Interviews

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5 Burning Questions with Kerry Graham

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. Kerry Graham was scheduled to read with us in 2020 – learn all about her below!

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

Early elementary school, lying on my stomach in my bedroom, writing short stories about girls my age. I remember the sun shining and feeling at peace.

How many drafts = done?

Because I have the nagging habit of revising as I write, I never know when one draft ends and another begins.

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

The Book of Longings. Last spring, I read it sitting under a tree in Patterson Park. Thank you, Sue Monk Kidd.

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

That’s easy: the moment a piece transitions from how-am-I-going-to-make-this-work to oh-my-gosh-everything-is-coming-together.

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

This one is NOT easy. I’ve been wracking my brain for my favorite word(s) and can’t settle on an answer.

Bonus question: if you could go on a virtual date (romantic or not) with anyone in the world right now in this time

Honestly, I crave any meaningful interaction with anyone who can make me laugh and feel less isolated, even for just a little bit.

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Kerry Graham lives, teaches, writes, and runs in Baltimore, MD. Her most recent essays have appeared in HuffPost, and her vignettes have been published in several literary journals.

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5 Burning Questions with Timothy DeLizza

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. Timothy DeLizza read for us in 2018 – 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?

Shortly before the pandemic, I adopted three domestic rats from Small Angels Rescue in Frederick, Maryland. Vinnie, Gordo and Harry have made fine pandemic company. I documented the process, as well as the history of human/rat relations in an essay which recently won the 2020 Barry Lopez Nonfiction Award. The essay will be published in Cutthroat next summer.  You can see many cute pictures of them via my Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/timothydelizza/?hl=en

My 35-minute comedic play about Baltimore, “Charm City Counselors at Love” (co-written w/ Colin Beckman) was originally going to be performed at the 2020 Capital Fringe Fest. It was not. But it has been published by Another Chicago Magazine: https://anotherchicagomagazine.net/2020/12/17/charm-city-counselors-at-love-by-colin-beckman-timothy-delizza/?fbclid=IwAR0UtKDpke_osAHogXUJVl1ZLa31VU4aiIJzb9tmYHQRvNdVFZ8z_DgrYwE

Although I’m in no way affiliated with them, I’ve donated a few times to the B’More Community Fridge @ 209 McAllister Street. If you live in Baltimore, they are perhaps the single most efficient way to fight hunger. In essence, people directly donate the food, and others who are hungry can take it. Focus is on fresh and healthy items, but you are also welcome to clear out non-expired staples from your pantry and avoid food waste. https://www.instagram.com/bmorecommunityfridge/?hl=en 

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

I’m primarily working on the same novel that I was working on when I last read for W&W (and for the ten years before that). It is called A Gift of Two and is literary speculative fiction that takes place followed the 1977 riots in New York.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

In terms of writers who know personally, I enjoyed You Exist Too Much, the fiction debut by my old friend Zaina Arafat, which is a propulsive read about love addiction, complex mother/daughter relationships and the difficulty of coming out in a semi-traditional Arab family. 

In terms of revisiting older works, I enjoyed Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, which originally came out in 1990 and involves magical battles in a country that resembles renaissance Italy. Kay once assisted Tolkien in assembling the Silmarillion. A very immersive, thought-provoking meditation on how conquered countries can be stripped of their identity and the work to regain that identity back.

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

The Baltimore and DMV writing communities are small but supportive. In non-pandemic times, my Drinking Club saloon is able to draw 40+ folks bi-annually, all of whom are engaged and often leave with a new friend to collaborate with.  

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

Join a writers group and a book club. Many local libraries coordinate and host writers groups. Attend local reading series and craft talks. Some series have gone online. The Inner Loop in DC is a good place to start if you’re in the DMV area and missing the W&W experience.

If you are a male writer who is trying to write more developed female characters, I recently published a craft piece on the topic about one way I’ve tried to get better myself.

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.

The rats are quiet companions so I can’t say 2. I want to say 4, but I bought a printer for the first time in over a decade recently, so apparently I do still need one. So my answer is the emotions evoked by 4 but not the literal description?

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Timothy DeLizza lives in Baltimore, MD. During daytime hours, he’s an energy attorney for the government. His prose has recently appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, New South, and the Potomac Review. His work can be found here: http://www.timothy-delizza.com/

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5 Burning Questions with Kaya Dia (formerly known as Mika 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. Kaya Dia (formerly known as Mika Quinn) 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?

Since I read, I’ve become a junior in high school, meaning that the college searching and applying process has become much more stressful. I’ve also been nominated for a full scholarship to attend Iowa Young Writers Studio, a great honor that led to my acceptance, and my virtual and later on physical attendance there (Yay!!!).

The writing has been great! Several months ago, I finished writing the book that I read an excerpt from and am currently searching for a literary agent, while also re-working a story that I’ve been writing for four years now.

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

 As of now, I’m working on rewriting a story that I started in the seventh grade. I have changed it about a dozen times since I began writing it, but I think that this bout of changes will stick. If it doesn’t it’ll be back to the drawing board.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

 I’ve been reading the Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and so far, it’s amazing and has driven me to consider certain things about the world in a different way, which I always love in a book. Other than that, I’m waiting for the final School for Good and Evil book to come in the mail, and I’m very excited.

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

 Undiscovered, and possibly nonexistent.

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

Be open to feedback and sharing your work with others; it’s one of the most important parts of the writing process. And remember that you don’t have to listen to every suggested edit– change what you think will make your work better.

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.

Level 1! I’m pretty low maintenance, so as long as no one decides to take all of my notebooks, pens, and my laptop from me, I’m good. Although, I can’t deny that I wish I were at level 5.

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Kaya Dia is currently a high school junior who has been writing since she was in middle school. Now, with quarantine life giving her much more time on her hands, she spends her time listening to music, re-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and of course, writing.

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5 Burning Questions with Ashley Elizabeth

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. Ashley Elizabeth 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?

I’ve been in the classroom, teaching 6th and 7th grade. The writing comes and goes, as it always does. I’ve gotten several pieces published by different places as well as a book acceptance. If that’s not an indication of success, I also feel stronger about my work. I have so many ideas and directions I want to go, I just have to pick one to focus on. 

I am constantly in a state of revision, even before a piece is out or even finished. I’ve been going back and forth between wanting to expand some of my nonfiction/memoir pieces and sticking particularly with my poetry.

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

Well aside from teaching my kiddos, I am trying to find a home for another book of mine as well as compile/write a third manuscript. 

Other than that, nothing really has been striking my fancy. It’s such an odd time to live in. The grass is so green, sky so blue, and I have to stare at gray walls all day, so that’s kind of dampened my spirits. I have also been forming the aforementioned collective of writers and getting to know people from across the states.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

Book wise, I’ve mainly only read The Odyssey and Animal Farm as that is what I am currently teaching, but I’ve also read several beautiful but odd essays, such as this one about eels. I have also been re-reading other Grecian myths, and that has been really fun and rewarding.

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

It’s getting back on its feet. The writers are all doing writer things and still having events. I mean I am very shy, but the places I go to and the people I have interacted with have all been so inviting.  

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

Be yourself. Do what you can when you can. Go to events. Support other writers with pure intention, not wanting to get anything out of it. Form your own community if you have to.

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 between 2 and 3 (and I don’t even have a dog). 4 tried me though! Then I just unplugged it and plugged it in again. Whatever works.

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Ashley Elizabeth is a writing consultant, teacher, and poet. Her works have appeared in Bonnie’s Crew, yell/shout/scream, and SWWIM, among others. Her chapbook, you were supposed to be a friend, is forthcoming with Nightingale & Sparrow (June 2020). When Ashley isn’t serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications, teaching, or freelancing, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram, watching way too many dog and food videos. She lives with her partner in Baltimore, MD.

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5 Burning Questions with Judith Krummeck

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.  Judith Krummeck read for us in 2015 – 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’ve been quite busy since I had the pleasure of meeting up with writers and wordsmiths at Charmington’s in what seems like another lifetime now. I completed and published my biographical memoir, Old New Worlds, which intertwines the immigrant stories of my great-great grandmother from England to Africa and mine from Africa to America. I’ve also written two screenplays based on award winning novels by my compatriot, André Brink.

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

As an “essential worker,” I’ve continued going in to work at the radio station every day, and finding time to write in between. Currently, I’m completing the second draft of my first work of longform fiction, which has been a huge creative stretch for me. While I’ve been working on that, my first screenplay ran into a bizarre SNAFU with rights, but I tried to keep my mourning period to a minimum, and poured my energy into another screenwriting project almost immediately—fingers crossed it will go into pre-production in Cape Town soon

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

My most important read was How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. It was a hard read for someone who lived under apartheid in South Africa, only to be faced with unresolved racial bias in America. My favorite read was Hamnet and Judith by Maggie O’Farrell. My work in progress borrows from Shakespeare, and I simply loved getting lost in his world as seen through the eyes of his wife, Agnes (or Anne) Hathaway.

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

Supportive, engaged, diverse, adventurous …

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

Being supportive of, and engaged with, other writers is essential. Participate in reading series like Writers & Words (when they are able to un-pause!); take part in book launches and author discussions—even in these virtual times it is possible to do so. Follow writers on social media, and engage with them and their work. As with anything, it is all about nurturing relationships.

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 think I’m closest to “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me,” in the sense that, while others may be climbing the walls due to quarantine restrictions, I’ve been lucky enough to carry on with my life pretty much as normal—while taking the proper safety precautions, of course!

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Judith Krummeck is a writer, broadcaster, and immigrant living in Baltimore. She is the author of the biographical memoir Old New Worlds, and a collection of essays about her immigrant experience, Beyond the Baobab. Judith is the evening drive time host for Maryland’s classical music station, WBJC, 91.5 FM. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore.

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5 Burning Questions with Gwen Van Velsor

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.  Gwen Van Velsor read for us in 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?

Just release Freedom Warrior during the best and worst time to launch a book.  This book is about finding freedom in situations when I felt trapped, which is incredibly timely and weird.

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

I can’t even get myself to journal. I’m trying to just accept this as part of the composting process.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I enjoyed Dark Garnet by Carrie Greenlaw (Lines + Stars)

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

Full of love.

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

Just remember that you already belong just by being willing to put a pen to the page. There is no other requirement for membership.

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 am one with the Force baby.

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Gwen Van Velsor writes creative nonfiction and pseudo-inspirational prose. She started Yellow Arrow Publishing, a project that publishes and supports writers who identify as women in 2016. Raised in Portland, Oregon, Gwen has moved many times, from sea to shining sea, now calling Highlandtown, Baltimore her forever home. Her major accomplishments include walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, raising a toddler, and being OK with life exactly as it is. She has published two memoirs, Follow That Arrow, in 2016 and Freedom Warrior, in 2020.

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5 Burning Questions with Israfel Sivad

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.  Israfel Sivad 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?

Well, like most of the world, I’ve been on lockdown with my family. We’re currently in the process of moving from Alexandria, VA to Baltimore right now, however, which is very exciting to us. My wife went to high school in the city, and my grandfather lived there while I was growing up. In fact, we were married at the American Visionary Art Museum. We love Baltimore, and we’re looking forward to becoming residents of it and raising our child there. On top of the logistics of moving during a global pandemic, I’ve still been finding plenty of time to write.

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

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on my memoir, which I hope to have published in the coming year sometime. The memoir tells two stories… a forward going tale revealing how I fell in love with and proposed to my wife, and a backward story of my lifetime battles with drug addiction and mental illness. It’s a new kind of project for me, and I’m very proud of it. In addition to that, I’ve been plugging away on what I think will wind up being my first young adult novel. It’s a coming-of-age story about a kid who gets clean and sober in the early 1990s at the tender age of 15.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

So far, the only book I’ve read during quarantine has been Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times. I’ve never really read Dickens before, and I enjoyed it. As I know most of his writing does, it deals with a lot of social justice issues from industrial England in the 19th century. A good read, but not exactly my favorite thing I’ve ever come across. Still, I’d like to read more Dickens, especially his classic A Tale of Two Cities.

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

Hmmm… not too familiar with the writing community in Alexandria. We only lived there for two years, and our child was born shortly after we moved there from DC. DC had a very vibrant community that I was proud to be a part of, albeit at a bit of distance. But I’m really looking forward to getting plugged into the community in Baltimore. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the city’s arts scene, and I’m thrilled that I will soon get to be a part of it!

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

Be kind, be humble, and just do it. In my experience, writers love sharing what they’ve learned, and we’re all in this together. There’s no reason not to put yourself out there and join a writing group or start giving readings. I’m actually very shy, and it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable joining my local writing communities, but every time I take another step, I find myself fully embraced.

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.

Currently, 1) relaxing with a book. But it took me a while to get here…

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Israfel Sivad is the founder of Ursprung Collective, an international spoken word/music project, which has been referred to as “fantastic brain food” on ReverbNation. He is also 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.

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5 Burning Questions with Carolyn Shayte

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 Shayte 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?

Well, I moved across country from Baltimore to Santa Fe and started a graduate program! I have been exploring this new area, going on lots of hikes, and enjoying the endless sunshine and green chilis. My writing is now more so related to my academic courses, but I have found time to work on my personal writing and have gotten very into writing haikus since the start of the pandemic.

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

I am working on lots of schoolwork which involves readings, writing, research, and art making for my spring quarter classes which are centered around human development, multicultural perspectives, and human sexuality and Eros in myths, fantasies, and dreams. I am loving all that I am learning!

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

For my class on Eros and human sexuality I read Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies by Michael J. Bader, and wow what a fascinating read!

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

I am still finding it and figuring it out!

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

There are lots of writing communities out there, in person or online, that social media have made it easier to find. It’s more about finding the people you click with, who give you feedback in a productive way, and that inspire you to write…and they don’t even have to write in your genre!

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 think every week I make my way through all of these levels.

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Carolyn Shayte is a multimedia and community artist, poet, and avid nature lover from Baltimore, MD. Currently she lives in Santa Fe, NM with her very fluffy cat, Jewel, where she is pursuing her M.A. in Art Therapy and Counseling at Southwestern College and the New Earth Institute.

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5 Burning Questions with Vonetta Young

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. Vonetta Young 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?

I started my own financial services consulting business last year, and it’s really taken off, so writing has, unfortunately, taken a little bit of a back seat. But I’m in the process of re-jiggering my schedule to make Friday my writing day – no business, just writing, dammit.

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

I’m querying agents for my memoir, Daughter of the Most High, a coming-of-age story about growing up with an emotionally abusive father who was a minister (think Small Fry meets Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl with a splash of religion for garnish). To take my mind off that, when I am writing, I’m working on a collection of short stories about Black women being messy. I’m finishing the fourth of what I think will be nine or ten stories.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

 I read Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid as salve at the beginning of this whole thing, when my body only wanted to sleep and, when I wasn’t sleeping, only to read. It’s a great story about a Black Millennial woman at the end of the Obama Administration, and it all felt so poignant reading it in March 2020.

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

Beautiful. Supportive. Smart. Reliable. High quality. (All of which could apply to a good bra as well, apparently.)

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

Luckily, I just did this last week! My advice is to get out there, see what’s available, and find your place. Attend as many readings as possible; you’ll start seeing the same faces. Take classes at local writing centers. Join a critique group, and always bring wine. Support other people’s writing, and they will support yours. That’s the definition of community.

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.

Totally #5. I hate all the horrible things that have happened, but not gonna lie, this has been so nice, being productive and not having to be around people. I’ve been living my best life.

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Vonetta Young is a Black woman writer based in Washington, DC. She generally explores in her work the themes of complex family dynamics, the intersection of race and class, and the desire for belonging. Her essays and fiction have been published in Catapult, DASH, Lunch Ticket, Barrelhouse, and Cosmonauts Avenue, among others.

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5 Burning Questions with Tom McAllister

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. Tom McAllister 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?

My W & W reading was the first time I ever read publicly from the manuscript that was published as How to Be Safe. It was, I think, available for pre-order at that point, but there had been absolutely no press for it yet, so it felt for me like passing a big test that people laughed at the parts where they were supposed to laugh, and generally responded positively. That book was published in April 2018 and I’m very lucky to have gotten some really good reviews. Washington Post and Kirkus both had it on their list of best books of the year.

Since then, I spent some time not writing, but got back to work in 2019 when I started writing a short essay for every year I’ve been alive. Some of them have been published now, and I’m submitting the rest. I’m tracking the publications, with links, on my blog.

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

Like a lot of people (I think?), I’ve struggled to focus the past few months. I finished a decent draft of a new novel just before things got crazy and now I’m letting it sit another month or so before I get back into it. Right now, I feel pretty good about it, but I’m mentally preparing myself for finding out that it is actually quite terrible when I revisit it.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I just read a galley of Jeff Chon’s forthcoming novel, Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun, and it’s one of the best things I’ve read all year. I can’t wait till other people get to see it.

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

I’m in South Jersey, just outside of Philly. It’s vibrant, eclectic, a little fractured, and full of incredible weirdos.

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

Show up. You don’t have to be the most energetic or gregarious person, but if you’re showing up and supporting other people’s work, they notice, and they will make space for you too. Just keep showing up, as much as you can. I’m bad at following my own advice sometimes, but it’s so important to let people know you’re trying to contribute by helping other artists get their work out, not just using them as a potential future audience.

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 have been doing a lot of bickering with my dog recently. Let’s go with 2.

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Tom McAllister is the author of the novels “How to Be Safe” and “The Young Widower’s Handbook,” as well as the memoir “Bury Me in My Jersey.” His short fiction and essays have been published widely, and have most recently appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Hobart, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, TheMillions, Juked, and Pithead Chapel. He is the co-host of the weekly podcast, Book Fight!, and nonfiction editor at Barrelhouse. He teaches at Temple University and lives in New Jersey.