Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do
Marisa Crane is a lesbian writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Pidgeonholes, Riggwelter Press, Pigeon Pages, Cotton Xenomorph, and elsewhere. She is the co-founder of Collective Unrest, a political resistance magazine. She currently lives in San Diego with her wife.
- When and why did you start writing poetry?
I started writing poetry around sixth grade. I used writing as a means to whine about everything going on in my life. Real angsty shit. All of the poems rhymed, too, if you can imagine the absolute horror. Occasionally I even tried to rap them. It was a dark time. But then I won the first poetry contest I ever entered (and haven’t won one since). It was a contest at school. My winning poem was published in the yearbook and I rose to instant fame, and by instant fame, I mean no one noticed and the world continued to spin madly on.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I can’t remember anyone introducing me to poetry. My parents had science / medical backgrounds and as much as my mom loves to read, she almost exclusively reads fiction. I think it was just one of those things I fell into because it felt good and right.
2.1 Why did it feel good and right?
I think because it allowed me to process my emotions, fears, insecurities, anxieties, uncertainties etc. in a way that made sense to me. I could revisit old poems in order to conjure up old feelings and ghosts. I could also tear pages out and put those memories to sleep if I wanted. Poetry is magic, a form of time-travel.
3. What is your daily writing routine?
Right now I’m unemployed so my schedule was very different until about a month ago. When I was working, I would wake up around 6 AM and make coffee, do a little creative meditation, then write for about two hours. Generally I’d be working on fiction, whether it was stories or my novella. Then at work if i wasn’t too busy I’d be able to get some writing done on my breaks as well. Now that I’m not working, I wake up a little later, between 7 and 8, and have a slower morning, drink coffee, talk with my wife, beg her to play hooky, which she declines. Once she goes to work, I go to a coffee shop and work on whatever my current project is. This past month I’ve been writing for about 4-6 hours a day.
4. What motivates you to write?
I always feel like this is a tough question to answer, because almost everything sounds cliché to me. I suppose, at the core of it all, my feelings and experiences motivate me to write. Writing helps me process what I’ve been through. It often helps me to forgive myself for my past that I cannot change. I also allows me to express my fears in a healthy, channeled way. For example, I never wanted children until I met my wife, who very much wants to have kids, always has. I’m both excited and terrified of having children. A specific fear associated with this prospect is that my wife will die during childbirth or shortly thereafter, leaving me to raise our child alone. I know that it’s not likely, but it’s something I obsess over. I feel ill-equipped to raise a child. Most days I worry that I’ll break our baby. Anyway, I recently wrote a story about this very thing: having to raise my child after my wife dies during childbirth. The fear hasn’t dissipated since I wrote it, but it’s certainly dulled a bit, which is all I can ask. It’s a pretty damn good story too.
5. Who of today’s writers do you admire and why?
I admire the hell out of Kelly Link. I think that she is a rare genius who can tell a story and captivate a reader in an unprecedented way. She’s not afraid to play and her confidence shows. She could make me believe just about anything. Rivka Galchen is a new favorite of mine as well. She is imaginative, fearless, and unapologetic. Her work takes on a dream-like, surreal quality that stuns me. She also has a sneaky way of surprising the reader on a sentence level. Every time I think a character is going to do, say, or feel a certain thing, I am wrong, and I’m never happier to be wrong than when I’m reading Rivka. Also, Celeste Ng is a force to be reckoned with. I recently read “Little Fires Everywhere” and I swear I barely took a breath the entire time. She is a magician when it comes to creating dynamic and memorable characters. And lastly, Rachel Khong, who has the unique ability to write sentences that are at once heartbreaking and hilarious. Her work packs a huge punch in not so many words. Her turns of phrase sit with me for days.
6. Why write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I fear this response is going to sound really over-played, but the simple answer is that I can’t keep from writing. It’s not something that I ever have to force myself to do. It’s my natural way of processing and understanding life. Everything that isn’t writing feels like second best.
7. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I think I would start by saying that you’ve got to sit down and write something. Or you can stand if you’re so inclined. Or do jumping jacks between words. Burpees, lunges, flame-throwing, etc. No matter how you want to do it, you’ve got to get words down. If you enjoy writing and you in fact DO write, then you’re a writer. I think if it’s something that remains inside your head then you aren’t a writer yet. But otherwise I can’t stand all of the debates surrounding whether someone is a writer or not. In fact, I find them elitist. It’s not a secret club with a special knock. Write the words down and you can confidently call yourself a writer. Try the word on sometime. Say, “I am a writer” in the mirror three times while spinning in circles.
8. Tell me about writing projects you’re involved in at the moment.
I’m currently working on a novel but for the first time in the history of my writing, I haven’t told anyone about it, including my wife. For some reason I feel very superstitious and I want to keep it to myself until it’s done. I’m about halfway there. I have a completed novella called “A Shooting Star Isn’t a Star at All” that I’ve submitted to several contests and presses. It was born out of a private, ongoing workshop with author Elizabeth Crane. The content is based on my experiences as a behavioral health worker for disturbed youth in the Philadelphia school district. It’s written from several different perspectives, including inanimate objects like a baby blankie and bullets in a loaded gun. That’s all I’ll say on that for now. I’m also shopping around a short story collection called “Human Pulp,” which explores the consequences of inaction through off-kilter and quirky voices. Lastly, I’m working on revising and submitting a poetry chapbook called “Our Debatable Bodies,” which documents my experiences as a lesbian and a woman. Another short story collection seems to be on the horizon as well. I can’t shake the idea of writing a series of stream-of-consciousness close third person stories about children / adolescents who experience discrimination / trauma / abuse and the implications of said experiences.