Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Writer Rachel Dacus

photo credit: Jim MacKinnon
Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. Her poetry collections are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her writing has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals and anthologies.

Laura Davis: Where do you write? Paint us a word picture. Put us there. And that other place you like. Or just send a real picture. 

Rachel Dacus: I’m in a field, a plum tree has just started dropping its fruit on the grass, some edible, some smashed by careless feet or paws. The birds have pecked many, but I pick up an unblemished one and bite into it, the juice running down my hand. I look up at mare’s tail clouds and a feeling strikes me blowing by and riffling. Another plum falls. I think about ripeness and ruin. I go and sit in the swing and dictate into my phone. Like that on the luckiest days. On others, with coffee, in bed, not quite awake, noodling around with word sounds and wispy sense. Clouds in the brain.

LD: How do you begin writing? Do you just dive in? Warm-up exercise? Daydreaming? Any rituals that involve smelling a drawer of fruit? 

RD: Apparently, from my previous answer, fruit can be involved. But not necessarily. I just daydream, having set aside time for writing – usually in the morning, when the boundary between the dream state and the intellectual one is shifty and broad, allowing for incursions from either army.

LD: How often do you write and for how long? What time of day?

RD: I write every day, most often in the morning, middle of the day, and at night. Really. I like to start my business day with poetry, and after a few hours of working at my day job stuff, dive back into whatever I was working on. I’m also writing a novel, so it depends what I most need to work on, and that’s what I might work on after dinner. Breaks help me do a lot of work in any given day. Most days I don’t have this much time, but on the best, I do and make the most of it.

LD: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it? 

RD: I started writing poems in response to reading Emily Dickinson. I know that seems like a rash idea, treading in such overworked territory, but I couldn't help feeling a little like Emily’s BFF. Like only she and I understand each other’s secrets. Arrogance, I know, but that’s what happened. So recently, I read another ED poem (I dip into the book cautiously because a line can hit me like a bullet), and this line leaped on me and wrestled me to the ground.

LD: How long have you been writing? What’s the first thing you remember feeling good about having written? 

RD: I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. The first piece I was proud of was a Halloween short story written in third grade. I was asked to read it out to my class and got huge laughter. Getting laughs hooked me on writing. Just think – a thing I made out of my imagination made people laugh! What could be better. Of course, the next story fell entirely flat. I was inducted into the writing profession at age eight, skinning my knees on the reality of my first workshop critique, but the blood couldn't detract from the high, so I was hooked by early success.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Kait Burrier

Poet Kait Burrier
Kait Burrier writes poetry, drama, journalism, and to-do lists. Her work has been thrown from balconies, spat from rooftops, hidden in mesas, performed in the U.S. and abroad, and published online and in print, most recently in SwanDive Publishing Company’s Everyday Escape Poems. See what she’s up to at kaitburrier.com.


Laura Davis: Beverage of choice? 

Kait Burrier: a.m.: black coffee; p.m.: bourbon, rocks.

LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence? 

KB: I hopped a bus to New York City the day after completing my MFA, and I love the soundscape here! I find sound and physicality to be symbiotic in poetry, and it’s easy to translate the buzz of my surroundings into the rhythm of my work, especially somewhere public, like a café, a bar, a park bench, or the train. My revision process demands less chaos and more focus. Most of my creative projects have corresponding playlists that I listen to at home. I've also taken to recording myself on Garage Band while developing a cadence. It’s a good exercise for exploring a new voice, too; I’ll record myself reading a single text while listening to different songs through headphones and the delivery always varies. Occasionally, though, I do like to work at the twilight hours of morning, when even the Internet and the alley cats are still.

LD: What is your favorite exercise that gets the words flowing? 

KB: Unearthing a fresh narrative in an existing text through erasure, found word, and cut up poetry stimulates me into generating new work. Sometimes, I’ll explore a topic that has a lot of room for investigation, like astrophysics or the arctic, and allow my imagination to fill in the blanks with free association. I’m also partial to Dadaist and Surrealist games, and have been known to begin rounds of Exquisite Corpse on bar napkins.

LD: What’s the strangest object you've ever used to write a poem with and/or upon? 

KB: Oh, I’m sure it’s gotten weird before. I’ll use napkins, apps, legal pads, note cards, sidewalk chalk, whatever. Let’s see. Memorably, I was assigned to write out a map poem in a workshop during Naropa’s Summer Writing Program. I went to campus early to buy a Moleskine at the bookstore only to find there wasn't a campus bookstore. There was, however, plenty of sycamore bark shed on the sidewalks. I found a sturdy, clean piece and, using colored sharpies, inscribed a short, cartographic love poem. It survived a week in Colorado and a drive to Wyoming, but I don’t know what happened to it. I like to imagine it as a little poetry boat floating the Platte, or riding a breeze back to the Flatirons.

LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a poem? 

I could revise forever and ever. My poems are basically complete once they've been accepted for publication. That’s not to say that I only find my poetry valid upon publication, but that I tend to step away from, revisit, and edit my work endlessly until someone else insists it’s finished. Time lends perspective. Old poems have served me well as a prompt, as a sort of creative artifact that I either want to explore for inspiration or to polish up—cut this stanza, change that line break. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll ever truly finish a

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Writer Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan Butler-Rotholz is the founder of Reviving Herstory, the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be, and a columnist for the iPinion Syndicate. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita.

Laura Davis: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?

Sivan Butler-Rotholz: I have been working on my first novel since November 1, 2013. The idea had been percolating in my mind for quite some time, and a creative writing student of mine challenged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, so I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. During that dedicated month the words flew from my fingertips like wildfire. Some days took more effort than others, but I wrote every day and met the 50,000-word goal by month’s end.

There is something very freeing about a challenge such as NaNoWriMo. I believe that, as writers, we wear two hats: our creating hat and our editing hat. Because I had a goal based on word count alone, I did not allow myself to put on my editing hat whatsoever during the month of November. The goal was to write, write, write. I knew that, after the month ended, I would have years to edit and rewrite as needed. So I gave myself the freedom to write whatever came to me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Every good writer revises; I think aiming for perfection from the outset can have a crippling effect on writers. Such an approach may be the beast known as “writer’s block.”

After November ended, I gave myself some time away from writing the book. Because my novel is historical fiction, I am working on the novel even when I am only researching. So after November I read a lot—history books about the period in which my novel takes place (the era of King David), and also some great books on process. I’m a poet by training, so I had to give myself a crash course in what makes good fiction writing. In April I signed up for another NaNoWriMo challenge—Camp NaNoWriMo—which is a less-structured version of National Novel Writing Month. I did not meet my goal in April, but I had a major breakthrough with the book that was invaluable. Currently I’m in it again, doing Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July.

Writing a novel, I am discovering, is a long and involved process. It is like a long-term relationship, whereas writing a poem can be more like a cherished fling. I hope to finish the novel in the next year or two, and hope that what I am learning now will translate into my ability to complete a novel every couple of years.

The work of writing a novel is ongoing and variable. Sometimes I write as if struck by divine inspiration or as if taking dictation for Martians. Other times I write not a single word, and instead let the lives of the characters and the landscape of the novel unfold in my mind. Whenever anyone asks me how the novel is going I tell them it’s coming along great. Whether I am writing daily or haven’t put my fingers to the keyboard in months, I always feel that the novel and I are moving forward. When people tell me they can’t wait to read it, I respond, “Me too!”

LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a story, essay, or poem?

SBR: Ahhh, this is such an interesting question! For me, it is a gut feeling. After I have read, edited, read, revised, read, tweaked, and repeated these steps ad nausea, there comes a moment when I give it a read through and find that I don’t have any more changes to make. Then I may put it aside, come back, and apply the process again. Eventually it just feels done. It is, absolutely, a gut reaction.

I am a perfectionist, so anything I write has seen a lot of personal scrutiny before my instincts tell me it’s finished. For me it’s done done when I send it out into the world—when I submit an opinion editorial piece to the iPinion Syndicate, when I hit the “schedule” button on an entry in the Saturday Poetry Series that I edit for As It Ought To Be, when I finish a blog post for Reviving Herstory, when I submit poems for publication, etc. Even then, sometimes I revise after submission or posting. Most infuriating is when I notice a typo in an already published piece. Nothing drives me more bananas than that.

All that being said, the thing I always think of when I consider the question of whether piece of writing is “finished” is this: I heard a story about Yusef Komunyakaa. That his personal copy of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book is marked up with his newest edits. That when he gives readings from this book, he is reading newer, revised versions of poems that already won the Pulitzer Prize. I tell this story to my creative writing students when they ask how they know if a poem or story is finished. If Yusef Komunyakaa is still editing his Pulitzer Prize-winning poems, I’m not sure our work is ever finished.

LD: How long have you been writing? What’s the first thing you remember feeling good about having written?

SBR: I started reciting original poems before I learned to read and write. My mother used to take dictation of the oral poems I composed. I believe that being a poet is something older than this body, this lifetime. It is something more akin to a soul or to the energy that comprises us; something that existed before we did in this earthly body, and something that will continue to go on after we are returned to dust.

I am really blessed in that I have always been encouraged in my writing. First by my family, then in school. I remember little books and poems I wrote in third and fourth grade being chosen as competition winners. My family, teachers, schools, and locales all encouraged me. So I grew up feeling good about my writing. Of course I’ve become more critical of my own work with age and experience, but I’ve always felt really good about being a writer, and I think the expectations I have for myself now only serve to make me a better writer. Now I have my sights set on becoming a New York Times bestselling novelist, and I think it’s a combination of the encouragement I have received throughout my life and my belief that I can do anything I set my mind to that is going to get me there.

LD: How do you motivate yourself to write? 

SBR: I do much better with a deadline and some accountability. My most productive writing periods were while working toward my BA and MFA in creative writing, while taking continuing education courses in creative writing, while participating in residencies, and the like. National Novel Writing Month motivates me because I set a goal based on due date and word count; even if I’m only accountable to myself, I work better with even a self-imposed goal and deadline. Most recently a friend and I have started a writing group that meets once a month. Having to submit even a few pages of work to other people once a month ensures that I actually write those few pages. So the answer, for me, is that goal-setting and accountability are my greatest motivating factors.

LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? 

SBR: Essentially, as a lyricist, I prefer to listen to music with words than without. But I find that music with lyrics inevitably distracts me from my writing. I tried classical music for a while, but it was too calming for me. I need a little pick-me-up when I write. So I listened to Tiger Rag for a long time, but found that I can only listen to music without lyrics for so long. Most recently I discovered that the best writing music for me is Edith Piaf in French. It turns out that lyrics in another language give me the voice and the words that I crave, yet don’t distract me from my writing. This is probably the only time I will ever be thankful to be ignorant of foreign languages.

Aside from music, which I listen to when writing at home, I love to work in cafes. I love the way the hustle and bustle of café life becomes like white noise to me. It is often easier for me to write in a café than at home alone. At home there are too many distractions.

Most important for me, when working from home, is that I be alone. I share my relatively small, open floor plan apartment with my wonderful husband. He is a big fan of my attention. Even if we are both working side-by-side, he is compelled to perpetually interrupt me to show me whatever thing he is excited about at that moment. Needless to say, I get very little work done when my husband is home with me. Lots of love, very little work. So my at-home writing process comes back to Virginia Woolf, and the importance of having a room of one’s own.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Lindsay Lusby

Poet Lindsay Lusby
Lindsay Lusby’s poetry has been published most recently in The Feminist Wire, Fairy Tale Review, and The Wolf Skin. Her first chapbook, Imago, was published by dancing girl press in 2014. She is the Assistant Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

Laura Davis: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?

Lindsay Lusby: I've always been slow writer (and reader). But since I've embarked on the poem series to which I've most recently committed myself, my word faucet has become particularly slow-dripping. It frustrates me but, at the same time, I'm excited about the poems that have come out of it. This series I'm writing requires a very intricate interweaving of themes, that in turn requires super precise word-choice to maintain the balance I want, and this all leads to essentially revising while I'm writing. If it sounds stilted, that's because it really is. But it seems to be working, so I'll keep on in this vein for as long as it continues to be fruitful.

LD: What writing implement do you wield and why?

LL: I use a combination of three different writing implements for different stages of the process. For composing, I prefer using a manual typewriter. Somehow, the typewriter leaves me feeling less inhibited by my own insecurities while writing. I'm more able to let myself write down what is developing in my head as it happens and explore the different possibilities for where this new poem might lead. I make lists of words, phrases, and bits of the two or more source materials I'm hoping to combine. When I've got a working draft (or at least a fragment that I want to keep), I move to the word processor for revising and finishing the poem. Then, when I feel I have a fairly polished piece, I write it by hand in my notebook that travels around with me. I realize that's probably the reverse order for lots of folks, but this is what (most often) works for me. I also have a habit carrying around my brand-new poems with me like a kind of security blanket.

LD: What color is your writing process. Do explain.

LL: Green. Definitely green. A poem I wrote a few months ago called "Interlude" ends with the line, "in those quiet degrees of shade." That is my mental writing space. Although I'm typically an indoor cat (doing most of my writing in my bedroom), my mental space is usually a green garden sheltered by an overcast sky. It smells like rain-soaked ivy and basil. A comforting green gloom.

LD: Let's talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence?

LL: I am one of those people who just cannot concentrate on a solitary activity in public spaces. I'm just hyper-aware of everything else going on around me. I think close to utter silence would be the best for me, although sometimes I will venture into purely instrumental music for some background sound. I tend to get distracted by song lyrics though. I must also admit that I am not always faithful to this prescription, but deviation usually leads to lots of frustration with myself and no new writing being accomplished.

LD: Beverage of choice?

LL: I'm a passionate lover of tea—hot or iced, depending on the temperature of the room. Although I do love a classic black tea, when I want to treat myself I go for a cup of ginger peach black tea or spice chai latte. Mmmmmm.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Stacy Nigliazzo

Poet Stacy R. Nigliazzo
Stacy R. Nigliazzo is an ER nurse. Her debut poetry collection, Scissored Moon, was released by Press 53 last fall, and has been named a finalist for the 2013 Julie Suk Prize (Jacar Press) and the 2014 Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award.
Laura Davis: How do you begin writing? Do you just dive in? Warm-up exercise? Daydreaming? Any rituals that involve smelling a drawer of fruit?

Stacy R. Nigliazzo: I generally need some spark of inspiration, otherwise I just sit and stare at a blank page for hours. That spark can originate from anywhere, really. I’ll have a dream, hear an unexpected word (like yaw or polystyrene, for example), or see something intriguing. Then I’ll grab my journal, tie my hair back, and scribble my thoughts. After I've polished my ideas I move to my MacBook. I anguish over every little word until I’m satisfied with the finished product. If I get stuck I generally read Charles Simic—no shortage of inspiration there. Sometimes I burn candles that smell of toasted coconut and hazelnut. The best thing about that is the ribbon of smoke that appears when you blow them out. Very poetic.
LD: What writing implement do you wield and why?

SN: I always start with a mechanical pencil so I can erase when I need to and don’t have to stop for sharpening. My favorite is the Zebra #2 (because it looks like a real pencil).
LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a story, essay, or poem?

SN: I memorize all of my poems while I’m writing them, then mull them over and over in my mind after composition. If I still like the poem after a few days I generally stick with it. Sometimes I’ll agonizingly get stuck on a line, or even on a single word. In that case, I’ll try to put the poem aside for a while to tackle again later. Sometimes it takes forever to find the right fit.
For example, in the poem "Purgatory," it took me two weeks to come up with stranded soul. I think it was complicated by the fact that I had a deadline, and it was my first big publishing opportunity with the American Journal of Nursing. It finally came to me after much sleeplessness and gnashing of teeth while I was desperately scouring my old high school thesaurus, which is silly, as the metaphor seems so intuitive now. I completed the poem with a week to spare, but went ahead and sent it in anyway. I knew I was finished.
LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence?
SN: Yo Yo Ma’s music is a staple when I’m writing (especially his unaccompanied Bach Cello Suites). I also love Emanuel Ax’s piano quartets (Mozart). Whatever I listen to has to be instrumental—no words other than mine allowed. If I’m particularly focused, or at the point where I’m breaking out the old high school thesaurus again, I’ll go for dead silence.

LD: What do you like to read before you write? Or after? Or during?

SN: Charles Simic, of course, and also Neruda’s prose poems. Most recently, Elana Bell’s Eyes, Stones and Carl Adamshick’s Curses and Wishes (both past recipients of the Walt Whitman Award). And, of course, there’s my big stack of back issues of the Bellevue Literary Review. There is absolute perfection in those pages! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Samantha Duncan

Poet Samantha Duncan
Samantha Duncan is the author of the chapbooks One Never Eats Four (ELJ Publications, 2014) and Moon Law (Wild Age Press, 2012), and she serves as Associate Editor for ELJ Publications. She lives in Houston. Follow her on TwitterGoodreads and her blog.

Laura Davis: How do you begin writing? Do you just dive in? Warm-up exercise? Daydreaming? Any rituals that involve smelling a drawer of fruit?

Samantha Duncan: My writing starts with observance and centers on small ideas evolving into bigger ones. I tend to look for beauty and art in unconventional places and find a lot of it in everyday life, so an idea for a piece may come from a tree in my neighborhood or an exchange I see in a coffee shop. I like to take what’s simple and expand it, perhaps beyond its surface level meaning. My first chapbook, Moon Law, literally came about from a discussion about how life and the law would have to be different on the moon if we colonized it. I took the trajectory of a fairly normal and straightforward relationship between two people and placed it on the moon. That manuscript was the result.

LD: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?

SD: My latest poetry chapbook, One Never Eats Four, took a while to come together. If memory serves me correctly, I wrote the individual drafts fairly quickly, then took a long time to do dozens of edits. I submitted most of them individually to journals and a handful were accepted, which was when I started to think about creating a manuscript. Grouping them was the hard part. I tend to be a little obsessively organized, and I think I was initially too fixated on there being a central theme to the collection, when there obviously wasn't. When I finally gave up that vision and turned my focus to multiple related subjects, instead, it quickly got picked up by ELJ Publications. Ideally, I prefer starting with a theme or subject and then writing the manuscript around it; in this instance, the reverse had to occur, as I already had months of material that was demanding to be put together.

LD: How long have you been writing? What’s the first thing you remember feeling good about having written?

SD: I've been writing since I learned how, as a child. I remember mimicking books that I read, starting with picture books (art was never my strong suit, so these were simplistic) and graduating to longer and longer chapter books when I began reading those. Despite writing from an early age, it wasn't until college that I felt I had written something that I liked and was worth publishing. I wrote a short story about a young, accomplished violin player who lost her arm in a car accident and had to navigate a different path for her life. I later expanded it into a novel, but in retrospect, I don’t think I had the skill to give the story what it needed to be great and publication ready. Another project I wrote that I remain proud of today was a short, nonlinear novel called Happy Blue. It was the first time a piece of writing seemed to pour out of me with little effort, and of all the fiction I've written, it’s the only thing I believe I could someday publish if I ever go back and polish it.

LD: How do you motivate yourself to write? Chocolates? Self-flagellation? Coffee on an IV drip?

SD: Since I started publishing my work, it’s become less about cookies and coffee and shiny things. If I find myself procrastinating on work, I think about my published pieces and how they wouldn't have been accepted if I hadn't, at some point, decided to stop staring at a blank screen. We all know people who talk about writing a lot more than they actually write, and I never want to be that person. My end goal is to create and get it out in the world, and I remind myself the only way to make that happen is to sit down, ignore Facebook, and write.

LD: Beverage of choice?

SD: Anything hot. It’s a bit of a writer cliché, but I’m a Starbucks junkie. I have rotating favorites, but my go-to drink is a soy dirty chai. When my Starbucks card has no money on it (a frequent occurrence), I’ll have green tea. That said, I don’t discriminate – I’m also a fan of crappy gas station coffee.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Anna B. Sutton

Poet Anna B. Sutton
Anna B. Sutton is a poet and publisher from Nashville, TN. Her work has won the Pocataligo Poetry Prize, a James Merrill fellowship from Vermont Studio Center, and has appeared in or is forthcoming from Third Coast, Quarterly West, DIAGRAM, Pinch, Superstition Review, Weave, and other journals.

Laura Davis: Where do you write? Paint us a word picture. Put us there. And that other place you like. Or just send a real picture. 

Anna B. Sutton: Where I write has been a source of a lot of strife—not for any other reason than that I am out of shape and pushing 30. For years, especially during graduate school, I chose to write on my laptop in bed, either leaning back one of those pillows with arms—boyfriend pillows?—or sitting up cross-legged. Turns out this is the exact wrong thing to do for your back. Let this be a lesson to all you writers out there. After years of hunching over my laptop on a soft surface, I developed sciatica, which I had previously only associated with the elderly folk that my mother and I delivered Meals on Wheels to when I was growing up. But there I was, 26, unable to lift my laundry basket or really even my head. The plus side of developing sciatica is that they give you a bunch of the best kinds of drugs—heavy duty painkillers, muscle relaxers. The down side is the fact that you have to face your own weakness and mortality on a very immediate and visceral level. For those of you who don’t know, sciatica is when, over time, you train your lower back muscles to clench around the bundle of nerves at the base of your spine. It takes many months of drugs and hot and cold therapy and downward facing dog to work it out. So after that, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on an office chair, sold my laptop so that I wouldn't be further tempted to hunker down in the sultry embrace of my bed, and now I write on a desktop at a desk pushed up against a huge wall of windows. And that’s working out pretty well, but what I wouldn't give for an eight hour marathon day of writing in bed. (see photo below)

LD: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?

AS: My process is always two-fold. Generally, I get a line or image stuck in my head and the first draft of the poem—if I’m able to get to writing quickly enough—just sort of tumbles out. I can write a first draft in a matter of minutes. The second part of the process is where all the hemming and hawing and circling around a phrase comes in. Once I begin to revise that first draft, I can stare at the page for days, weeks, sometimes returning to a poem for years—change a word, change it back; add a line that sometimes accidentally opens up an entirely new meaning that has to be explored; erase and rewrite stanzas; format, reformat… When I was in my MFA program, workshop would get me really fired up for revisions and I could knock them out within a week. These days, left to my own devices, I’d say it takes me about four months on average to feel like a poem is “ready.” Of course, there are always those moments of pure magic, like when I wrote a recent poem called “Conservation.” I wrote it quickly at Vermont Studio Center, after having read some really heartbreaking articles about whooping cranes. I wrote it quickly, it felt finished, and I tagged it onto a few submissions I sent out, just to see what might happen. Almost immediately, Pinch picked it up for publication and I am so thrilled about that. I love their journal and it’s very rare that we get to give birth to a complete idea.

LD: What writing implement do you wield and why?

AS: I’m a computer girl, all the way. As much as I hate staring at a screen, I really love the deftness of a word processor. My initial process is so quick and fluid, and I’m a fast typer—Mavis Beacon taught me well. I've tried to hand-write because a lot of my writer friends say it allows them to connect more to the words, but to me it just feels clunky. My hand can’t keep up with my head. And when it comes to revisions—copy, paste, undo, redo—these commands are all essential to me. Plus, using a computer to write has allowed me to save terrible drafts that I revisit and reshape years later; drafts that would have no doubt been buried had I written them by hand in a notebook.

LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Café rumblings? White noise? Utter silence?

AS: I envy people who can listen to music while they write, or write in a coffee shop. I would love to feed from that energy. Unfortunately, I go into a sort of Tommy trance (See me, feel me, touch me, heal me, not fat guy in a little coat) and need absolute silence. I also really need to be alone, which means no fun writing parties and also causes some problems now that I’m living with my boyfriend. We've devised a “curtain system” to block off the sun room where I write, but even so, just knowing someone is somewhere nearby can often prevent me from opening up entirely. Plus, I tend to read aloud as I write, and if anyone is around, I become pretty self-conscious about mumbling to myself. I think all of this points to the fact that I need to feel safe enough  when I write to open up parts of me that I keep pretty tightly sealed otherwise.

LD: Beverage of choice?

AS: All beverages, great and small. In my life outside of writing, I’m the kind of person who can end up with four different glasses at brunch: water, coffee, juice, cocktail. But it’s not the case when I’m at work on a poem. This is another instance where I wish I could do what many writers I love do—write poetry while drinking a big glass of red wine or a few fingers of bourbon—but I just get distracted. Similarly, too much coffee and I get buzzy and anxious and start writing terrible poems about how NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY PAIN. Now, I try to stick with tea. Right this moment, I’m sipping on some iced red chai—naturally decaf, y’all! Oh god, drinking decaf tea alone with sciatica. Maybe I am elderly after all.

Photo below: Here is my very expensive chair and very cheap computer, then, from the lower left and moving clockwise: 1.) A few lit mags I've received in the mail lately, including the new Tar River Poetry, which I am just thrilled to have a poem in. 2.) A Hallmark bag filled with actual spells from Sarah Messer, a former professor/current boss at One Pause/cheesemaker/life mentor. We haven’t found the right place for all of them, yet. Plus, unlike most houses in Wilmington, where I lived for three years and met Sarah, our current home in Winston-Salem is decidedly not haunted. 3.) A picture of a few of my favorite fellow writers, taken at Chicago AWP, likely while very hungover. We all look pretty cute, though. 4.) Fried and True, which I’m about to review for my blog in an effort to actually have a blog/because my boyfriend loves nothing more than fried chicken—not even me, not by far. 5.) Two monkey candle holders from my grandmother than are super weird and possibly my favorite things in the world. They’re wearing Victorian era powder blue tails and tawny top hats, because why not? 6.) old lady tea.