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Sunday, 17 October 2021

Richard James Allen's More Lies - Q&A

  





After travelling down such a long road to finally finishing More Lies, we wanted to pick Richard James Allen's brain. So we interviewed him...


Q: Give us a snapshot of your writing process 

More Lies was inspired by living the life of an artist in an East Village tenement walk-up in New York City in the 1980s. Living from gig to gig, as a dancer, and having published two volumes of rather experimental poetry back home in Australia, I set out to write an income-generating page-turner in an in-your-face cocktail of pulp fiction and performance poetry that, at one point, I called 'verse noir'. I hoped it might become a cult hit, sort of a cross between Howl (by an author I had met) and The Catcher in the Rye (by an author no one had met), and so dedicated the book, in a cheekily ironic spirit, 'for Money'. I never guessed that it would have the longest road of any of my works to publication. And on that long and winding road, with no end in sight for many years, were many transformations, which I now see as hard-won blessings. 


Q: You mention that you never guessed thi would have been the longest road in any of your works to publication... roughly just how lonf did More Lies take to finally come to publishing? 

A: Actually, Interactive Press' publisher, Dr David Reiter, hinted at the answer to this question himself in his witty description of the 'Zoom Launch of More Lies by Richard James Allen' on YouTube: "This novel...took Richard as long as Moses wandering in the wilderness. Whether Richard reaches his Promised Land is up to you, the viewers."

Here's a link to the edited highlights video, which includes an acrobatic feat of balancing truth and lies launch speech by David Adés, and me having a go at juggling the slippery words of a slippery narrator in my mouth:

ZOOM Launch of More Lies by Richard James Allen

Q: What inspired you to combine thriller and comedy in the way you did? 

A: While it would be impossible to trace all the roots of More Lies, one place to dig would be in Dada and the Theatre of the Absurd, accidentally planted into the soil of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep


Q: How did you come up with the storyline?

A: This book wrote itself. It literally exploded into life. My job was just to pick up the pieces.


Q: An author, a femme fatale and her brother with big ambitions, were any of the characteres based on people you know or had heard of? 

A: A bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the characters in More Lies are travelling players in a Barthesian verbal carnival; a textual, visual and aural spectacle that exists in teh shared minds of the readers and viewers of a thousand and one old books and movies. 


Q: Like the protagonist in More Lies, do you find storytelling keeps you alive in more ways than as an author? (How does being an author serve you other than as a job?) 

A: Creativity keeps me alive. But this book almost killed me. 


Q: Is there anything you took out of this book or if you were to write it again, would you change or add anything? 

A: As is traced in the 'Acknowledgements', and alluded to above, the history of the development of More Lies was a very long one. So no, no, no, no, thank you. 


Q: Any advice for the reader? 

A: More lies is a fast book that should be read slowly, at least the second time around. 


Q: Your last book, The Short Story of You and I, is dedicated to the reader, and reviewers have commented on its warmth and inclusivity. Interestingly, More Lies uses direct addres to draw the reader into its story, not just as an observer, but as a participant. And yet the overall tone is more confrontational. Can you comment on that?   

A: More Lies is syncopated and playful, a bit like bebop jazz. It asks you to engage, but puts you off your centre. It is also a little bit brazen, like a layer cake that blows up in your face. But don't take it too seriously. It's only words and feelings. 

That said, now that it's finaly found  its way out into the world, amidst COVID lockdowns and an international pandemic of mendacity, More Lies almost feels like a wakeup call that is oddly relevant today. 

 

“A wonderfully warped journey into one man’s unravelling psyche, and a joyous celebration of the necessity of story.”
- James Bradley, author of 'Ghost Species'

 

“Richard James Allen takes the world of Raymond Chandler - the mysterious murder, the femme fatale, the world-weary observer - and turns it on its head. We end up with a funny, provocative novel that shakes up how we think about reality.”
- Anton Enus, SBS

Click here to get your copy of More Lies
Click here to watch Richarch James Allen's virtual launch of More Lies

James Gering's Staying Whole While Falling Apart - Q&A

  


We interviewed Staying Whole While Falling Apart's author James Gering to find out how he stays whole while falling apart and more!
 

Q: Your main protagonist is a character called Aaron Auslander but it's hard to look past the parallels... are any of these poems based on your own experience? 

A: Many poems, yes - we are each great repository of experiences to draw on. The skill lies in converting experiences to art. Sincerity in poems is about emotional truth not literal truth. The writer reflects on his material, finds the fresh angle, and strives for an artistic conversion. Letting ample time pass between a life event and its poetic rendering is important so that artistic judgement is not compromised. 

Q: How do you manage to stay whole? 

A: By living outside the city, far from the maddening clichés. I live in the Blue Mountains. My backyard is a world heritage wilderness, and after a day's writing I like to get physical. I run a mountain trail, swim laps, rock climb or ride my mountain bike - something different every day. I wouldn't like to bore myself or the exercise would fizzle.

I like to find the balance between my imaginative world and the real world. As a writer, there is a real danger of disappearing down an imaginary rabbit hole. Us humans are social creatures with an urge to love and be loved. We also need material for our writing. Hooray for the human canvas and the settings the real world provides. 

At the moment I am writing full-time. This can be dangerous in terms of rabbit holes, but I think I have enough hard-won ploys to manage. One ploy is consciously moving between states of intensity and insouciance. Twenty-five years ago I was the intense moth getting singed.

Q: Do you have any advice for readers on how to stay whole while falling apart? 

A: Strike a balance between your emotional, intellectual and physical needs. Embrace the natural world, doubly so if you live in a big city. Flora and fauna are a wonderful salve. Additionally, animals are more genuine than us humans will ever be. Remember your childhood and to sometimes see the world through childish eyes for a fresh take. Beware community - it can be two-edged. Only conform to a group sympathetic to your character. Listen to The Sunscreen Song, its sage advice, like doing one thing a day that scares you. 

Q: What would you say was the hardest topic to explore and why? 

A: It's tricky to get depresion right on the page - clichés abound and the writing can easily slip into mawkishness or melodrama. You also have to find points of connection to the reader, regardless of whether they have ever been depressed. 

Q: What life changing experiences have helped you as an author and how? 

A: Learning from my mistakes has been useful. Adversity also - the  humility it brings. I came to Australia from South Africa when I was 16 after a family trauma, and I struggled to find my place as a sensitive person with an inquiring mind. Enter poet, John Berryman, stage left. He gave simple advice for metamorphosing into a poet. He said that when you are young, you need to survive a life-threatening trauma, only by a whisker, and then you are in business. I agree. but perhaps there are other ways too. Parenthood was also life-altering for me, so wonderfully enriching. Suddently you are serving others in a loving manner every day, and it opens a treasure box of raw material for stories. 

Q: Touching on your Judaism, what do you think are the defining features of Jewish life today and how has it influenced Aaron Auslander's character? 

A: There are many ways to be Jewish - from ultra religious to atheistic, from cultural heritage to Israel, a country that punches well over its weight in many fields of human endeavour, whether technological advances or the embracing of diversity. Few countries in the Middle East have the vision and inclusivity to host the Eurovision song contest. 

I like to think that Judaism helped Auslander to develop an inquiring mind, and helped develop his self-deprecatory humour, not to mention his Houdini-like talent for rising above adversity. 


Click here to get your copy of Staying Whole While Falling Apart 

Click here to watch James Gering's virtual launch of Staying Whole While Falling Apart

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Kate Maxwell's Never Good At Maths - Q&A

 

With her recent release of Never Good at Maths, we wanted to know more about Kate Maxwell beyond her inability to do maths...so we interviewed her.


Q: Your book doesn't actually explore math. How and why did you choose to title it the way you did? 

A: There's some truth in the title that maths has never been my strength, but I chose the title primarily to express the way it often feels to be pigeonholed as a 'type' of person. As a predominantly right-brain thinker, it's also a tongue-in-cheek way of dealing with a fairly dismissive label. Mathematicians are often very creative, and creative poets are often good at maths. I'm just not in either group. The title is my quirky introduction to a level of satirical and self-deprecating humour I sometimes use in this book. I'm trying to tap into the self-conscious feeling many of us have when we are conflicted about our abilities and the way in which we are perceived.


Q: You cover a lot of different themes in Never Good at Maths, how did you choose what to cover, what inspired you to cover so many themes and did you have to do a lot of research? 

A: Many of the poems span decades and original versions have been tweaked over time. Some themes are of the simple every day, little curiosities, character portraits, and more global and political themes. Most of the time, if my interest is sparked in something, then it leads more naturally into forming images and builds into a stronger piece. Unless I'm writing to purpose; for a competition or special journal issue, I don't usually pick a theme first. It usually comes as I build the poem. A few poems do require research if I'm describing something historical or quite specific e.g., White Man in a Hole or Katy, Bar the Door and many poems are inspired by what I read, watch, and observe. 

 

Q: Did you face many personal challenges when addressing the various themes when writing Never Good at Maths?

A: Some topics are inspired by road trips, emotions, the news, literature, art, or characters I find interesting. If I write in somebody else's voice, then I can remove myself a little from the poem. A few of the more personal and biographical poems can pose personal challenges as it's not easy admitting who you are, or how you've felt at times, but it can also serve as free therapy. Obviously, not everyone will agree with the messges portrayed or political stnce I take but that's why it's called freedom of expression.  

 

Q: How and why did you get started as a poet? 

A: I don't know if I can answer that as clearly as I'd like. As a child, I think I liked playing with rhyme and the sounds words make. When I worked out that you could make a succinct and powerful little package with words and messages, then I started to become entranced with poetry's power. I still love the puzzle of placing just the right word or phrase but am not always as keen on the frustration when I know I'm still missing pieces in my self-made puzzles. 

 

Q: From the Poet's point of view, how important do you think it is for readers to be able to understand the meaning of a poem? Are some better left unsolved, or do you believe that readers should work to know the underlying meaning/s?

A: I am not an obtuse poet. I love writing stories as much as poetry and find the narrative very important. I love to paint pictures with my words, take on other voices, and tell stories. It's important to me that my poems are relatable and strike a chord with readers. My favourite poems are ones where language and emotion blend to bring you a slice of life that you can almost se and feel. I know many talented poets who embed their poems with oblique layers that make meaning either unclear or reliant on prior knowledge. I can often enjoy these poems too, even though I may not always be able to access what the poet really intended. Sometimes the beauty of the words, or strength of the mood is more important than the narrative. But that is their skill set, and not necessarily mine.  

 

Q: This is your debut release, what were the biggest lessons you learned and what do you plan and hope for the future? 

A: I supposed the lessons learned werethat you should always let your work rest for a while and return to it with fresh eyes before editing again. On the other hand, poems never quite seem finished but at some point, you have to let them go. Also, an editor's eye on your work is so valuable. You get to close to your work and can become blind to flaws and repreated ideas. I'm hoping this is my first of many anthologies. I'm writing quite a lot right now. I also have some children's book manuscripts that I'd like to see out in the world.  


Q: Your debut covers a lot from personal recounts to views and belieds, do you think you'll take the same approach for your next book? Why or why not? 

A: Yes and No. I have enough collected works for another book of poetry and a short story collection. Both have no obvious unifying threads but there are patterns and repeated themes. Following that, however, I would like to attempt to write more poem suites in order to flesh out veryin perspectives, voices on theme or topic. As my experience grows, I'm hoping my breadth and voice will also develop.  

 

Click here to get your copy of Never Good at Maths

Click here to watch the vitural launch of Never Good at Maths

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Paul Scully's The Fickle Pendulum - Q&A



With so many views on belief and doubt, we interviewed Paul Scully to get a better insight on navigating the philosophical discussions, as explored in his poems in The Fickle Pendulum.

Q: What motivated you to explore belief and doubt, and the way we view them?

A: I attempted to Australianise The Conference of the Birds in my previous book, Sature Lines, and investigated how the Sufis used poetry to explore their beliefs. I'd read bits of Rumi and Hafiz before but not widely. During my process, I wondered about the converse known as doubt, and it grew from there. I also recalled Graham Greene, his fallen believers and moral ambiguities. A Catholic upbringing must have also been in the mix somewhere!

 

Q:  What do you hope is the biggest take away amongst readers of The Fickle Pendulum

A: I try to be neither didactic nor dogmatic. I take heed of the say, don't tell maxim. There were elements of personal investigation, interest in the stories found, some education, wonderment, etc.. I'd be happy for people to catch a sense of these and perhaps be interested, if not equally, then somewhat, and to appreciate the writing at some level. 

 

Q: Did writing The Fickle Pendulum change your views on belief and doubt?

A: Not Really. The biggest surprise was finding out someone like Laura (Riding) Jackson could walk away from poetry. This discovery drove me to reading up on why she did so. My findings were that her flinty personality radiated absolutism and her poetry suggests a difficulty in maintaining such intensity over a prolonged period, but it is still a surpsise to me. We've all had times when we've felt our writing has become insipid or perfunctory, but her reaction is way beyond that. Although my writing process didn't change my views on belief and doubt, it has caused me to think about what I love about poetry, and to challenge my premises. 


Q: Why did you choose to review the beliefs and doubts specifically through St Thomas the Apostle, Galileo Galilei and Laura (Riding) Jackson? 

A: The challenge is to ground the discussion of abstractions in some way and I wanted to take multiple perspectives. I've used historical characters in the past and it seemed natural to do so here. They bring a storyline with them which can act as scaffolding while you work at the detail. St Thomas, known as the Doubting Thomas due to his lack of faith, suggested himself. Science is in some ways a counterpoint to religion and I just needed to find the right scientist. Galileo Galilei was a Catholic who on one hand believed in God and religion, but on the other hand, was torn by his beliefs in the role of science. I had doubt in poetry in mind from early on as perhaps a tangential take on the theme. Someone had suggested the work of Laura (Riding) Jackson to me alongside Rimbaud, who was another candidate. 


Q: Do you often find yourself in doubt and how do you prevent or overcome doubt? 

A: I wouldn't say I face doubt often but I certainly entertain doubt as more than a momentary feeling from time to time. Climate Change has been a persistent source in recent years, especially when people espouse views that it is nonsense or that we shouldn't take restorative actions for nationally competitive reasons. I find it incredibly hard to understand how intelligent people could arrive at such conclusions and wonder at humanity. Likewise truly evil acts. People offer both despair in such instances, but they also offer salvation through love and friendship. As in many things, it is necessary to accept paradox as a natural and recurrent phenomenon. It also helps to bring things down to an everyday scale and find meaning and pleasure there. 


"If there are no easy answers here, there is nevertheless a sense, as Browning says, that ' All our life is some form of religion.' In verse that is measured and always thoughtful, Sculy weighs the detail and delight of things against their difficult, confronting implications."
- Martin Langford, author of Groud

 

Click here to get your copy of The Fickle Pendulum 

Click here to watch Paul Scully's virtual launch of The Fickle Pendulum 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Elisabeth Hanscombe's 2017 memoir The Art of Disappearing is a challenging and disturbing read on the subject of child abuse from the perspective of a psychoanalyst looking back on her childhood. It's no less challenging for others in the discipline who might question the validity and objectivity of writing this as a memoir.

Christine Vickers' review in the Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy (Vol. 38, No. 2, 2021) tries to come to grips with the professional and personal issues inherent in such an endeavour.



Elisabeth Hanscombe’s memoir is about witnessing and the silencing that fol lows. As a young girl, Elisabeth feared for her life when, night after night, she turned her face to the wall pretending to sleep, hoping to disappear while her drunken father crept into her sister’s bed, in the room they shared. His betrayal and abuse of her sister and Elisabeth’s frozen fear is the backbone of the story. And was it Mother’s complicity that added to the harm already done? The moth­ er who hid herself in novels while her daughters and sons suffered. Elisabeth’s brothers tried to rescue their sisters. And there is the tragic figure of Elisabeth’s     father, whose early promise was derailed by alcoholism. All the while there is the struggle with love. For how can one love another, a parent, brother, or sister, whose life has become so pitiful? But we do. Even if we fear them. Or hate them too.


Some members of the psychoanalytic world would not agree this book should be written, let alone published and reviewed. The author and I both practise psychoanalytically, following Freud’s tenet that the analyst’s abstinence is fundamental to the therapeutic endeavour. The analyst must not intrude into the patient’s world, nor use the patient for his own gain. The therapist’s survival, and presence at each session, as the patient’s object - alive and breathing, as the British psychoanalyst and author D W Winnicott remarked, is essential for the maintenance of the therapeutic space, along with the constancy of the room, the time, its frequency, and the duration of the session. The firmness of the room is, metaphorically, the safe holding space in which psychoanalytic therapy occurs. That and the analyst’s capacity to hear the patients’ minds without drawing them into the analyst’s particular idiom. A memoir written by one in the profession must necessarily be an invasion of that critical boundary, it is argued.


I am unsure. Memory and memoir are subjective; ultimate truth, unknowable. The British psychoanalyst, Paul Williams’s account of a young boy’s experience of parental rejection – he entitled his book, Scum is a pertinent comparison. Williams enters the mind of his protagonist, haunting readers with his pained, fractured language and distorted ideas. Williams does not describe his work as fiction. ‘The author of the book and the individual written about are not the same person’, he writes in Scum’s prequel, The fifth principle. This is literature, he continues, ‘an account of the methods of a mind in its efforts to prevail in oppressive circumstances’. Memoir may also be disguised as theory. Freud’s     Mourning and Melancholia is his personal response to the savagery and losses of the Great War, and death of his beloved daughter Sophie from the Spanish Flu.


If Hanscombe is exploring an important idea: about abuse, silencing and complicity, then criticism of her methodology might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater; our psychoanalytic selves derailed by vexation over therapist self -disclosure and its potential to interfere with the patient’s freedom within the analytic space. Psychoanalysis is built on confidentiality, both ways. The patient comes first, it is argued. The analyst’s mind must remain private. The boundary issue cannot be disavowed.


If that is what is happening. Like Williams, Hanscombe is no longer a child – a girl-child – seeking invisibility. Instead, using memoir as her medium, she teeters on the edge of what psychoanalysts might call discretion, and ‘boundaries" and speaks.  Perhaps believing she is writing about herself, some may lose sight of her intent to explore the cruelty of childhood silencing. Alchemies of secrecy and abuse create toxic enchantments.  Uncalled, her father remains protected, his wife and children remain in his thrall. There are no winners here.


The tension, as Inga Clendinnen wrote in her 1996 online essay, “Fellow Sufferers: History and the Imagination”, is in the recording and writing up of historical research, memoir included. Fiction makes us safe, she says. Even with Humbert Humbert’s sexualised charmer, Lolita, fiction is straightforward. We suspend belief, resonate with the experience, taking comfort in the fact that this is all made up. For historians and memoirists writing, the reality that many events occurred will haunt the page. Historians know that readers seek factual renditions. Readers will assume memoirists’ intent is description of actual events. In writing history, we must recognize how events in the lives of people, now dead, show their part in our formation. All the while we recognize that history is about the present. So when a memoirist writes, he is not writing of himself now, but interrogating a past state of mind. Perhaps he is actually writing fiction.


Simple, rational assertions are not always the correct ones. For Freud fifty minutes was long enough to sustain his attention to a patient on the couch. So, the fifty-minute hour has become the norm, along with remembrances of silent analysts, and their manner of interpretation. In the space thus created, it is argued, the patient is free of the disruptions of a past that led her to the analyst’s consulting room. The lens through which we view ourselves and others is more translucent than we would like. In psychoanalysis the patient’s experience of her own idiom, and discovery that she is other to her analyst, is the essential, but ongoing task.


If therapy is a conversation with oneself in the presence of another, what are the responsibilities of each?  An intrusion such as a sexual enactment, or boundary breach in the service of the analyst’s need is a serious violation. If an analyst chooses to write a book, which he states to be based on his own experience, is this such a violation? Or is it the saying so, that irks?



Sunday, 18 April 2021

 Your Job Search Companion

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, job security has become a key issue for many people. Some jobs, in industries dependent on international tourists, are particular vulnerable, and as the pandemic continues businesses may disappear or be drastically scaled back. 

Being flexible, and having the ability to adapt to a "new normal" in the economy, is essential. Lee Smith's new job search guide, The Job Tree, will help job seekers of whatever age and level of experience develop and refine cover letter, resumé writing, and interview skills that will help them compete in the challenging jobs market now and in the future.

To make the job easier, the book includes downloadable templates tailored to the key global markets. It's truly a DIY handbook to ensure job candidates can make a lasting impression.

We interviewed Lee about his book.



What motivated you to write The Job Tree?


 It was during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, my attention focussed on those who had lost their jobs; on businesses that had closed and the impacts on the owners. What could be done to help them; to encourage them?


I had retained the rights to a follow book to my first book Kick Start Your Career. It seemed the right time to write the new book and focus on helping people find their next job.


What were the origins of your interest in helping people with careers and jobs?


 During my professional career in technology I was also involved in helping colleagues and staff to find jobs. The origins of Kick Start Your Career came from a request from a University of Queensland professor for a course to help graduates find their first job. This led to a partnership with a Dutch professor, John van Genderen to write the first book.


What are the key chapters and themes of your new book The Job Tree?


The scope of the book is to cover all the major aspects of job hunting. It draws on the author’s extensive professional experience as well as expert inputs drawn from international experts. It ranges from identifying career and job options, to your skills and abilities. Preparation of CV or resume is important. The role of social media in job hunting is addressed. Where to search for jobs? From analysis of job criteria to job application cover letter to interview skills.


What approach have you adopted for the book?


Books provide information. They do not provide knowledge. That only comes when we apply information. That comes from doing rather than reading or listening. The benefits of explicit instruction have been incorporated in the book. It has personal plan that allows the reader to tailor the book’s information to their particular personal aspects. This also allows the reader to develop the resources need for job applications as they progressively complete the personal plan associated with each chapter.


What about the personal aspects of job loss and job hunting?


Human aspects are central to job hunting. The book would be remiss if it only covered the skills and methods of winning a new job. It covers they key aspects of well-being: emotional, physical and mental. It recognises the grief and loss that comes with job loss, business closure or interview knockback. It points to professionals who can help in this important area. It provides encouragement and motivation.

Lee Smith



What are your hopes?


That the book will lift up those who have lost jobs; to provide the skills and experience to navigate the minefield of job hunting. That it will help job seekers to successfully transition to a new job or career.


To win that job!



Monday, 19 October 2020

And Other Essays by Michael Cohen + Interview!


Here's the video of Michael Cohen's second book with IP, And Other Essays, being launched on Zoom.



Before we launched And Other Essays on Zoom, we sat down with Michael to ask him some questions about the book.

Why choose the essay form?

            History and inclination, I’d say. I spent quite a few years teaching what we called, hopefully, “expository writing.” We didn’t expect anything like finished essays from our students; we were trying to coach them into writing clearly and concisely so that they could be good communicators in their various jobs. But we used the best essays for models and springboards for student writing, and I got used to looking at how good essays were put together, and also to encouraging students to see how they worked. Those were really lit classes where I taught the literary form that was somewhat neglected in the rest of the literature curriculum.

            But I like the essay form because it’s not just a way of trying to craft something that is satisfying; before I get to the revising and refining stages, writing an essay is a way of thinking about a subject that does not happen until I seek to form sentences about it.

 

What is the hardest part of creating a collection of essays?

 

            Well, just as in all writing, you have to murder your darlings. I put the whole corpus of work since my last collection together and tried to look at it as ruthlessly as I could. Is there really enough good stuff for a collection there? As it turned out, there wasn’t; I had to write a couple of essays to make up for the weakest parts I kept finding in the collection, and I was doing that cutting and substitution right up until the time we went into production.

 

How did you decide what went into this book?

 

            As I have said, it was a decision based on the quality of the whole group of essays I was choosing from. I do not see this collection of essays as having a theme or unity beyond those features of style and favorite structures and methods of development that are unique to me, and those features, while they may be obvious to others, are mostly opaque to me. I think this omnium gatherum sort of nature is reflected in the title: And Other Essays. The subject matter too, keeps coming back to what Michael did last summer: there are a couple of essays about flying, a couple about gyms, one about golf, and a bunch about what I’ve read and reread.

 

Are essays primarily sources of information or entertainment?

 

            I suppose a writer’s unique viewpoint about a topic might give you information of a sort, but I think mostly what you find out about by reading a book like this is my take on things. Of course I strive for accuracy in writing about climate change or the New Atheism or what various writers have to say, but I certainly hope I’m not the main source of your information about any of those topics, and I hope also, fervently, that you find what I have to say about them entertaining, because I’m convinced you won’t continue reading me very long if you don’t. 

 

What experiences have helped shape you as a writer?

 

            The short answer is everything I’ve done or read. And also what I’ve written: I wrote academic essays and books all during my teaching career, and when I retired I knew I didn’t want to do that anymore. But I still wanted to write, and I discovered that I could think about things that had happened to me and things I’d read in a very free and enjoyable way by writing about them without the sorts of constraints I had while writing about Shakespeare or nineteenth-century English paintings and novels for an academic press. I know, though, that academic writing is very useful, and mostly for the person who’s doing the writing. Again, it’s because it’s a concentrated way of thinking about the subject. And there were plenty of things that had happened to me throughout my life that weren’t very well sorted out in my mind before I began to write about them. Reading is the main way we learn about what’s going on in other people’s heads, and knowing what other people are thinking is a way to see that our troubles and concerns aren’t unique. Writing is a way of giving back to that conversation and when it works at all, it works both ways, for the reader and the writer. Once I had realized a few of these things, I became a writer in the sense that writing became as necessary for me as reading.

— Michael was interviewed by Lauryn Garrard, Assistant Editor, IP, in October 2020

    Michael's previous book with IP is A Place to Read