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.
Just Buffalo teaching artist Benjamin Brindise is the author of the chapbook ROTTEN KID (Ghost City Press, 2017), the full length collection of poetry Those Who Favor Fire, Those Who Pray to Fire (EMP Books, 2018), and the short fiction micro chap Secret Anniversaries (Ghost City Press, 2019).
He has represented Buffalo, NY in the National Poetry Slam in 2015, 2016, and 2018, helping Buffalo to place as high as 9th in the country. His poetry and fiction has been published widely online and in print including Maudlin House, Peach Mag, and The Marathon Literary Review.
- What inspired you to write poetry?
I came to poetry in a search for an honest place. I’ve been writing fiction, telling stories, laying myself between the lines for as long as I can remember, but at twenty-five I was seeking a release from narrative. In college, I had written and studied poetry, but I felt I was stronger with prose and so never allowed myself the chance to consider verse a viable path. Six years ago I stumbled into the Pure Ink Poetry Slam in Buffalo, NY and was blown away by performance poetry. After that, I wanted to try it myself.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
The earliest memory I have of poetry is from when my mom went back to college while she was working full-time. She took me to the library at the school and there was a poetry contest and she suggested I give it a try. I remember thinking, “Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be good at.” I got four lines down that didn’t mean anything, knew it was terrible, and decided to never try writing a poem again.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I’m not sure poetry lends to a dominating presence per se. There are people who’ve been around longer, people who have done more things, and published more places, but if they’re older, that’s not really a surprise. At some point they were young poets who hadn’t done anything, yet, too. Everyone has different goals, everyone wants different things out of writing. I think comparing yourself to other writers is a fools errand that wastes time you could use doing things that make you happy.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I used to put a lot of stock into a daily writing routine. I read On Writing and Faulkner’s The Art of Fiction No. 12 interview and became convinced the capitalist position that grinding away every day is the way to do it. If you are compelled to write, if you must write more than anything else, shouldn’t you feel the need to do it every day?
No. If you’re a well adjusted human being with a balanced life other things are bound to take your attention. Stephen King can sit there and tell us we should shoot for 2,000 words a day, and in the context of writing a novel, getting it out quickly and not losing the thread of a long story makes sense, but to try to hold yourself to some mythical standard someone said once is unrealistic, and in my opinion, counter productive.
Go at your own pace. Sometimes you’re just not ready to do your best work yet and that’s okay. If you don’t feel like writing, or you’re only writing poor quality stuff, it’s probably time to recharge the batteries. Write enough stuff you don’t like and eventually writing is no longer the thing you enjoy so much.
5. What motivates you to write?
I always wanted to tell stories. It is truly the one thing I feel right doing. If I didn’t do it at least some of the time, I wouldn’t be happy.
6. What is your work ethic?
Do the best you can with what you have while you have it.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I like to think there’s a shelf on every writer’s toolbox that’s full of tips and tricks they picked up from their influences. In the beginning, it’s what you loved about someone else’s writing, but as time goes on, it’s what you thought was missing; what you would have done differently.
I think influence is the beginning of a writer’s formation of their own taste. Whether for good, or for bad, the writers you spent a lot of time reading will determine what you think is good, and what you think is bad. I don’t think there’s a way to avoid that.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
There are so many. In terms of ‘big name’ writers, I’ve really fallen for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I lived inside her book, Americanah, for much longer than I normally spend reading a book. I feel like I know those characters and that’s something special.
But everyone knows the ‘big name’ writers, don’t they? In Buffalo, we’ve had something of a writing renaissance over the last few years. These writers, the ones I hear at open mics, the ones I’ve heard drafts of while they’re still working on them, or the writers who’ve come in to the city to feature at various readings, these are the people that have impacted me the most. For poetry, I really admire June Gehringer’s word choice, Justin Karcher’s imagery, Rachelle Toarmino’s style, Jazz De Nero’s seemingly unending creativity, and Skyler Jaye Rutkowski’s uncompromising dive into the grit. For fiction, I really admire Matt Bookin’s story telling. I’m not sure there’s anyone who sounds like Bookin, and that’s pretty impressive in itself.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Stories were the first things I got lost in. They were my first friends. They took me away from the world and made me feel better. Writing is the only thing I feel right doing.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Read a lot. Take your time. Run after the ideas that start your brain on fire and let go of the ones that become a slog. Enjoy yourself. If you’re not, what’s the point?
For practical advice, google is your friend. Any question you have on “how do I publish?”, “how do I write a cover letter?”, “what should be in my bio?” etc, can be found through a quick google search. Don’t saddle other writers with the leg work you should do on your own. Most likely, they did their own leg work to have answers to those questions. You can do the same.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Secret Anniversaries, a micro chapbook of four short stories, came out recently through the Ghost City Press Summer Series and I honestly couldn’t be more proud of it. If people only read one thing I’ve ever written, I’d want it to be this project. You can find it for free (with a pay-what-you-can option) on their website (link: https://ghostcitypress.com/2019-summer-microchap-series-1/secret-anniversaries).
I’m currently at work on my second novel, Ketchum. It’s a really different direction for me. My first novel, A Bad Spot, was a work of horror that dove into the psyche of an aging generation of millenial’s and how we deal with the legacy left to us by previous generations (hey agents, I’m shopping that bad boy around right now, just saying), but Ketchum requires no such suspension of disbelief. It’s about people in a place and what happens to them. Sound simple? No one said good stories had to be complicated.
To find out more about upcoming projects, new releases, or if I ever sell a novel, you can find me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ben.brindise/), on Twitter @benbrindise, or on Instagram @benjaminbrindiseauthor