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.

 

Nov 142017
 

My first impulse to write came from my mother, and from poetry. She would recite poetry aloud as she did housework – Yeats, Frost, Dylan Thomas, you name it. That got into my head and eventually it started to come out again, in my own words.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

My parents were both aspiring writers. My mother aspired to poetry and my father aspired to humor. I grew up in a house filled with books, many of them quite strange to be made available to young children. Would you let your pre-teens read Henry Miller? They did. Nothing was forbidden. It doesn’t seem to have damaged me. My first impulse to write came from my mother, and from poetry. She would recite poetry aloud as she did housework – Yeats, Frost, Dylan Thomas, you name it. That got into my head and eventually it started to come out again, in my own words. I began writing poetry in my teens after discovering some contemporary poets on my own (James Wright, Robert Bly and W.S. Merwin were the first) and when I managed to get published in some decent magazines that published some of my idols I knew I was a writer, or could be if I stuck with it.

Describe your writing process.

For much of my life I have made a living as a comedy writer, and during those times I wrote on deadline, usually starting early in the morning, at first light or before. At that time poetry was a personal pastime, not a profession, and so I would only jot down poems when I was inspired. Now that I have returned to poetry as my main focus, it is humor that I only write when I am inspired. Every morning I sit down and try to write poems, whether I feel inspired or not. I have no rituals as such. I do have a few ongoing projects that I turn to when the poetry is not flowing easily. For example, I have a series of sonnets about the Beatles called Fab Sonnets, and I’ve slowly been trying to learn how to write haiku. I try my hand at those if nothing else seems to be working.

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

The piece “Letter of Recommendation” came to me after reading one too many such letters written by someone who obviously hated the person they were supposedly recommending. It is dangerous legally these days to refuse to give someone a good recommendation, but it must be tempting to try to give some hints and warnings. As many humor pieces do, I simply followed the idea to its logically absurd conclusion. The piece “The Spirit of Christmas” was born out of my own experience in the world of non-profit fundraising. I liked the idea of a fake charity pretending to raise money for Bosnian and Serbian orphans, and then becoming increasingly threatening as the series of appeal letters wore on. I liked the dramatic arc. Interestingly, after the piece was published in McSweeney’s, I got a call from a woman who worked for an agency at the U.N. dedicated to helping orphans. She demanded to know how I could make fun of such pitiable children. I patiently explained that I was making fun of fake charities and the sociopathic personalities behind them, not making light of the plight of real orphans. I then asked her if she had ever personally saved an orphan, and when she said no, I replied that I was two up on her, as I had adopted a couple of infant girls from China.

What are you working on now?

Most of my energy is currently going into poetry. I’ve started sending it out again for the first time since I was a teenager, and in the past year I’ve had 44 poems published or accepted in two dozen literary magazines, most recently in the Sun Magazine, Emrys Journal and Triggerfish Critical Review. My next book will probably be a book of poetry called One of These Things Is Not Like the Other. I am also working on an autobiographical novel called Honey Street, about growing up in a household run by a Mensa mother and a father who was both an ex-Marine sharpshooter and one of the original Mad Men.

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

Mostly these days I read poetry and science. I’ve been reading a lot of Nicanor Parra, the Chilean poet who called his work anti-poetry. He questions everything about what poetry is and can be, and makes you question it too. The science book that most impressed me recently was The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch, a physicist involved in multiverse theory and one of the fathers of quantum computing. The chapter on how we can know there are other universes just blew the top of my head off. So I guess Emily Dickinson would call that poetry!

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

If I’m allowed to choose one humor writer and one poet to reflect my two main interests as a writer, it would be Robert Benchley for humor and W.S. Merwin for poetry. Benchley is the funniest writer who ever lived, in my opinion, and Merwin is our best living poet and someone whose example as a writer and a human being has been very important to me.

Nov 132017
 

My ongoing writing effort is a stage play … As a writer, I find it daunting to make the leap from bite sized bits of poetry to the whole groaning festal board of a full length drama. But I do know that poetry and plays worked out well for that William Shakespeare guy so maybe it can for me too.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

My father, Robert Reid, was a poet and was very widely published. Therefore, I grew up aware of the art form and spent many hours reading and memorizing poetry. I started to write stories and poems while I was still in grammar school. I would like to think my work is inspired by that of my dad.

Describe your writing process.

I’m not certain how honest I ought to be in my response. In the perfect universe, that I don’t inhabit, I leap out of bed and do yoga, cook breakfast and sit down to write for a few hours on my chapbook. In my actual universe, writing is haphazard at best! I do compose strictly with pen and paper. When I do get my work on the computer, I revise endlessly.

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

This is difficult to answer because I tried to put together a potpourri of my work so there is no underlying theme. I wanted to include light verse, narrative poetry and work with a traditional rhyme scheme format. I am including two poems that have won national poetry competitions.

What are you working on now?

I am currently writing a submission for the next Journal of Modern Poetry with the theme : “Dear Mr. President.” It is just too good an opportunity to skip.

My ongoing writing effort is a stage play that has been on my storyboard for quite a while. As a writer, I find it daunting to make the leap from bite sized bits of poetry to the whole groaning festal board of a full length drama. But I do know that poetry and plays worked out well for that William Shakespeare guy so maybe it can for me too.

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

I am currently reading the Quran, which takes the format of a poem, as literature. Because the text cannot be rendered effectively in translation, my Arabic language studies at the University of Chicago have been invaluable in the process.

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

My biggest influence as a poet is the incomparable Ogden Nash. Nash is probably best remembered for his light verse “candy is dandy” but he was an accomplished lyric poet as well. He and I would have much to share over the repast I’m certain.

Oct 132017
 

Especially since I’ve been a parent, witnessing innocence lost is hard for me.  So much of this loss is tied to small acts of relational or emotional violence, and so much just seems to be where our human natures want to take us.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I was a science major for the first few years as an undergrad. I found that I was very much *not* enjoying my organic chemistry class, but really loving writing papers for my English class. One of my English professors encouraged me to forget my dreams of being a physician and instead become a writer– which I did, despite my father’s conniptions.  While I may have missed my chance at ever driving a Mercedes, or settling my aging parents in the Keys, I’ve been happily strapped, well-read, and hyper-reflective ever since.

Describe your writing process.

If I’m to get anything done it’s early morning before anyone else in my household wakes up.  I’m also very good at working in tight time spaces when they present themselves.  I’m not a planner–I just get a gut need to put something down on paper and usually get it all out in one or two sittings.  I don’t tend to do significant revisions afterwards.  Just endless tweaks.

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

Especially since I’ve been a parent, witnessing innocence lost is hard for me.  So much of this loss is tied to small acts of relational or emotional violence, and so much just seems to be where our human natures want to take us.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to see these losses, and almost as heartbreaking to think about our own.  It seems to be an endless progression, so the material never stops.

What are you working on now?

For the most part I’ve been spending what free time I have developing a brand of infant nursery care products, which hasn’t left me with much time to write recently.

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

I recently read the novel In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner.  I’m a huge fan of literary historical fiction, and Ratner’s novel taught me quite a bit about Pol Pot’s regime and the Cambodian genocide based on the author’s semi-fictionalized account of her family’s experiences.

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

Probably John Ashbery

Oct 122017
 

Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

As early as I can remember, I was one of those kids with a flashlight under my pillow, writing stories or poems instead of sleeping. My 7th grade English teacher wanted to publish a poem I wrote about Dr. Zhivago’s ice palace. I declined; I disagreed with the two revisions he wanted me to make. Thankfully I grew out of that idea!!

Describe your writing process.

In the past several years, I’ve found I’m nearly always writing in my head—at concerts, doing dishes, on the bus, in bed (still)—and scribbling it somewhere, but mostly I write at the dining table starting during breakfast. I’m afraid I’m a binge sort. I really dislike to stop and start, so love creating long stretches so I can get right into it—hours or days at a time. I’m not sure if what I do is considered outlining per se: I start out just going for it, jot notes of who might do what and when, to get a feel for overall balance, then that suggests new ideas so I change it all, let it happen, and rarely check my early notes. With My View of the Bright Moon I wrote the entire first and penultimate chapters before anything else.

I love fiction you learn something from and authors whose research you can trust. So I spent a lot of time on my own accuracy—from portraying the progress of Alzheimer’s, to the anatomy of horses, to when the spring peeper frogs chorus in Ludington, MI. When writing’s tough for any reason, doing research means the project still progresses.  It helps get past a block and inspires.

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

The wisdom and beauty and strength of horses. Years ago in New Zealand I was utterly charmed by researching, then experiencing, then training in equine-assisted therapy. Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real. And actually changes lives and outlooks; it’s found in 50 countries and there are versions of it specifically serving veterans and military families.

Growing up with four brothers, seeing how often they struggled to deal with painful issues and relationships, I wanted this story to have a male focus, to possibly reach men—even if it’s initially via female readers. Thus, the fictional brothers, Kyle and Joe, who Waterline listeners will meet on Sunday night.

What are you working on now?

I have two very different novels roughly drafted. ‘What if … ‘ can be described as magical realism in which the Universe very temporarily and very individually offers Earth’s  inhabitants (focused on two best friends in particular) a chance to see the role of gratitude in their lives. The other, ‘Water,’ is the story of the sole survivor of a tragedy who develops a debilitating phobia, what she learns from those who work to bring her back from the trauma, and the ripple effect of that new knowledge.

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

I can’t name the very excellent A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) because I’m still reading it. So I have to name a tie: The language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh) for mixing a heartbreaking story with breathtaking innocence; and The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise (Julia Stuart) for her word choices, quirky characters, and somehow making it both poignant and hilarious.

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

Only one? John Steinbeck first came to mind, but I’d be so intimidated, I’d hide in the kitchen. So I’d ask Barbara Kingsolver to discuss anything she’s ever written or Vicki Constantine Croke because I’ll never forget Elephant Company.

Oct 112017
 

I think writing just evolved from being a visual artist. I began using words in paintings then books as sculptures and eventually words as poems.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I think writing just evolved from being a visual artist. I began using words in paintings then books as sculptures and eventually words as poems. In the beginning, poems were coming to me either when I was trying to sleep just before waking. I never studied writing so I am still learning by reading, listening and writing. I am fairly new to writing since I started when my children were in high school, college and married. I am still discovering.

Describe your writing process.

I write whenever or wherever I can on any scrap of paper I find if I don’t have my notebook. Much of my writing is done in the car while my husband drives, in waiting rooms or while the TV is on. I do not outline. For me, the poem would lose a lot if I did. I often ask questions in my poems. Sometimes in life, there are no answers. I think all forms of art should in some way cause a person to think. I try to do that.

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

Perhaps not specific to each poem, but overall, much of my work is about memories from my childhood. Some is inspired by nature and placing oneself in the position of another creature. Also, many of my poems are about grief, loss and the different ways in which we cope with them.

What are you working on now?

I am putting together a small book of feminist poems and plan to get back to a novel I started. Also, I am always writing more poems and experimenting with new ideas and styles.

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

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

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

I would have trouble choosing just one. Annie Dillard and Maya Angelou, very different personalities, but we could have really interesting conversations.

Oct 102017
 

…but I saw how the poems moved people who read them, especially cute girls. When I discovered that I could affect other people with my writing, I knew I was a writer.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I didn’t know I was interested in poetry until I started experimenting with writing it in high school. I always had a novel in hand, but I discovered poetry anthologies that were aimed at high school students when I started working in my high school library. The books had a lot of contemporary poems and I was hooked. I tried writing some myself and they weren’t great, but I saw how the poems moved people who read them, especially cute girls. When I discovered that I could affect other people with my writing, I knew I was a writer.

Describe your writing process.

I’ve never figured out the magic formula. I use a lot of writing prompts, and I sometimes take creative writing classes. I am in a local writing group with some talented, supportive, and kind poets. All of these things help keep my brain focused on writing.

I don’t write on a regular basis, but when I am working on a few poems, I add lines to notes in my phone or scraps of paper until I get a first draft. After that, I start revising them until they are done or I put them away so I can get some distance, and eventually, clarity. Feedback from my writing group and other readers, as well as reactions from audiences at open mics or other venues help me to sharpen the poems as well.

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

The poems were all written in the last few years, and most of them are semi-autobiographical.

What are you working on now?

I’m interested in writing a series of poems about lesser known historical events and people. I just have to find some that capture my interest.

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

I have a rotating list of favorite poets, but I don’t know if I can pinpoint one recent poem. Some of my favorite poets include Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, Gary Soto, Kim Addonizio, and many others.

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

I am always impressed with writers like Stephen King or Billy Collins. They are both best selling, accomplished writers in their own right who are undervalued by the larger literary community. I would love to pick both of their brains about writing. Besides, I think either would be a  funny, interesting dinner guest who would have tons of great stories and jokes to share.

Oct 092017
 

I have recently started to write with pen and paper, as opposed to composing on a computer. I do little research and never outline. I simply ask myself, “What is it that needs to be said in this moment.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

When I was applying to business school many years ago, I wrote the application essays with a depth and passion I had not sensed in myself prior to that. When I gave the essays to two English teachers for editing, I expected them to tear the essays apart. They were, instead, very complimentary. That was the first time I understood what writing might become for me.

Describe your writing process.

If a writer is someone who simply must write, I am not a writer. Instead, there are times when an idea or topic occurs to me and I feel the urge to get that idea, topic or question on paper. I have recently started to write with pen and paper, as opposed to composing on a computer. I do little research and never outline. I simply ask myself, “What is it that needs to be said in this moment.”

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

I am reading from my book “Questions That Matter.” I love questions because they open us to new ideas, rather than leading us down paths we have often traveled with results we already know. I am intrigued by questions that nudge me into the unknown.

What are you working on now?

I continue to be haunted by ideas about the future of the species in relation to the biosphere. I am not a futurist, but I have tried many times to try to explain what I see. So far, I have not had much success.

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

I do not read much fiction, but my daughter, an educator in Washington DC, challenged me to read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. I found it to be very powerful.

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

Dee Hock, who wrote “Birth of the Chaordic Age,” is one of the most deeply philosophical people I have ever met. He writes with great clarity and wisdom.