13 Questions with Adelina Sarkisyan


CB: Introduce yourself.

Adelina Sarkisyan: My name is Adelina Sarkisyan and I’m an Armenian-American writer, editor and former therapist. I studied Anthropology in undergrad and have my Master’s in Social Work. Cut my publishing teeth in poetry but my current works in progress also include some short fiction and a literary novel. These days, I’m the Poetry Editor at Longleaf Review. I live in Los Angeles.


CB: When you write, do you start with a plan and move from there, or do you generally go where the writing takes you?

AS: It depends on the medium. I agree with Margaret Atwood’s theory — in an interview with The Paris Review, she said, “When I am writing fiction, I believe I am much better organized, more methodical—one has to be when writing a novel. Writing poetry is a state of free float.” When I write prose, I have some structure in mind, even if just in the beginning, whether it’s the three-act structure or the Hero’s Journey. Writing poetry is generally a state of being in a feeling or experience and using language to translate it into a poem. But I always leave room to be surprised.


CB: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

AS: What is most personal is most universal. By that I mean, write what is yours — your stories, your experiences, your relationships, your feelings. That will make meaning of your writing.


CB: What advice can you give about revising and editing work?

AS: I’m definitely guilty of spending hours revising, only to click “undo” a few hundred times and end up right where I started. Revision isn’t linear. Sometimes, it can take years to revise and edit one single poem. Sometimes, it’s like a puzzle that needs re-ordering. Oftentimes, the work of revising is cutting away the bits that are getting in the way. What helps me is paying attention to rhythm and musicality, so I always read everything out loud and see what sounds off. I try to trust the process. I sit with the work.


CB: What advice can you give about navigating the world of publishing?

AS: It isn’t as romantic as writing and oftentimes, can feel deflating. You have to remember that rejections aren’t personal, so keep submitting where you see a fit. There will always be at least one literary journal or magazine who will love your work. Also, we tend to envy the writers who have the never-ending list of publications but usually, the most published writers aren’t always the ones who write the most, but the ones who submit the most. Research and follow journals you love, submit when you’re ready, and don’t lose hope. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


CB: Who are your influences?

AS: Google searches down rabbit-holes about fairy tales, archetypes, mythology, Jungian psychology, etc. Poet-novelists like Margaret Atwood. Louise Glück, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Jack Gilbert, Anne Sexton, Sabrina Orah Mark. The amazing writers I work with at Longleaf Review.


CB: What was the inspiration for the piece(s) published in Coffin Bell?

AS: The two pieces published — “Lesser Paradise” and “Death Bird at Midnight” — explore experiences of the body, within and without. “Lesser Paradise” was inspired by Louise Glück’s “A Dedication to Hunger” and explores the violence of womanhood through one experience with a man in which the subject has dissociated from her own body. “Death Bird at Midnight” was inspired by the idea of a coming-of-age, some body horror movies like Teeth and Raw, what it means to love and hate the embodiment of woman-ness, as both a betrayal and a source of power.


CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.

AS: Besides the typical fear of heights and bugs, I also have astrophobia, a fear of stars and space, and thalassophobia, a fear of deep bodies of water. Also, I’m always afraid I’ll never finish my novel.


CB: What draws you to dark literature?

AS: The first short story I ever wrote (in elementary school) was called “The Wrong Turn” and it involved a group of teens and a cemetery. I guess you can say I’ve always been interested in the supernatural and the otherworldly. Naturally over time, that evolved into a deeper love of abnormal psychology, true crime (I minored in Criminology, of course) and general horror. I love reading dark writing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, because I think the genre gives us permission to be ourselves, however ugly or terrifying that may be. It feels more honest, in a way.


CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?

AS: It gives the poems a sort of container. The darkness in my pieces is more layered and symbolic in nature. I like to use it to juxtapose beauty and terror because they are equally evocative. In my two pieces, for example, what is brutal is also sweet, and what is love is also vampiric. They mirror each other.


CB: How important are your surroundings when you write? Tell us about your workspace.

AS: I typically write in two places: desk or bed. I’ve never been one to write on the go, or write when/where I can. I need the ritual of being in my writing space. I also typically write in silence but have been known to listen to certain soundtracks to put me in the “mood” of the piece I’m working on. My go-to is Abel Korzeniowski.


CB: If you had to summarize your philosophy of literary creation, what would that be?

AS: Usually, I write to understand or uncover something about myself or my life. To learn something. To make meaning. So I say, write what you are curious about. And trust the work. It’ll make sense one day.


CB: Where can we find more of your work?

AS: My published work can be found at www.adelinasarkisyan.com. I also post bits and pieces on Instagram @adelinasarkisyan and Twitter @etherealina.