Feb 162018
 

… for some people, the past continues to gnaw at and disturb the present, and maybe this seemingly simple sentence is at root behind everything I’ve ever felt compelled to write.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

In adolescence when it was the only way I could sort out the chaos that life seemed to be; it then became the only way for me to understand, to be able to put my emotions or experiences into a form and then look at them from more of a distance. And then, (or therefore?) I really wasn’t suited for any other line of work.

Describe your writing process.

By now, I’m not so much spewing raw emotion in order to control, examine and understand it. Working on a current project is discipline, but without any mandatory “words per day.” I do not stress over long dry periods because I know my brain is working behind-the-scenes and eventually I’ll know where to go. All through the day (and night) if I get an idea for anything from a piece of dialogue to a detail that has to change, I write it on a scrap of paper and those scraps end up on my desk to be attended to (expanded or remembered) in word docs of notes and lists. Research is very important and at times might be more than 50% of writing time. So I have two monitors with the internet on one and my word doc on the other. Research is everything from idioms and popular culture of a certain time period to how the legal system works for particular offenses or when a baby might be starting to talk or walk (since I don’t have children).

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

My selected stories were just published, so these pieces are from some of the far-flung corners of my career, all with different origins.  If there’s something in common, it’s how, for some people, the past continues to gnaw at and disturb the present, and maybe this seemingly simple sentence is at root behind everything I’ve ever felt compelled to write.

What are you working on now?

My current novel concerns a man who tried to escape the disappointment of not spending life with the person he loves, so he creates a substitute life just so he won’t be alone, and that relationship verges on abusive (with the man not the abuser).

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

Probably an Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, or Alice Munroe.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

See above! Plus at least one who can cook.

Feb 152018
 

The last great thing I’ve read is a book of short stories by a surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington. They are creepy, imagistic and full of death.”

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

There are too many things to mention! Each poem comes from a different place.

What are you working on now?

I have a chapbook with illustrations by Angel Perez coming out this year. I’ll be raising money in April writing a poem every day and emailing them to sponsors. I haven’t decided on a charity yet. I’m also thinking about another full-length collection while my second manuscript is finding a home. It’s a busy year!

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

The last great thing I’ve read is a book of short stories by a surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington. They are creepy, imagistic and full of death. The last great authors I’ve heard read were Kaveh Akbar and Tarfia Faizullah at the Poetry Pop Up from the Poetry Foundation. Amazing Muslim activist poets. 

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

I think I’d invite Denise Levertov. I’ve been researching her poetry for years and am making plans to visit her personal collection of papers at Stanford, but talking to her would be so much better!

Feb 142018
 

Dead people, even dead writers, tend not to hold up their end of the conversation…”

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I’ve always been fascinated how closely aligned a writer is to an actor, in that they both need to get inside the heads of the characters they are creating either on paper or on stage. So, I humbly thought, why not imagine what some of the most extraordinary people in history were thinking at seminal moments in their lives? I tried to choose people who dedicated themselves to physical creations or ideational constructs that fundamentally changed the way we normal folks experience the world after coming into contact with their work, be it psychological, celestial, cinematic, literary, martial, mathematical, etc. An impossible endeavor, so fun to try.

What are you working on now?

I’m still adding poetic biographies to the chapbook “Simulacra,” although I have sent it out to a couple publishers already. I plan to return to revising and amending my book-length collection of fiction, ranging from realistic fictions to hybrids, from short stories to nano fictions, called In the Contemporary Mode.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I’ve recently read some wonderfully entertaining comic (mostly dark) contemporary fiction writers. Some favorites: Matthew Klam’s Who is Rich?; James McBride’s collection, Five-Carat Soul; Joshua Ferris’s The Dinner Party, whose titular story kills; Chanelle Benz’s stories, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, ditto; and Miranda July’s shorts, No One Belongs Here More than You. Can’t resist also pushing John Hodgman’s hilarious essays, Vacationland.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Dead people, even dead writers, tend not to hold up their end of the conversation, so among the living, I’d like to hear from authors who generally don’t say much in public and whose work instructs and inspires me. Like Cormac McCarthy, whose Blood Meridian ranks in my mind with the best of Faulkner and Morrison. Or St. Charles writer Patrick Parks, whose beautifully written novel, Tucumcari, soon to be published nationally, taught me that taking chances on voice and story, if believed in, can result in a rare, unique, literary tome in miniature. Hey, wait, I have invited Pat to dinner! Maybe I should call Cormac to see what he’s doing next Saturday.

Jan 192018
 

…sadness that so many men, once admired, have fallen from grace, and worry over the impact of such news on my teenagers, trying to grow up while so many fall down.”

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Frustration that an apparent predator was only narrowly defeated in his recent quest for a senate seat in Alabama, sadness that so many men, once admired, have fallen from grace, and worry over the impact of such news on my teenagers, trying to grow up while so many fall down.

What are you working on now?

My next column, which is shaping up to be about parenting in the shadow of ‘false’ alarms and fear. “We fully felt like we were about to die,” one mom said, following last week’s reportedly “false alarm” of a nuclear bomb said to be headed for Hawaii. Some parents reportedly stuffed their kids into sewers, hoping to shield them from the blast. Others phoned loved ones, including young children, and issued last “I love you’s” and excruciating goodbyes. However ‘false’ this alarm, we’ve learned from our response that we now believe the threat is real.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

Anything by Oak Park-based novelist Elizabeth Berg. I just tucked into “Tapestry of Fortunes,” which my kids gave me for Christmas, and plan to get my hands back on “The Story of Arthur Truluv,” which, ha, I gifted my own mom! It was an Elizabeth Berg Christmas, I guess. I simply adore her writing ‘voice.’ Good company in anxious times.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Ha! I read these questions out loud to my daughter and we said in unison, “Elizabeth Berg!” I’ve met her a few times, the first one by accident, which is to say that I crashed into her when I took a hard left turn into the ladies’ room at a Literary Festival 13 years ago. It wasn’t pretty. Things were dropped. No broken bones, though!

Jan 182018
 

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles: A great story that exemplifies a creative beginning, a powerful as well as poetic ending, and an in-between that shows what story-telling and unique character-building are all about.”

 

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Help, and, truly, Waiting for Godot.

What are you working on now?

Articles for magazines and anthologies; a little time off from full-length book manuscripts.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles. A great story that exemplifies a creative beginning, a powerful as well as poetic ending, and an in-between that shows what story-telling and unique character-building are all about.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Because of On Writing, Stephen King.

Jan 172018
 

… I am very conscious of the indignities suffered by those who are unable to do for themselves.  DIGNITY was written in memory of my mother who insisted, all her life, that she, and all others, be treated with dignity.”

 

How did you discover that you were a writer?

During my 25 years as a materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, I authored or co-authored 120 papers published in scientific journals.  Not until a couple of years after I retired in 1984 did I try my hand at poetry and, not until I was 85 years old did I start writing memoirs.  My very first poem was entitled Herrick Lake in Autumn, and it won the Grand Prize at the Danada Nature Poetry Festival.  That made me think that writing might be something I should pursue.

Describe your writing process.

I don’t have a routine for my writing.  I was never able to type and compose…..all of my poetry was written and edited on a scratch pad.  Editing, of course, is never completed but, at some point, each poem was typed and considered done.  Now, I have an iPad, and the ease of making changes means that I use it to compose and edit.  What I write now are stories from my life.  I have a list of story titles, and when I choose one to write, I have mulled the story for many days before I sit down to the iPad.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Both my mother and my mother-in-law lived into their nineties, and both spent their last three years in nursing homes.  Now, I’m elderly myself; and, while I am fortunate to be as physically able as I am, I am very conscious of the indignities suffered by those who are unable to do for themselves.  DIGNITY was written in memory of my mother who insisted, all her life, that she, and all others, be treated with dignity.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on two stories.  The start of MA CUTTS PLACE is in the iPad but still needs much work.  It will tell the story of how a college community came together at the end of WWII to house and feed all the G.I.s who overwhelmed the DeKalb campus in 1946.  I’m mulling KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES which, I hope, will make the reader laugh at the most embarrassing moment of my life.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I am someone who reads the thoughts of newspaper columnists every day, regardless of their political bent.  There is currently more unity and depth of thought than I have ever seen before.  The seriousness with which columnists are approaching their jobs reflects the danger befalling the nation, and the result is some great writing and reading.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

If I could invite anyone, living or dead, to my party, it would be Abraham Lincoln and only six others.  Why so few?…….Because, I like dinner parties at which only one person speaks at a time.  Lincoln,  one of the greatest writers of all times, was also a great reader of the world’s greatest thinkers.  Lincoln would be a provocative conversationalist, a story teller, a wry wit and, I believe, a good listener (although I cannot imagine myself having anything to say in the presence of Abraham Lincoln).

Jan 162018
 

I’m reading from a work of non-fiction that’s in progress. It’s part memoir, part sociological inquiry, and deals with my racist upbringing in Cicero…”

 

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The realization that bona-fide fascism is growing in America, and that average, everyday people now identify as Nazis, just as they did in Germany in the 30’s. I felt that, as a writer, I had to contribute something immediate as a countermeasure.

What are you working on now?

I’m reading from a work of non-fiction that’s in progress. It’s part memoir, part sociological inquiry, and deals with my racist upbringing in Cicero, along with experiences I had while studying and living abroad that helped me see my American identity with greater clarity. The memoir is essentially a deconstruction of the consciousness of hatred.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I’m currently about half-way through the complete essays and non-fiction of James Baldwin. They are among the most transforming works I’ve ever read, and I realize I was too young and immature to truly appreciate a book like The Fire Next Time when I read it in college.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Prior to this reading experience with Baldwin, it would have been Alan Watts or Shunryu Suzuki. Now that I’m neck deep in Baldwin’s stuff, it would be him, hands down. He was able to see every angle of our culture in America, while also bringing a point of view from the outside, a result of his life in Paris. I think he’s among the most important and engaging authors America has ever produced, and I feel I’d learn more from a dinner conversation with him than I would from a four year program in a reputable American college.

Nov 172017
 

The poems are set in the Jazz/blues period and I wanted to focus on children and their points of view.  I was inspired by the child who sits in the corner of one of Archibald J. Motley’s paintings: Bronzeville at Night.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

In high school I was the editor of a creative newspaper, Young Chicago.  It was an insert in a larger newspaper called New Expression.  I was the editor by default and ended up having to write stories and such to fill the pages.  I do not know if I enjoyed it, but I did know I would continue.

Describe your writing process.

I think, read and research a lot.  I do not write every day, although I would encourage others to do so.  I do not have a favorite time of the day to write: I tend to carve out space and time for each project.  The only pattern I follow is that I like having an office.  I must have an office.  I don’t always write in my office but I can’t really get anything done if I don’t have one.  I have home offices.  With my office I may write at a desk or throughout my home but I return to my office to re-organize and begin again.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I will be reading poems with children in them.  The poems are set in the Jazz/blues period and I wanted to focus on children and their points of view.  I was inspired by the child who sits in the corner of one of Archibald J. Motley’s paintings: Bronzeville at Night.

What are you working on now?

I am doing research on Langston Hughes’ life story.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Edward P. Jones

 

Nov 162017
 

As a punishment from our English teacher, the class had to write 1000 words on ‘How to Build a Lean-To Out of Wet Noodles.’ I was the only one to complete the assignment and the teacher had me read my nearly 1200 word composition to the class. They liked it and so did the teacher.”

 

 

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I guess I discovered I might have some ability during freshman year in high school. As a punishment from our English teacher, the class had to write 1000 words on “How to Build a Lean-To Out of Wet Noodles.” I was the only one to complete the assignment and the teacher had me read my nearly 1200 word composition to the class. They liked it and so did the teacher. Whenever we had writing assignments after that, I was asked to read them to the class. In my sophomore year, my English teacher, Mr. Tom Cahill, told me I should consider writing as a profession. About 50 years later, I decided to take him up on it.

Describe your writing process.

I have different writing processes depending on what I’m writing. I find I do best with time constraints. When I write my bi-weekly humor column for The Voice, I’m usually working on it the last two days before its due. When I was a copywriter, I had deadlines to produce ads and promotional materials for clients or magazines. For my stories, screenplays and novels, my best time to write is 10 am – 2 pm, but those hours aren’t available to me often, so I end up writing 9 to 12 or 1 am. For my novel, I wrote scenes on colored cards, coded to different story threads. I could lay them out and see if I was neglecting one story line and rearrange the cards to maintain balance. Most of what I wrote was from memory, but I researched army regulations, maps and Google Earth to make sure I wasn’t too far off base.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

My inspiration came from my fellow veterans. One afternoon, a group of us were sitting in the barracks at Eighth Army Headquarters in Seoul, Korea, exchanging stories of inanities in our jobs. A few of us were to be rotated back to the U.S. and out of the Army. One of the guys said someone should write a book about what went on, but another guy said nobody would believe it. I kept that thought and maybe 12 years later began turning the events into short stories that ended up getting published in different places. Eventually I had enough that I thought I could turn them into a novel.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the prequel: Music Man–What Did You Do in the Band, Grandpa? I’m shopping around a screenplay adaption of a book by Wilson Casey. It’s the true story of the last moving train robbery in America in 1949. I’m finishing up work on a book Dick Tracy creator and Pulitzer Prize winner Dick Locher. He passed away this summer, so his wife and I completing it as a tribute to him. It will be published by Sourcebooks.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

The last great thing I read was my tax refund from the IRS.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

I’d probably invite Joseph Heller to my party, Dave Barry as a second choice.

Nov 152017
 

I would invite Federico García Lorca. I want to ask him if he envisioned the metaphors he used in his poems. I want to know what frame of mind he was in when he wrote: We live beneath a giant mirror. Man is blue! Hosanna!”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

As a child, I fell in love with words and realized I could best express my yearnings in written form. I felt trapped by the sameness of the farming community I grew up in. Also, opportunities offered to girls were severely limited (no sports, years of dreary Home Economics classes, 4-H. etc.). Fields of corn seemed prison walls. Books provided escape to other places. I wrote poems, plays, and stories to give myself a voice.

Describe your writing process.

Since I now have two dogs, my writing schedule has changed. My writing day doesn’t begin until nine o’clock in the morning after I’ve responded to their needs. Then I take a cup of tea up to my study, read my email, go through Facebook postings, and spend the rest of the day writing, editing, or sending off material. Because I often write from a historical perspective, I do a lot of research, a great deal of it online. Within arm’s reach, I have several reference books: a dogeared 1977 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus; several dictionaries; Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition; King James Study Bible; the Chumash; A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch; a couple of atlases; two editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations; and Clement Wood’s The Complete Rhyming Dictionary. I try to write every day. If I’m writing a novel or short story, I outline. I haven’t outlined a poem yet, but I might.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

My southern ancestors were slaveowners in the Carolinas and Virginia. Several years ago, I discovered a court record, telling of abuses slaves suffered at the hands of my forefathers. That record figured in the writing of this book. So did the present political climate.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying not to get inspiration for anything other than poetry. I want to publish another poetry book, maybe with a short story or two. Nearly all the poems are written. I need to get them in order.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I’m currently enjoying John LeCarré’s A Legacy of Spies.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

I would invite Federico García Lorca. I want to ask him if he envisioned the metaphors he used in his poems. I want to know what frame of mind he was in when he wrote: We live beneath a giant mirror. Man is blue! Hosanna! I want to tell him how much I’ve learned from his work.