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  • umbraeverborum 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview, publishing, teresa carmody, writing practices   


    My last interview, with Teresa Carmody, was not spontaneous as the others had been. She kindly arranged it with me on Friday of &Now, and when I showed up on Saturday I had a tape recorder ready, because my writing hand and wrist were in pain. Here is a very lightly edited transcription of what she had to say.

    ROSE MIREYA: Well, thank you very much again for taking a few minutes to talk to me. I totally enjoyed your reading. Unfortunately because we get so swamped at UCSD, I hadn’t really heard about it before, but I felt like you were channeling the characters that you were reading, and that just makes me curious about how you go about writing that sort of thing. Can you talk a little bit about your techniques as a writer for characters and stuff?

    TERESA CARMODY: Well, I came to writing thru voice. In other words, it’s been, as I was learning, the point of entry for me as a writer, to learn about what writing might do or text might do was thru voices. And so … this project is a project that I’ve been working on for a very, very, very long time. A very long time. … I say this because it seems that I don’t know what will happen when this book is done. Like I know that I’m more interested, that I’ve become increasingly more interested in narrative, that entry point has not been thru voice, it has been thru oftentimes thru visual imagery. But I think that learning to write takes a really long time, and that oftentimes … it seems that, it seems that some writers, maybe a lot of them … maybe not a lot of them, but enough of them, have whatever projects that they need to write initially to go thru and get out of the way and then they can continue on, thinking about other things. And so, for me, like this project that you heard from today is very—it’s not a memoir but it has a lot of autobiographical—you know, it comes from personal experience. The voices I grew up with.

    R.M.: That’s cool. And do you have any specific technique for recalling those places and making them your own?

    T.C.: No … I think that … sometimes using something, which is not the case in this book, but sometimes using something really arbitrary … can actually help you hone a voice more distinctly. So, it might even be something like using a certain kind of grammatical pattern, or syntax pattern. Or, in … my collection of short stories that came out a few years ago … all of the stories play with voices—starts with a single voice, goes to two, then it’s a polyvocal piece, and they’re kind of monologues, but in the one that has many different voices, one of the layers of editing I did was assign a different vowel sound to each of the characters and go thru and do an edit where I was actually putting … a lot of that vowel sound in, which I then actually ended up taking out some of that—I like, overdid it, and then … did back, but it was like almost as if I saw these things as if you were painting … it’s almost impressionistic, so it’s like you have a figure that’s coming and then maybe you need to put a lot of red, but then maybe the red needs to be covered up. So that’s one of the elements of sound or language that you can do that with …

    R.M.: What is something that’s particularly fun about writing for you?

    T.C.: Already having written. … I’m actually quite serious about that—that, sometimes, the most fun thing is having already done it. … I really like it when you’re at a place in a project where you start seeing all of the little pieces start to connect … there’s little webs that are being made between the kind of imagery, there’s sonic sense that’s happening between different things, and that takes some time to get to in a piece, and so when you get there it “A,” means you’re getting close to being done, which is fun, getting back to my first thing, but that’s just part of the symmetrical delight, or the formal delight, in writing.

    R.M.: If somebody wants to do what you do, with Les Figues, can you talk a little bit about steps they would take to start doing that?

    T.C.: To start actually having a press? Well first of all, I think that … the steps would be figuring out what it is that you want to do, and then trying to articulate a vision, and then coming back a year later after you’ve already started doing it. … I see making a small press as kind of similar to making a piece of writing, where you could have this idea or this dream or this sort of sense, but then once you actually get into the logistics of making it … it’ll start to become increasingly clear what it is that you’re trying to do, as long as you’re reflecting on it. But it’s also really easy to do now. … I mean you can use a POD publisher and make books that way easily. But I think the thing … that we’re really smart about with Les Figues is having a really articulated vision of what we’re trying to do. And again that has been fine-tuned, but coming back to that, over and over again. … And a little bit of insanity. Or a lot of insanity.

    R.M.: Are there certain personality traits that are helpful to have?

    T.C.: No, but just like being willing to work really hard, for no money, and just being a little crazy that way.

    R.M.: So on that note then, what keeps you going to work for little or no money? I’m sure a lot of my classmates would be interested to know. I’m interested.

    T.C.: The thing with Les Figues, when Vanessa Place and Pam Ore and I started it, we didn’t really have a writing community, or the writers that we knew were not necessarily the kind of work that we wanted to be engaged with … or we liked their work fine but … there weren’t the kinds of conversations about writing that we wanted to be having, and we found that it was really—like if you go to a cocktail party … and you say like, “Well what are you trying to do with your writing?” people don’t like to answer that question in the context of a party. And so … we were trying to figure out how could we have conversations about that, and … it’s that very thing of having those kinds of conversations, and building the community. And also just—I mean, I really love the work that we publish, and seeing it go out in the world and seeing people, other people read it and get excited about it. I love that.

    R.M.: Do you think it helps or hampers a writer to have an audience or demographic in mind when creating any kind of work?

    T.C.: I think it depends on the writer, and what kind of writer the writer wants to be in the world. So some people want to …write to a certain audience and be a voice representing that group, and other people are a voice representing that group, but they don’t necessarily have the self awareness, because … you know. But I think that … one should be absolutely free to do whatever it is, and if you start writing something and it makes you upset, then that’s a place to continue writing.

    R.M.: I can see that. You’re hitting something—

    T.C.: Yeah, exactly!

    R.M.: You’re hitting some nerve, some hot spot.

    T.C.: Again, some writers want to be the head of a choir that already sings the response they know is gonna be sung when they hit this note. That’s not the kind of writing I’m interested in. I don’t want to be that kind of writer. But I get it that there’s a place in the world for that kind of writer. … The hard thing is that there is no one way, and there is no one right way. And so it’s all about, how do you deal with that anxiety of not knowing how to be, and not knowing like how long it’s gonna take. … When I started my MFA program in 2000, one of the things I kept saying to myself was that, if you practice something for 30 minutes a day, every day, you will become an expert after 10 years. I don’t know if I have reached expert status, but I definitely have more facility with language and writing than I did 10 years ago, and that’s just because of that practice. Like, whatever talent I had didn’t matter. And I’ve seen that over and over again too, if somebody’s talented and they don’t practice.

    R.M.: I think everybody in college sees that at some point …

    T.C.: But I think there’s a lot of anxiety about … what makes a writer a real writer. And so, you also see a lot of people’s bios—people are like, “I’ve been writing since the age of five!” Well that might be true or not true, but it doesn’t make somebody more or less of a writer. But I think it’s like people try to cling onto this idea of what makes a writer … which is fine, it’s just … know that that’s what you’re doing.

    • Danielmn 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply

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  • cemcb 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview   

    Interview Questionaire with an Unattributed Writer 

    • Who are you? What do you specialize in?
    [Sadly unable to attribute as no name was provided]
    Writer & editor/ publisher/ teacher (of creative writing). No real specialization, but concentrate on
    fiction and poetry (currently in that order).
    • How did you get involved in writing?
    Always knew I wanted to write- a desire fueled by my earliest reading experiences.
    • What do you do when you get too many ideas, pick one at a time or work multiple at once?
    I multi-task. I MOVE of in multiple directions simultaneously. The writing time I have available to me
    (scant) demands as much.
    • What are you working towards right now-what is your aspiration?
    Getting one or both novels on which I have been working for some time published. Finishing a
    sequence (100+) of short lyric POEMS.
    • What do you know about writing now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
    How many options are actually available to writers (alternative careers, publishing avenues,
    opportunities in collaborating. There was much I failed to take advantage of [because] I thought of
    writing as a solitary pursuit.

    Thank you again for your interview!
    If this is you and you want it to be attributed, please leave a reply under this post.
    (Interviewer: Catrina McBeath)

    • Anonymous 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply

      Writer’s name = Joe Milazzo

  • cemcb 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview   

    Interview Questionaire with Jon Wagner 

    • Who are you? What do you specialize in?
    Jon Wagner-Cinema/writing/mod. French poetry
    • How did you get involved in writing?
    Director-MFA writing program CalArts
    • What do you do when you get too many ideas, pick one at a time or work multiple at once?
    Multiple-Then attempt at synthesis
    • What are you working towards right now-what is your aspiration?
    Finishing a book on the relationship of Buddhism to the French poets Yves Bonnefoy and
    Saint-John Perse.
    • What do you know about writing now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
    How ego destroying it can be.

    Thank you again for your interview!
    (Interviewer: Catrina McBeath)

  • cemcb 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview   

    Interview Questionaire with Brett Zehner 

    • Who are you? What do you specialize in?
    Jon Wagner-Cinema/writing/mod. French poetry
    • How did you get involved in writing?
    Director-MFA writing program CalArts
    • What do you do when you get too many ideas, pick one at a time or work multiple at once?
    Multiple-Then attempt at synthesis
    • What are you working towards right now-what is your aspiration?
    Finishing a book on the relationship of Buddhism to the French poets Yves Bonnefoy and
    Saint-John Perse.
    • What do you know about writing now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
    How ego destroying it can be.

    Thank you again for your interview!
    (Interviewer: Catrina McBeath.)

    • cemcb 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply

      I’m very sorry but this post was a mistake on my part

  • a3oh 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview   

    Interviews and Conversations 

    I had some lovely conversations with &NOW attendees and would like to share them:

    Writer Robin Morrissey’s &Now project is a “critical and creative” piece which transposes the fictional character Molly Bloom from James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) with the case study of Mollie P., a real-life woman living in the early 1900’s at a reformatory. Morrissey found Mollie P. in a nonfiction book titled An Experimental Study on Psychopath Delinquent Adolescent Women, and wanted to create a work that explores the “inner and outer,” the inner life of a fictional character created by James Joyce and the outer life of a real-life woman whose perspective is given through a doctor’s observations. This exploration is told by a narrator who has woken up to find that her “skin wasn’t her own.” The piece is about “divergence,” a “brain on overload with lots of synapses going off in different directions.”
    Morrissey waited a year before getting her MFA. One of the main inspirations for her writings are the books on her bookshelves at home, nonfiction and fiction texts whose characters she combines in her own writing, like Molly/ie.

    Kim Koga, a recent graduate of the MFA program at The University of Notre Dame, advised undergraduate writers seeking MFA programs to search within prospective schools “people who you want to work with and who will help you grow.” When choosing a school, the decision will be between “who you’re going to work with versus the prestige of the school.” Notre Dame was not Koga’s first choice, but when she visited the campus and got a feel for the school, she liked that it was “not elitist,” but “supportive” and not just focused on experimental writing or a specific form of writing. In workshops the “comments I got back were more useful and helpful since I was getting perspectives coming from different aesthetics instead of just my own.” Koga suggests awpwriter.org as a starting point for undergraduates searching for an MFA program.
    Koga is currently sending out her poetry & lyrics essay-thesis to contests while designing and writing for an online magazine.

    Lori Emerson creates digital poetry and electronic literature, that is, poetry accompanied by all that a computer can do, whether making the poetry “interactive or animated and kinetic.” Emerson started off a poet herself and became interested in visual poetry. Now, she’s an artist who uses the computer’s many capabilities to display other people’s poetry in a new, electronic, and crucial way.
    Emerson is currently a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, teaching digital poetry.

  • slfox117 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: interview   

    An Interview with Tasha Marren 

    Who are you? What are your specialties?

    I’m a poet. I did my undergraduate work at Long Beach State, where I focused on more narrative aspects. During my MFA experience, I was encouraged to and spent more time on sound. I’m currently getting my PhD in English with an emphasis in poetry at the University of Illinois-Chicago. I feel that my poetry really comes from these two backgrounds, narrative and sound.

    Are narrative and sound things you still work with? Have you rejected one?

    I haven’t really rejected anything. I feel that I’m better at one than the other. I appreciate the narrative style, but I think I’m better at sound and tonality.

    Do you work with any major themes?

    I often have recurring images, particularly of nature, that are at play in my work. In particular, the image of a carved turtle often recurs. I think I’m more tonally consistent in that I’m usually working with a dark and frightening tone.

    How do you stay motivated to write?

    My husband and my friends, such as Snezana [Zabie] encourage me. I also have to meet deadlines for my dissertation.

    What has been your biggest regret or mistake thus far in your career?

    As far as my writing, I don’t really have any regrets. But I wish I had thought more seriously about what I want out of a PhD program.

  • slfox117 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , interview   

    Interview with Snezana Zabie 

    Who are you? What are your specialties?

    I’m from Croatia. I write fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and do translation work. I got my MFA in poetry from UNC-Willmington(?). I’m currently in a PhD program for writers. I’m working on a creative dissertation exploring the break-up of Yugoslavia and the refugee experience.

    Do you work within a writing community?

    I don’t work in a formal group. I have some writing friends and I’ve collaborated on projects in the past. I was part of a group in Belgrade, Serbia during which we wrote a book together. I’ve also been involved with creative writing stemming from participation in feminist or activist groups.

    What do you to support yourself and your writing?

    I’m a teaching assistant at the university where I’m getting my PhD. I also taught throughout my time in the MFA program.

    Do you work on many projects at a time or try and stay focused on one?

    I work on multiple projects at once. I’ve always done it like that. Sometimes I just wake up with ideas for one particular project or another. I work with deadlines sometimes.

    With so many varied interests, do you do mixed-genre work?

    Not all of my work is mixed-genre. The dissertation I’m working in the largest mixed-media project I’ve done. I’m using aspects of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. The reason being that I thought it important to deal with more voices than just my own. I used some found text about other peoples experience during the break-up of Yugoslavia. I’m also interested in the unreliability of memory and artifice of writing. There’s some fiction pretending to be non-fiction.

    • Snezana 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry, I should have pronounced my name when we talked . It’s Zabic (zha-bitch). :-)

  • slfox117 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , interview   

    An Interview with Tina Cabrera 

    Who are you and what are your specialties?

    I have an MFA from San Diego State in Fiction. I’m currently applying to PhD programs right now. I write mostly short stories about dark themes.

    What do you do to support yourself and your writing?

    I teach English part-time at different college in San Diego.

    Why are you interested in getting a Ph. after the MFA?

    I love academia and being in those environments. I also enjoy teaching. Going through the PhD program will also give me more space to grow as a writer.

    What themes do you prefer to write about and why?

    Dark themes that dwell on some of the existential questions of life. Recently, I’ve been getting into more surreal work.

    Whose work do you enjoy/admire?

    Lance Olson, Borges, Beckett, Virginia Woolf.

    How do you stay motivated to keep writing?

    I try to make it a practice to write something everyday, even if it’s just one line. If it means that much to you, you’ll make time.

  • umbraeverborum 000 on 000 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amanda gray, author, interview, jeffrey deshell   

    On Thursday night, two writers published by FC2 kindly allowed me to pester them with questions (and I‘m sure more writers would have done so, had I had the time to stick around longer). Here is what they had to say.


    Why address the issues or themes that come up in your writing?:
    Deshell said that seeming themes arise “just to move the plot along.” I found this insightful; certainly, fiction writers dealing with plots find themselves drawn to certain solutions for moving it along.

    How do you see your body of work? (I.e., a random series, or something more connected?):
    Deshell immediately said, “It’s not random.” He went on to say that “there’s probably a project in” trying to find the connections between his works—but “I’m not the right person to ask,” he said with a laugh. He did say that his works had something in common, however: “things in language that interest me.” When I asked, “Anything in particular,” he replied, “Problems of language,” and “problems of narrative.” “Narrative,” he said, “is always a series of problems.”

    How did you become a writer?:
    “I was a music major first,” Deshell said. “Then I moved on to fiction.” I asked, “Any particular reason?” and he replied, “Well, I wasn’t good at music.”


    Before approaching Amanda Gray, I overheard her saying that she has to “take on a personality” in order to read to an audience; otherwise it would be too scary. I did not doubt it; her reading voice and body language were way different from those of her conversations with the other writers.

    She cheerfully provided me with the following in response to my questions.

    Why address the issues that come up in your writing?:
    The issues in Gray’s writing are “things that are crawling through my brain,” she says. Her writing emerges as a “collage of life”—obsession and other feelings for certain people; current or previous occupations; roles people play. She sometimes changes details about characters—gender, age, location—from those of their inspirations; but, she said, “A kernal of it is always something really basic.” I said it’s weird to me how finished pieces (if they’re finished) spring from those “really basic” things and end up as they do. Gray agreed: “It’s weird to me too.”

    Do you feel that [the work is] detached from you once it’s done?:
    “It’s super-detached.” Gray went on to say that writing is “like a kid when it’s born”—it’s going to grow and develop, but when it’s done growing it’s “out of my hands.” As for when a work is done, she quoted: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” (A Google search indicates that the quote is from Paul Valery.) She also recommended that I read Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Rilke.

    How do you see your body of work? (I.e., a series of random spasms, or something more connected?):
    Gray had a couple of answers for that. One was that her body of work was a collection of recurring themes, particularly hair and cottage cheese. The other was that a body of work is like her life—“we see life as one life, but with different parts.” One part of it may be spent in school, another in a job, etc.—so it goes with writing.

    How did becoming a writer come about for you?:
    “I was pushed in the right direction by some teachers.” Gray also did an MFA program. However, she then said, “Writing’s always been something I’ve done because I have to.” She went on to say, “The fact that this is even a profession blows my mind.”

    Gray went on to answer another question I had, but didn’t have to ask—namely, how a writer supports herself while writing:
    Gray supports herself with, as she puts it, an “unglamorous” job that pays the bills: she works as a “marketing freelance writer,” writing about various topics (lately, online education). She does this job because that way she doesn’t have to teach or publish—common day jobs for writers which she says she doesn’t really like. Most importantly, it takes pressure off her work. “The best way to work as a writer is with as little pressure as possible,” she said.

    This led me to the last question …

    Do you think writing with the intention to sell compromises the work, or the writer?:
    Some people write in certain, “formulaic” ways because it sells, Gray said. As for herself: “I think it would be weird to make a lot of money. So I don’t.” Overall, she maintains that each writer does what works for him or her: “Whatever works.”

    I’ll be trying to chat up more writers until they’re all gone.

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