If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I would ask first, of course, but I sense Anne Sexton was a red meat kind of gal (a term at home and allowed in the 1960’s). After marinating a flank steak for 24 hours with a teriyaki base marinade, it would be grilled and left cool and red in the middle. Surely this is how Anne preferred her meat. I would slowly saute mushrooms in butter until they were black. I suspect Anne turned up her nose at green vegetables, just guessing. So, mashed new potatoes with the skins on with lots of butter and cream, and maybe some garlic added in. She would have to pick the wine, and I would need to acquire lots of it. Then something chocolate for dessert - as with the wine, I fear she may be a snob about this. Mohr im hempd might work, but I better practice in advance. Candle light, but not too cheesy; and jazz, not too avant garde.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Poetry is surrounded by a host of parental voices gathered like a cloud of mosquitoes with high pitched screeds, and they suck blood and spread infection in addition to being insanely annoying. Those voices are in my head but I heard them spoken first. Some pronounce judgment, issued from rolling eyes and cast down long noses. Others issue rules for the boundaries of good and awful, most of which I cannot understand. While I have long loved poetry, I also feared those voices. They were louder than my own voice, lost underneath them. There are some things I can do to mitigate against the primacy of those voices,, like asking for feedback and reading my poems aloud to others - I watch their eyes. But mostly, most importantly, it is a matter of acting in spite of my fears. In spite of, because the fears never truly leave.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Author? Anne Sexton. Character, Miss Love Simpson in “Cold Sassy Tree.”
What books are on your nightstand?
The Overstory, by Richard Powers and The Plague, by Albert Camus
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
Always the dash - it lets me go on.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
Mountains and lakes, both of which are crawling with life.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
An inspiration or muse is no substitute for truly seeing and feeling the ordinary life in the world around you.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It satiates me - more completely than just about anything.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I wouldn’t know, I continue to be aspiring. I suppose getting demoralized by how difficult it is to get published, and then how awful it is to sell.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The desire for approval.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I suspect everyone feels emotions strongly but some people find ways to numb themselves precisely because of how strongly they otherwise feel them. The writer will write differently when in tune with him or herself.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I now live a fair distance from most of the people I know who write and feel poorer for it. I am only in the beginning of ferreting out the writers in my region and look forward to being part of another writer’s group.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
That’s a fascinating question. I bet the readers of my works see connections I am not aware of but the body of work, regardless of genre, will point to the sacred hiding in plain sight.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It kept me going. I was on the verge of giving up and wham, the road opened up.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Probably for the production and maintenance of my website.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Ken Follett and Niko Kazantsakis
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
At a retreat with my first congregation, the facilitator asked those present what my preaching themes were. I was stunned that so many had an answer, and a sermon they could point to that meant something to them. From then on, I took preaching seriously and got the best training I could find.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Cold Sassy Tree
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Everything. I don’t just write about them, I write about what I learned from them. While it is less apparent in my poetry, it is no less true.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Ooh, half a dozen or more.
What does literary success look like to you?
An independent publisher, not self-publishing, producing my work and people reading it.
What’s the best way to market your books?
To my own network, and interconnecting networks
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Facing the inevitable critique from the opposite sex, in addition to a bunch of research that is otherwise unnecessary and second nature when writing from within your own frame of reference.
What did you edit out of this book?”
A whole bunch of poems that didn’t seem ready for prime time.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’m doing it, preaching and pastoring. It supports my writing habit among other things.
Cameron Miller is the author of CAIRN: POEMS AND ESSAYS and THOUGHTWALL CAFE. Both book are available through our website and through all major retailers.
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