A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Prosper Ifeanyi

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Prosper: I started writing at a very tender age. Since I was in primary school, I would scribble names of imaginary characters in the back of my book and try to piece a dialogue or two. When I had nothing doing then, in school, I would curl up reading the novels of James Hadley Chase, and marvel at the cadence of language, and the way stories and events were interwoven to form an extended narrative. Chase was one of my foremost influencers, up until my university days, when a lecturer of mine, Mr. Mathias Orhero, introduced me to the American poet, Charles Bukowski. My first encounter with Bukowski was with two poems, “Bluebird” and “Cows in Art Class,” and then I knew…I knew I wanted to write beautiful poetry just like that! 

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

Prosper: I subscribe to the idealist notion that art, and the writing process is inexhaustible. If everyone tells their story right, the issue of “wanting to be a writer” will be non-existent. Everyone has a story to tell, not everyone has to be a writer to tell them. For me, writing is just one out of the many ways to get my message across.

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

Prosper: I’d say my mother. My mother is a magic lamp. When gently stroked, she releases a genie of untold stories. 

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

Prosper: I grew up in the city of Lagos. The bustle and hustle of the town has been one of the things that has kept me alive and better equipped in this part of the world. I tell people who care that: “Lagos wrings you dry,” and they never really do not understand what I mean. I like to see Lagos as a confluence, a potpourri or melting pot for language (especially as regards Nigerian literature). Lagos affords you that neo-liberal opportunity to subscribe to key tenets of a language in Nigeria, be it: Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. This is because of its metropolitan structure in society. Lagos is what New York is to the US; and I consider myself lucky to be able to weave the languages I have accumulated, in such tangible time, to the kind of poems I write. 

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

Prosper: My most meaningful work is the poem, “I Know the Knife Scars Serrating Down Their Backs,” published in Feral Poetry. I think the meaning this poem carries can be alluded to the fact that I laced it with lots of emotions and empathy. 

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Prosper: Playing video games. Reading thrillers, and watching movies.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writings?

Prosper: My favourite line from my writing is culled from the last line an unpublished poem “all I will leave behind are a pair of starry eyes—/my nude hanging/on air like jobless memory; mourners sabled/ & the song falls from/ their mouth like untrimmed grass: hallelujah!/ latched in me.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that come back to you as an inspiration?

Prosper: Funnily enough, I don’t really have a taste for a special variety of songs. I can listen to anything that isn’t garbage; but I must admit, I have always found peace in listening to Hindi (Tamil) singers. Especially the likes of Shreya Ghoshal, Arijit Singh, and Aditya Roy Kapur.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books or events that you would like to promote?

Prosper: I have written quite a number of chapbooks; nothing that needs to see the light for now. I am just hopeful that one of these days, I will be ready to let go. Sometimes, even art is a responsibility to be saddled, and I understand this well. I am a bit hopeful about the year 2024. You never know. You never know.

Bio: Prosper Ìféányí is a Nigerian poet, essayist, and story writer. An alum of Khōréō Magazine, his works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Parentheses Journal, Identity Theory, and elsewhere. Reach him on Twitter and Instagram @prosperifeanyii

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Lisa Molina

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Lisa: I was always writing short stories and plays as a young child, and reading books. My undergrad degree is a BFA in both Theater and English  Education. While in college I took a creative writing course with the recently deceased novelist, poet, essayist, and critic, Zulfikar Ghose. He became my writing mentor, and the next semester I took his grad level Creative Writing course. He was a phenomenal writer and teacher, and we stayed in touch after I graduated. Just two years ago, when my children were older, and I started writing and submitting poetry for publication, he was very encouraging to me and I’m so grateful that, before his passing last summer, he was able to read my first published chapbook, which was digital, and shared with me one of the images I had written that would remain with him forever. All that I learned from him, his writing, and the great writers he urged us to read and learn from are my most important influences.

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

Lisa: After my children were older, I began reading the classics voraciously and binged on all the works, journals, letters, and biographies of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Shirley Jackson over of a couple of years-( I also read some Tolstoy and Camus and Kafka during that period.) 

Reading about how these women were able to somehow navigate their writing careers in spite of the times in which they lived, with social expectations of women being nothing but housewives or secretaries; (certainly not professional writers), I was so inspired. Especially now that, thankfully, times have changed, I felt compelled to follow in the paths they had forged. 

I do remember one distinct moment: I was doing laundry, and we had just learned that my 23 year old son, who is a 3-time cancer survivor, now had chronic heart disease, caused by the years of treatment his body had endured. So, I’m putting clothes in the dryer, and the phrase “If one of us must die, I hope that it is I.” I thought about how Shirley Jackson was always jotting things down on scraps of paper at home whenever they popped into her head, so I quickly found a piece of paper and wrote it  down, and kept writing, and then began researching how to submit, and never stopped. That was what all that reading over those years had been building toward, and the writing finally started to happen and flow out of me.

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

Lisa: Of course, my husband has been a tremendous support, since I am still working full-time working with high school students with special needs, which means most of my weekends is when I read, write, submit, and participate in workshops. I’m retiring in the next few months, and I know we are both ready for me to have more free time to write, so that I’m more available to him and my family on weekends!

I would also say that, since I started this whole journey during Covid times, I did a lot of workshops either in private Facebook groups or on Zoom, and I have learned so much from the writers in these groups, and their networks. This is a very supportive community. We all do this because we love it so much, knowing that the chances are slim that we will ever become famous or rich. The goal is to write, and write well. 

I’m also grateful to Fahmidan Publishing for publishing several of my poems, and publishing my first chapbook, in digital form, “Don’t Fall in Love with Sisyphus.” They also nominated one of my poems, “Who You See” for “Best of the Net,” which has been so validating for me.

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

Lisa: I grew up in a suburb southwest of Houston, and attended a very large high school. Luckily, I found my “tribe” in theater and choir and advanced English classes, so I had a group of like-minded friends who understood about that urge to express oneself creatively, and although we were definitely the “geeks” at school, we were very close and had a lot of fun. 

Several of my high school friends were gay, which was very unaccepted in the early to mid 80s, and I was, and still am, so in awe of their bravery in coming out to their friends. I felt honored to be a trusted confidant, and cried the entire day that the right to gay marriage was made Law by the Supreme Court, thinking of all the bullying and abuse some of my gay friends had been through, even as teenagers! I’ve gotten a little off topic, but I think it really opened my eyes to how various forms of art, be it acting, designing, singing, writing, etc. was such a healing force in peoples’ lives.

I didn’t travel much as a child, except to visit my grandparents in Texas and Illinois, but five days after our college graduation, my now-husband and I left Austin to backpack across Europe for 9 weeks. We had EuRail Passes with a map, about 3 changes of clothes, and a tent in our backpacks- with no pre-made plans, and, of course, no cell phones, this being 1989. It was an incredible adventure, starting in Frankfurt, and then going as far East as Greece, and as far west and Ireland with most countries in between. I specifically remember going to restaurants that I read  the Lost Generation writers had dined at, a bar Oscar Wilde had frequented, and some of the places in Dublin that Joyce mentions in Ulysses. I sat and read Madame Bovary on bench in front of Notre Dame while in France, and I actually stood on the amphitheater stage of The Theater of Dionysus in Athens.  (I don’t think people are allowed to do that now) Looking back, I’m so glad we were young and crazy and just went for it- We’ve traveled a lot since then all over the US, and also, with our children once they were older; to Turkey, Japan, Thailand, and we went to Costa Rica this past summer. I really believe that travel, especially when you try to go where “the locals” go, is life-changing. It has definitely influenced my writing, insofar as the experiences I’ve had with the people of all the various cultures while traveling, and also just feeling the spirits of all those amazing artists, writers, composers, architects, throughout the centuries speaking to me through their different means of expression that are still preserved today. All forms of art are truly expressions of cultures and periods in history, and you realize how connected we are, and how self-expression is a universal basic human need.

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

Lisa: The title poem of my last chapbook, “Don’t Fall in Love with Sisyphus” holds special meaning to me. Reading Camus’s “The Myth of Sisyphus” was life-changing for me during a very difficult time, and helped me to ponder and realize how the suffering we all experience in life really does have meaning.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Lisa: I’m definitively an introvert, so I love just staying at home, reading, writing, listening to music, and playing piano. That being said, Austin is a beautiful city with a river going right through the middle of it that I loved to kayak on, beautiful walking trails, and an incredible new 4-story Central Library, which is definitely my happy place outside of my home.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writings?

Lisa: In my poem, “Life Still Dances,” I write about how my family celebrated Mardi Gras in the hospital room when my son was in treatment. We had always celebrated at home with beads, music, food, and dancing- and  so we did it even in that hospital room with my son hooked up to an IV pole. We had the music playing and my son was dancing with his sister, and my husband and I were dancing:

“It is a dance of the exquisite Normal; Nearly lost In our lives

That cancer cannot take away from us.”

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that come back to you as an inspiration?

Lisa: In college, I would always crank up the brilliant soundtrack to the film, “The Mission” composed by the late, great Ennio Morricone on my turntable, whenever I would stay up all night writing papers or short stories for classes. If there are lyrics, I find it difficult to write my own words while hearing other words being sung, so I became a big movie score soundtrack nerd starting in high school. A lot of times, I’ll put on a soundtrack to a film that may go well with the tone of what I’m going to be writing. 

And to inspire me and give me breaks when I’m not writing, I’m very much stuck in the 80s. Just a few examples are  David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, early U2, and Talking Heads. I think they are all brilliant. The song I tend to go back to over and over is “Heroes” by Bowie, and I also love the symphonic version by Peter Gabriel in his “Scratch My Back” album. There are many reasons for this, but it would take me another three pages to write about it…(Working with students with special needs, heroes themselves, for the past 22 years, is just the tip of the iceberg for why I need this song in me life- see more below and you’ll figure it out more…)

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books or events that you would like to promote?

Lisa: Yes! I have a poetry chapbook, “Womb Worlds” (Finishing Line Press) in pre-sale status through January 20, 2023, and the book will be released in the weeks following March 17. 

It is about my experience of having a child battling cancer three times, and (spoiler alert) how his life was eventually saved by the donated umbilical cord cells of a newborn, who will forever remain anonymous to us. But it’s also about how this traumatic experience changed me as a person and my outlook on life. The fact that my son’s blood, down to his very DNA, exactly matches another person’s on this planet, as a twin, whom we will never know, just makes my head explode. We are all connected on this planet in mysterious ways that we cannot even fathom. 

The title “Womb Worlds,” of course, refers to the wombs of these two connected children, but also how we all live within the “womb” of the universe, and like a lot of writers, I’m very drawn to images and meanings of bodies of water; so there are a lot of micro/macro water images. 

To read more about the book and order a copy, people can go to https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/womb-worlds-by-lisa-molina/

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

Lisa: During the time that I was writing the poems that ended up being in my first chapbook about my son’s cancer and cord blood transplant,  I was listening to the Peter Gabriel version of “Heroes” on Amazon Prime music, because, of course, I think of my son and the donor family that saved his life as heroes.

One day, after weeks of listening to this song, I happened to see the cover art of the album when I was getting ready to play the song on my phone, which I had never paid any attention to.  I instantly knew that the photo/design on the cover is of 2 red blood cells sticking together. Since the poems I was writing were about how my son’s  life was saved by a donor giving him the fresh new cancer-free blood cells that still circulates in his body to this day, I was just gobsmacked by the connection. And then I learned that Gabriel’s next album was titled “Scratch My Back.”and the following tour was called “The New Blood Tour” Wow.

I also collect typewriters that are the same brand as the ones Sylvia Plath and Shirley Jackson used. I now have  9 vintage typewriters like the ones they used throughout their lives- 

Bio: Lisa Molina is a writer in Austin, Texas and author of the digital chapbook, Don’t Fall in Love with Sisyphus (Fahmidan Publishing & Co, 2022). Her new chapbook “Womb Worlds” is currently available for pre-sale with Finishing Line Press until January 20, with the book being released in spring 2023. Molina’s poem “Who You See” was nominated for 2022 “Best of the Net” by Fahmidan Journal, and her poetry has twice been chosen as a winner in the Beyond Words Magazine 250-Word Writing Challenge. In February 2022, her flash fiction piece “Young Man in the Moon” was named a finalist in the “Fifty Shades of Blue” contest, held by The Ekphrastic Review. Molina’s poetry, creative nonfiction, and flash fiction can be found in numerous online and print publications and anthologies, including The Champagne Room, Fahmidan Journal, Beyond Words Magazine, Miniskirt Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Sky Island Journal, POETiCA REViEW, Neologism Poetry Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine, Amethyst Review, Boats Against the Current Poetry Magazine, Epoch Press Autumn 2021 “Transitions” issue, Bright Flash Literary Review, and several anthologies by Quillkeepers Press and The Poet. She lives in Austin with her husband, two adult children, and two cats, and works with high school students with special needs.

Read more of her words and news at:

Twitter: @lisabmolina1

Instagram: @lisabookgeek

Blog: lisalitgeek.wordpress.com

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Kristine Esser Slentz

image from kristineesserslentz.com

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Kristine: I truly struggle to remember when I started writing – I feel like I’ve always done it even before I could scratch out words. My most vivid memory would be when I had a Lion King journal and tried so hard to write in it but all that came out were scribbles.

I would say my current influences consist of many hybrid and experimental artists. Those are predominately Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Luzene Hill. Both work between multiple mediums in an abstract-yet-accessible way. I’m always in awe at their work and constantly revisit their art. 

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

Kristine: I think it would be when I was deciding on my major for the commuter college I first attended — Purdue North Central now Purdue Northwest. It was when I really started to think about what would make me happy in a career as opposed to what was expected. Before this time, the options were or felt like no higher education or rather traditional, lucrative positions like jobs in the medical or law fields. 

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

Kristine: Well, there are those who directly impacted it by their presence, like/such as/including/etc. my eighth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Farrell, and one of my MFA professors, Laura Hinton. Mrs. Farrell allowed me to be creative without restriction or judgment, and as a student with a learning disability, this was incredibly freeing. She supported my work and held it up as an example; I was forever changed. Professor Hinton challenged my work in ways that I hadn’t experienced previously in academia that not only pushed me to grow but also encouraged more of my voice. There was a way I could simply illustrate the more complex and also display organized chaos as it made sense to me, a person inherently outside of the traditional literary cannon. 

Then there are those whose words guided me. For that, it would be Tim Dlugos and Dorothy Parker. I found both of these prolific writers by accident. Parker while scouring one of the few places I was allowed to venture on my own, the library. There was a book of collected poems from her and a book of various writers’ lovers I checked out more than once. Her spunk and charm drew me in and I knew I wanted to express myself in the same way. I discovered Dlugos when I visited Columbia College in Chicago; at the time, it was the only higher education institution that had a poetry major. I was given a lit magazine with David Trinidad and his biography mentioned Tim Dlugos. At this time I was leaving the cult I was raised in and was reconfiguring my entire value system. Dlugos was able to see things in me that I had yet to see (like being queer for example) and because of that, I reread his first chapbook High There, every year.

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

Kristine:

I grew up between Northwest Indiana and South/Southwest Chicago due to/because of/etc. divorced parents). This mostly means Midwestern sensibilities. LaPorte, Indiana is a lake-filled town nicknamed Maple City for the extensive amount of maple trees in the area. She once was a booming factory town and while there are still active factories there, it has changed. The part of town I grew up in was once a predominately Polish community that has transitioned into more of a Mexican community. I grew during this transition. As a kid, being the only Jehovah’s Witness in class there — I have since been effectively excommunicated from the religion —  left me with a lot of complex feelings of home, which I think many people have in one way or another. It was visiting my dad when I would spend time in Chicago and its suburbs. This offered another kind of diversity, I got to see the All-American lifestyles of the burbs and the creativity (and sometimes troublesome adventures) of the city. My family in this state consisted of my father’s familial additions, a stepmom, and four step-siblings, which again created many complex feelings of home. All of these experiences combined to craft me into, and continue to, a person and the writer I am now. 

My parents are a manager of a shop (factory) floor, an LPN nurse, and a middle school teacher who all had a profound impact on my childhood — not only their professions but also their ethnic and national backgrounds. My mother is an immigrant (British and Maltese), my father was raised between Canada and America with a German father, and my stepmother’s family was heavily rooted in their Polish ancestry. The biggest connection I’ve seen between the various influences is class. Living between the lower-middle class to brushing up against poverty at times, class has shaped how I viewed privilege, wealth, value, and education. These are elements I still grapple with every day. In my graduate program, I took a class with Cynthia Cruz on the melancholia of class — she now has a book by the same name which I highly recommend– that spurred this internal dialog to continue for me. 

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

Kristine: My first book, women, depose, is something I’m pretty proud of. It came out last year from FlowerSong Press. For me, it was a necessary project that kind of felt like it just appeared as needed. The book jumps  off a legal document from a sexual harassment case and as a whole examines what it means to be a female-presenting person in this patriarchal world, which most often involves some sort of violence. 

There are also a couple of paintings, “Blood Baby” and “Love Jail Letters,” that I particularly like. “Blood Baby”  addresses miscarriage and generally women’s reproductive health issues while “Love Jail Letters” displays  handwritten correspondence while a partner was in county jail. Both work to show the complexities within a seemingly uncontrollable situation. 

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Kristine: Ah, there are so many things! I like to cook midwestern classics (that means casseroles), gin craft cocktails, cat cuddles, and watch well-done rom coms. If I can, I also enjoy long walks in the park — yes, cliché, I know

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writings?

                                                                     that's when
                                                                     I realize My
                                                                     favorite colors
                                                                    are the shades
                                                               of a healing bruise

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song that always comes back to you as an inspiration?

Kristine: There’s so much good music in the world and it’s important to have a mix of genres. A song that keeps returning to me is “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac. I fell in love with this song when I was going through one of my first heartbreaks at 15 years old. The lyric “was I such a fool” gave me so much power in the moment of giving my body to someone and them moving on to someone else -- not just quickly but more compatible. I knew it made sense but the sorrow was still there nonetheless. This theme stays with me and comes back from time to time with this song. 

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, events, etc that you'd like to promote?

Kristine: Adverse Abstraction is an artist series I began with my friend and former MFA cohort, Matt Gahler. This series focuses on building community within  experimental and hybrid creators (or even more formal, traditional works!) which means not just writers but musicians, sound artists, bands, painters, jewelers, drawers, audiovisual pieces, and more. We meet every third Friday of the month at Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village. Currently, we are accepting submissions for 2023 features. Please email us at adverseabstraction@gmail.com with your bio, headshot, and 3-5 pieces of your work. 

http://kristineesserslentz.com/publications/






A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Tanya Sangpun Thamkruphat

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Tanya: I started writing for fun when I was about in second or third grade. My brother and I used to hand make tiny books of our weird stories using green bar computer paper, old pages from wall calendars, cereal boxes, crayons, and colored pencils.

Currently, there are so many great modern writers who have influenced me, like Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jose Hernandez Diaz, Victoria Chang, and Elisabet Velasquez. I could go on forever with this list.

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

Tanya: I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was creating stories for my tiny, handmade books. There was no doubt about it.

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

Tanya: There hasn’t been one specific person who helped me. I think it has been a village of family and friends who have encouraged me throughout my writing career. However, when I got specifically into writing prose poetry, my mentor, editor, and friend, Jose Hernandez Diaz, was a great support. He has been kind, encouraging, and helpful with feedback and figuring out where I should submit my work. Of course, being part of the writing community on Twitter has definitely helped me connect with people like Jose and with writing opportunities and other wonderful writers. Without the writing community on Twitter, I don’t think I would have known where to start with my writing career.

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

Tanya: I grew up in Santa Ana, California and lived there for over 25 years. One thing about Santa Ana that truly influenced me was the Santa Ana Public Library. Living only a maybe five-minute walk away allowed me to have easy access to all the books I wanted to read, to learn about other writers, to participate in the various reading programs, and to connect with the reading community. All of that influenced the writer and person I am today. However, being able to regularly travel to visit family in Thailand also influenced my writing. I try to talk about my Thai heritage and the culture as much as possible within my writing, whether it’s a travel piece or poetry.

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

Tanya: My poetry has been the most meaningful and intimate creative work because it’s based a lot on my personal experiences and experiences of others that I’ve witnessed.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Tanya: I love reading. I usually have 4-6 books at any given time in my reading queue. Also, I love to binge watch TV shows and movies while relaxing with my partner and our cats.

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

Tanya: It’s a line from one of my early, untitled poems (it was one of the winning poems in the 2018 Button Poetry Short Form Contest):

“I am not a theorem.
I do not have to prove myself.”

Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Tanya: In general, I love upbeat and motivational songs. Songs that move me and that make me want to seize the day. I have a couple of Spotify playlists with songs like that. However, I can’t really say there’s one specific song that inspires me.


Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?

Tanya: I do! My second poetry chapbook, It Wasn’t a Dream, was recently released by Fahmidan Publishing & Co. It’s filled with surreal prose poetry about everyday life experienced or seen through the lens of various unlikely characters, like a wolf, heavenly gods, and a giant spider. People can purchase a digital copy of the chapbook at https://www.fahmidan.net/it-wasnt-a-dream-digital-chapbook


Website: www.tanyasangpun.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MadameWritelySo
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/madamewritelyso/

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Charles K. Carter

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

Charles: When I first started writing poetry regularly, I was in middle school and was into morbid stuff like that of Edgar Allan Poe. I grew into loving Sylvia Plath too. I was an emo kid at heart so their rough edges and larger-than-life personas spoke to me as did the drama and theatrics in films like The Crow and the goth-rock stylings of Ville Valo in the band HIM.

Today, as I have studied poetry a great deal formally and not so formally, as I continue to read a bunch of different poets, and as I continue to develop and evolve my own voice as a poet, I have discovered many influences. I am drawn to poets who have meditative qualities to their work such as Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, Ada Limon, Dorianne Laux, and Megan Merchant. I am also inspired by amazing queer poets such as Saeed Jones, Bryan Borland, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Theresa Davis, Luther Hughes, Jake Skeets, and more. 

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

Charles: I’m not sure there has been one pivotal moment. I think there’s something deep within me that has always had the desire to share my perspective, ideas, and learnings. This probably comes from growing up both as a kid from an abusive home where I wasn’t allowed to feel and as a queer kid in a community that wasn’t so queer-friendly. After having my voice silenced for so long, I began to crave creative outlets. Writing poems and stories was always something I was into. I have experimented with visual mediums and theatre as well. Poetry just seems to work the best for me at this time in my life to work through my trauma and to attempt to understand the meaning of life and all those other big crazy human questions. 

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

Charles: I know this isn’t everyone’s thing and everyone hasn’t had great experiences in education and education systems are far from perfect but getting my MA and MFA back-to-back allowed me permission in my day-to-day life to focus attention on my writing. While in these graduate programs, I was exposed to new ideas, I was exposed to new artists, and I was given deadlines and opportunities to explore. This really jump-started a more intense focus and, again, helped me allow myself permission to use some of my time to focus on my craft. There are many individuals who have shown me great love and support. My husband, Brandon, is always a great cheerleader and sounding board. Over the past year or so, I have been workshopping pretty consistently with a poet friend, Aurora Bones, who helps me level-up my work on a regular basis. Remember her name. She’s brilliant and she’s going to be big someday.  

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

Charles: I grew up in rural northwestern Iowa. This definitely shaped my perspective of the world, particularly as a queer person. I grew up constantly hearing that queer people didn’t belong, that they should be put to death, that they were diseased, that they were not welcomed. This came from family members, acquaintances, substitute teachers, religious leaders, and even random customers while I worked fast food in high school. The landscape is small towns, gravel roads, corn and bean fields, and the unappealing smell of swine farms. I think living in a queer-oppressive part of the country and in a place where not much happens, always has driven a desire for more, a need for escape and I think that shows up in my wrtiting. As I am responding to these interview questions, I have recently relocated to Oregon. I am curious to see how this shift in culture and landscape may shape my work and perspective over time. 

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

Charles: I’m not sure I’ve hit that marker yet. I am proud of the work I have created and I am constantly experimenting and networking and workshopping and trying to explore the different facets of my voice and artform. I think my work is getting better. I think I am becoming a stronger writer. I guess part of publishing, of putting your work out into the world, is the desire to connect, to know you’re not alone, that other people feel these feelings or that other people see and hear you. I’m not sure I’ve reached a point where I’ve truly felt that I’ve done that with my work…yet. I encourage people to always reach out to artists who move them, let them know in a Tweet or a DM or whatever that their poem, song, painting, etc. means something to them. Ratings and reviews on Good Reads, Amazon, etc. are good too. I know these things should be secondary, and it is to a certain extent; I write for myself first and then I put pieces out into the world if I choose to, but there is a desire to connect with others through our art. Or at least it feels that way for me. Writing itself can be so isolated and lonely. Submitting isn’t super fun but it’s worth it if I know my work is being read and it would put me on Cloud 9 if I know it was being appreciated or valued by readers.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Charles: Outside of reading and writing, I enjoy live music the most. I don’t typically enjoy large crowds, particularly intoxicated large crowds, but somehow that collective experience and the energy of a live performance just feels like church to me. It refreshes me and renews me. I also like to veg out, to watch movies and TV with some vegan junk food. I like to go for walks and do yoga.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writings?

Charles:

This is a really tough one but I’m going to just go with a current favorite. This is the final stanza from “Zombie,” recently published in Unstamatic’s awesome unconditional acceptance experiment.

“I now lay in a grave

of matching pillowcases

stuffed with mismatched pillows

waiting for someone who loved me

to show me love in the present tense,

waiting for someone to resurrect this dead thing.”

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Charles: Music is my jam. I love all different types. It really depends on my mood which can vary so greatly. Anyone who knows me knows that my very favorite is Melissa Etheridge. She’s shown up in many of my poems. I’ve seen her live many times, met her on several occasions. I’m on a first-name basis with her and her wife. She’s such a down-to-earth person with an optimistic persona and seeing her perform live is an out-of-this-world experience in passion. Other favorites include Sheryl Crow, Jay Brannan, Jewel, and Alanis Morrissette. I love some good ol’ rock and roll like The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac. I love Joni Mitchell. Bob Dylan is great. In my angsty years, my favorites were HIM, The Used, My Chemical Romance, and Evanescence. I’m learning to embrace my poppy guilty pleasures too like Jennifer Lopez and Cher. I am learning to not be so stuffy and pretentious. It’s okay to enjoy anything that makes you happy. It’s okay to love the lyrical genius of Joni but want to drop it like it’s hot every now and then to a J.Lo banger. We contain multitudes. 

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books or events that you’d like to promote?

Charles: Yes! My first full-length collection of poetry, Read My Lips, was just published! This is a collection of poems that focuses on how one’s ideas of love shifts as one grows and goes through different experiences and stages of life. It is full of queer love and heartbreak poems. It’s mostly free verse but there are a couple ghazals, a couple prose poems, and some other forms scattered throughout. It can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore, on Amazon, or if you’re really into supporting the artist, you can order a signed copy directly from me here

Also, I have some exciting projects coming in 2023 so follow me on Twitter (while it’s still here?), Instagram, and Facebook for updates! You can check out my website too.