A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Courtenay S. Gray

with Courtenay S. Gray

Author bio: Courtenay S. Gray is a writer from the North of England. She has been featured in publications such as Maudlin House, Daily Drunk Mag and Red Fez. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2020). Courtenay was a runner up for the 2021 Literary Lancashire Award in Poetry. She also has a poetry collection (Strawberry) out with Alien Buddha Press and is working on publishing another collection called Archie.

Social Media: Twitter – @courtenaywrites
Blog: www.courtenayscorner.com

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?

Courtenay: I started writing when I was four years old. My main priority was short stories that would be classed as flash fiction, but I wasn’t aware of it then. I can’t define my first influences because books, in general, helped propel me into the literary scene. However, I can talk about my current favourites. I am a big believer in individuality, so I don’t tend to have role models. I am particularly fond of Nabokov’s style of prose. He is a master of lyrical writing, which is something I enjoy. I’m not a writer who is critical of the contents of books. I’d much rather be supportive and let people do their own thing. There isn’t one way to write. I love philosophical writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.

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

Courtenay: I usually tell people that writing is innate for me. I was indeed born with this gift, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I come from a family of logical businessmen and women, so I didn’t have a familial influence concerning literature. All I know is that my childhood goal was to see a book that I wrote on the shelves in all major bookshops. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still a dream of mine. I feel almost like a character from the Sims. I was given the desire to write when they were creating me.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?

Courtenay: I am incredibly independent, so I ultimately helped myself. My father once described reading books as training. I am inclined to agree with him. By constantly reading, I had my eyes opened to different styles of writing and a vast vocabulary. I pride myself on doing things alone. I won’t ask for help unless it is necessary. If you have myriads of people moonlighting as teachers, you lose your sense of individuality.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Courtenay: I grew up in a small town in the North of England. I have not written a single word about where I live because not a lot goes on there. If anything, I wrote about the things I experienced whilst residing there, rather than about the place itself.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to places such as; Malta, France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. I can attest to the fact those places have inspired my writing. On the last day of a trip to New York, we were sat in a restaurant. My cousin had spent the entire holiday rewriting a novel, so I was inspired to write one. We walked through the packed streets of NYC looking for a Barnes and Noble. I bought a novel-writing book, and the waiter at this restaurant saw it. “I hope you have a lovely day, and good luck with the novel.

I’ve only been to Paris once, and I was three years old at the time, so I don’t remember it. The literary scene of Paris enamours me, and I hope to check it out at some point. I vow to visit the Parisian cafe’s where the existentialists hung out. I have an unusual knack for writing about places I haven’t been but heard and read lots about. There is so much to be said for immersing yourself in other cultures. It not only broadens your perspective, but it reignites that magic spark you have as a child. I would implore every writer to visit other countries.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Courtenay: I would say that all of my work is meaningful in one way or another, but I lost someone to cancer in December, and I find myself dedicating every poem to him. His death has been a catalyst for me creatively. Everything I write has a sprinkle of him contained with the ink on the page.

The peculiar thing about meaning is that it’s personal. I can write a poem with great emotion and power, but that doesn’t mean someone who reads it will feel that. However, most people can relate to the experience. They may not know who you are writing about, but they feel your plight.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Courtenay: To relax, I usually watch television. It’s a form of media often dubbed a mindless activity, but it is far from it. I am constantly perplexed by writers who refuse to watch TV because it holds so much inspiration that I feel you’re missing out. If I am in the right mood, I read. Listening to audiobooks helps me relax, and it decreases my list of books to read. However, I would say that television is the thing that helps me relax the most. If I feel like something interesting, I usually find an arthouse film, but I turn to Friends if I want to be comforted.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others?

Courtenay: A line from a poem I am currently trying to place is:

“Your face would radiate through the Hemingway smoke and the Camus coffee.”

As for a poem by another, I love this line from “An Almost Made Up Poem” by Charles Bukowski:

“she’s mad but she’s magic. there’s no lie in her fire.”

Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?

Courtenay: My favourite band is Pink Floyd. I’ve been listening to their music since I was a small child. I am also a superfan of Lana Del Rey. Her music inspires my writing enormously. Her entire aesthetic and persona mirror my own. My favourite album of hers is “Born To Die (Paradise Edition)”. Last year, I was introduced to the Canadian band Alvvays, and I have completely fallen in love with their stuff. One of their songs inspired the title for my current work in progress.

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

Courtenay: I have a blog where I post a lot of my work. All you have to do is type www.courtenayscorner.com into the search bar, and you’re golden. I have poetry and flash faction forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit and Gutslut Press. You can follow me on Twitter (@courtenaywrites) for all updates

Bonus Question: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing or creative journey?

Courtenay: I am not a prude by any means, but I find writing sex scenes to be slightly embarrassing. I will gladly watch and read sex scenes, but I get silly about it when it comes to writing them myself. I secretly read the entire Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy when I was fourteen, but I still can’t write a sex scene without bursting into hysterics.

Other Links:



A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Ann Kathryn Kelly

with Ann Kelly:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Ann: My earliest memory of seeing my writing potential was fifth grade. My teacher told our class about the Vermont Governor’s writing contest and asked for volunteers. We only needed to write two pages, and the topic was wide open. This was 1980 and I imagined how it might be in the year 2000 which, at the time, seemed light years away like something you’d see on Star Trek with Captain Kirk and the gang. In my essay, I saw a world where space-age kids no longer needed a school lunch program and would instead swallow a red pill the size of a Tic-Tac to get all their nutrients … which of course meant no more God-awful lunches in the cafeteria with things like Tuna Wiggle. I won second place in the state contest. I’m pretty sure that started my lure to the written word.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Ann: I’m assuming you mean, who are my biggest influences in poetry? Well, first off, I should say that I’ve come to realize with these Fevers of the Mind interviews that you usually do your Q&As with experienced poets. Full transparency: I’m not a poet. (Laughs nervously.) So, first off, thank you for even entertaining the possibility of chatting with me. A friend on Twitter knew I’d recently started writing poetry which is why she suggested I look at your journal’s website. I have much more experience with creative nonfiction and I’ve been writing essays and memoir exclusively for years. But, I’ve always admired poetry: the lyric language and economy of words. I knew it could help me with my CNF writing and decided to take my first poetry class in April of this year, a six-week course with Cleaver Magazine. I loved it! I came out of the class with a number of poems in different forms: sonnet, villanelle, prose poem, haibun, and more.

After workshopping my pieces in class, I submitted them to journals over the spring and already I have three published poems to my name. In fact, I’ve gotten much faster acceptances for my poetry than I’ve ever gotten for my CNF essays. I’ve waited sometimes for almost a year to hear back from journals on some of those pieces.

I love how poetry elevates a piece of writing with lyric imagery. I also admire how poems establish a connection between writer and reader quickly because of the form’s shorter footprint. As a CNF writer, I can spend 3,000 words getting my points across, if I want. That’s the challenge I love with poetry: nailing that writer-reader connection off the bat and capturing pivotal moments in spare but beautifully layered language.

Well, I’ve gone off on a tangent and didn’t answer your question. I’d love to list influential poets, but I’m early in my learning stage.  

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

Ann: Aside from my fifth grade example, I think I knew it by the time I was in tenth grade. I wanted to study journalism, but the university I attended didn’t offer that so I graduated with a degree in English Literature. I’ve since made a career of writing in the corporate world, starting out as a copywriter for a software company before moving into various marketing communications and public relations roles.

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Ann: I give a lot of credit to a developmental editor I’ve worked with—Naomi Kimbell—who reviewed my memoir manuscript and gave me this just really tremendous feedback. She was able to balance pushing me to dig deeper, while understanding and honoring the intention of what I wanted to do with my manuscript. She helped me see arcs and metaphors I hadn’t seen, and my manuscript is absolutely stronger for it.

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

Ann: I lived just outside Philadelphia from birth until second grade, then my family moved to the middle of nowhere up nine miles of dirt roads in rural Vermont to fulfill a dream of country living my mother had. After college, I moved to the Seacoast region of New Hampshire, with a stint living in downtown Boston when I worked for an advertising agency as a copywriter. I’ve written one or two essays about my rural childhood, and it’s also in my memoir manuscript, but my writing is not heavily influenced by place.

As for travel, my job has sent me to a bunch of U.S. cities for work conferences, and a few places overseas. In fact, I was at a work conference in Barcelona just before Spain closed its borders in the spring of 2020 with the pandemic. I’ve also traveled to quite a few countries for fun. I’ve been through Europe, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and India, as far east as Hong Kong, and into South America. I’ve even been to the Arctic Circle and into the Sahara desert. I’ve written a few essays about some of my travels.

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

Ann: Tough question! Well, I’m hoping my most meaningful work will be my memoir if and when it is published. I wrote the manuscript to share with readers that a devastating diagnosis is not always a death sentence, even when it involves a bleeding brain tumor. If my memoir helps just a handful of people facing a scary diagnosis find strength or hope in my story, then it will be worth the years I’ve spent writing it and researching certain aspects and workshopping it a gazillion times with critique partners. I’m also proud of all of my CNF essays and flash nonfiction pieces. One essay was particularly difficult to write, but I think it’s beautiful. It’s called “The Color of Heartache” and was published in The Coachella Review: http://thecoachellareview.com/archive/nonfiction/the-color-of-heartache/

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Ann: I’ve really gotten into flower gardening, and I’m up to seven garden beds now. Pretty big ones, I might add! It has transformed the outside of my house, and I now have a ton of birds and butterflies. When I started trying poetry this spring, my gardens were the obvious choice to dip my toe in and see what resulted. My gardens serving as muse sounds like a cliché … but it’s true!

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


I find it haunting that Anne Sexton’s poem “Yellow,” though written in the early 1970s I think, could just as easily have been written about everything the world has endured in 2020 and into 2021.

When they turn the sun
on again I’ll plant children
under it, I’ll light up my soul
with a match and let it sing. I’ll
take my mother and soap her up, I’ll
take my bones and polish them, I’ll
vacuum up my stale hair, I’ll
pay all my neighbors’ bad debts, I’ll
write a poem called Yellow and put
my lips down to drink it up, I’ll
feed myself spoonfuls of heat and
everyone will be home playing with
their wings and the planet will
shudder with all those smiles and
there will be no poison anywhere, no plague
in the sky and there will be mother-broth
for all the people and we will
never die, not one of us, we’ll go on
won’t we?

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


As I mentioned, I took my first poetry class in April of this year, and I’m thrilled that three of my poems from that class have already been published! I have a few more poems on submission from that class. I also have a number of CNF essays on my website that I’ve excerpted from my memoir. My plan is to query my manuscript this autumn.

American sonnet: Kingdom Come


Prose poem: Puff


American sonnet: Abode


More writing on my website:


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 Ariel K. Moniz

with Ariel K. Moniz

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Ariel: I started writing when I was in elementary school. I enjoyed writing short stories and other vignettes or ideas and loved every writing project assigned to me in school.When I was in middle school we were assigned to write an ode. This is how an ode to Artemis became my first real poem and how I unlocked my love for poetry.

In the early years of writing my biggest influences were fantasy novels and mythology. Reading was and continues to be an integral part of writing to me, and the sanctuary that fantasy and mythology provided me was an endless source of inspiration.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Ariel: I am inspired by so many creators at this point in my creative journey. Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, James Baldwin, Neil Gaiman, and Ray Bradbury—as well as the works of André Aciman and Madeleine Miller— are some of the greatest influences on my thinking and writing.

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


I grew up in Hawaii, which made my life so different from the majority of what I read, heard, and saw in media. As someone who wants to be a writer I was often told to “write what I know”, but I struggled with the isolation and “exoticism” of my lived experience. There was too much that needed context, too much to explain to a reader. It was also largely due to this that I turned towards poetry as my primary art form. Poetry allowed me to get to the heart of thoughts and emotions in a theoretical and sincere way, to connect to people across experiences by tapping into the universal truths of humanity.

Travel has been one of my greatest writing inspirations, because it has granted me access to the world. There is nothing that inspires me as much as being in a new place, having fresh experiences, hearing a different language, and learning about the world through a new perspective.

The most moving travel experiences for me were my trips to Ireland and Italy, due to the immediate feeling of belonging that I experienced there. Much of my writing tries to make sense of self, belonging, home, and the search for those core values. Arriving in these places that I had never been and feeling embraced by all of those things I had been searching for is something that I am still trying to capture in my work.

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


Poetry has always been a source of expression and healing for me. It has allowed me to process and accept things in my life that I may not have been able to otherwise. The poems that I wrote during my darkest times— while they may not be theoretically the “best”— have a special place with me because of how they helped me survive.

The project that I feel I have put the most of myself into is the chapbook that I am currently working on, and the full-length poetry collection that I hope will grow out of it in time. In this project I am trying to capture the bloom and decay of love and analyze how we often mythologize our experiences with romance. I want to discuss what that does to us, what it means for us when we outlive the life or the myth that we have created for ourselves. This is a theme near and dear to my heart, and many of the poems are based on my lived experiences, which I think that many others share.

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

Ariel: There is no single moment in which I knew I wanted to be a creator. It was a feeling that was always with me. I knew from a young age that creating was a part of my purpose, but it wasn’t until elementary school that I came to fall so deeply in love with books, and that’s when I realized that writing was the best way for me to connect with the world.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Ariel: Some of my favorite activities are reading, drawing, painting, singing, cooking, attempting to learn a new skill (most recently knitting, guitar, and American Sign Language), or spending time in nature, especially near the water.

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

Ariel: I am currently working on what I hope will become my first published book, but I have several online and zine publications of my poetry. Anyone who is interested can find the list of my publications on my website at kissoftheseventhstar.home.blog.

I also work with the teams of The Lumiere Review and Liminal Transit Review on their publications, and would love for anyone interested in submitting to send their work!

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

Ariel: This is such a great and difficult question! It’s nearly impossible for me to choose one line or even one poem as a favorite because each one contains a moment or a feeling and therefor a larger context that is difficult to value. That being said, I wrote a line recently that felt true to me in the moment and has informed much of my current project, so I’ll share that.

We become myths somewhere between love and grief, alone.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Ariel: Those who have helped me most with my writing have been other writers, whether I know them personally or only peripherally. Every time someone has written the truth of something and shared it with the world, it has reminded me how much we all need creators and their work.

Twitter: @kissthe7thstar





A Fevers of The Mind Quick-9 Interview with Erica Abbott

with Erica Abbott:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Erica: I started writing poetry (outside of more than just a class assignment) in my high school poetry club. The advisor who ran the club was such a huge influence in my poetry journey and though I only got to be part of it for one year, it left such a lasting impression on me. Members of the club would write together after school every week and explore new forms and poets. The poetic influence that sticks out the most to me is Mary Oliver. Her poem “The Poet With His Face In His Hands” was the first one I read as part of “entry” into the club and “Wild Geese” was another one I read early on. Her work, and the teacher/advisor that first taught it to me, had such an impact on me.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Erica: My biggest poetic influences today are those I’ve learned from—poets I’ve taken writing workshops/courses with. Sierra DeMulder, Megan Falley, Andrea Gibson, Sabrina Benaim, Kelly Grace Thomas, Katie Manning, Todd Dillard, Jon Sands, and so many others. And every single one of those people led to the discovery of even more beautiful voices within the community. Their words and their teachings made me want to continue learning and writing as much as possible.

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


I grew up in the greater Philadelphia area and while I’m not sure I could pinpoint anything specific as influencing my writing, I know it has. Even back in high school when I was more focused on creating visual art, it was incredible being so close to museums and getting to visit them for trips and such. Even being within just a couple hours of New York City has been a huge influence for me because how can you not be inspired by that city? But, locally, even the press who published my first chapbook is Philly-based so I absolutely feel such a creative connection there and I can’t wait to start exploring more in-person events and meetups as things start opening up.

Travels away from home have also definitely been a contributing influence on my writing. Several trips that I’ve taken have inspired pieces, especially ones I’ve written in workshops and continue to refine. The one time (so far) that I’ve traveled internationally was to Guatemala and that was absolutely a big influence. I wrote in a journal every night there and the whole experience really helped expand my worldview and influenced my creativity. With all the places I still hope to go to someday, I can’t wait to see how travel continues to influence me.

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

Erica: My chapbook Self-Portrait as a Sinking Ship, which came out at the end of last year. It’s my first collection of poetry and receiving the news last summer that it was being published was such a dream come true. It’s very much focused on my mental health and a lot of dark spots that had occurred in the previous few years and the positives/moments of light that kept me from being swallowed by everything. It definitely speaks to where I was personally a lot, but I think anyone can still find themselves within the words and I’m very grateful when people tell me that they found so much meaning in a poem and saw their own experience in it as well.

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


I think it really all goes back to my high school poetry club (and the teachers that made me really love poetry in the first place). I don’t feel as though I’d be the poet I am today without that early influence. When I got back into reading poetry more often in 2017, the writing also came with it and I knew I wanted to keep learning and growing.

There was also a particularly inspirational point when I went to an Andrea Gibson show a month before everything shut down and their poetry just moved me so much. I really think that ultimately led me to take the first step with writing courses/workshops during the pandemic—the first of which was centered on spoken word. It’s always funny how the seemingly small things can ultimately lead to such meaningful connection and opportunity.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Erica: I love theatre so usually, it would be going to see a show in either Philly or NYC. Of course, I haven’t had the chance to do that in over a year with the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Other than that, I like watching TV, especially anything Disney, reading, and getting out and exploring the city when I have the chance.

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

Erica: I’ve got work forthcoming in Serotonin, FERAL, Chaotic Merge, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Jupiter Review. Some of my most recently published work can be found in Gnashing Teeth Publishing, The Dillydoun Review, Sledgehammer Lit, and Selcouth Station. I’ve also been doing some writing for Write or Die Tribe. 

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

From my poem “St. Ends, Patron Saint of Endings”:

“Yesterday, I found the other half of a plastic “Best  
Friends” heart necklace, the one with the broken  
                        silver chain, that we gifted to each other all those  
                        years ago - the side I kept reads: st 

And I think how very fitting it is to be the patron
saint of endings.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Erica: My parents and my fiancé Dan. They’re the ones who have read first drafts, told me if something in a poem doesn’t make sense, read (and re-read) my manuscript before it was published, shown up to every reading I’ve done. They’re my biggest supporters and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do any of it without them.