A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with T. Cole Rachel

Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently? 

T. Cole: I started writing poems and stories when I was in elementary school. As a gay kid going to school in rural Oklahoma in the 1980s (before the internet, with no cable tv) I depended on the kindness of my English teachers to nurture my curiosity and encourage my creative work. Had it not been for them, I’m not sure what I would have done…or what would have become of me. 

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer? 

T. Cole: I always sort of self-identified as a writer, but in college I was a double major in English and in studio art. When I graduated I had a senior show that was equal parts reading and art show. When it came time to apply to graduate schools I had to decide what I was going to focus on – either try and be a visual artist, which was really more of a hobby, or try and be a writer in earnest. I ended up applying to MFA programs in creative writing. When I was accepted into a poetry program in Wichita, Kansas, the choice was kind of made for me. There was no turning back after that. 

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career? 

T. Cole: I’ve been lucky to have several mentors and advisors throughout my career. In grad school my thesis director was Albert Goldbarth, an incredible poet and teacher who remains a good friend to this day. After I moved to NYC, I was helped tremendously by Edmund White (who passed along my poems to Joyce Carol Oates) and by Bret Easton Ellis, who passed along my poetry manuscript to Soft Skull Press. As a journalist, I had a variety of incredible editors who took a chance on me (I’ve never actually taken a journalism class) and encouraged me to keep pitching pieces and to always aim higher.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work? 

T. Cole: I grew up in Hydro, Oklahoma — a small farm town in the Southwestern part of the state. As much as my early life and teen years were spent obsessing about getting as far away as possible, it’s not lost on me that the bulk of my creative work has been (and continues to be) about the place and the people where I grew up. I’ve been incredibly lucky that my work as a journalist has allowed me to travel all over the world (something that has changed my perspective on the world very deeply), but I still feel compelled to write about Oklahoma more than any other place in the world. 

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you? 

T.Cole: My poetry practice is the most meaningful to me, but I’d say that my work as a teacher – the poetry workshop I teach in NYC, in particular – is arguably the most meaningful work that I do. It’s also the most inspiring work that I do and something that keeps me engaged with the what it means to write and react to poetry. 

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax? 

T. Cole; I’m a record collector and a knitter, but I also continue to make visual art. I need things to keep my hands busy and occupy my mind with something meditative. Knitting also keeps my hands occupied, which keeps me from being on my phone all the time. 

Q7:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration? 

T. Cole: This is a tricky question. As a lifelong music lover (and someone who wrote about music for much of my career), it’s almost impossible to answer. I own hundreds of records across all genres and I could never narrow it down to just one thing. However, I often come back to this clip of Nina Simone performing “Feelings” at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I sometimes show this to my students as an example of an artist taking on something considered culturally cheesy and elevating to the realm of high art. 

Q8: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote? 

T. Cole: I currently work for T Brand at The New York Times and serve as the Deputy Editor for Departures, so that work – writing about travel, arts, and culture – absorbs most of my time. However, I have a poetry manuscript that is recently finished and I’m planning on publishing a chapbook of new work in early 2023. 

Q9: Any funny memory or strange occurrence you’d like to share during your creative journey? 

I worked as a bartender in a variety of NYC dive bars for the better part of 20 years while also freelance writing for a variety of magazines. In some ways, being a bartender was as much of a formative education as getting my MFA. I learned so much about people — both good and bad. 

T. COLE RACHEL is a writer, editor, and teacher who lives in Brooklyn.




A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Kate Tooley

with Kate Tooley:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Kate: Any of my childhood friends will tell you with widely varying degrees of fondness how I perpetually made-up stories and forcibly cast them in different parts, so that’s probably where it started. As a grade schooler I fell in love with authors who blended fantasy and reality like Madeline L’Engle and authors who could completely immerse you in the past like Mildred D. Taylor. But I read everything I could get my hands on from the shampoo bottle to the dictionary.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Kate: Authors like Carmen Maria Machado, N.K. Jemisin and Jordy Rosenberg who aren’t afraid to break “rules” in service to the story and who step all over genre boundaries. Also the writers who have such delicate control of the line that the shape of the sentences is doing work for the story — Kathryn Davis, Marie Helene Bertino, K-Ming Chang. There are a lot of writers who’ve influenced me over the years – I love the modernists for all their play with form – but I’m so grateful to be living in this present moment with its incredibly rich, experimental literary landscape.

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Kate: My whole life I’ve been equally confused and fascinated by people. Creating, whether through theater or visual arts or writing, is my way of understanding other human beings and also my awkward love letter to them.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Kate: So many different people over the years. As a kid it was my best friend Alex, in college my ingenious playwriting friend Daniel, more recently I have to shout out Erika Franz. Since grad school there’s been a glut of incredibly gifted writers who’ve helped me immensely in such a variety of ways that I can’t even start naming them, but I think my professor and thesis advisor Marie-Helene Bertino has taught me more about writing and myself as a writer than any other single person.

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from influence your work?

Kate: I grew up south of Atlanta but spent summers outside of Philadelphia with my aunt. I have a deep love for both places, but never felt like I belonged fully in either. A lot of my writing is trying to reconcile that sense of conflicted identity. It left me with a fascination for the ways apparently small cultural differences can create huge divides and a kind of internal sadness about all the failures of communication that make being human so difficult.

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Kate: Every time I’ve been able to write about my experience of queerness has been powerful for me personally. It still seems inconceivable sometimes that I get to do that without being censored, that people read it.

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Kate: I love to play my guitar badly. Doing something creative that I’m inherently not good at and isn’t for anyone else feels important as a practice. I also love cooking and making cocktails for friends, exploring the city with my tiny dog, and, of course, I read constantly.

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


One that I think about often is from Virigina Woolf’s Mondays and Tuesdays:
“But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking?—the entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world—a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.”

I was closeted for a long time and these lines have always both resonated with me and made me sad. I think a lot about all the parts of ourselves we hide and the dark moments they try to call out to us. I wonder what would happen if we started listening.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Kate: I’m calling this my “Fall of Weird Microfictions” I just had a body horror micro published in Retreat West called “Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness”  https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/lilith-pray-for-wholeness/ and in October I have a film noir micro series, “The End of the World is the Original Femme Fatale” coming out in Gargoyle Magazine https://gargoylepaycock.wpcomstaging.com/current-and-back-issues/



Social handles: @kate_tooley on Twitter @talking2walls on Insta