If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I would invite to dinner Pablo Neruda, my favorite poet. And he would be served a big
gleaming glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (“Ode to the Orange”), fried tomatoes (“Ode to the Tomato”), and burning potatoes, lamb, undressed onions, and sugar-coated
strawberries (“The Great Tablecloth”).
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
My greatest fear has always been being perceived as “just not good enough.” It doesn’t
matter how many people tell me that they love my pieces, because I am absolutely my own worst critic. Nothing ever really is good enough in my eyes; I could always be funnier, darker, braver, bolder, more daring. But lately, I’ve been trying a new tactic that doesn’t involve me beating my head against a desk: optimism. Every time I complete something, I tell myself that I did the best I could, and that all art is subjective; one man’s slush pile refugee is another’s blazing jewel. Anytime I get stuck writing, I just take a breather: go for a walk or a drive, exercise, play with my son. Then I’ll come back to writing, and hopefully something will have come to me by then, or I’ll have at least developed the patience to keep trying.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Pablo Neruda has always had my heart. With his mystical metaphors, lovestruck yet stone-faced themes and tones, and elegant rainbows of dauntless dreams, his lyrical, down-to-earth, resonating language can reduce me to a pile of rabid rubble, seething for more jagged imagery and expressions of sheer eloquence.
What books are on your nightstand?
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette, by Sena Jeter Naslund
Girl With the Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda
The Creation, by Bruce Beasley
Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, by Charif Shanahan
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter
Don’t Call Us Dead, by Danez Smith
At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom: Stories, by Amy Hempel
The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten, by Karlene Faith
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Carrie, by Stephen King
Whereas: Poems, by Layli Long Soldier
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
Everything inspires me: the way the sunshine turns rocks into prisms; the forced sound of pretentious laughter dying on a woman’s overpainted lips; purple meadows and blazing forests and dauntless shadows. My greatest source of inspiration, however, comes from what many would describe as a hindrance: Bipolar Disorder. It flows through my lifeblood, echoing throughout every piece I write, every illusion I carefully craft or thoughtlessly shatter. Having been an inpatient in many hospitals throughout the years, I have taken away an armload of experiences, knowledge, compassion, empathy, anguish, rage, and other tall tales that no one wants to hear, let alone believe.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The question mark is unquestionably my very favorite punctuation mark of all. I love asking questions, as well as being asked questions, and questions about questions about questions, of course. The question mark denotes curiosity, eagerness for knowledge, keenness for inquisition and acquisition.
What recommended reading book did you skip in school?
I never skipped a recommended reading book, mainly because I LIVED for reading (and still do), and for writing about reading. I prided myself on never being unprepared for a pop quiz or a long exam, and on polishing off tests while the rest of my classmates were still chewing their pencil erasers, discreetly peering over deskmates’ shoulders. (Yes, I was that tactfully smug kid at which you wanted to carefully aim your spitballs.) I loved learning the inner workings of novels: plot points, characterization, imagery, symbolism, themes, foreshadowing. I couldn’t get enough of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, T.S. Eliot, Toni Morrison, Mark Doty. They all managed to place me under an invincible, intangible spell.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
I would thank my hot-pink pen with the guitar-enameled cap, given to me by my fiancé Tony. Oh, that beautiful blazing blue electricity of crackling ink against newborn paper! I use my beloved pen to craft compositions, chisel rough drafts, refine raw ideas, and polish up poesy.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
Passion. Duty. Veracity. Sincerity. Immortality.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
“Don’t be the writer. Be the writing.” - William Faulkner