Lucinda Kempe Interview

“There is no such thing as writer’s block”

Lucinda Kempe

Coffin Bell Journal: Introduce yourself.

Lucinda Kempe: I live in an Arts & Crafts style house on Long Island where I exorcise with words.

CB: What got you started writing?

LK: I began writing a diary in 1973, when I was fourteen.

CB: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing?

LK: It self-satisfies. I write to understand things, to expel thoughts from my head, and for fun. It’s a healthy thing to do, which makes it sound “therapeutic” which IMO it is. Write a good story and you fly.

CB: Do you have a designated space for writing? Tell us about it.

LK: I write in the parlor at the bay window at my writing desk, which is Federal Period D-end table that came from my mother’s house in New Orleans.

CB: Are you a planner or a pantser? Tell us a bit about your writing practices.

LK: Just butt to the chair and fingers on the kets and begin. There is no such thing as writer’s block. Block is emotional or a stalling device. Periodically, I have one and do the other (oh, look, Dart has a squirrel! Let me assist). If I don’t have a new “idea,” I edit.

CB: What advice to new and emerging writers could you give?

LK: Allow yourself to be messy. Mary Karr says something similar in her book on writing. Messy means no shaping before the first draft is done. When writing a large project get to the end before you worry about anything. I have just finished my first book. It took me years because I made a couple of enormous mistakes. One, I wrote it episodically vs. start to finish and two, I stopped to “perfect” some of those episodes on route. In essence, I made the work harder than it needed to be. So messy is good. I was floored by what the editor Patricia Strachan said in an interview in Poets & Writers. When asked what was wrong with the first books, she said they weren’t “messy” enough. The writer was trying to hard to control everything. Read that interview now.

CB: Who are your influences?

LK: The diarists. In Thomas Mallon’s “A Book of One’s Own,” which is about diarists, he says that if you’ve kept a diary for a significant period of time then you have a book of your own. You can’t imagine how freeing and happy that made me. I didn’t believe that I was a writer until very late. Diary writing and shaping story are very different, but someone who turns to words to understand themselves and the world is a writer. Of the diarists I have read, I love John Cheever (his journal edited by his son Ben), Virginia Woolf (her writer’s diary–in addition to her novels she wrote dozens of volumes of diaries), Anais Nin (the Incest Diaries), and my favorite Samuel Pepys, a seventeenth-century chronicler and confessor (and bad boy).

CB: Physical books or e-readers?

LK: I love turning the pages of a real text, but I’ll read anything, even the backs of cereal boxes. Some of the best writing “out there” is on the web. Honestly, being published in a print journal is nice, but how many people read it? Reading an e-book is visually irritating but if the story is good I’ll keep going.

CB: If you could give a PSA to journal editors, what would it be?

LK: Do not use the word “love” in your rejection letters.

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

LK: Getting lost in the car, I panic and think I’m never going to find my way home. I have General Anxiety Disorder and my fear is most manifest in a car. I also have money fears, but that’s not as interesting. The way to combat fear is to follow it. Fear will show you what it is you have to do.

CB: What draws you to dark fiction?

LK: Good story.

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

LK: I don’t set out to write a dark story. I wrote one about a monster who really isn’t a monster. The idea came from the poet Larry Fagin. Larry died last May. “Breeding” can be found online at Jellyfish Review. I wrote a short-short story on Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), who in her real life had a dark end–find her at New World Writing. Start with a horribly murdered saint and see what happens. I wrote another story about a monster in this woman’s closet. The monster turns out to be an agent for A.A.

CB: Tell us about your book / publication / web site / promotion.

LK: You can find me twittering @lucindakempe and if you Google Lucinda Kempe my writing pops up. I don’t have a web site and I may never.


Read Lucinda Kempe’s Things Are Going to Remain Wet for a While” in Issue 1.1 of Coffin Bell Journal!