Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Anton Pooles

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 doMonster+36+Half+Cover

Anton Pooles

was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia and lives in Toronto. He is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Toronto and the author of the chapbook Monster 36 (Anstruther Press, 2019) http://www.anstrutherpress.com/new-products/monster-36-by-anton-pooles

Follow him on Twitter @antonpooles.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’m a poet by accident, I never aspired to be one. I struggled badly with reading and writing in school, and still struggle with it to this day. I have a poor working memory and often have to re-read whole pages of a book because I can’t retain any of it. So, becoming a writer never crossed my mind when I was younger. Then a high school teacher told me that I wasn’t half bad and maybe I should give it a go, so I did and the only thing that is going to stop me now is death. I do not like the term “Learning Disability,” but I am of course aware of its presence. I write in defiance of my limitations and I am constantly having to prove to myself, time and time again, that I can be better than it would otherwise allow me to be. Why Poetry? I’m honestly not sure. We’re just a good fit I think.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I had to discover it by myself and that started with discovering epic Arthurian poems like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the poems of Sir Walter Scott. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started reading contemporary poetry. I had started taking writing classes at the University of Toronto and I met Catherine Graham who was one of my professors — if I hadn’t taken those classes and never met Catherine I’m not sure I would be a poet — or at least I’d be a very different one.

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

The poets I was aware of as a child (and there weren’t many) felt as mythical as the figures they wrote about — Walter Scott felt as real as King Arthur. That mysticism washed away a little when I got older. I realised that they were just people sitting at a desk, writing and were not so different from us.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I wish it was daily for starters, but when I do get a full day to dedicate to writing I like to start early, before my brain turns to mush. I don’t like working in silence, so I have music playing (always instrumental), something that fits the mood I’m in. It’s important for me to lock myself away from the outside world and limit the distractions that come with it. Music helps to create a bubble where my imagination and thoughts can flow freely.

5. What motivates you to write?

Poetry is all about exploration. It’s the chance to examine things you may not quite understand — things about yourself and about the world around you. As writers we’re always looking and finding things that perhaps go unnoticed. It’s important to write for yourself, but it’s also exciting to share your discoveries.

6. What is your work ethic?

My only rule is; when the poetry demon comes knocking I always try to answer him, no matter where I am. If I don’t, he’ll continue to scratch and gnaw at me until I do. Otherwise, it varies depending on what I am working on.

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

I grew up reading fairy tales and fantasy, and one of the reasons I had such a difficult time getting into contemporary poetry was because there appeared to be no room for fantasy. I don’t think that any more, in fact I think quite the opposite. Once I embraced that, my work improved substantially, I think. I always sprinkle a few crumbs of magic into my work.

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

There are many, but the two who I admire and have inspired me the most would be Anne Carson and Catherine Graham. Their work appeared magically before me at a turning point in my writing life. I’m also greatly inspired by film. Film supplies me with imagery that I can’t always get from reading.

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

There is a lot of uncertainty and mystery when I’m looking down at that empty page and I like that — I like not knowing where I am going to end up. Outside of travel, I haven’t found anything else that gives me that pleasure.

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

The only way to become a writer is to write, and write often. No one is watching you write, so go wild, and don’t be afraid of exploring new territories, that you would normally stay clear of.

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

I’m working hard on completing my first full collection of poems. I’ll keep you posted.

A review of my new collection “As Folk Over Yonder” by sonja benskin mesher

As Folk Over Yonder

.as folk over yonder. paul brookes.

have said before how the forward of this book leaves me emotional before even starting on the verse. not many will write of simple kindnesses

“Time has not,

nor will not help this grief.”

 

i find an underlying sadness from small tales of everyday, fragile stories of vulnerability, humanity

a unique voice from a sharp intelligent ear, the words flow as ordinary, yet extraordinary in the telling

the truth told which many of us hear, it takes Paul to record them beautifully in this book

a book of triumph over the ordinary; raising his stories to a magic world with pith and accent

a black and white movie of current lives

i suggest it is read at least twice over

and kept to read some more

i have read it four times over, and the words remain fresh each time, a new nuance with each reading

a little delight in every corner

bravo Paul

 

Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA 

information-

www.sonja-benskin-mesher.com

/http://sonjabenskinmesher.wordpress.com/diary/

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Steve Nash

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.

Dr Steve Nash

is a writer, lecturer, and musician from Yorkshire.  He won the 2014 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer from a shortlist that included Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish, and his first collection, Taking the Long Way Home, is available from Stairwell Books. Steve’s pamphlet The Calder Valley Codex, was released in 2016 and has now sold out, with copies only available in libraries. His most recent collections are Myth Gatherers and Taking The Long Way Home.
You can find him on Twitter @stevenashyorks or https://www.stevenashwrites.com/

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Originally I think it was something I got interested in at school and it never really left me. Even when I got a little older and started writing music, it’s clear looking back that the lyrics were all part of that same interest in words and what they have the potential to do.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t know if this was the first person to introduce me to it, but a school teacher I had made a massive dramatic deal out of poetry. We were given very special notebooks that we were only allowed to write in once a month. We had to plan and draft, and edit a poem – one poem per month – and then once it was absolutely finished, we were allowed to write them up as neatly as possible into the notebook (and even then, only in pencil in case we made a mistake). It’s strange because now I find all the pompousness that can be ascribed to such things really off-putting, but it certainly had the desired effect on my wee young brain.

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

I’m not sure I was ever aware of a dominating presence. I did have a habit of seeing their names just as names though. Like they were something mythological and not real people. I have continually been staggered by the down-to-earth nature of the vast majority of established poets I’ve met, and their willingness to give advice, even to hyperactive weirdo like me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Due to the rather chaotic nature of my work life, there’s no real opportunity to designate any kind of routine in terms of setting aside a particular time to write. I try to make sure I’ve always got a couple of projects on the go though, so I have somewhere to focus my energies while I’m wandering around, and I always have a notebook with me. So, I guess, rather than a routine, it’s a sustained attempt to keep open to any ideas or sparks that might whip by.

5. What motivates you to write?

This is something I’ve often wondered myself. There are extreme moments that come along in life that of course give you the urge to reach for a pen to, in some small way, respond to or manage the emotions or concerns that are shaken up. Honestly though, it is just something I have always done, for as long as I can remember. I wrote terrible stories that I’d make my older sisters or my parents read when I was a child, and it’s an urge that has morphed over the years but never really gone away. At present I’m writing because I’m lucky enough to have a couple of places want to publish more collections of my work, so I’m highly motivated to get some shiny new stuff ready for those.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is to push myself to try to write something every day, even if it’s not an actual poem, story, or contribution to a larger narrative. Sometimes it can be lists, sometimes gibberish, but something. These little word doodles, or broken bits of lines help to keep me focused on those projects so they don’t fall too far into the distance, and I’ll often find they can provide me with answers when I’m struggling to complete a line or paragraph elsewhere.

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

Probably more acutely than I realise. I remember we had an enormous collection of the old Point Horror novels when I was young, and I thought they were the coolest thing in the world. I remember being looked at as a bit of a weirdo by some kids at school because I was always reading about vampires, ghosts, murderers, and werewolves, but I do now still get described as being slightly obsessed with the macabre and horror themes. In addition to that some of my favourite poems and stories from when I was really young would still be in my list of favourite books now. ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ by Dr Seuss is still in my mind an absolute tour de force of a poem, and stories like ‘Not Now Bernard’ or ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ still seem to me remarkable works of imagination.

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

There are so many that I almost don’t want to answer for fear of the inevitable leaving someone out. That being said, Helen Mort is a writer who repeatedly and consistently breaks me with her ability to craft words and stories in startling but grounded ways. I cannot wait to read her debut novel. I’m currently reading Zaffar Kunial’s ‘Us’ and it really is a remarkable piece of work. He’s lives locally and by all accounts is a super lovely chap, but my anxiety and lack of faith in my own status as a real human being has always made me too afraid to actually chat to him properly. I’m really fortunate to be able to call some of my favourite contemporary writers friends, such as Helen, but also Oz Hardwick, John Foggin, Kate Fox, Gen Walsh, and so many others. These are all huge inspirations to me.

9. Why do you write?

I’ve never known why, but I just have for as long as I can remember. I suppose now it’s because it has become my way of engaging with the world in a way that makes sense to me. I’ve always been better with words than with any other medium, and being an awkward sort of guy, the ability to think about and shape what I say before it just comes galloping out of my mouth in a messy scattered way (no seriously you should ask my students) is a real gift.

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

I would say – you take this pen and you take this paper and away you go. I know that’s a really facetious answer, but it’s true isn’t it? What is stopping anyone becoming a writer? Becoming a writer worth reading I guess would be the trickier part, and I genuinely don’t know if I would put myself in the category (yet), but read others’ writing, listen to criticism, be open to ideas, and never believe that your way is the only way of doing something. Equally, if anyone ever tells you there is one single right way to write a poem, a story, a screenplay, whatever it might be, ignore them. Read widely, see what interests you, but be yourself. Write the things that only YOU could write.
And don’t let anyone stop you.

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

I am working on a children’s poetry collection (mostly about monsters, and spooky things), and I have the beginnings of a collaboration that I’m pretty excited about, but that one’s in the very early stages at the moment.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Joanna Ingham

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.

Naming Bones Joanna Ingham

Joanna Ingham

Her debut pamphlet Naming Bones was published by ignitionpress in 2019. Her poetry has been widely published in magazines including Ambit, Magma, The North, Under the Radar and BBC Wildlife. It has appeared in The Sunday Times and the anthology The Best British Poetry 2012. She has recently been awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant by Arts Council England. Joanna also writes fiction and is represented by Thérèse Coen at Hardman & Swainson.

Website: www.joannaingham.com

Pamphlet available to buy here: https://shop.brookes.ac.uk/product-catalogue/faculty-of-humanities-social-sciences/poetry-pamphlets/naming-bones-by-joanna-ingham

Twitter: @ingham_joanna

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

The first poem I remember writing was about a kestrel I’d seen hovering by the side of a road. I wrote it at school and my teacher was very encouraging. The poem ended up framed in the headteacher’s office. I was about ten. A few years later I won a local poetry competition with a poem about a lion. So I’d say the natural world was what first inspired me, and it still does.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Mainly my school teachers. My parents took me to the theatre a lot and we had a CD of ‘the nation’s best-loved poems’, but they weren’t especially into poetry. When I was fifteen and I won the local poetry competition, an amazing woman called Mrs Bence-Jones contacted my grandfather and asked if I would like to join her poetry group. She was a landowner and minor aristocrat, lived in a manor house, and wrote poetry. She even had a cook. I started going to meetings, which began with a meal. The dining chairs had deer’s legs, complete with hooves, and the chair-backs were made of antlers. All the other participants were adults; an earnest older couple, a few bohemian middle-aged women, an ex-monk who took a shine to me, a man called Ivor who played the piano. Mrs Bence-Jones used to listen to our work lying on the floor. It sounds a little mad, but it was a very important experience for me. I realised that poetry wasn’t something just for school. Adults could care about it too. Poems took work, and discussion, and craft.

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

Through school I was certainly aware of older poets, mainly the classical canon. We studied the Metaphysicals and Romantics. I remember sitting in my room crying at Christina Rossetti and my favourite poem was probably ‘Ozymandias’. On holiday in Somerset I made my family read ‘The Ancient Mariner’ out loud with me after a visit to Coleridge’s house. I didn’t feel that the presence of these writers was dominating, though. I think my main concern was that my own life was far too unromantic and mundane to make me into a writer.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I usually write during school hours, unless I’m working on a freelance project. When I’m writing fiction I sometimes feel compelled to go on writing into the evenings and weekends, and poems can grab me at any time too, but I try to be quite professional in my approach. If I write in the evenings I often can’t sleep. With fiction, when I’m into it, I just sit down and write until my alarm goes off reminding me to collect my daughter from school. Poetry is less predictable. Some days I’ll mainly edit existing work. Others, I’ll begin by reading poetry as a way into finding poems I want to write.

5. What motivates you to write?

I think I write mainly because it makes me happy. There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of finding just the right word, of expressing something with the perfect balance of simplicity and complexity. When my writing is going well and I’m lost in it, it actually makes my heart beat harder. Also, I’ve never coped very well with the passing of time, with change and loss. I think a lot of my writing comes from a desire to preserve people and places and moments. I take a lot of photographs for the same reason. Reading a poem that speaks to me makes me want to write.

6. What is your work ethic?

I come from a family of builders, shopkeepers and accountants, so one of my challenges as a writer is how to justify – to myself especially – that a different kind of work ethic is okay. That just making stuff up all day is a valid use of time and still counts as work. That money isn’t the only measure of success. I can sometimes get paralysed by self-doubt and anxiety, but generally I’m very focused. Sometimes I have to remind myself that reading and thinking are necessary and acceptable parts of my working day.

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

I think that beauty is an important element in my writing and I suppose that lots of the classical writers I read when I was young were very conscious of beauty too. I think I’m still inspired by Plath’s intensity and Larkin’s melancholy. The passion of Edna St Vincent Millay. I mostly read contemporary poetry now, though. I guess it’s good to be most influenced by what’s going on in writing now.

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

There are so many, it’s hard to choose! I very much admire the way poets like Liz Berry, Rebecca Goss and Fiona Benson write about motherhood. I admire the wit and playfulness of poets like Suzannah Evans and Paul Stephenson. The wildness and sensitivity to nature of poets like Jacob Polley and Sean Hewitt. At the moment I’m reading and admiring Julia Webb, Mary Jean Chan and Jacqueline Saphra.

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

I’m generally a very creative person. I love sewing, photography, printmaking, gardening, interior design – anything crafty, really. Writing would always be my first choice, though. I suppose it’s because I love words and so they are my favourite medium. I feel most myself when I’m writing. Periodically, I decide that I should have done something sensible with my life like becoming a lawyer or an accountant. But those feelings never last for long! I’ve done lots of teaching creative writing, and I do enjoy that, but my desk and my own head are always the safest and most comfortable places to be.

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

I would tell them to write as much as possible and to read as much as possible, probably the other way around. I think it’s important to find a way to cope with rejection, to be patient and to resist regret. Part of me wishes that I could have had my first pamphlet published and written my first novel in my twenties instead of my forties – and maybe I could have done if I’d been from a different background, or been more confident – but sometimes things take their own time.

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

I have recently received a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England to enable me to work towards a first poetry collection, mentored by Rebecca Goss. I am also embarking on my second novel for young people, about the friendship between girls. My pamphlet Naming Bones is available from ignitionpress.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Benedicta Boamah

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.

Benedicta Boamah

is a skilled nurse in emergency cases who writes poetry during her leisure periods. She is the fourth and last child of her parents who was born in Bloemfontein, Free State on 20th November but completed her higher education in Ghana as a professional nurse at Garden City University College. She’s so proud to be a unique writer which was built during her basic education at junior high school in reading out her manifesto after she got selected as the senior prefect. She currently has her personal blog (https://bbvintagepoetry.wordpress.com/) and is determined to continue writing to the fullest.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I got inspired to write poetry through various novels that I read whilst growing up as a young adult. Glancing through the pages by each author brought some sense of unique style and words which helped me in picking up vocabulary.

It also came as an in-built outpour of the heart, soul and mind as a result of the hardships that I passed through in life and the dents that it left behind.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I must say that no one did the introduction; I did my own write-ups and gradually gained confidence in presenting one of my poems during a world health day activity held at my old workplace. It added up to us winning a trophy and that is how it started.

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

With regards to dominating older poets I’m already aware that there were pacesetters in the poetry industry which became a stepping stone for emerging poets to follow suit. Experience is said to be the best teacher.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write mostly early in the mornings when I wake up based on whatever comes into mind. I don’t have an exact consistent pattern it changes most of the times.

5. What motivates you to write?

I get motivated to write more poetry by what I read from already established poets which encourages me to do better. The stages and ordeals that I passed through in life gave me an inner will power to bring
out the best in me and voice it out.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is to stay focused & principled in all that I write as well as avoid plagiarism.

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

Well these writers paved a way through my heart by their artistic style of writing and how they were able to bring out literally meanings in their novels, journals and abridged books.

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

Sidney Sheldon is one of the writers I admire the most especially with his book that he came out with “if tomorrow comes’’ I cried when I read this book but I really learnt a lot from it. Even though he isn’t alive but part of the 20th century writers; his novels had a captivating suspense about the major happenings encountered in life. His writing construct kept you reading without placing the book down and I used to read his books with one of my favorite teachers.

9.  Why do you write as opposed to doing anything else?
I have that inner desire of writing the least detail that comes to mind because it’s my passion and inner tenacity to write for my readers to select essential facts from it or enjoy every bit of what is read.

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

I’d say it depends on your zeal and whether if you have the passion for writing. It all starts from within: what your aspirations are towards writing and whether if you are equipped to always reveal your writing skills.

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

I’m currently working on ‘Tales of an Elegant Woman’ and ‘A Weeping Soul’ which will come as mini novels very soon. I’m as well working on daily and monthly poetry write-ups on my personal blog on word press, twitter and others. I have made quite a number of submissions to Black Bough Poetry, the BeZine, Haiku Dialogue, Bristol Museum & Arts, the London Magazine and a whole lot more.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mela Blust

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.

skeleton-parade_cover

Mela Blust

(according to her website) is a moonchild, and has always had an affinity for the darkness. She is a poet, a painter, a sculptor, and a jeweler. She has been writing poetry since she was a child.

Her work has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Isacoustic, Rust+Moth, Anti Heroin Chic, Califragile, Tilde Journal, Setu Magazine, Rhythm & Bones Lit, and more, and is forthcoming in The Nassau Review, The Sierra Nevada Review, and The Stray Branch, among others.

Her debut poetry collection, Skeleton Parade, is available now at Apep Publications .

She is the social media coordinator for Animal Heart Press, as well as a poetry reader for The Rise Up Review.

She can be followed at https://twitter.com/melablust.

The Interview

What inspired you  to write poetry?

I truly do not know. I never thought to myself, “Oh, I’d like to write poetry.”  It just happened, somewhat organically. I started writing at a very young age, six or seven. And then upon seeing my writing, my mother shared that she, and my grandmother, had always written poetry. My daughter, who is now 8, wrote her first poem about a year ago. I’m concerned that it may be genetic.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I suppose my formal introduction was my family. And books. We had a library in our home, growing up. Whenever a school or anyone gave away encyclopedias or textbooks, my father would go get them and bring them home. I read constantly.

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

That hasn’t been my experience at all. I have received nothing but kindness and support, from old and young alike. I hope to give that back.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Haha, I don’t have one. I try to devote at least an hour each evening to poetry, but not always writing. Sometimes just reading. I have often said that I do not write poetry, it writes me. The muse strikes when it wants to, I don’t get much of a choice.

5. What motivates you to write?

Profound emotion. Sadness, the darkness of humanity, suffering,and sometimes, although rarely, love.

6. What is your work ethic?

I would hardly call this work. It is a privilege I am wholly grateful for. I tend to make lists and check things off, in between bouts of largely ignoring my writing.

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

They don’t, anymore. I am far more interested in what the writers and poets of today have to say.

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

Oh wow, this question is tough. It is very difficult to limit, as there are so many. But I would say Ilya Kaminsky, Camonghe Felix, Kai Coggin, Hanif Abdurraqib, Danez Smith, Jericho Brown, Ross Gay. Because they are saying things that need to be said, and need to be heard. Because their writing is, enviably, so beyond the scope of the self.

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

I do not write as opposed to doing anything else. I do everything. I write, paint, sculpt, collage, make jewelry, and garden. I never want to stop learning. But I would say that I write because I have to. There are things in me that need to be unearthed.

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

I hardly feel qualified to answer this, but I suppose I would just say that there is no such thing as a dumb question. I found writers online and asked them for advice, and I was endlessly welcomed and guided. And now here I am.

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

Skeleton Parade is available now through Apep Publications.

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Caroline Ailanthus

On Fiction 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.

Ecological Memory

Caroline Ailanthus
is a science writer; from blogging about climate change and editing scientific papers to her meticulously-researched fiction, her projects blend science and story. She grew up in Delaware and attended various small, odd schools, mostly in New England. She now travels often, but usually lives in Maryland with her husband and assorted animals.
Caroline has a BA in Environmental Leadership and an MS in Environmental Studies. When not writing fiction or walking her beagles, she works as a free-lance writer and editor. She is the author of two novels and three blogs, and her short non-fiction, and occasionally her short fiction, has appeared in multiple publications, including Pangaia,

Dreamstreets, and Appalachia, among others.

Links

Climate in Emergency (blog) (https://climateinemergency.wordpress.com/)

News From Caroline (blog) (https://newsfromcaroline.wordpress.com/)

School with No Name (blog) (https://schoolwithnoname.blogspot.com/)

Ecological Memory (novel; both print and ebook editions)

(https://www.amazon.com/Ecological-Memory-Caroline-Ailanthus/dp/1628062215/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Caroline+Ailanthus&qid=1567799817&s=books&sr=1-1)

To Give a Rose (novel; both print and ebook editions) (https://www.amazon.com/Give-Rose-Caroline-Ailanthus/dp/1628061219/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Caroline+Ailanthus&qid=1567799899&s=books&sr=1-2)

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write fiction?

I don’t know. I can’t remember ever not creating stories, even before I could write.

2. Who introduced you to reading fiction?

My parents; they read to me a lot when I was a kid.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

When I don’t have anything else pressing, I write (or sometimes waste time on Facebook). It’s not a routine; it’s a default option.

5. What motivates you to write?

The people in my head knocking to get out….Seriously, I make up stuff all the time, and if I don’t share it somehow I don’t feel right.

6. What is your work ethic?

In some ways I have a very strong work ethic, but I have trouble focusing. I have to maintain a lot of projects because I need to switch gears often.

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

Certainly they give me a sense of what good writing is supposed to look like. Sometimes I notice more obvious inspiration, vague similarities between what I write and certain things I have read. And Ursula K. LeGuin is a personal hero of long standing, and I still go back to her work often to see how she did things, like the equivalent of studying the brush strokes of a master.

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

I don’t know what you mean. Does someone have to be currently alive to count as a writer of today, or do you just mean not someone from the 1800s? Does LeGuin count? There are a lot of living writers whose work I really like, but none are currently literary heroes of mine. There are also living people I greatly admire and who write, but that’s not exactly what I admire them for.

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

I’d say “by writing.” That’s really all it takes. To become an excellent writer, write A LOT and always seek to be better. Don’t ever think you’re good enough.  Read a lot—talking to younger writers, I’ve realized there is so much I know about writing and almost take for granted because I learned it by accident while reading. Also get other people to edit your work; the value of a ruthless editor whom you trust absolutely cannot be over-stated. You will not get better beyond a certain point unless someone shows you where you need to improve. You won’t see it on your own.

It’s not that I see natural talent as unimportant, but it’s presence or absence is irrelevant to the writer—because no matter how talented you are, you still need to work to get better, and no matter how untalented you may be, you can still get better with work. So the question is never “Am I good enough to be a writer,” but, rather, “Do I want to write?”

Also, learn not to take your writing personally. If someone says it’s good, they don’t mean you’re good. If someone says it’s crap, they don’t mean you’re crap. If you can’t grasp that on a deep, fundamental level, you won’t be able to benefit from a ruthless editor, and you won’t reach your potential. Learning to grin and bear criticism isn’t enough—if you feel like your writing is you but just decide to let people criticize you, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to abusive jackasses. You need to know the difference between you and your work, because real friends tell you to improve the latter, not the former.

How to earn a living writing? That’s a related question, and the answer changes over time. Decades ago, you could do it by writing short fiction for magazines while you tried to convince a big publishing house to give you a nice, fat advance for your next novel. That’s why we have such wonderful short fiction by the old greats, like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Ernest Hemingway. But magazines have switched to non-fiction, for the most part, and publishers seldom offer much marketing support any more—so getting published is just the beginning of figuring out how to sell your work, not the end. Many writers these days pay the bills with a combination of free-lance writing (mostly web content) and editing. Writing books loses money for many people, but we do it anyway because we must. It’s a pretty dark time for writers, frankly.

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

I have two novels published, and several more on the way. My first book, To Give a Rose, is about a community of proto-human ape-like beings (australopithecines) and a modern human woman studying their bones. The two timelines interact and comment on each other thematically. Ten years of research went into creating a plausible vision of the African Pliocene and the australopithecine mind. There may someday be a sequel or two, but I’m currently focused on sequels for my second book, Ecological Memory.
Ecological Memory is part post-apocalyptic travelogue, part scientific detective story. It’s not a dystopia—my view of the world after the collapse of civilization is distinctly optimistic—but the central theme I ended up exploring is resilience in the face of loss. That’s what “ecological memory” means. It’s a technical term for the capacity of an ecosystem to regrow. In the story, ecosystems are indeed regrowing, but so are the human survivors—rather imperfectly. The book is the first in a series, but each book in the series will be able to stand on its own.

I also have various free-lance jobs going (care to hire me?) and I maintain three blogs. News From Caroline is about my work and the craft of writing. Climate in Emergency is about various aspects of climate change, from politics to science. School with No Name is the serialized first draft of a group of novels about an Earth-centered spiritual community. It’s an interesting project, writing a first draft in public like this, not really knowing what I’m going to write until I write it!

On a million nights like this

Cracking poem from Ian Parks

Peony Moon

  
 
Noir
Ian Parks
 
The plot is complicated
but all its tangled threads
have found their resolution here.
The end is all we need to know.
It’s midnight on the waterfront
and all the ships have loaded up
 
their cargoes and have gone.
The hotel lights are lit:
a hundred rooms with a hundred beds
identical with blinds.
An interface of fire-escapes
supports it from outside.
 
A bright façade distracts us
from the narrow alleyways
where trash cans spill their overflow
and rats search out a meal.
Somewhere a storm is gathering.
Out there in Hudson Bay
 
it swirls unseen, unnoticed.
The city streets absorb it
for a moment then let loose
a sudden lethal downpour
that shimmers in the heat
and bounces off the sidewalk
 
where she steps purposeful, intent.
All we know about her are her heels,
her black silk stockings with…

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