A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Keely O’Shaughnessy

with Keely O’Shaughnessy

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Keely: It’s a very writery answer but I think I’ve always written. I used to make my mum little story books and write a diary. I read everything and anything. I remember being obsessed with Robin Hood stories as a kid. I would rewrite them and try and make them even more magical. But nobody said that I might be good at writing until I was eighteen or nineteen. That’s when I discovered Angela Carter and the joys of magical realism for the first time. And then later, during my degree, I read Raymond Carver endlessly. I wanted only clean, crisp and stark prose then. Thankfully, now a days, I think I manage to strike a good balance somewhere between the two.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Keely: I wouldn’t say I have one main influence but there are many authors and artists I admire. I still love Carver and Carter, only now I read more widely. I love anything written by Jhumpa Lahiri. And flash writing wise, I adore Jules Archer and Kathy Fish. I’m also lucky to be part of a magazine (https://flashfictionmagazine.com/) where I’m surrounded by a wealth of talented writers and editors, who I’m privileged to be friends with. Thinking outside the writing world whenever I’m stuck creatively, I turn to David Bowie.

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

Keely: I was born in Devon in the UK. It’s quite a sleepy and rural place, which boasts both seaside and moorland. I’d say feel most at home in green spaces (I live in the Cotswolds now) and I
think this affinity with nature and the countryside often finds its way into my work. Equally, I like to travel and one of my favourite places to visit is Canada. The extremes that can be found there and the vastness of the landscape is something I find completely captivating.

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

Keely: This is a super hard question and either that means I haven’t achieved anything meaningful or perhaps I see everything that I’ve managed to write as meaningful. A piece of work can mean a lot to you personally as a writer or artist, but I think creating something that moves a reader, something that inspires someone or offers them an alternative perspective is so important.

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

Keely: As I’ve already said, I’ve always harboured ambition of being a writer, but I remember being told in high school that I could never be a writer because of my dyslexia and cerebral palsy. When you have a disability people often make presumptions about your ability and will try and impose limitations on you. But, funnily enough, it was those limitations that spurred me on. I was going to write and create beautiful things.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Keely: I’m a huge fan of TV and films. It’s not considered high culture, but there’s nothing better than relaxing with your favourite show. I’m a sucker for a detective drama. I also enjoy reading (that’s a given,) drawing, needle felting, cooking and baking. I make an awesome chocolate brownie.

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

Keely: Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @KeelyO_writer to read any of my stories or learn about upcoming projects. My website is www.keelyoshaughnessy.com And while I’m here I want to give a shout out to Dialect as I’m just coming to the end of their Arts Council funded mentoring programme and it has been an incredible experience, where I was able to learn and grow as a writer while connecting with other likeminded creatives. I was mentored by novelist Mahsuda Snaith.  

The Things We Thought We Knew: Snaith, Mahsuda: 9781784162573: Amazon.com:  Books

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


“When he’s thirteen, my son, who has his father’s strong jaw and the parts of me that matter, turns into a frog. It’s his skin first. It sheds in large coin-sized discs. I pull off the bigger, dryer flakes and bathe the sores beneath. He’s startled by the patches of green that radiate like sun on stained glass.” 

This is taken from the opening of “What If We Breathed Through Our Skin?” a story which has recently been published in the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day anthology. 

My micro “How to Sow a Wildflower Meadow” was also part of this year’s Flash Flood. It was a privilege to be part of NFFD’s 10th Anniversary.

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Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Keely: There are so many people who have helped me with my writing it’s hard to narrow the list down to something that would fit in this space, but I have to mention, my husband. He isn’t a writer but he’s my first reader and most of the time I trust his gut reaction to a draft. Second, not in value but in this list, are all my wonderful colleagues at Flash Fiction Magazine. There are also my lecturers from my days studying and the kind and generous writers I’ve met on Twitter. Social media can quite easily be a toxic place but the writing community there has been unbelievably supportive.

3 poems by Keely O’Shaughnessy “The Collector” “And You Thought Me Empty” & “Something Like Mount Rushmore”


My brief author bio is as follows: KEELY O’SHAUGHNESSY (she/her) is a writer and editor with Cerebral Palsy, who has writing forthcoming in the Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology and Complete Sentence. She has been published with Ellipsis Zine, the 2021 NFFD anthology, and Not Deer Magazine, among others. She is Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. When not writing or editing, she likes discussing David Bowie with her cat. Find her on Twitter @KeelyO_writer.



A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with O’Phylia Smiley

with O’Phylia Smiley

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

O’Phylia: I’ve written since I was a child. I started writing poetry at 7 when I first learned about Phyllis Wheatley. Our teacher explained her poetry to us and I thought, I could do that. 

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

O’Phylia: Eve L. Ewing, Chen Chen, Victoria Chang, Mellisa Lozada-Oliva, and N.K. Jemisin.

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

O’Phylia: I grew up in the South. I was born in Virginia and lived there for 8 years, but most of my poetry takes inspiration from the bayou in lower Alabama where I grew up. Wetlands make me feel powerful, feel enriching like nothing else to me. There’s something so wonderful about a space in nature that cannot be controlled. The kudzu and Spanish moss draw me in as well. People are so angry about how kudzu covers everything, about how it’s an invasive species, as if kudzu walked over and just decided to make things miserable for humans. The vine was brought here and people are mad that it thrived. 

Though my poetry is heavily inspired by my hometown, Celtic stories have an influence in the stories I write. I’ve always been interested in Ireland, and going there in 2008 cemented my love for the fae. 

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

O’Phylia: Flame Work,” a poem recounting what my family does when there’s been a death of a child, is something that I’m so glad I get to share with the world. I’m often the quiet one on my mother’s side of the family, but I love them dearly. I often say my poems are apologies, but this one is more of a letter of gratitude. 

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

O’Phylia: Not necessarily. I’ve always been a writer, and I knew that even if I didn’t get anything published,  I would write regardless. I suppose when I discovered lit mags I realized I didn’t have to publish an entire manuscript of poetry at once. Framing it as a few pieces at a time made the decision less daunting. 

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

O’Phylia: Reading, of course. I enjoy scrapbooking and doing collages to relax; it’s nice to have something that doesn’t involve screens. I also enjoy pole fitness since you can have tangible results like getting into a trick you’ve practiced for months. It’s nice to have something I can see for myself.

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

O’Phylia: Wizards in Space and Black Girls Create included my poem Flame Work in the anthology These Bewitching Bonds. I couldn’t be more honored to be alongside such great writers. You can order the e-anthology here

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

O’Phylia: From “Miriam,” published in issue 2, of Occulum Mag: “…I have no qualms/ About drowning you.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

O’Phylia: Arielle Tipa, writer and editor of Occulum Mag, and Swapna Krishna, who offered her mentor services to me. 

New poem by Rose Colleen : Soulmate


The most selfless thing I have been challenged with
Is learning how to love myself
There I find her
Standing amongst the stars
Between still faced shadows
Ill-tempered with contrary eyes
A heart dripping of gold
I take her hand in mine
Her sacrifice to make me whole
As she ascends and bursts
Producing sparks of waves and color
A swirling cosmic galaxy
If ever I believed in a soulmate
It was when my shadow-self fell in love
With the break just before the day
When the dawn brought the darkness
Before her light scattered and fell into my lungs
Inhaling and exhaling the beauty behind surrender
Finding my solitude in letting go

*this poem was self published by Rose Colleen prior to this blog publishing*

The Insect Sonnets by Paul Brookes

(c) Marcel Herms
(c) Marcel Herms
1. Sweet Pollen

Bigger wing beat gusts me from sweet pollen
billows, I must stick to its surface amid
buffet and blast. Now heavier, taken,
away from scented trail back home I skid.
Track my trail through vibration pulses, map
I will dance when home is reached to tell all
where sweet pollen will be found, waggle tap
the route after unloading my food haul.
As light fades our head sensors flop, my legs
wrap around others, I rehearse my days
forage, retrace my flight, my complex steps
mark vibration changes that radiate.
Bright warmth lifts our heads from sleep to again,
find our memory way, avoid harsh rain. 

2. We Poisoners

l Ingest, store poison for feathers, her. 
Changed in white she must be stillness.
I wait outside her cocoon, her wings fettered,
unstretched, un-inflated, I pass fullness,
into her with a generous capsuled gift,
attracted by her poison plumes, invasive
insects mandibles, legs glued globule gripped. Our red warnings briefly adhesive.
Our bulbous bairns nosh on green flesh deadly
to others. Chew it to stalks till hunger
crawls ever broader, masses in deathly
carcasses litter path to fresh fodder.
Death and sex infest grub and danger times.
Wrapped as one, alert and vital and mine 

3. A Stag Beetle

Scratch decayed wood until it splinters. Hunt 
these spikes for soft white wood swallow inside. 
Indigestible I make a hard front, 
swallow soil ready to throw back up outside. 
Create a smooth cover, give myself horns, 
six legs, two wings all soft and white. Don't know 
how I know how, where, and what shapes to form, 
nor what light is, till lust makes me go, 
shift this bulk, these wings buzz into hot bright. 
There can be a few in battle for her. 
My heavy horns twist, locked in long fight 
to straddle her. Must turn them all over. 
Hungered in dark most of my life. 
Brief lusty flight, fight and sex in the light

4.  A Turnip Moth

Under I wait till dark. Light lessens. Beak 
stab shakes where I am. Dark. Out from Under 
chew tender stem. Move back Under when heat 
of many Over brightens. Asunder 
I dig. Push asunder. Turn and turn and 
turn. Under under. Legs tendril lengthen. 
Softness to float in the Over expand. 
I hear now, inside trembles at sound when 
others outside call in dark to know where 
they are, and what meals move around the dark 
Soft and wet I push asunder to air. 
Listen in bright while softness rustles hard. 
Even insects remember their young times. 
Pests like weeds try to survive humankind. 

5. Cockroaches

In dark wet safe. Lowness my leg hairs tell. 
If Else moves I know change in this tight Air. 
My young molt, as I did, get harder shells. 
Company is good. In dark am aware 
food with my two long, long noses that come 
out of my head, bounce, dangle, flick in front. 
Good grub I tell others when I find some. 
All will be eaten always on this hunt. 
My young eat my waste among mounds 
of cast 
skins, egg cases and the dead. A crack let 
me in to snuggle in warm corners fast 
settle in your grease, droppings, food for pets 
You horrify me with your pure cleanliness. 
Live in shittip, I'll join you in the mess

6. The Housefly

My feet smell you first. I may leave my waste 
on your skin, or on your meal. I adore 
your sweat and dead skin. I make tasty paste 
by vomiting on it. My sticky pads for 
walking upside down. Drawn towards sunlight, 
I bounce back off an invisible force. 
If still I jump her or bang her in flight. 
So many hers to have can't stop or pause. 
Born into waste, I squirmed, deeper under. 
I changed, climbed towards warm daylight, stretched wings. 
As warm light disappears I find shelter. 
sleep. Tomorrow repeat everything. 
We'd wallow in waste if there were no flies. 
Praise them, their short lives, work and enterprise 

7. "I Forage"

I forage, chew wood pulp for my babies 
who give me sweetness in return. When 
they're bigger I'll dismember aphids, fleas 
and spiders to take home for them. 

My queen who gave birth to me will outlive 
me. At night I'm still, or repair fly 
babies broken rooms. At warm light give 
flight ,and scratch out fibre until I die. 

I lay my own babies once, another 
found out and ate them. I tend to my queen's. 
As light dims sooner and days get colder 
I get slower, stiller, food for the dream. 

It's too easy, a mechanically 
designed existence, reality is messy

8. Before I

Before I break the Surface of the world 
I live another life beneath where light 
falls differently. I eat Small that curl 
in front, while Larger see me tasty bite. 
Hidden behind long stems I wait and wait. 
Quick squirt of breath behind to catch the Slow. 
Grab it with my hooks drag it to my gape. 
Climb Up a stem and shed Old Skins as I grow. 
Need forces me to break Surface in Dark 
where I learn to breathe before final shuck. 
Let limbs and wings harden into flights start. 
He grabs my neck, I arch my back, Eggstruck. 
I return to Suface, slice open stem. 
Lay my eggs for life to begin again. 

9.  As An Egg
I fell to the Bottom of a dark world, 
I dug beneath the Flow when hunger's need 
led me to what falls and lands, what unfurled 
as my mouth brushes grazed hardness for feed. 

Sometimes I hid under these hardnesses, 
when Larger mouths turned, tipped others over. 
As grew, left behind smaller carcasses 
of myself. At my last shuck I massed air 

that blew me to a brighter warm Surface, 
where these wings dried out, I climbed stems to shed, 
the last part of myself. Now I join the race 
into swarm to be grabbed, give birth, float dead. 

I lived most of my life bottom feeding 
the light, continued self before yielding. 

10. Barkfly

Born beneath a spun web into a herd, 
we grind lichen in our jaws out of ruts 
and channels in the Tallness of the world. 
We chew the dead too. Move as one clutch. 

A slender rod from my mouth braces me 
while I prise up the food, clean the Tallness. 
Our mouths also spin layers wrap gently 
round and over a billow of whiteness. 

Once the Tallskin cleaned we eat this cover. 
With icy coldness coming our herd thins. 
I will have babies, I am a mother. 
I lay and web my herd on new Tallskin. 

Some of us have wings, some of us don't. Some 
run rather than fly when danger comes. 

11. Grasshopper

I break my hard shell against sharp cold,
find soft shoots and grass to eat in the warm.
As I grow out my young selves into old
I eat tougher stems, and my wings take form.

My stomach hears sounds. droplets from above
knock you off of a stem, drown you in their fall.
My large back legs move me up into rough
air which thunders inside, I land and call

rub leg against wing, she arrives, is bigger
than I. I climb her. Droplets break a wing,
knock her sideways so I topple, shiver
onto sodden soil, float into dying.

Here I look into world as it passes.
Drown in this flow as it flutters, flashes.

12. The Stonefly

Above the Flow, under the Hard I rest.
I have no mouth to eat. I must find her.
Masses of us move with the Flow, find best
place to change, avoid quick mouths of hunger

as they rise through the Flow, know where we're bound.
Wait for our small bodies to arrive
above. Survivors climb ashore. I pound
the ground with my stomach, then listen. Strive

to hear her answering tap and we pair
She quick dips her our eggs into the Flow.
I must tap again, meet more breed and share
until no more changes to undergo.

I avoided being food for others,
so I could be myself in another.

13.  A Thrips

Once out of my egg I suck fresh plant juice.
fall to the ground, find dark under dead leaves.
New wings clap and fling me in air, let loose
my body into sky. I sense her needs.

Another is here. We flick our bellies
into each other, and kill with our teeth.
While we fight a male moves in to best please
her. I kill one, flick other off the leaf.

She is bigger than me. We swap signals.
I climb up. Stroke her sides with my mid legs.
We link. I give of myself. Ends in pulls,
to break apart. Cuts stem she lays our eggs.

She outlives me, but I will still go on.
It is all about going on, once we're gone.

14. Earwigs

We crawl out of our eggs and eat them.
Mam guards us against those that would eat us,
feeds us what she's caught or found, dead stems,
hard and soft shelled, rotted out of darkness.

Shimmery semi circular hind wings I first fold lengthwise, then crosswise curl my belly, use my pincers tuck in last of exposed wing. Mam ate all unwise

young who didn't leave her. I left her nest.
I investigate all nook, cranny, slit.
I smell her, tap, stroke her with my forceps.
We make a home, she lays, insists I flit.

Even home is temporary. All fleet.
I hide in darkness, wings folded and neat.

15. An Aphid

Born pregnant, I pierce stem suck plant sap. 
They keep away those that would eat us. 
They stroke our sides, encourage from our backs 
sweet droplets. If no sap left they take us 

to fresh soft plants. They tore off my fresh wings 
so I have to stay here and suck this sap. 
I grew them because we were sucking 
dry. They only want the sweetness off our backs. 

My young pop out of me, all pregnant . 
The ants carried us over to fresh sap. 
Out of myself my young pierce new plant. 
I watch ants sip the sweetness off their backs. 

We are kept producing sweetness and young. 
until we die, cosseted all our lifelong. 

16. A Pond Skater

My front legs grab a snorkel, pull it out. 
I suck juices from its owner, my four 
other legs balancing on bubbles pout. 
So if wave comes I'll rise to waters floor. 

Astride her if she does not submit I'll 
tap the water for predators to come. 
She's under me. I make sure she knows she'll 
be eaten first. She submits to my thrum. 
I flew here when I was small, attracted 
by its glints of light I saw from above. 
When food is scarce our young are snacks. 
A tongue eats me if I'm not quick enough. 

Speed and alertness to subtle changes 
in vibrations around me mark dangers. 

17. A Whirligig Beetle (for Steve Ely)

I see Above and Below in same look. 
My foul billows deter large mouths beneath. 
Once lived Below, caught food when I was hooked 
to bottom by my stomach anchors teeth. 

I breathed through gills, impelled climbed to Above, 
clambered up stem, hooks dug in I hung there, 
from spit and some dirt, I spun enough 
to change my long body to short, rounder. 

Dead and dying I find on this Surface 
I capture with my front legs. If all dries, 
I'll climb a stem, unpack wings out their case, 
rise to find a reflection from the skies. 

I paddle in circles, dive Below, climb 
Above to avoid dangerous times.  

photo provided by Andy MacGregor
18. The Green Lacewing (for Andy MacGregor)

Suspended in air on a thread of spit 
from a leaf I am born.I suck juices 
out of each one, their dried out shells I stick 
onto myself, hunt more. Sip their oozes. 

Older now I only feed on honeydew, 
nectar and pollen. My stomach hears her 
trembled reply to my song passes through 
leaf to her. Feel her resonant glimmer. 

When Colder arrives I hide in dead leaves. 
My colour fades until Warmer return. 
With my bright wing colour back I receive 
an urge to search for sweetness and relearn 

in a fresh new world its sources, and soon 
I will sing to her again, hear her tune

19. The Head Lice

I need to find a place to lay my eggs.
Find a spot close to a clearing. Bottom
of this stem. Not humid or wet, perfect.
I cement in just before the long stem

enters the Blood Field. They'll not starve here, stab
for a regular blood meal in Darkness.
My six claws help me climb Tallness, nab
a He to make more young. Avoid Brightness.

Sometimes sudden these Tallness rent apart.
We scatter for cover. Dark is safety.
So many young die when the cleansing starts.
We can't be drowned, but combed carefully.

We live in your tall forests, you sustain
us with your lifeblood, and pests we remain.

20. The Flea

Young, I ate my own shed skin, others hair, 
waste, dead skin cells. I was all mouth, no legs. 
I avoided light, burrow into the threadbare. 
I fold in half, spin silk around myself. 

It is sticky. I deliberately 
gather up sand,soil, threads, bulk the inside 
with silk. I get legs. Still. Wait stealthily, 
for passing heat to make me leap outside. 

My body is hard plated. Hairs secure 
me in the close fur. I puncture, pump warm 
feed into my stomach. He is here. Sure 
He'll have me, claws clasped, legs wrapped to my form. 

I can't bear young if I starve. I will keep 
Waiting for passing warm to make me leap . 

21. The Snakefly

Vigorously tremor my abs for long 
time, answer His dogged drawn out judders . 
His signals more intense stronger 
than mine. Hear my wing flutter. 

We hear one another up through our legs. 
His quivers vibrating mine.When He stops 
signaling, I make short vigorous thrums. 
Our antennae shake. We touch gobs, 

fluttering wings. Lunge and bite. Together 
we arch, intertwine feelers, mouths contact. 
We graze cheeks. He lunges, drives me hither. 
I start on him, sometimes. Start the attacks. 
Our faces touch, again. He lunges, sends 
me backwards. We walk off, separate wends. 

The Unresolveables (An Heroic Crown Sonnet Sequence) by Paul Brookes at (sonnets 1-15)

Anthology Post: Finding a Wonderland in Alice by Paul Brookes (poetry)

3 Poems by Paul Brookes in Fevers of the Mind:   Her Fiftieth, Her Fur Elise, A Black Bead

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Gill McEvoy

with Gill McEvoy:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Gill: As I’ve written in a poem my first true word was “Scissors” when my mother was angry at me for taking her sewing scissors to play with. I think I’ve loved words ever since especially as my aunt taught me to read early and I found the ability to read words and to cherish the sounds of words themselves wonderful, and regarded them almost with religious awe. I collected them too, the longer the better, swapping them with others at school. “Tintinabulation” was one of our favourites until someone came up with “susurration”.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Gill: So many poets have had influence over my work it feels unfair to pick one out. I love the brevity of Jane Kenyon, and also of Chinese and Japanese poetry. I often turn to the work of Tomas Transtromer, Ted Kooser, Louis Macneice, Wendell Berry, the late Anna Adams, Eavan Boland, Derek Mahon and Tony Hoagland.

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

Gill: childhood was spent in many different parts of England, mostly in the country where I learned to love wildflowers, trees, birds and insects and these appear frequently I my poems. As an adult I spent time in USA, Finland Canada and Ireland and many of my poems reflect these periods in my life, in particular the USA.

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

Gill: Of all my work the collection most difficult to write was my pamphlet “The First Telling”, (Happenstance Press 2014) It deals with the aftermath of rape, not, I’m pleased to say, my own experience but that of someone very dear to me. It won public approval by winning the 2015 Michael Marks Award, as a result of which I had an amazing two-week residency in Greece as guest of the Harvard Centre for Hellenic Studies in Nafplion.

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

Gill: From childhood I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I don’t think I expected to become a poet, though I wrote poetry for many years before ever thinking to publish it. My pivotal moment here, and it was enormous, was being diagnosed in 2000 with late-stage ovarian cancer. It was thought I wouldn’t survive but I did, thankfully.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax? no answer

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

Gill: I have gone on since then to write intensely, poetry as my metier, to have 3 full collections and 3 pamphlets published and to win a number of prizes for my work. My recent collection is “Are You Listening?” (Hedgehog Press 2020) that traces the journey through my grief for my late husband.


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

Gill: I don’t have a favourite line from any of my poems, but I do have a favourite poem I’m really proud of having written and it is “Football, Kuala Lumpur”, about boys playing the game in monsoon rain and frogs springing from the storm drains to play at their own games. The first stanza reads “Rain.. ..loves/ the way the open hands/ of city trees receive it/ the way its great drops/trampoline the pavements.” It was published in “The Plucking Shed” (Cinnamon press 2010).

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Gill: Of all the professional encouragement and help I received in my writing the greatest came from Helena Nelson, editor of Happenstance Press. She was kind, expressed belief in my work, and gave me much valuable advice. I am very grateful to her.