Short Story/Poetry: Writing School Dean by Karol Nielsen

Time, Work, Clock, Coffee, Planning

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Writing School Dean

I interviewed for a job as a writing teacher while I was still working as a journalist. My eye watered all during the interview. It had started to water after I got a bad sty in South America and the tear duct scarred over when it healed. The dean who interviewed me said that Catherine Hepburn had a watery eye that she developed during filming of the African Queen. He asked me why I wanted to teach and I said, “I need the money.” My freelance magazine job owed me thousands and I was desperate for a steady paycheck. He chuckled and hired me. The school had a holiday party at the end of my first term and I wore a hot pink angora sweater while most of the staff wore beatnik black. The dean talked to me all night and asked me out. He wrote young adult mystery novels but he was shot down when he proposed young adult spy novels. He also wrote plays and worked odd jobs to support his writing like bail bondsman and building manager. His old girlfriend left a message on his answering machine on New Year’s Eve while I was in his apartment. “I love you,” she said. He used to work straight through the weekends and weeks would go by before I saw him. I grew tired of waiting and got back online to find someone new. When I wrote a play about internet dating, I had a reading at a bar on the Lower East Side. I invited the dean and he asked, “Am I in it.” “No,” I said.

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

Bio: Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was longlisted for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award in 2021 and was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. One poem was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction and memoir writing with New York Writers Workshop.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Robin Wright

with Robin Wright:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Robin: I started writing in high school: thoughts in a journal, poems, short stories, even song lyrics. One of the most influential writers for me at that time was S.E. Hinton. She had written a couple of novels, “The Outsiders,” and “That Was Then This is Now.” The characters were so richly evolved and the story lines so captivating.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Robin: I can’t choose just one influence! I think I’m influenced by many contemporary poets: Dorianne Laux, Kim Addonizio, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Jim McGarrah, and all of the poets in the RAR online critique group.

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

Robin: I grew up in Southern Indiana in the U.S. in a city on the river. I think the climate, the influence of the water, and the people I’ve encountered have all had their influence on my writing. I have not travelled extensively, so travelling is only a minor influence on my work.

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

Robin: Some of the most meaningful work that I’ve done so far includes the poems I’ve written about family members and friends who have passed away and also an essay about some middle school students who could teach all of us about how to behave as humane and respectful human beings.

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

Robin: I believe I had the urge to write starting with the writing I did in high school, but other life events happened, and so, I didn’t get back to it until later in life when I went back to college. I took a creative writing class on a whim and knew that I wanted to keep writing.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Robin: Some of my favorite activities when not writing are spending time with my grandchildren, listening to my husband’s band(s) play, reading, walking, visiting a little town not far from where I live, New Harmony, IN.

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

Robin: As for recent and upcoming work, I had my first chapbook published in October 2020 by Finishing Line Press: Ready or Not by Robin Wright – Finishing Line Press, My poem “Winter” will be published in Spank the Carp in August. My essay, “Valentine’s Day 2020: What I Learned from Washington Middle School Students,” will be published in the August issue of Sanctuary Magazine. Links to poems recently published: Poet as President by Robin Wright (sledgehammerlit.com) https://muddyriverpoetryreview.webs.com/Robin%20Wright-1.pdf https://poetryandcovid.com/2020/12/13/grab-and-go-school-lunches-summer-2020/

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

Robin: One of my favorite lines from one of my poems, “Services at a Later Date,” is “. . .I claw/ the soil, bury what’s left/ of the flowers, push/ my palms together, pretend/ I know how to pray.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Robin: I’ve had so much help and support over the years. Patty Aakhus encouraged me to take a poetry class, Jim McGarrah was my instructor in a poetry class in college, the members of the Student Writers Union in college, the ladies in my poetry circle, the members of the RAR online critique group, and my granddaughter who is a teenager but a published poet as well. I’m also learning from being a part of the TopTweetTuesday group of poets.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with David Estringel

David Estringel (@The_Booky_Man) | Twitter

with David Estringel

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

David: I actually started writing very late in life at 49 years old. I had always wanted to write short stories and poetry since my 20s but never seemed to find the time (or the passion) to do so. I guess you could say I was pretty limited—in terms of life experiences: I hadn’t lived. I had no voice (to speak of). With age, however, came that voice.
I would say my earliest influences would be Homer, Raymond Carver, and Stevie Nicks.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

David: Honestly, my Pandora playlist, which is heavy on Lord Huron and The Great Lake Swimmers.

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

David: I grew up in South Texas in a small town called Brownsville. I hated it there. The place was repressed and extremely conservative (not the best place to be for a gay boy). Needless to say, I developed a lot of angst due to my struggles during my early years. Not everything was bad though. The landscape was pretty savage with all the mesquite trees and cacti, as well as the gray clay soil that cracked under the sun: all against orange, pink, and purple sunsets. I think I can find beauty in almost anything now.

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

David: That is a hard one. I would say “Digging for Lost Temples” would be my choice. It is a piece of narrative prose that serves as a sort of apology and lament for the loss of my “Mexicanness”. The sadness and anger in it are palpable. https://www.drunkmonkeys.us/2017-posts/2020/1/13/essay-digging-for-lost-temples-david-estringel

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

David: I would have to say that moment occurred when the instructor of the first Creative Writing course I ever took (about 25 years ago) scribbled on a poem I submitted (my first one ever), “You, sir, are a poet. Don’t stop!” Her name was Mef Hardin and I still speak her name to this very day.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

David: Listening to music, napping with my five dogs, and reading.

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

David: This August I will be taking part in Tupelo Press’ 30/30, writing one poem a day for 30 days, which I am terribly excited about. I also recently found out that my third chapbook Eating Pears on the Rooftop will be published at Finishing Line Press in the Summer of 2022. Lastly, SOYYO Magazine reached out to me, recently, about promoting my work via the blockchain (NFTs), which is new territory for me. Lots of great things coming this coming year.

Q8: What is one of your favorite lines/stanzas from a poem of yours or others?

David:

O, viejas de negro!
How you line the front pews
at Catholic masses
like pushers sitting on street curbs,
rolling rosary beads—
like pills of black-tar heroin—
between jonesing fingers,
craving elusive fixes of salvation,
visiones de Dios.
(from “Coda-Switch”, originally published at Cajun Mutt Press)

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

David: My muse. Yes, I actually believe that I have one.

Links:

https://davidaestringel.com/

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Lynne Schmidt

with Lynne Schmidt:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Lynne:

This is always such a strange question for me to answer. As a kiddo, before I knew how to write and read, I used to write the most brilliant books. But then when I’d go back to them, they were all just scribbles.

So once I started to write and read, I began writing storybooks – The Adventures of Buttercup! (There was a new pony down the road named Buttercup.)

There are photos of me in high school at cross country meets with my handy dandy notebook, hahah.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Lynne: Oh man. There are so many – Joan Kwon Glass and Lannie Stabile help encourage me to evaluate my trauma and family dynamics.

I’ve taken a workshop with Andrea Gibson that blew my mind.

There are so many collections and influences it’s hard to narrow down!

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

Lynne: I grew up poor in Shepherd, Michigan. My parents were less than ideal and I moved out when I was still in high school. This influences a LOT of my writing. My second chapbook, On Becoming a Role Model, explores a lot of the mental health and long term effects of some of these events.

Travels away from home saved me, helped me grow, helped me find myself and accept myself in a way that makes my former therapists proud of me, haha.

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

Lynne: Right now – Dead Dog Poems. I lost my Baxter in 2017 and it shattered my world. From the moment I got the terminal diagnosis, I didn’t know what I was going to do, how I was going to survive without him. I wrote the collection in 2018 because I needed the grief to go somewhere. I sobbed when it won the 2020 New Women’s Award because it helps make Baxter immortal.

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

Lynne: Like I answered earlier, writing has always been with me. But it wasn’t until 2017/2018 I really started writing and submitting poetry. Prior to that I was working on my Young adult and Memoir.

I think the first few acceptance letters really helped, because it solidified that oh hey – maybe what I write isn’t complete garbage.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Lynne: Snowboarding, hiking, kayaking, hanging out with Kyla, Enyo, and TaylorSwift. I’ve also been playing a lot of disc golf.

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

Lynne:

Yes – please please please pre-order Dead Dog Poems! 

On Becoming a Role Model is still for sale, too:https://www.thirtywestph.com/shop/onbecomingarolemodel

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

From my poem, “Sunday Morning”

i’m already holding cancer between my hands
as though it were a weed that i could pluck away
and not an invasive species
that took root and flourished,
devouring everything i loved in its path

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Lynne: Probably Gabrielle Byrne and Valerie Cole. Gabby and I met at the PNWA Conference a million years ago. She’s pushed me so hard to not give up on myself and my writing over the years. Valerie I met on Twitter and she has cheered for me so much over the years. I appreciate their friendship so, so much.

Links:

3 new Valentine’s Day poems by Lynne Schmidt : When I Say I Want You to Love Me, Rush, & Awaiting Further Instruction

http://www.glass-poetry.com/poets-resist/schmidt-necrophilia.html

Twitter: @Lynneschmidt

http://eratiopostmodernpoetry.com/Schmidt.html

https://oneartpoetry.com/2021/03/24/poem-by-lynne-schmidt/

https://backpatio.press/2019/06/07/four-poems-by-lynne-schmidt/

https://www.yespoetry.com/news/lynne-schmidt-september-2019-poet-of-the-month

https://honeyandlimelit.wixsite.com/website/the-wood-chipper-by-lynne-schmidt

http://malarkeybooks.com/poetry/on-why-i-wont-rest-yet-by-lynne-schmidt

https://feralpoetry.net/two-poems-by-lynne-schmidt/

https://www.perhappened.com/beforethesnowfalllynneschmidt.html

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

https://amzn.to/3hAVmaV

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.

finishinglinepress.com

https://amzn.to/3r4fyot

https://karolnielsen.com