with Norb Aikin:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Norb: I’ve probably always been a writer to some degree and began to take it more seriously in high school. Shortly after graduating I was writing constantly, and early influences were more music-based than writing-based…I was listening to a lot of The Beatles, and bands like Pearl Jam, Radiohead, and golden-era Hip Hop before I got into Jack Kerouac.
Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?
Norb: Today, I’m more into writers and lyricists like the late Tony Hoagland and Gord Downie. Downie in particular influenced a lot of my last book, Mutants.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?
Norb: I grew up in the Western New York suburbs but I don’t think that favored heavily into my work until I began to get more serious and creative. I would walk the town a lot and note my surroundings, and turn that into little details in different poems. When I moved to Central New York it felt like a clean slate and a new nest of ideas based on a less-than-ideal living situation. A lot of that factored in my first book, 100, and as I’ve started looking differently at how I’m taking care of my Mental Health I’ve seen that creeping into the things I’m working on now.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Norb: I think we as creatives always tend to think our latest work is our most meaningful, or stands out and is better than anything else, and for me this is mostly true. I’m currently shopping around my latest finished product, and I’d love to find a nice, small, indie press but I haven’t found the right fit yet. I’m also proud of the articles relating to Mental Health I’ve written for sites like Stigma Fighters, The Mighty, and The Good Men Project. Advocating for MH awareness to me is just as important as any 5-star rating either of my books has received.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Norb: Just now, when I got this interview request!! Kidding…but it’s hard to remember so far back; I’ve been at this now for nearly 30 years. I’m almost 46, and I think getting validation from close friends and family when I was around 18 or 19 put the seed in my head that I had something worth working for and toward. It’s been very rewarding to show them however many years later that yes, I did this and have been published and have all these wonderful experiences and new friends attached to it.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Norb: Hmmm…I just like to chill, listen to music, and cheer on my favorite teams with friends on Twitter during games. I’m a nerdy writer who loves sports; make what you will of that!
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Norb: With everything opening back up in NY after the pandemic, there are a few things I’d like to set up back in WNY and maybe locally. Open mics will be an option, as well as libraries. Unfortunately, there are few indie bookstores local to me, but I’ll reach out to a few in WNY and see if I can set something up. I’d also like to travel again and meet up with some old friends I’ve worked with in the past.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Norb: Wow, it’s been awhile since I looked through my latest work. I think I’m going to go with “You couldn’t stay because/ you couldn’t be replaced.” from “Thinking About Suicide Takes Years Off Your Life”. It’s a very personal piece about the loss of my brother, my own struggles, and the relationships I’ve been lucky to have with some of his closest friends.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Norb: I’ll have been a member of http://Writing.com for 20 years as of July 1st, and without the support of many friends there I’ve been able to make over the years, I wouldn’t be the same author I am today. A handful of them pushed me to start back up writing poetry after a long hiatus, and what became of that ended up being my first book, 100. Being able to share that with them has been beyond gratifying, and having another WDC member write the foreward to the next book was really special. I don’t often share much I’m working on currently on Twitter or Instagram, but WDC is often where pieces may show up first…sort of like how a musician might road test new songs in concert before recording them. I’ll always be thankful for being a part of such an amazing community.