Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: David Groulx

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.

 

David Groulx

was raised in Northern Ontario. He is proud of his Aboriginal roots – Ojibwe Indian and French Canadian. After receiving his BA from Lakehead University, where he won the Munro Poetry Prize, David studied creative writing at the En’owkin Centre in Penticton, B.C., where he won the Simon J Lucas Jr. Memorial Award for poetry. He has also studied at the University of Victoria Creative Writing Program. David has had eleven poetry books published – Night in the Exude(Tyro Publications: Sault Ste Marie, 1997); The Long Dance (Kegedonce Press, Neyaashiinigmiing, 2000);  Under God’s Pale Bones (Kegedonce Press, Neyaashiinigmiing, 2010); A Difficult Beauty (Wolsak & Wynn: Hamilton, ON 2011); Rising With A Distant Dawn (BookLand Press: Toronto, ON 2011); Imagine Mercy (BookLand Press: Toronto, ON 2013); These Threads Become A Thinner Light (Theytus Books, Penticton, BC 2014); and In The Silhouette Of Your Silences (N.O.N Publishing, Vancouver, BC 2014). Wabigoon River Poems (Kegedonce Press, Neyaashiinigmiing, 2015), The Windigo Chronicles (Bookland Press, 2016), From Turtle Island To Gaza (AU press, 2019)

David won the 3rd annual Poetry NOW Battle of the Bards in 2011, and was a featured reader at the IFOA in Toronto & Barrie (2011), as well as Ottawa Writer’s Festival (2012). David has appeared on The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and was the Writer-In-Residence for Open Book Toronto for November 2012.David’s poetry has been translated into Spanish & German. Rising With A Distant Dawn was translated into French; under the title, Le lever à l’aube lointaine, 2013.Red River Review nominated David’s poems for Pushcart Prizes in 2012, and David’s poetry has appeared in over a 160 publications in 16 countries. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

Expression is the first word that comes to kind, I believe that it is as important as air, food or water. Life is nothing until it evinced by the word.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

There didn’t seem to be much poetry around when I was a kid. We had lots of books because my parents believed reading was important. I suppose the poetry I heard was in the way people spoke. My mother has an aboriginal accent, my father a heavy French accent. And then there were lots of immigrants, Portuguese, Italians, Polish and all these people spoke English differently. Like all kids brought up in a colony I was introduced to the English Romantics and a few Canadian poets. There was nothing to speak to me as a Half-breed living in Canada so I decided to create my own.

  1. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I really don’t know how aware I was of the presence of older poets. I only knew that there were voices that went unheard in a dominant society. It said that this was poetry and this isn’t. I could not fit in, I could not be a part of no matter how hard I tried. I turned to poets from Africa, the middle east. Anywhere in the third world.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a ‘daily’ writing routine, because I work a regular job. During the week I try to write some notes down to use later. I do all of my writing on the weekends. Which is getting up before dawn, a pot of coffee, a pack of smokes, a computer and a small pot-bellied dog snoring somewhere behind me. I guess writing is something I’m always doing; either taking notes, writing, thinking about writing or reading.

  1. What motivates you to write?

It is who I am, it is what I am. Without it my life would be meaningless to me. at some desolate times in my life, I believe it has even kept me alive.

  1. What is your work ethic?

I go to a mindless job every day to keep the wolves from the door, I write because some day that knocking at the door may be opportunity. I see it like this, if you are not writing, you are not a writer. I sometimes think that if I am ever satisfied with my writing I’ll quit, which means I’ll be doing this until the day I die, whish I hope is a long time from now. I think death is a good motivation for almost anything.

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

I remember reading America & other poems by Jeff Bien and Tiffany Midge’s Outlaws, Renegades and Saints : Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed and thinking to myself I want to write like this. For most of the poetry I’ve heard or read I remember thing I don’t want to sound like that. It has always been a exploration of my own voice. I did one year at the University of Victoria’ creative writing program and I quit because what I heard was mostly upper white middle class stuff; writing about their trips overseas. It was uninteresting and boring. I think life will influence my poetry more than other people’s poems about it.

  1. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I’ve been reading Aim Cesare lately. He speaks of the colonizer and the colonized, this type of relationship is what governs our society, especially y here in Canada. It is something about his expression of that relationship.

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

I can’t sing a note.

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

If someone asked me how do you become a writer, I would tell them. ‘ You first must have a deep love of disappointment’ and then you write.

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

A long time ago I spent some time in jail. When I was young I’ve always had an involvement with law enforcement, seems I couldn’t keep my hands to myself. It’s called In the Days I was Known to My Brother as Papillon. Most of the manuscript has been sitting around the house for a couple of years now and now I’ve decided to finish it, its something I’m doing for myself, if it gets published or not, I haven’t decided yet.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Blake Wallin

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.

Blake Wallin

is the author of the two full-length poetry collections No Sign on the Island (Bottlecap Press) and Occipital Love (Ghost City Press), as well as the chapbook Otherwise Jesus (Ghost City) and the microchap The Lucidity of Giving Up (Ghost City’s 2016 Microchap Series), several plays, and a novel. Last summer, he attended the 2018 Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive (led by Gary Garrison) and a 2018 Virginia Quarterly Review Summer Workshop taught by Mary Szybist. Much of his work (poetry and fiction) can also be found on Maudlin House.
No Sign on the Island, by Blake Wallin
https://ghostcitypress.com/books/occipital-love
https://ghostcitypress.com/chapbooks/otherwise-jesus
https://ghostcitypress.com/2016-summer-microchap-series/the-lucidity-of-giving-up
https://maudlinhouse.net/author/blake-wallin/

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

The need for a different form, a form that would contain the emotional revelations I was  going through while still staying true to the journey my writing was taking me on constantly.

I’d written fiction in high school, and in college experimented briefly with playwriting (both of which I have recently resuscitated in my writing life), but poetry was and will always be my first true writing love, the one that enabled me to say what I needed to say at a time when to not say those things would have been detrimental to my health and wellbeing.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Like almost everybody in America (even the poets) I was introduced to poetry before I knew what it was or could do. I had enthusiastic teachers in high school who taught poetry but I either couldn’t listen or they portrayed its effect wrongly. Either way, the person who really introduced me to poetry was a professor at Wheaton College, the late Brett Foster, a Christian poet concerned with beauty but not at the expense of being real or actual. While I’m not a Christian, I am still concerned with Christianity, and while I don’t ascribe to the theory of beauty Christianity sometimes entails, I am still very much concerned with the possibility of beauty.

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

None whatsoever. If I had been overly concerned with the dominating presence of older poets, I’m almost positive I would not be writing now, or would be writing to a lesser degree. I was just over in my own world, trying to heal from the real-life non-poetry world by reading Rimbaud and Ashbery. In a poetry world so dependent on mentorship and favouritism, it seems wrong to ask that question, but, even though I have benefited from older poets’ throughout my brief poetry career, it’s a necessary question in that it should 100% not matter what older poets have to tell you at first. That’s for later.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a routine. It sounds bad, but I’m writing in three different genres (poetry,fiction, and playwriting), so I just constantly write and switch genres when one begins to bore the shit out of me. Honestly part of the reason I’m so spread out genre-wise is to avoid writer’s block haha.

5. What motivates you to write?

Some weird mixture of boredom and necessity.

6. What is your work ethic?

Somehow both severe and lackadaisical.

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

I read a bunch but have a handful of writers I return to most often: J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur Rimbaud, Roberto Bolaño, John Ashbery, Annie Baker, Martin McDonagh, Chaim Potok.
These are the authors I hold close to my chest, and I’m fine with being able to count them on two hands – how else would I be able to hold them close to my chest?

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

I’m going to assume you mean one writer; otherwise the list would be impossibly long.

Hmmm. For fiction, Colm Toibin. Looking at his career, you could accuse him of finding a niche, but it would be so far from the truth as to be laughable. He’s an established writer and novelist who reinvents his form and style with each book while still being praised as an inventive and consistent prose stylist. Also, he’s very nice (I met him at a book signing a few years back), and has a charitable streak a mile wide and a mile deep. This means he has an edge on many of the writers whose writing I severely admire but whose politics or actions I despise (i.e. Michel Houellebecq or Jonathan Franzen). For poetry, probably Anne Carson.

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

I feel like it’s almost wrong to not do something other than writing in addition to writing.

People have this romantic association with writing that hasn’t existed forever; the job vs. writing dichotomy bores me. Not because it’s untenable in the modern world and economy, etc. – it’s more that it’s untenable for me personally. I would get so fucking restless it wouldn’t be worth it: it would be like living in an abandoned abbey as a monk that doesn’t believe in god. What would the point be then? Just to worship,the act of worship itself? It doesn’t make sense to me.

Which is not to say writing is a hobby for me; it’s more a personal mandate some part of my intuition has given me that I guess I could choose to ignore but only at the expense of my wellbeing. I could choose to play tennis instead, but my mind would start mapping a story out of it, and I’d botch the match, which would be no fun.

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

I wouldn’t say anything, I would just hand them a pen and paper (or ask them to get out their phone) and ask them to write out that question, answer it themselves, read me the result, and then I would just nod and say that writing is doing that over and over consistently. Either that or I just wouldn’t answer them and walk away; it would depend on their tone when asking the question.

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

My third and fourth full-length poetry collections, my fourth play in a four-play cycle, and my second novel (in a planned four-novel cycle). The new poetry collections are so far indebted to a kind of anti-lyric poetry pioneered by some Ahsahta poets (including C. Violet Eaton) and Wayne Johns. The plays are kind of a magical realist riff on Angels in America, using portals and the American South to explore the concept of being closeted and how the past affects the future and vice versa. The novels are (except for the first) all set in a post-apocalyptic future that involves talking animals (evolved animals after Mars crashes into Earth and the humans colonize the Mars portion), and will eventually feature androids as well (and just plain old humans as well).

On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

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.

 

 

Suzanne Craig-Whytock

is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her first two novels, Smile and The Dome are published by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com). Her short fiction has appeared in Slippage Lit and is upcoming in XRAY Literary Magazine. She also writes poetry, and funny/weird things on her website mydangblog (http://educationalmentorship.com).

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing in a variety of genres for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first poem at the age of eight and wrote poetry and short stories all through my teen years and twenties. When I was teaching, I ran my school’s Creative Writing Club, and that’s where I wrote the character piece that became the first chapter in my first novel. I’ve been writing Young Adult novels for the last 10 years; my first novel Smile was published in 2017, and my new novel The Dome will be out this coming October. I’ve had a couple of short stories published in the last little while, which is very nice, although I’ve had way more rejection notices than I’ve had acceptances! I also have a blog where I post humorous essays—people who are familiar with my blog are usually surprised at how dark some of my other writing is! Lately, I’ve gone back to poetry, and I’ve submitted a few pieces here and there, so we’ll see what happens.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t remember a lot about poetry until grade 12. For some reason, my English teacher decided to have us study T.S. Eliot, and the second I read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I was hooked. I think that was the moment I decided to pursue an English degree and become an English teacher myself. I was lucky enough to be able to introduce Eliot to my own senior International Baccalaureate students, and the first time I read Prufrock to them out loud, I teared up at the end. So I’d have to say it was T.S. Eliot who really introduced me to poetry.

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

Very. I did my English degree over 35 years ago, and the majority of the courses I took focused on poets before the middle of the 20th century. My particular favourites were the Imagists, although I adored Tennyson and Dickinson. In terms of modern poets, Lorna Crozier, a Canadian writer, is probably my favourite, and I love Pablo Neruda.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a ‘daily routine’ since I currently work full-time. I find it hard to squeeze in solid writing time—I’m the kind of writer who needs several free hours in order to focus. I set aside two hours every Saturday morning to write something for my blog, which I post on Sunday morning. Other than that, I usually wait until I have some vacation time, then hammer out several chapters. For my second novel, I had every other Friday off work, so that was my writing day, and I would make notes and capture ideas until I was able to sit down on Friday morning and just write. Unfortunately, I don’t have those days anymore, so I’ll be doing some serious “power-writing” on my August vacation!

5. What motivates you to write?

The sheer joy of doing it. I’ve always loved writing—I sometimes wake up at 3 in the morning with an idea and put it down before I forget it. The creative process is very important to my mental well-being, and when I’m not writing, I’m painting or restoring furniture or doing something ‘craft-y’.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I really enjoy the editing process. I do a lot of editing in my daily job as well, so it’s become kind of second nature to me to keep going back to my own work until I’m happy with it. But as we all know, you can revisit a piece a hundred times and still see something you want to change, so at a certain point, I have to just let it be.

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

I read a lot of absurdist literature when I was younger and loved absurd comedy like Monty Python; I think that gets channelled through my humorous writing. As a poet, I’m still influenced by the Imagists and most of my poetry is short and impactful, at least I hope it is. In terms of my novels, the first one is a ‘coming of age’ story that developed out of a love of things like Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and other writers I read when I was young who focused on characters with issues that had to be solved. However, my second novel takes place in a futuristic dystopian Toronto landscape, and it’s more heavily plot-oriented, more influenced by fantasy novels I read as a teenager as well as current issues like climate change. When I was in university, I studied Magic Realism, which had a huge influence on my writing—most of my short stories have that quality to them.

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

David Mitchell is one of my favourite authors, along with Neil Gaiman. For short stories, I adore Stephen King, and Annie Proulx’s first short story collection Heartsongs is something I go back to again and again. Basically, I love writers with strange imaginations like mine! For Young Adult fiction, I really admire Pierce Brown—his Red Rising series is incredible.

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

Because I love to do it, and a lot of what I write is for other people; for example, I write my blog to make other people laugh. I always say that if I can tap into other people’s emotions and put a smile on someone’s face or make them cry (in a good way, of course!), then I’ve done my job. But in terms of “as opposed to doing anything else”, I think that writing is the creative outlet I need sometimes. Other times it’s doing something else.

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

You become a writer by writing. Becoming a good writer—that’s a different matter. I think to be a good writer, you need to read a lot in order to understand the nuances of language. But you also need to be a good self-editor so that what you’re putting out is ‘audience-ready’. As I said, I do a lot of editing in my current work, but I’ve edited for other writers as well as for textbooks and on-line courses, so I know how people feel when it seems the writer hasn’t put much energy into making things clear and understandable. Also, I’m a very visual person (I also have a degree in Film Studies), and I tend to play out scenes in my head over and over, experimenting with the dialogue, facial expressions, plot and setting details first before I put anything down on paper, so I think you need to be able to describe things in a way that engages other people and makes them see and feel it too.

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

I’m currently working on my third novel The Seventh Devil— here’s the epigraph:

There’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t,
The devil you’ll meet and the devil you won’t,
A devil that’s tall and a devil that’s small,
And a devil that’s human after all.

It’s about a young woman named Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth, who travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and camper van, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: An On-line Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, Editor Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister, who disappeared when Verity was 16, but her biggest challenge is avoiding the mysterious Seventh Devil. I have the whole plot sketched out but I’m only 4 chapters in at this point, and waiting until I’m on vacation to write the next set. My latest novel The Dome will be released on October 15th, although it’s available for pre-order right now at all the major outlets like Amazon and Indigo—I’m looking forward to the book launch and the subsequent promotional work that follows. I’ve been writing poems here and there so I’m working on putting them together in more of a collection. And of course, there’s mydangblog—I’m always working on that!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: J DG

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.

J DG

Justene Dion-Glowa is a bi, emerging poet from Canada. Her work has been featured in Burning House Press and Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest. She is a contributor to the The Poetry Question and curates a quarterly literary magazine with her indie publishing house 3 Moon Independent Publishing. Her first poetry chapbook and memoir are forthcoming.

jdgwrites.wixsite.com/home

3moonpublishing.wixsite.com/home

Twitter: @gee_justy or @3moonpublishing

Instagram: @jdgwrites or @3moonpublishing

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I think initially, when I was much younger, poetry was a way to address serious issues in a playful way. Now that I am older, I feel that I may have replaced the playfulness with cynicism. But I think putting out cynical work can help make day-to-day life more livable. These are dark times, and putting the darkness on paper can make it easier to see the light.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I can’t pinpoint a specific person. I was just a voracious reader, and fell in love with darker poetry like that of Edgar Allan Poe first. Once I realized that poetry didn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows, I think I sought out more classic poems.

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

Very. I still read that type of work today. While I’m sure it’s not obvious, it’s the work of Poe and T.S. Eliot and even Shakespeare’s sonnets that really inspired me to keep writing poetry. There was something universal in what they were saying, but it was also so clear they were recalling some specific situation. There was a beauty in that level of communication that appealed to me, and still does.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I can’t say I have a steady routine. My life is too hectic for that right now. I just make writing a priority. Some days I plan to write and I don’t at all. Some days I don’t plan to write and I end up with a ton of material. Making it a priority works for me. I always carry around notebooks too, just in case I’m on the go and inspiration hits. I also try to immerse myself in it. I write reviews of poetry, I constantly submit to literary magazines; I just make this the focal point in my life.

5. What motivates you to write?

I think it’s the knowledge that no one experience in your life is truly your own, and yet you’re 100% unique in how that experience shapes you. The human experience, I suppose.

6. What is your work ethic?

I have a “throw them to the wolves” ethic, in that if I don’t let it completely take over my life, it isn’t going to happen. I am deeply passionate and unless I am committed fully to something, I cannot continue to do it.

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

I think the thing that influenced my beyond what any author could was the firm belief of every person in my life that I was not “too young” to understand or read anything. I was always assumed to be able to read whatever I wanted, no matter the subject or complexity, and that lead to me reading incredible books at a young age. That influences me today because when I think about my writing, I know I can do it and that others will value it. It’s just got to find it’s audience.8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I honestly love YA authors right now. The material coming out of that scene is fearless, incredible, and representational. But I love how many literary magazines are out there right now. I get to read so much incredible work because of people volunteering to curate it for the public. That’s a beautiful thing.

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

Writing is an exercise in processing to me. I do not process my reality the way others do, although, I can’t say definitively why. I liken it to a full plate. My body is so full of unprocessed experiences and trauma, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I take off that plate, there is always another helping coming. When my plate is empty, I guess I will stop.

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

You have to practice. And then you have to be willing to detach yourself from your own work because you need to edit it with an eye that’s not your own. Prose and poetry can be deeply personal, but it is so important to be relentless in pursuing the real voice and message of a piece.

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

I am currently working on a personal memoir called “Chuck”. I have nearly completed my first chapbook of poetry, which is entitled “Trailer Park Shakes”.  I write reviews for The Poetry Question and I curate a literary magazine called 3 Moon Magazine and Independent Publishing. We offer small-batch independent publishing as well as editing, transcription and audio book recording services.

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gill Thompson

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.

Oceans Between Us final image

Gill Thompson

My name is Gill Thompson. I have an M.A in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, gaining a distinction for the extract from The Oceans Between Us which I submitted for my dissertation. The first three chapters of the novel were long listed for the Mslexia novel award 2015. The Oceans Between Us was published by Headline on 21st March.

I have written many short stories including The Christmas Wish List which was published in Yours and The Six Ages of Woman which won the Flash Fiction prize at the University of Winchester’s Writing Festival. I was runner up in the Thresholds’ International Short Story competition for my essay on Katherine Mansfield. I am a regular contributor of articles on literary and linguistic topics to emag, and I have also had an article published in Running magazine.
I have a B.A (Hons) in English Language and Literature and I have taught this subject at A level for many years.
I live with my family in West Sussex, UK.

Website: http://www.wordkindling.co.uk
Twitter: @wordkindling
Facebook: wordkindling

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write fiction?

I am an avid reader, often devouring two or three novels a week. I love to be able to escape into different fictional worlds and have always wanted to create a similar experience for others. Writing a novel has probably been a fifty-year-old ambition. As a child I was forever starting to write novels about the Tudors. If I had persisted I might have given Philippa Gregory a run for her money! My ambition to write continued into adulthood but life kept getting in the way – study, work, family… Then my father died and with the small legacy he left me I enrolled on a Creative Writing M.A at the University of Chichester. It was the best thing I ever did. My father had always believed in me as a writer and I am so grateful he enabled me to fulfil my ambition – although sad he never lived to know I would finally be published. My debut novel, ‘The Oceans Between Us’ came out this March.

2. Who introduced you to reading fiction?

I don’t really know. As a child I was always read bedtime stories so I suppose that started things off. Later on I joined a local library and spent most of my school holidays borrowing books and helping the librarians. I feel very sorry that libraries are in decline. They are such a wonderful resource for so many people. I doubt if I would have become a writer without my early library-fostered experience of being a reader.

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

That’s an interesting question! If by ‘older writers’ you mean ‘of advanced age’ I find that very reassuring. I am nearing retirement age myself so it’s immensely comforting to know that people like Judith Kerr were writing into their nineties. If, however, you mean the legacy of writers from the past, I suppose very. My day job is as an English Literature teacher to ‘A’ Level students. I am vey conscious of the literary canon and the influence it has. If it wasn’t for people like Samuel Richardson, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Jane Austen we might never have had novels at all. It’s often said that fundamental human nature doesn’t change, and even Shakespeare can give me ideas for my own characterisation. Mind you, teaching so many brilliant texts can be daunting. I’m conscious other authors have done things so much better than I can, but it doesn’t stop me striving for excellence. One day I might get there!

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I wish I had one! As I said in my previous answer, I am a teacher by day (although thankfully part-time now). I also have two lively granddaughters I look after two days a week so that doesn’t leave much time to write. When I have a deadline to meet I tend to start early in the morning. I’ve often woken up at the crack of dawn with ideas of what I want to write about that day, so it’s a question of sitting down and giving some sort of narrative shape to those early thoughts. One of the many problems with historical fiction, the genre I’ve found myself writing, is the amount of research that is needed, so I often have to stop to check facts or read up on something. With a fair wind following I can write 2,000 – 3,000 words a day. I usually run out of steam by mid afternoon, so I tend to do something more practical for a while like cooking or gardening before returning in the early evening to read through and edit what I’ve written.

5. What motivates you to write?

Initially it was the desire to tell a story. My first novel was about a child migrant to Australia, a story I’d stumbled upon when I first heard Gordon Brown apologise to ex child migrants back in 2010. These children, some as young as four, had been lured to a land ten thousand miles away, ostensibly to lead a better life, but in reality to satisfy racial governmental agendas. Many were lied to, told they were orphans when their parents were still alive; many were consigned to years of misery and abuse; few were ever to see their parents again. The account horrified me, and after many years of research and correspondence with ex child migrants, I started to base a novel around this event. The compulsion to tell what had happened, albeit through a fictional narrative, drove me onwards. It’s gratifying that many of the reviews for ‘The Oceans Between Us’ comment that the reader was unaware of this practice, and grateful for being enlightened. I felt the child migrant story was a story that had to be told, and I’m very grateful for being allowed to tell it.

Since the book was first taken up though, I have to say what drives me now is fear! As a teacher, I’m a stickler for deadlines, but I’m always anxious I won’t finish things in time. When I was just writing for myself I had all the time in the world, but I’m now very conscious I need to meet publishing schedules. It’s all quite stressful.

6. What is your work ethic?

See above! Very strong. I’ve waited so long for this opportunity that I certainly don’t intend to squander it, so I work hard to keep on target and produce the best work I can.

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

I didn’t really set out to write historical fiction, but looking back I did read a lot in that genre. Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer were favourites. I always wanted to write something that moved people, and perhaps even changed the way they viewed historical events. I remember being very affected by ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee and I loved the Brontes. Although very different writers I thought they all had something powerful to say about human experience and behaviour.

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

I loved Kate Atkinson for what she does with structure and form. Some of the new wave of Irish writers, like Eimear McBride and Anna Burns, are brilliant pioneers of stylistic change. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ian McEwan, but when he’s on top form – such as in ‘Enduring Love’ and ‘The Child in Time’ I think he is excellent.

9. Why do you write?

To create a legacy …to make my family proud…. to exercise a talent I believe I’ve been given…to move…to inform… because I (mainly) enjoy it.

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

I think you need to be a reader first. That’s your training ground and the way to perfect your skill. It’s helpful to read like a writer – ‘unpicking’ books to see what authors have done with structure, style and form. I also think it’s helpful to do a course. My Masters in Creative Writing put me in touch with some wonderful teachers and fellow students. They really helped me progress in my writing. Joining a workshop group is a good way to test out your writing in a safe environment, and discuss the process with others. Finally, there are competitions. The entrance fees are often inexpensive and it’s a great way to pit your work against others. For a bit more money you can often buy into a critique which can be very useful. And if you win a prize it’s a wonderful encouragement to continue and a validation of your writing.

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

I’ve just sent back the proof pages of ‘The Child on Platform One,’ my second novel, which comes out next March. It was written to quite a tight deadline so I have decided to give myself the summer off. I’ll do some gentle reading over the next few weeks to see if I can get an idea for book three, then in the autumn, hopefully with some inspiration, I’ll start writing again.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Tucker Lieberman

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.

Flip_The_Finger_At_Despair

Tucker Lieberman

Tucker Lieberman’s poems are in Asses of Parnassus, Déraciné, Esthetic Apostle, Fruit Tree, Neologism, Oddball, Prometheus Dreaming, and Rockvale Review. He has a short story forthcoming in the anthology I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Historical Accounts of Imaginary Acquaintances. His essays have been published widely, and he wrote a book on eunuch villains. His photos are in Barren, Crack the Spine, L’Éphémère, and Nightingale and Sparrow, and his art is in Burning House. He and his husband live in Bogotá, Colombia. www.tuckerlieberman.com Twitter: @tuckerlieberman

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

The earliest poem I’ve uncovered through home archaeology is: “Roses are red, roses are yellow / My grandfather’s nose got stuck in the Jell-O.” I may have been five. I’ve always been interested in sounds and rhythm, and I began to write rhyming poetry when I was ten. My poems were terrible. In fifth grade, I was invited to recite my tribute to the American flag outside my suburb’s Town Hall for Flag Day, at a microphone and everything. In eighth grade, my English teacher saw some promise in me and asked to work with me one-on-one. I showed her a free-verse poem about a man deconstructing himself by plucking out his own eyeballs and organs, and she sent me to the guidance counselor. I did have a handful of awards and publications in childhood, but that was probably relative to the competition in my age bracket. In college, I realized that I struggled to write poems that were both comprehensible and beautiful and that I wasn’t in the literary echelon I had fancied myself to be in. I turned my attention to essays, majored in philosophy, and got a graduate degree in journalism. In my late 30s, after leaving my IT job, I resumed writing poetry as I finally was able to give it the required attention. I’ve learned a lot during the past year just by reading poems every day, soliciting feedback on my work from other poets, and rewriting the same poems over and over. There’s no age limit for this kind of education and growth. I’m a much different writer now than I was one year ago.

2. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Tales of a Wayside Inn” set in the New England town where I grew up. The Wayside Inn still exists, and we visited it. So I always had a sense of how formal poems could be used to commemorate something. In grade school, we were given contemporary children’s poems to memorize. Probably Robert Frost was in there, too. Inherited from a grandparent or great-grandparent, we had a hundred-year-old set of poetry books—Longfellow, Tennyson, Whittier—and, when I was ten, I opened to a random page and memorized Whittier’s long poem “Derne” about the 1805 Battle of Derna. I had no idea what the poem was saying. I just understood it was telling a story and making a statement. Those word combinations I’ve never heard anywhere else since. In just the first four lines: “city of the Moor,” “white-walled shore,” “ceaseless knock,” “harbor-gates unlock.” Later, I discovered Walt Whitman, which was revelatory. He was a contemporary of Longfellow, but he was doing something totally different.

Most, maybe all, of the poets I first knew were white men. However, in 1992, Rita Dove became the U.S. Poet Laureate, and, when a haiku of mine won a contest, part of my prize was to receive a letter of congratulations from her. The first poetry book that was really mine—a poetry book written for adults, and one that I had obtained because I wanted it—was Marge Piercy’s Mars and Her Children. In my teens, I knew women poets through a local writing workshop and by attending author readings. My high school literary magazine, which I worked on, was staffed mostly by girls.

So I had an evolving sense of who writes poetry, what they do with it, what it sounds like. As I entered college in the late ’90s, the Internet was popping up, and that certainly changed expectations around poetry. I never felt that poetry was inaccessible to me as a reader or as a writer. I did always feel, however, that it was incumbent upon me to learn to write well, to earn my place as a poet.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

My one superpower is that I do not currently have to go to an office, so I devote myself full-time to writing. This is not meant as “how-to” advice, since I don’t assume that others can have this lifestyle nor that they necessarily even want it. I’m just telling you what my day is like.

I wake up with the sun and I read and write all day (apart from outdoor exercise breaks) until I fall asleep. I toggle between a couple dozen simultaneous projects, large and small, as my attention wishes. I let the muse tug the leash. Without a pressing sense that my allotted daily time is scarce, I don’t force a routine. I can select a project more or less randomly. As long as I’m working on something, it doesn’t matter which project it is, and every project will eventually be completed.

Schedules give me headaches. They don’t hasten artistic innovation or the solving of existential questions. A submission deadline sometimes encourages me to finish a project earlier than I otherwise might, but the deadline alone doesn’t help me come up with the idea of what to submit.

Writing all day is a luxury that few people have, especially people my age (I am thirty-nine). It’s also a kind of work, though. It feels incorrect to say that I don’t work. I work all the time. These days, one can’t make a living as a freelance writer, but that doesn’t mean that the writing itself is any less work. It just means I rarely get paid for my work. This is a difficult point to drive home because of the assumptions that if you’ve produced something valuable then you should be able to convince people to pay for it and if you don’t receive the payment then you haven’t worked. Those are really hard assumptions to crack open.

4. What motivates you to write?

A vague urge to make the world a better place, which often diminishes to the more realistic hope that I can improve someone’s day. I want to say things that haven’t been said before. I want to say old things in new ways. I want to help people find the material. I want to hear a reader say, “Hey, I learned something,” or, better, “Now I can move forward with my life,” and then I’ll know I did my job well. I want to scratch the hard-to-reach places, pull out hidden answers, and help people get unstuck. Otherwise, if I’m just going to be cranking out the world’s hundred-millionth poem about a sunset, I’m not interested. It wouldn’t hurt anyone, but it’s not what I’m here to do.

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

There’s no single writer I consciously try to emulate. There are, however, certain phrases or scenes that pop up from my memory. A few days ago, I thought of the scene at the end of Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves which won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature. The girl sees an airplane spraying bullets at the wolves with which she lives. It’s implicit that this is not a fair fight, and she is frightened and sad. They kill a male wolf. She yells that the hunters must be seeking a fifty-dollar “bounty” for the wolf’s left ear, but, moments later, after the airplane flies off, she corrects herself: “They did not even stop to get him! They did not even kill him for money.” I still remember these lines thirty years later. It occurs to me now that the scene was so effective because the girl had a sudden realization about how men think and act, and that moment was slowed down just enough that we could be part of the unrolling of her thought process. I suppose I am most influenced today by passages I read in childhood that were complex and that I’m still unpacking at an unconscious level.

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

I admire what Gabino Iglesias is doing with the direct look he takes at violence on the US/Mexico border and the way he weaves Spanish and English in his work. He’s actively publishing and reaching a lot of people, it seems to me. I also admire Margaret Atwood’s activism. I just read The Handmaid’s Tale, and the next day I attended a talk she gave in Boston about the book and the precarious political situation we face today. She wrote a book that’s had staying power since 1985, and she enhances its power by continuing to speak about it as she approaches her 80th birthday. That’s an example of how one can create a book that plays a role in the world. It’s not just about printing words, but about the energy with which we surround those words.

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

For me, it’s been a lifelong compulsion, so the question presents itself to me as “How do I write well?” rather than why write at all.

In my technology career, I focused on software design and testing and data analysis. That’s something else I know how to do and did for a decade. Beautiful and ethical IT design is also a way to communicate information, improve people’s lives, and make them happy. It involved very little writing.

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

I recommend working in a variety of genres. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction. On a printed page, on a webpage, in an eBook, at a microphone. In a classroom, for a boss, or shared with friends. For sale and for free. You begin to learn how different style choices work in different environments. A brilliant essay might make a boring speech, or vice versa. The more you can anticipate what you’re trying to do and whether it will fly, the better off you’ll be.

As one example, here’s my evolving understanding of “concise” writing over the past twenty years: My philosophy professors said they valued brevity, yet they asked for a minimum word count. There was no rush; we had all semester; we had to make an argument. My journalism professors, by contrast, asked for a maximum word count. They wanted us to get the scoop and begin with the conclusion, as most readers don’t care about the explanation under the first paragraph. My corporate bosses didn’t even want a story at all. They wanted me to email them only my conclusion and entirely omit my substantiation. And, these days, when you’re designing a website for customers, you don’t write a single word at all if you don’t have to. Customers’ attention is measured in milliseconds; you just have to persuade them to press the button.

The takeaway is that there are many different potential audiences and contexts. Each genre has its own standards, and those standards may be improved when they cross-pollinate. Until you learn more than one way of writing, you can’t see the flaws in the way you’ve always done it.

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

I’m wrapping up a biography of an early 20th-century man. He was an unpublished writer, and part of my book is an exploration of why he couldn’t finish writing his own book. I also recently finished a chapbook of poems about grief using the imagery of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Both of those are seeking publishers.

I’ve got a psychological horror novella on the burner, but it’s a bit too early to talk about it!

Recently I put out a blank journal with some words of wisdom as prompts at the bottom of each page. It’s called Flip the Finger at Despair, and it’s geared to help people write about trauma and regret. I pulled it slowly out of specific slots in my memory and I think it may be useful to others.

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Samuel Guest

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.

The Radical Dreams

Samuel Guest

writes on his blog:

I have made it my mandate to serve those who have fallen in and out of love. This blog is also for the lovers who have stuck it out and made a happy life together.  I am a Canadian author based in Toronto, Ontario.  My poetry book “The Radical Dreams” was published back in April, 2018. The book is also available on Kindle. Some of my poems have appeared in Half a Grapefruit Magazine and Montreal Writes.

Samuel Guest Writes – Fiction that goes beyond the screen.

Follow him also on Instagram or Twitter: samuelguest123.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

Other poets inspire me. Sometimes it is the work I read, while other times it is how they perform live. For some reason their inspiration turns into a different kind of inspiration for me.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My grade six teacher introduced me to poetry. As a class we merely touched upon it, but that was enough to get me started.

2.1. What poets did your grade six teacher introduce you to, and why did they get you started?

My grade six teacher focused a lot on Emily Dickinson while also mentioning Rumi and Edgar Allen Poe. She got us to work on writing one poem as an assignment, and so that is what we did as a class.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Growing up I had no idea who the big wigs were, except for the ones that had already past away long ago. It is only within the last three years that I have really started to focus on poetry. Now I ingest as much as possible, and go to readings and launches as often as I can.

3.1. What prompted your refocus on poetry three years ago?

What prompted me to refocus on poetry was the fact that I had wanted to write a novel for many years, but never found much enjoyment in it. At the advice of my girlfriend, I started reading and writing poetry, and began to put a real effort toward it instead of bits and pieces every three or four years. It has really paid off. I wrote I self-published my first full-length collection last year, which got rave reviews from the likes of Kirkus indie as well as other online reviewers. Kirkus even put their review of my book into one of their print magazines. This happens to less than ten percent of the books that they review.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

My writing habits are sporadic throughout the day. If I’m lucky it can accumulate to an hour.

5. What motivates you to write?

My motivation stems from a love of nature and the important people and animals in my life. I feel love for my girlfriend of four years. I feel love for my cats. Family. Landscapes. Anything that flies

6. What is your work ethic?

Read, read, read. Write. Read, read, read. Write. More reading than writing

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

The writers of past that influence me today are Izumi Shikibu, Matsuo Basho, Ono No Komachi, and Rumi. When I am stuck on a point, they take me back to where my heart is.

7.1. How do Izumi Shikibu, Matsuo Basho, Ono No Komachi and Rumi influence your writing today?

Back in their day, Izumi Shikibu, Matsuo Basho, and Ono No Komachi wrote haiku. Good haiku poems are extremely understated, and although I do not write haiku, I like to try and keep my work concise.

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

Louise Gluck, Jeff Kirby, Robert Frede Kenter, Shannon Bramer, Robyn Sarah. Charles Simic, Mary Oliver, Greg Santos, Anton Pooles, Chuqiao Yang, and Edward Anki. What do all these poets have in common? When I read them I feel their connection to nature and human nature is that of my own. The majority of these poets are understated, and powerfully so. They help me to keep things quiet in my head, yet meaningful.

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

I write because it soothes my mind. Writing takes me far away from everything else.

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

Write every day. Even when there is nothing logical coming out of you. Even if it feels like the writing will never get to where you want it to go. Fight through that. Do not try and write like anyone else either. Be yourself. At the end of the day you can throw that paper away. No one else will see it unless you want them to

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

I am editing a chapbook right now. Not sure where it’s going but I know where I want it to be.

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.