, the best time of day, day of the week, and location in which to write? 

Morning can be quite productive before the world begins to intrude too much.

  1. Pens or pencils?

Whatever is closest to me at the time inspiration strikes.

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

Almost any word can be my favorite, although I do love words that deal with the senses: taste, sight, sound, etc.

Bonus question: Batman vs Spiderman – who wins?

Tough one. Spiderman has actual super abilities whereas Batman has great detective skills and is incredibly smart. I might have to go with The Dark Knight who might outfox the Amazing Spider-man.

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We promise not to ask you to write a poem about us, Teri. Learn more about Teri on January 10th at 7pm at Charmingtons for our first Writers and Words of 2017!