“Write every day. Be uncomfortable, but intuitive”
13 Questions with Zuri McWhorter
ZM: I just think that darkness is an instant human connection. That’s why there are grief groups and not happy groups. But also it can be faked. Although, I’m not quite sure what is harder: to fake happiness or to fake darkness. I try not to do either one, in my writing or in real life.
Zuri McWhorter is a Black lady writer from Detroit, MI, USA. Focusing on the things that drive us to be human – patience, humor, redemption, love.
“Not a single line from the first draft survived to make the current, final draft. But it is clearly the same poem”
13 Questions with Ralph Pennel
RP: Don’t be afraid to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I know that might seem like contradictory advice wrapped in unconventional wisdom. Don’t be afraid to ditch a working draft. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice the truth for the success of the poem. One of my own poems I routinely share with my own students is from the manuscript I’m working on. Not a single line from the first draft survived to make the current, final draft. But it is clearly the same poem. It gives them permission to look past the language on the page and to examine the underlying impulse behind a poem. What ought to, what needs to survive?
Ralph Pennel is the author of A World Less Perfect for Dying In, published by Cervena Barva Press. Ralph’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Literary Orphans, F(r)iction, Tarpaulin Sky, Reality Beach, Elm Leaves Journal, Rain Taxi Review of Books and various other publications. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart, and he was twice a finalist for Somerville Poet Laureate. Ralph is on the board of the New England Poetry Club and teaches poetry and writing at Bentley University.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to write stories that aren’t up to snuff. Some of them might even be published, and you’ll look back at them and cringe”:
13 Questions with Michael Carter
MC: It’s OK if your story isn’t perfect. It’s OK if you later wish you had changed something. It’s OK if someone doesn’t like it, or even if they write a terrible review or post a negative comment about it. The story still holds value in some fashion to yourself and others. I’m not advocating handing in rough drafts. You should always put forth your best effort. But once it’s out there, try to let go. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun.
Michael Carter is a full-time ghostwriter in the legal profession. When he’s not lawyering, he writes short fiction and creative nonfiction, fly fishes, and spends time with his family. He also enjoys cast-iron cooking and occasional India pale ales. He’s online at www.michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.
“I always reinforce the idea that the writing world is a community and not a competition”: Interview with Jennifer Ihasz
JI: New England lore is pretty heavy in dark stuff and I love reading about it all. I also love oral storytelling traditions and that is something that has been kept alive in New England. We still hold fireside storytelling events and have several storytelling groups so there is no end of good spooky tales to listen to. And pretty much everything in New England is haunted.
Jennifer Ihasz is a historian who began her writing life as a poet, then was tempted into the darker side of horror writing. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Stonecoast, a low-residency MFA through the University of Southern Maine. Her work has appeared in Mastodon Dentist, Down in the Dirt, The Penwood Review, The MacGuffin, and Poetry Quarterly.
“Advice I always give to my students: trust your own voice. Don’t worry about what other people are writing. And most importantly, write for yourself”:
13 Questions with Victoria Nordlund
VN: Writing helps me make sense of my world. The darkest, ugliest topics somehow manage to be beautiful. And, it weirdly helps me to remain a positive fairly normal person. It’s also pretty cool to have other people, especially my students, connect to my poems. It’s weird that people feel the same way that I do.
Victoria Nordlund received her MALS from Wesleyan University. She teaches creative writing at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut. Her work is published in Pank Magazine, Gone Lawn, Eunoia Review, Ghost Proposal, and Amaryllis. She is the 2016 NEATE New England Poet of the Year.
“I’ve always been interested in and influenced by Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible in terms of subject matter and/or metaphor”:
13 Questions with Amy Kotthaus
AK: I’m of the mindset that a lot of what we think of as “dark” is actually normal and fundamentally human (anger, depression, violent emotions, etc.), and dark fiction is an effective way to bring them into the open for consideration and, hopefully, reconsideration, despite the socially constructed taboos.
Amy Kotthaus is a writer and photographer. Her written work has been published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Yellow Chair Review, Occulum, and others. Her photography has been published in Storm Cellar, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Moonchild Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, and others. She currently lives in Maine with her husband and children.
“Whatever I write, I often find that it takes on a darker life of its own”:
13 Questions with Sarah L. King
SLK: My short stories are probably my darkest pieces of work, exploring everything from apocalyptic disaster to haunting faeries and menacing spirits. In my novels there are glimpses of the darkness, sometimes in the setting – the gloomy gallows, the bare midwinter trees, the clifftop chapel ruins – and sometimes in the exploration of the human condition. As a writer I am obsessed with the shortcomings of humanity, with love lost, with guilt, with grief. I think it’s fair to say that my preoccupation with dark themes seems to come through whether I intend it to or not!
Sarah L King lives in West Lothian, Scotland, with her husband and young children. Born in Nottingham and raised in Lancashire, her books include the historical fiction novels, The Gisburn Witch (2015) and A Woman Named Sellers (2016), both set during the Lancashire witch trials in the seventeenth century. Her first contemporary novel, Ethersay, was published in 2017 and was inspired by the seismic shift in the Scottish political landscape which occurred during the independence referendum of 2014, and its impact upon ordinary lives. Sarah is currently working on the third installment in her Witches of Pendle series.
“I’d rather use a story to gut someone
than use it as a pillow”:
13 Questions with William R. Soldan
WRS: Try new things, experiment, find a writer friend and give each other assignments–whatever you need to do to get you writing. Be open to the constructive criticism of other writers, particularly writers whose work you admire and whose opinions you value. Learn to distinguish good feedback from bad feedback, because there’s a lot of bad feedback. But above all, remember: writers write. So write.
William R. Soldan grew up in and around the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two children. A high school dropout and college graduate, he holds a BA in English Literature from Youngstown State University and an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His work appears in or is forthcoming in publications such as New World Writing, Elm Leaves Journal, Bending Genres, Jelly Bucket, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, and others. You can find him at www.williamrsoldan.com if you’d like to connect or read more of his work.
“First, live your life. Second, write about it. If the second is pathetic, the first may be the cause”:
13 Questions with Andy Betz
AB: Physical books are superior in every way to e-readers. They are tangible. They have a smell. They age as the reader ages. You see them every day. My library is my friend. I am happy with this relationship. People who wish to find my electronic presence do not subscribe to this point of view. I understand.
With degrees in Physics and Chemistry, Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. His novel, The Lady in Red Quilt; his short stories, “The Copy,” “November,” and “My Bucket List;” and his poems, “Lonely” and “Long Enough for Chocolate,” are works still defining his style. He lives in 1974, is married for 25 years, collects occupations (the current tally is 95) and currently teaches high school physics.
“The lesson I most needed to learn, the truism I most doggedly and stupidly resisted, was realizing that I had to justify every withholding in a story, and to move away from twists or even the sense that things should happen gradually”:
13 Questions with Samuel J. Adams
SJA: I guess it’s that we’re all going to die, and that many of us will be overlooked and forgotten while we’re alive, and our best experiences are fleeting, and our favorite stuff is so much ephemera, so it gives some comfort to believe a story or a play or a poem or a sentence can be a little sanctuary where these small matters of our lives can be gathered together in a way that ennobles them and gives them, if not a chance at immortality, then a chance to wear the trappings of a thing that could last and matter.
Samuel J. Adams is an MFA candidate in fiction at Bowling Green State University. His work appears (or is forthcoming) in Spork, New World Writing, The Molotov Cocktail, BULL, and Rubbertop Review. He tweets @Fib_Zone.
“I have learned instead of pushing myself to fit a certain mold most women writers are pushed into I should allow myself the freedom to explore what I want to write when I want to write it”:
13 Questions with Desiree Roundtree
DR: I would give [new writers] the same advice my Craft and Practice mentor gave me in undergrad, “Submit something every day for a year, and I can guarantee within a year you will be a published author.” Her name was Barbara Cheapitis and it is the best advice about writing I have ever been given. Your writing has to be for you not for the masses, and certainly not for acceptance. If it isn’t then it becomes someone else’s writing, and that’s something you are probably trying to avoid.
Desiree Roundtree was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY where she still lives with her husband and daughter. By day she crunches numbers, but anytime in between she is writing words. She is a lover of hip-hop, acoustic guitar and a well timed curse word.
“Plumbing the outer edges of one’s sanity”: 13 Questioms with Rekha Valliappan
RV: Never give up, if writing is what you passionately believe in. Read. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a good reader. Steer towards the classics. It is the great writers you find there who have taught the rest of us how to write. Jot down, anything out of the ordinary you see, think or feel. I have a ton of scribbles, randomly jotted down. Write. Whenever possible write daily. Think of it as an exercise routine, the same as working out in a gym. When you feel ready with a submission, proof-read and re-edit again.
Rekha Valliappan is a creative short story writer, prose-poet and essayist. She was born in Bombay, lived in SE Asia and is now in New York. She studied Masters in English and American Literature and Bachelors in Law from Madras University and University of London respectively. As a college lecturer by profession she taught university classes in India and Malaysia. She has had her writing published in Eastern Iowa Review, Thrice Fiction Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Third Flatiron, The Ekphrastic Review, Friday Flash Fiction, Intellectual Refuge and other international publications. In 2016 she won Boston Accent Lit‘s Prize for Short Story. In 2017 she made it to Across The Margin‘s List for Best of Fiction.
“Read constantly. Write constantly. It doesn’t matter what you write about as long as you keep doing it”:
13 Questions with Liora Sophie
LS: Writing is one of the tools I use to try to understand the world. Darkness is a part of our lives, and one of the more difficult parts to face. Reading allows us to see through the eyes of someone else, and in doing so we learn that we are not alone.
Liora Sophie is a late-twenties Israeli writer with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education. She was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, and moved to Israel as a child. She does research and data maintenance at a fundraising firm, and plays cello with Nava Tehila as a volunteer. Liora also acts to raise awareness about multiple issues relating to gender inequality and representation of women in STEM.
“I think one of the most important and most satisfying parts of the act of writing is the sense of discovery that comes with thinking on the page”:
13 Questions with Michael Chin
MC: For me, writing is not only a part of how I express myself, but how I think and understand the world. So I think the most rewarding part is when I walk away from a writing session having realized, or at least articulated something I hadn’t prior to that point.
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently lives in Georgia with his wife and son. His hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press and he has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, Barrelhouse, and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.
“Read a lot of literary journals. Study them. Respect them”:
13 Questions with Kim Chinquee
KC: I’m a good planner if I give myself a deadline. I tend to have a lot of projects going at once. I work at some aspect of editing nearly every day—whether its reading student work, journal-editing, reading my friends’ stories/books. Reading work from my online writing group, Hot Pants. Also committee and administrative work. Writing my own stuff. Emailing/talking/being in touch with my literary folks and being part of the community is kind of a lifeline to me. I spend most of my days working, alternating between one thing or another. I’m grateful for that.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, Pistol, Veer, and Shot Girls. She is a regular contributor to NOON, Denver Quarterly, and other journals. She edits New World Writing and ELJ, and is an associate professor at SUNY Buffalo State.
“I spontaneously started writing poetry in second grade
and just never stopped”:
13 Questions with Holly Gaskin
HG: Be open to constructive criticism. Listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t object. Consider any and all suggestions. Keep what’s good, and throw away what you don’t need. Know that nothing is ‘perfect’ the first time you write it.
Holly Gaskin grew up on Long Island and currently lives upstate in Watertown, NY. She has enjoyed a long career in radio broadcasting, and can currently be heard as “Cricket” on Froggy 97 (WFRY). Holly is the author of four books, including A Little Company (suspense) and Tricked (YA thriller). She is one cat short of crazy.
“Time can be your best critic”
13 Questions with Jennifer Lynn Krohn
JLK: It is rare, but there are a few occasions where I have gone back and reread work that I’ve written, and I can no longer believe it is mine. There are no words I want to add or delete, no line breaks that I want to adjust. The piece is complete and strangely independent of me. It is a poem or story that I can just enjoy reading without fiddling with it, and, even though I had spent likely months (or years) fiddling with it, at that moment it seems to have always been that complete piece.
Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives with her husband. She earned her MFA from the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English at Central New Mexico Community College. She has published work in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Necessary Fiction, Storm Cellar, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Gingerbread House Literary Magazine among others.
“The Gothic darkness is just in my blood”
13 Questions with Valentina Cano
I was raised on a daily diet of [dark literature]. At eight years old, I’d read all of Poe’s stories, so the Gothic darkness is just in my blood. I’ve had to modify it for the genres in which I write, but I can’t think of writing without that darkness. Of course, I’m sure that my continuous struggles with anxiety and depression have also left their dents in my mind, making it much easier for darker works to ring truer.
Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was published in 2014 and was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.
“There is always the sense of an offering, of giving something back:”
13 Questions with Clio Velentza
CV: I always start with a theme, or an idea. That’s my point of reference. I might plan a bit if I’m writing a novel, but then it’s only a short way ahead – how the scene will go, or which point of view and mood will be the defining one. And then I move forward feeling about in the darkness. Most times I don’t know what the next line will bring, and get regularly surprised by it. It can be scary and slow, but I avoid detailed outlines in writing. (I’ve tried it.) The story needs room to breathe and grow, and to get where it needs to get. For me it’s like this: I write so I can learn something; and if I know everything beforehand, then what is the point?
Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece. She is a winner of ‘Best Small Fictions 2016’ and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, such as Wigleaf, Lost Balloon, Jellyfish Review, Hypertrophic Literary, Moonpark Review and People Holding. Find her on Twitter at @clio_v.
“Sometimes I like to rebel in my poetry:”
13 Questions with Ray Ball
RB: A lot of my poems play with history and myth and allow me to envision different alternatives for historical actors. These aren’t necessarily happy endings, but they are ones I can shape in different ways. At the same time, my academic background has made me very willing to revise my poems and other creative writing. Sometimes only a scrap of the original survives.
Ray Ball, Ph.D is a writer and history professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. When not in the classroom or the archives of Europe and Latin America, she enjoys running marathons, reading, and spending time with her spouse Mark and beagle Bailey. She is the author of a number of history books and articles. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Foliate Oak, Moonchild Magazine, NatureWriting, Occulum, and Visitant. She tweets @ProfessorBall.
“It’s very difficult for me to write a ‘happy’ poem”:
13 Questions with M. Stone
MS: Don’t struggle for perfection. There really is no such thing. If you try to wait until a piece is “perfect,” you’ll never let it go, and others will miss out on your writing. Also, read A LOT. If you feel like you have writer’s block, read. If you’re feeling particularly creative, also read.
M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.
“E-readers are not books”:
13 Questions with William Doreski
WD: I complained to a high school teacher that anyone could write the kind of poetry that E.E. Cummings wrote. He said, “Try it,” and I did. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, Intrigued, I stuck with the problem for the next half-century or so.
William Doreski’s work has appeared in various online and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2018).
“There is No Such Thing as Writer’s Block”:
13 Questions with Lucinda Kempe
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.
Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Elm Leaves Journal, New World Writing, b(OINK), FRiGG, r.kv.r.y., The Summerset Review, and Jellyfish Review. The recipient of the Joseph Kelly Prize for creative writing in 2015, she’s an M.F.A. candidate in writing and creative literature at Stony Brook University. New World Writing nominated her for a Pushcart in 2017. She has just completed her memoir.
“I enjoy writing with no clue about what will happen”:
An Interview with T. L. Sherwood
TLS: My advice would be don’t listen to other writers’ advice. A lot of it is good, but it usually applies to them, not necessarily to you or your style. That being said, what I wish someone had told me early was how lonely writing is and that it’s important to reach out and find others. Share your work with them and learn to critique what you like or don’t about other people’s work. We’re all in this together, so do your best.
T. L. Sherwood lives in western New York near Buffalo. She’s Fiction Editor at Literary Orphans and the Assistant Editor of r.kv.r.y Quarterly Literary Journal.