5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH KEM JOY UKWU

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

I tried writing a novel when I was a pre-teenager. I wanted to create a trilogy of stories. I remember creating characters and writing pages on paper.

  1. How many drafts = done?

It could be argued that stories are never completed, even after publication. Potential edits can be everlasting. It is possible that there could be no finite number of drafts that would finish a story but if it did exist, it would depend on the story. Some of my stories are done. Others are done – for now.

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

Two of my favorite books are If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black and Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans, both short story collections.

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

The end of writing the first draft. Knowing that it is done and just starting at the same time. The possibility of potential and the promise of progress.

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

Love. The need of it, the want of it, the ignorance of it, the glow of it, the gift of it, the loss of it. Love, when defined and provided in its purest form, is amazingly powerful and powerfully amazing.

 

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Thank you, Kem, for sharing! Love your love of love.

Writers & Words is happening RIGHT NOW at Charmington’s Cafe. Swing by, grab some coffee and some words and have an excellent end of 2017, friends.

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5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DAVE RING

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

When I was ten or so I wrote a “book” about a kid with a magic book of matches. About ten or so sheets of paper folded in half and stapled. My mother found it the other day and sent me a photo of the cover.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Until someone buys it. I usually do a pass of every piece after submitting it, then send it out again.

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

I just finished An Unknindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon and really enjoyed it. I’ve been recommending Persona by Genevieve Valentine a lot lately.

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

I assume we’re referring to writing, rather than my sense of control. I’m infinitely heartened by the recognition that authors like N. K. Jemisin and Alyssa Wong and Amal El-Mohtar have seen in awards recently. This is riveting, visceral work and it deserves to be elevated.

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

Well, according to word prevalence in my stories immediately after finishing them, it’s the word “just,” which I imagine reveals a certain amount of inexactitude. But another word I have an unseemly interest in is “oubliette.” I recently used it twice in a story before realizing my error. Not that a story running amok with oubliettes can’t be interesting.

Bonus question: What’s the best / worst practical joke that you’ve played on someone or that was played on you and how can this shared experience shape the world?

My partner of nearly twelve years pulled the worst practical joke ever on me. It was less than a year after we’d started dating, and he was planning some sort of a mystery trip. I was living in Cambridge, MA at the time and thought that it would be a weekend trip to Philly. A white van comes to pick us up from my place, and after loading my luggage and getting inside, my partner gave me a news article about one of those pray-out-the-gay conversion camps. I nearly had a panic attack. But halfway through the article, inserted into the text, was a note to the effect of “Haha, isn’t this funny, we’re actually going to Ireland to see your college friends.” I forgave him some hours later during the flight to Dublin.

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WOW, that is quite a practical joke!

Come our TONIGHT, December 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe for our last Writers & Words of 2017.

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5 BURNING QUESTINS WITH TIMOTHY GAGER

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

I always hated being told what to write. Book reports…essays…research papers where all assigned in High School and College. When I was 16 I joined the school newspaper, I was writing for the sports pages and I was supposed to write the Basketball Preview. When I assessed the players it read something like Vinnie Scarpello, F, 6’1”, 6’5” with afro. Joe Blow, G, Good ball handler, and actually likes the pizza in the cafeteria. I also was one of the few that could touch type, so I ended up being an Editor and earning the Smithtown East Journalism Award.

  1. How many drafts = done?

Infinity. It’s done when it’s done. It may need more drafts if I’ve written a really rough first draft. It may need more if there are more plot or arc revisions. It may need a few set of eyes because I like to farm line editing typos out because I’m just too damn tired at looking at the manuscript and I’m useless.

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

Favorite all time is Catch-22. I modeled my first novel after the chaptering style, the switch of characters and the humor found in some very serious subject matter. It is Joseph Heller’s work of genius within his total body of work.

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

Depends on what I’m writing. For a novel, someone walking up to me and talking about the book—and not just ass kissing. For poetry, hearing that sigh right after you nailed a poem in front of an audience.

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

That’s a tough one, but I love words which have double meanings and I love puns. Both those types of words give pause to think and to laugh.

Bonus question: What’s the best / worst practical joke that you’ve played on someone or that was played on you and how can this shared experience shape the world?

Once I worked in an isolated office for a company called, let’s say ABC Industries which worked next door to a company 123 Industries. It was so isolated that had to get in our cars to get a soda, coffee, or lunch out. One day a soda machine appeared in the hallway. Our office was ecstatic, and people were playing it up. “Who wants a soda?” and “Ahhhhh, Coke.” Totally yucking it up—so I just had to fix it.

I got an idea, how to burst the bubble—I posted a sign on the machined which read—THIS VENDING MACHINE IS FOR USE BY 123 INDUSTRIES ONLY. NO ONE FROM ABC INDUSTRIES IS ALLOWED TO USE THIS MACHINE.

Anyway. Word spread fast. It spread to our now grumpy employees, all the way to the office manager who storms into 123 Industries and has a red faced tirade. Oh no….I thought. I’d better stay silent on this—I’m in dangerous disciplinary action mode. The next day the machine had been removed. So, I’ve stayed silent for about 25 years and not told anyone about this until now.

In terms of shaping the word, I say, honesty is the best policy, unless it hurts yourself or others.

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I feel pretty honored that this 25 year secret has been now shared with the world via Writers & Words interviews, thank you for trusting us, Timothy.

Check out Timothy and our other awesome readers this Tuesday, December 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe (facebook event, if you want it).

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ELIZABETH EVITTS DICKINSON

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

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. In third grade, I got a puffy-covered diary with a lock on it for my birthday. We lived in the Shenandoah Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the time, and I would take the diary out into the woods near our house and write truly awful poetry with one of those ballpoint pens with different colored inks. But the first time I realized how truly fun writing could be was in high school. I edited my school’s newspaper and I wrote an op-ed about something—the shitty school lunches? I can’t remember—but I do remember reading Kurt Vonnegut at the time, and how my older brother told me to channel Vonnegut and exploit the details and the humor of the scene I was describing. In that moment I learned how fun it could be developing a specific voice for a story.

  1. How many drafts = done?

I write many, many drafts. I have a Seussical system for naming them. I’ve also developed a system where I create an “outtakes” draft for each new draft and this is where I cut and paste sentences or paragraphs or ideas that I’m on the fence about keeping. Sometimes they find a home again in the piece, but more often than not I realize I don’t need them. I never feel done. An editor or a deadline usually forces me to stop.

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

A favorite book that I always recommend: So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

A craft book that I’m enjoying right now: The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey

My favorite book of the moment: Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper

The books I tend to re-read: Most everything by Annie Dillard and Joan Didion.

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

I’m a curious person by nature and I love that writing gives me an infrastructure for that curiosity. I can got where my interests take me. I used to believe that I needed to be one type of writer—I started my career as a journalist—but now I feel the freedom to go where a story takes me, and that can take the form of journalism, essay, creative nonfiction, fiction. I think of E.B. White, who was a novelist, a journalist, a children’s book author, an essayist. White went where his curiosity took him.

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

I love muscular verbs that sound like their action. One example: Sluice

I also think a lot about jargon, about how words are overused and rendered meaningless. Words like: luxury and innovative for example. I marvel at their loss of power. They’re like a sno-cone that’s been sucked free of the flavored juice and reduced to bland nothingness. We’re a culture that loves to suck the worth out of a thing and discard it for something new, even our language, even our words. One of my favorite Emerson quotes is about how we must “pierce this rotten diction and fasten words again to visible things.”

Thank you, Elizabeth! We can’t wait to hear you and our other wonderful readers next week. Don’t miss Elizabeth and our awesome lineup on Tuesday, December 13th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe. Share the facebook event, attend, do all the things, don’t miss out.

The team at Writers & Words is about to head out to the woods for our second writing retreat, this time in partnership with our friends at Ink Press Productions.  Come out on Tuesday for tales from The Woods!

 

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH SARAH SMITH

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

Revision, especially toward the end. I have trouble determining when a poem is done and when I’m just mopping words across the page, whatever the equivalent of playing with your food is..

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

Langston Hughes. What an architect. Timeless voice. “Let America be America Again”? Absolutely.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

I am a shameless fan of urban erotica. Cairo writes books that make me feel like my hair has caught fire.

I run into Edward Doyle-Gillespie every now and then. Every time he drops captivating poems that take my breath away. I think a lot of him personally as well as his work.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

I’m pretty linear and tend to write threads that are easy to follow. I’d like to get a little more confident with fragmentation. I’m not going to be someone who can write down 4 items from a grocery list and call it a day, but working in a little more discord would be a good challenge..

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

My best ideas come moments before I fall asleep and in the car, so I have notebooks in both of those places. My mind untangles just a little bit and the phrases work themselves out. I’ve scribbled phrases in the dark and woken up to a page that looks like it was written by a kindergartener. Beyond that, I’m the best in the morning with the first cup of coffee. It’s all downhill after 7 am.

Bonus question: if you could put a tunnel under any building leading to any other building (geography notwithstanding – this is a magic tunnel), what would you do?

I would tunnel from the Sistine Chapel to the Orsay Museum in Paris. Those are the two most moving collections of art that I’ve ever seen. If the tunnel could go under my parents’ backyard, that would be excellent too, I’d love to stop and have lunch with them.

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Thank you for sharing, Sarah, and for reading with us TOMORROW, Tuesday, November 14th at Charmington’s, 7pm.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH ZACH POWERS

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

I think most writers I know would agree that the business side of things kind of sucks. No, we’re not in it for the cash, but the time between completing a story or a book and seeing it published is often measured in years. On the other hand, I’ve developed a mechanical routine for submissions. I get rejections so often it’s almost satisfying adding another checkmark to the ol’ tally. I just received my thousandth rejection last month. Did I drink to celebrate my dedication or to numb myself to futility? Even I may never know.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

I once wrote the story of a fictional encounter with Haruki Murakami at a bar in Boston. We drank Cutty Sark and chatted about the baseball game on the TV over the bar, though we weren’t fans of either team. He left. The end.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

At the risk of getting redundant, Murakami was the author who brought me to literary fiction, and I’d list several of his books in my top ten. Before I read A Wild Sheep Chase, my reading was mostly limited to science fiction. I read that book in one sitting, though, and the rest is fabulist history.

I’m lucky to know a bunch of my favorite writers: Aimee Bender, Amelia Gray, Manuel Gonzales, Patricia Lockwood. Manuel doesn’t know me very well, but I did fan-boy him at AWP. I’m still talking about his novel a year and a half after I read it. I’m eternally grateful to Karen Russell. Many years ago, I attended a Tin House Summer Workshop where she was the leader. In addition to being one of the best writers in the universe, Karen is incredibly kind and supportive and genuinely caring. All of you should go buy her books right now.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

All of it? I consider writing a practice, and each project is training for doing the next project better. I also think that part of the writing process is discovery, so I don’t always know in advance where I have weaknesses in my writing. Sometimes I don’t know until several drafts into a project. Is that answer dodging the question? Then plot. I should probably be a better at writing stories with traditional plot structures.

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I write in a coffee shop every morning. For 15 years, it was Gallery Espresso in Savannah, Georgia. Now that I live in Northern Virginia, I bounce around between a few locations. As a huge proponent of reading work out loud as part of the revision process, I’ve received many strange looks from other coffee shop patrons as I sit hunched over my table talking to myself.

Bonus question: if you could put a tunnel under any building leading to any other building (geography notwithstanding – this is a magic tunnel), what would you do?

Would this magic tunnel also allow me to access a bank vault without criminal repercussions? If not, then I’d probably connect The Original Pinkie Masters in Savannah to the Silvertone in Boston. Two of my favorite bars for socializing and people-watching. And for drinking.

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Take a look at Zack’s work here, and check out the rest of our November lineup here.  Even better than looking at websites – leave your warm homes and hear Zach and the rest of our readers read on Tuesday, November 14th at Charmington’s, 7pm.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH DEENA ZEINA ZARU

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

You have to be in the right state of mind to write. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

Maya Angelou

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

My favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Jane Austen. My favorite author that I know is my grandmother Jean Zaru. She wrote “Occupied with Non-Violence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks.”

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

I wish I were better at self-editing.

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I listen to one artist for several days – their whole body of music – and I get into a certain zone.

Bonus question: if you could put a tunnel under any building leading to any other building (geography notwithstanding – this is a magic tunnel), what would you do?

I would put a tunnel from my apartment to my grandmother’s house in Palestine.

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Thank you, Deena! Check out Deena’s work at CNN’s Get Political here, her personal website here, and the facebook event for the next Writers & Words here. Links links links.

Be sure to come out and hear Deena read on Tuesday, November 14th at Charmington’s, 7pm sharp.

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH RACHEL COONCE

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

Everything leading up to the writing: the hemming, the hawing, the agonizing, the doing-anything-but-writing-before-writing, the existential crisis before every new piece. But once I am actually writing – crafting words around the inexpressible – it’s the most satisfying experience of my life.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

I would love to have a drink with Dostoevsky! If the characters in the Brothers Karamozov have anything to say about it, it would be both great conversation and a raucous good time!

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

William Faulkner – His southern characters, rich scenery, and deep glimpses into the human experience… it’s everything I aspire to.

Vijay Seshadri – Amazing poet, amazing teacher, and great conversationalist: I just love his loooooooong pauses that somehow inspire people to stay quiet.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

I wish I were better at forcing myself to write even when I don’t want to write. I think there are two kinds of writers out there (and maybe other kinds of writers that don’t fit into these categories at all!): there is the writer who produces a lot of material, and then edits on the page, and there is the writer who edits in her head, and eeks out one perfect sentence at a time. I am the latter, and I am so envious of the former.

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

Because I write in fits and spurts, I’m not sure I have any specific patterns. I like to write in my journal before actually writing, because it clears my head of all the daily sludge. I drink cups and cups of tea when working on any big project, because the five minutes it takes to make it provides me with just enough of a break to be rejuvenated, but not long enough to lose my momentum. Long walks before writing or in the middle of a project does wonders for getting past a stuck place – which always pleases my pup very much.

Bonus question: favorite Halloween costume? Either that you’ve ever seen or ever worn.

I went as Mia from Pulp Fiction, and was apparently unrecognizable. We had the whole crew: Vincent Vega, Jewels, and Marcellus Wallace (ball gag and all).

 

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Thank you so much for reading with us, Rachel.

Last Tuesday, Rachel read at Writers & Words. This Tuesday, her own reading series, Innerloop, will be celebrating the launch of The Inner Loop Radio on iTunes.  Head out to the Colony Club on Tuesday, October 17th at 7:30 and check it out!

5 BURNING QUESTIONS WITH TOM MCALLISTER

  1. What’s your least favorite thing about writing?

The occasional (or maybe frequent) moments when you spend all day wrestling with some problem like how to move a character across the street, and then you think: wait, this shit is pointless. Nobody cares. That can be disheartening.

  1. Which author would you like to have a drink with (Dead or alive. Them, not you).

I’m not sure why, but my first thought on this was Martin Amis. It’s not lik ehe’s one of my literary heroes, and I feel like we might get in a fight by the end of the night. But i bet he’d have some great stories. Plus, he must have access to high-quality booze.

  1. Who is your favorite author that you don’t know personally? Who is your favorite author that you do know personally?

Percival Everett is so good and so smart and Erasure is the kind of book I could never even dream of being good enough to write.

Because of the work I do with Barrelhouse, I’ve been able to become friendly with Stewart O’Nan, who is a really good writer, but also is a model for how a big, fancy writer should conduct himself in the world. He’s so generous with his time and humble. And he’s great company at a baseball game.

  1. What about your discipline (fiction, poetry, etc) do you wish you were better at?

I’m terrible about planning ahead, which means the plots in my early drafts are scattered and messy. Actually, more often than not, the plots in my early drafts barely exist, and then I have spent a ton of time trying to work some energy and movement into the story. I do compile a lot of notes before working on a novel, but then I start writing and half of them end up in the trash anyway.

  1. What kind of creative rituals or patterns do you have?

I don’t have many rituals, or at least not effective ones. I try to wake up early every day, whether I’m working or not, and get at least a couple hours of writing in before I log on to social media and fill my head with dozens of terrible stories about the world. Before I waste my day being angry at people I’ve never met. On days when I stick to this system, I can be very productive – 4000 or more pretty okay words in a morning. A lot of days, it’s much worse than that. Then my ritual is mostly about the cycle of guilt and self-flagellation and vows to be better the next day.

Bonus question: favorite Halloween costume? Either that you’ve ever seen or ever worn.

I was a bad Halloween participant, because I was one of those annoying surly teenagers who just put on an Eagles jersey and said I was dressed as a football player. But when I was younger, I dressed as Destro from G.I. Joe four years in a row. I wrote a little about that in this essay.

My true favorite Halloween costume probably is the one designed by my father-in-law, who was an enormous, gentle man who loved Halloween more than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s sort of hard to describe. It’s like a mixture of a goblin and a member of Jem’s backing band. He put so much effort into it, and every Halloween he had to explain exactly what it was supposed to be. Mostly, he loved how shiny and purple it was. I don’t know. Here’s a picture.

Tom's father-in-law .png

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Thank you so much for sharing this picture, Tom. A true Halloween champion and inspiration.

Come out Tuesday, October 10th and hear Tom and our other readers at Writer & Words! 7pm, Charmingtons. It might be a spooky good time. Or just an ordinary good time. I guess you’ll just have to come out and see for yourself.

Ink and Words: Writers & Words and Ink Press Productions Present “The Woods”

Hello Friends of Writers & Words,

Last night was yet another fantastic reading – thank you, everyone, who came out to Writers & Words! Charmington’s was full of stories about childhood drama, poetry with true heart, an epic Science Fiction excerpt and an expertly performed two person play: it was a night for the books (pun intended). We would be nothing without you, our friends, supporters, and readers.

Back in March, we had an opportunity to get to know a bunch of you better at our first-ever writing retreat. The long weekend was more successful than we ever dreamed, and from the moment it was over we were itching to do it again. So, lucky you, we are.

We’ve brought on the wonderful poets and artists from Ink Press Productions to co-run our second retreat, Ink and Words: Writers & Words and Ink Press Productions Present “The Woods.” We are excited to partner with Ink Press Production and bring you, even more, ways to cultivate your best writing self. Sounds almost too good to be true, right? I promise this email is not a dream: here are the details.  

The retreat will run from December 7 – December 10 at Cacapan State Park, West Virginia and include:

  • A long weekend of writing and meeting other writers.
  • A shared, communal cabin
  • Optional activities per day to get your blood pumping and your artistic juices flowing
  • Heat and electricity, comfort, no internet
  • Copious fireplace usage
  • Games of the literary kind
  • Optional workshops and activities
  • Camaraderie

The cost for 3 nights and 3 days is:

  • $175 for shared room
  • $225 for single room

Cost includes (vegetarian) meals, some booze, swag and valuable writer time with access to editors and friends.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: September 30, 2017. Click here to apply today!

If you have any questions send them our way! Thank you again for your continued support, and we hope to see you in The Woods.

 

Inkpress Productions & Writers & Words

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