Interviews

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5 burning questions with Mika Quinn

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

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

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

How many drafts = done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 burning questions with Adam Tedesco

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

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

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

How many drafts = done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism.

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

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5 burning questions with Tim Fitts

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

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

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

How many drafts = done?

Sometimes 2-3, usually 20-60.

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

No Country for Old Men.

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

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

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

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

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

Head-on, the image of Marilyn Monroe.

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

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5 burning questions with Margery Bayne

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

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

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

How many drafts = done?

Depends completely on the individual story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.margerybayne.com

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5 burning questions with Austin Allen

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

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

Writing a poem on the bus on the way to kindergarten. The meter was terrible.

How many drafts = done?

It’s hard to measure in terms of drafts, but on average, I finish a poem (if I finish it) several months after starting it.

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

I’m currently enjoying Zadie Smith’s essay collection Changing My Mind.

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

Finding a way to write about something I’ve wanted to write about for years.

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

I love how secret or secretly creates instant drama, even in the most mundane contexts. “I secretly opened the refrigerator.” “She filed the secret tax form.”

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

Secretly? Waxing gibbous.

Austin Allen’s debut poetry collection, Pleasures of the Game (Waywiser Press, 2016), was awarded the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. His poetry has recently appeared in The Hopkins Review, The Missouri Review, The Yale Review, 32 Poems, and other outlets. He studies and teaches creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. http://www.austinallenwriting.com

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5 Burning Questions with Susan Muaddi Darraj

Susan Muaddi Darraj is one of our featured writers at our May 14th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I remember being in fourth grade, in the Catholic school I attended in South Philadelphia – my teacher’s name was Sister Euphemia (never forget it), and she encouraged me to write creatively. I once wrote some godawful story about a princess and a castle, but in the end, I thought it wasn’t serious enough, so I killed off the princess dramatically. Anyway, Sister Euphemia liked it and said I should copy my stories neatly in notebooks to start my own “collection.” Something about that struck a chord with me – that I could be a storyteller, and so I started writing more seriously, even illustrated some of my tales.

How many drafts = done?

It’s never really done! I have given readings of my work, from a published book, and before the reading I will edit myself. Someone following along in the book would notice that my reading differs from the printed text. But BEFORE the thing goes to print, there are numerous drafts. Probably a couple dozen. I print out every draft and edit by hand, then put the changes into the electronic version, then print it out again. It’s a slow process.

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

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias – a barrio noir (a genre Iglesias invented) novel set at the border.

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

I am passionate about depicting the lives of working-class people, especially immigrants. There is such passion and beauty and tragedy in their daily lives and struggles – I want to bring that to the page, to the reader.

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

I have a lot of favorite words – some I love for their sound, some for the meaning, some for their associations. But I will offer the word “mosaic,” because my books are “mosaic novels” — I like to depict a larger, sweeping picture of a town, a way of life, an historical period by showing the reader fragments from multiple points of view.

Bonus question: What kind of fruit best describes your least favorite celebrity or relative?

Prickly pear. Maybe it’s sweet on the inside, but really, who wants to bother?


 

Susan Muaddi Darraj is the author of two linked short story collections, The Inheritance of Exile and A Curious Land; the latter won the 2016 Arab American Book Award and a 2016 American Book Award. In 2018, she was named a 2018 Ford Fellow by USA Artists. In January 2020, Capstone Books will launch her debut children’s chapter book series, Farah Rocks, about a smart, brave Palestinian American girl named Farah Hajjar.

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5 Burning Questions with Danny Caine

Danny Caine is one of our featured writers at our May 14th reading. Check out our interview with him below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I was applying to college. The essay prompt that year was horrible and vague and I was totally stuck: “Write about an issue of global, national, or local significance and its importance to you.” I was 100% sure they probably didn’t want another essay about the legalization of marijuana or some bullshit like that, and I absolutely didn’t want to write that. In a moment of panicked desperation, I wrote about writer’s block as my issue of local importance, and by giving myself permission to be a meta smartass, I had fun writing something for the first time. I also got into college!

How many drafts = done?

Some poems are done almost right away, some poems take years. Some poems in the book are showing me that they still want some changes, though I’m resisting that. So it really depends on the poem, but I’d say the average is 3 or 4.

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

The most recent book to knock me over was Amy Hempel’s new collection Sing to It. It’s revolutionary. She’s running laps around everyone. I could say the same thing about Colson Whitehead, too. I was lucky enough to read his new book The Nickel Boys in advance, and if there’s any justice, they’ll be teaching this thing in schools soon.

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

I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry’s ability to question. You don’t need an answer to write a poem. To me it feels like the discipline that’s most suited to searching, to sorting out your feelings, to questioning. It’s liberating to be able to write through something without having figured it out first—to write through something as a way of figuring it out. Or not.

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

This is super corny but I’m going to say the combination of “Continental Breakfast.” I know, I know, it’s the title of my book. Still, I named my book that primarily because I love the phrase. What a slalom of consonants it is, with hard sounds around every corner and a pleasing meter. I knew the book would be called Continental Breakfast before I wrote the poem “Continental Breakfast”—I wrote that piece so I’d be allowed to use the title for the book. Plus, the words instantly bring to mind a host of images, tastes, and smells, none of which are particularly amazing but they’re distinctly of-a-place. You’ve probably had a continental breakfast. You’ve probably been a bit disappointed in it, hungry a short 50 miles later. I love that.

Bonus question: What kind of fruit best describes your least favorite celebrity or relative?

I won’t say who it is, but they’re definitely unripened honeydew in a fruit cocktail. The kind that’s so unripe it kind of crunches.


 

Danny Caine is the author of the poetry collections Continental Breakfast (Mason Jar Press 2019, originally appearing in Hobart) and El Dorado Freddy’s (collaboration with Tara Wray, Belt Publishing 2020). His poetry has appeared in Hobart, Barrelhouse, New Ohio Review, DIAGRAM, and other places. He hails from Cleveland and lives in Lawrence, Kansas where he owns the Raven Book Store.