Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Holly Pelesky

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.

quiver front

Holly Pelesky

is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. Her essays have appeared in The Nasiona, Jellyfish Review and Homology Lit among other places. Her poems are bound in Quiver: A Sexploration. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to pay off loans and eke by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Omaha with her two sons.

links:

website: https://hollypelesky.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hollypelesky

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I don’t think I’m inspired to write poetry particularly as much as I’m inspired to write words generally. I was a very shy and sheltered child who found solace in reading books. That gave way to wanting to write my own stories. I used to write Nancy Drew fan fiction on legal pads or scrawl rhyming poems on floral stationery. I grew up in a religious household where I was rewarded for fitting in, not standing out, but in words I found a place to put my own voice.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Although I was aware of the genre before college, it was in undergrad that I really paid attention to poetry. I had the most amazing professor who was more of a mentor than a teacher and she introduced me to all sorts of new ways to arrange words. Poetry made words dance and dip in a way I hadn’t acknowledged before and I became a bit preoccupied with writing my angst in poetic forms, once I knew poems didn’t have to rhyme.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I knew they dominated the college textbooks and since I went to college before the internet was as vast as it is now, they were my main reference as to what poetry was. It is a pleasure to live now in an age where I have more control over what I consume and can find all sorts of voices to motivate and influence me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It is hard to describe a typical writing day because many days I don’t write at all. There are days for housework or submitting my existing work or the jobs I toil away at so I can continue to write. I count all that as part of the process, too. By the time I sit down to write, I have spent hours mulling through what I have to say, spinning words in my head, erasing them, writing them again without ever seeing them on a page. As much as I admire the people who wake up early or stay up late each day to write on a schedule, I am not one of them. My discipline is not in the time I set aside to write but the regenerating motivation to. Out of necessity, I have learned now to write amidst distractions. I can be found writing at my desk occasionally, or while my children are splashing in a pool or in the back of the coffee shop I work in.

5. What motivates you to write?

Words I read that other people have written so carefully, succinctly, emotionally, sensually. Images or sounds or movements or scraps of overheard dialogue that I want to ponder and explore. My own emotions that I don’t know how to articulate but want to make sense of. I am constantly intrigued by what motivates us and want to find it. The other day I heard a mother yelling at her daughter in the public bathroom, upset she hadn’t gone number two because they had a long trip in front of them and I thought there must be a story in that. I think what I mean is curiosity drives me and I am insatiable to it.

6. What is your work ethic?

With a deadline, I can be pretty impressive. I once wrote for three straight days to make the minimum word count on my manuscript in time for a contest. I just sat there in my own filth, writing through meal times and chores, ignoring everything. My girlfriend brought me bagels to make sure I ate. Without a deadline, I’m not that impressive (but more likely to bathe).

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

When I was young I read Berenstain Bears and Arthur. I graduated to chapter books and read the The Baby-Sitters Club and Nancy Drew. I kept reading books that came in series because I identified with or enjoyed their characters.  Papa Bear is a non-conformist with a temper. D.W. is so sassy. Kristy brought Sheryl Sandburg energy to the Baby-Sitters Club whereas Claudia was an absent-minded artist who hid junk food from her strict parents. I read to know characters and their motivations, to feel connected to humanity in some way. Still, I am chasing that.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water changed what writing could be for me. She made it something that could be a bit dirty and raw and completely honest. She is someone who doesn’t hide parts of herself to please her audience. I want that grit between my teeth too.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I co-coach a slam poetry team with an amazing high school English teacher. Last week she told me what she tells students who are thinking about joining our slam team. Usually these students are unsure of themselves and still discovering their talents. She says to them, “You know what you need to have in order to be a writer? You need to have something to say.” When she said that, I understood my own motivation to write.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Pay attention. Eavesdrop on the world. Be mindful of the quiet moments in addition to the loud ones. Find what’s interesting. Write into the parts that inspire you. Explore the questions you’re always circling. Give it time, let it swirl in you, be patient. Then, stop at nothing to articulate it in a way that people beyond you will identify with, which is to say with honesty and clarity and verve.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have been really focused on creative non-fiction for two years now. I have been compiling a collection of letters to my daughter I placed up for adoption. She is turning fourteen this month and her absence has been this lump in my throat for all these years. Writing has been my exploration of that grief and love and the revolving question what if? I have been publishing them individually but next I want to see about putting them all together in a book. My dream has been to give them to her on her eighteenth birthday, a very important age to adopted children and their biological parents. I also have a bunch of other essays and poems and stories inside of me to extricate, but I’m taking it a day at a time.

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