A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Karol Nielsen

with Karol Nielsen:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Karol: I started writing my first memoir—about my marriage to an Israeli man and the trauma of the Gulf War—in the 1990s. I kept a journal to process intense feelings and poems came out of that. My first influences were Shakespeare and Hemingway.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Karol: Billy Collins’ short, humorous poetry has had a big impact on me. I initially wrote long, anguished poems, but as my work evolved I began to write shorter, lighter poems.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Karol: I grew up in the Connecticut suburbs and I dreamed of big adventure. Then I traveled through Europe, South America, Australia, Israel, and Vietnam. I wrote memoirs about living through Scud missile attacks in Israel and traveling to Vietnam with my father, a Vietnam War veteran.

Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Karol: My first memoir, Black Elephants, was a challenge to write and publish, but once it was out it was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction.

from Karolnielsen.com


Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Karol: In the tenth grade, my English teacher had us keep a journal. We were reading Emerson and I wrote in my journal that I wanted to become a writer like him.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Karol: I used to do marathons and triathlons, including the Ironman race, but now I find inspiration in taking long walks.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Karol: I have a poetry chapbook coming out next year about random, often humorous encounters in New York City before the pandemic and my small life in quarantine.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Karol: I have a long poem about a teenager who was stabbed in a gang attack in the Bronx. I covered the story as a stringer for The New York Times, which didn’t publish the story because he survived. The last line of the poem goes: “And he lived.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Karol: I took a handful of creative writing courses with Adam Sexton at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in the 1990s. I learned the craft of writing from him and now I use that knowledge in my lectures as a creative nonfiction and memoir writing instructor with New York Writers Workshop.