About Lisa Allard

I write about books and all things beauty on my blog, Lipstick and Literature. www.lipsticknliterature.com

Author Spotlight: Julie Stuckey

Julie Stuckey grew up in Pennsylvannia and graduated from University of Delaware OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith a degree in Business and concentration in Philosophy. Stuckey’s work has appeared in A Handful of Dust, Apropos Literary Jourmal. River Review, Prairie Wolf Press Review, and many other literary journals and anthologies.

Amoskeag: In Elegy, your narrator is nostalgic and reflective as he/she is brought back to memories revolving another human being and their loss. How did they get to that point in their life? Why do they see the world the way they do?

Julie: This poem was written in response to an assignment for an online course with Carolyn Forche to write an elegy. It reflects my experiences and thoughts surrounding the unexpected death of my father & my inability to have closure.

Amoskeag: Your poem begins with “Spring rolled over once again- but you did not follow.” What made you begin “there” and why?

Julie: The first lines were condensed from this initial thought:
The ritual of spring with its promise of tomorrows
rolled over once again — but you did not follow.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Julie: My poems are usually generated form an initial thought or idea and I never know where that will take me. My inclination is to have a tidy wrap-up or else a surprise ending, but I now try to leave more questions and unknowing.
Amoskeag: Is your character’s view of the world reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Julie: This is a pastiche of memories and events with my father, so it’s an attempt to layer time and feeling.
Amoskeag: Your poem evokes a sense of sadness, regret, refusal, and to some extent; acceptance. How did you construct the language of the piece? How did you come to hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Julie: I usually return to the emotional underpinnings of an event or memory to retain the visceral language of that experience.

Amoskeag: What is the significance of the line “your night moans rattling guns which never quieted” in this piece?

Julie: My father participated in WWII in the Battle of the Bulge… the line for me recalls the moans and rattling gun noises he would make sometimes while napping when we were growing up.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape? What emotions do you want your readers to feel and what do you hope to achieve in your writing?

Julie: I simply put the poems out into the world and am grateful when they resonate in some way with others. I do not aim to manipulate reactions and can be quite surprised at the direction that sometimes takes, although I do strive for universal emotional resonance.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Julie: Making the time to gather my poems into a full manuscript for publication. I think I may resort to applying forresidencies in order to force myself to take the extended, focused time in order to make that happen!


Author Spotlight: Rodger Martin

Rodger Martin teaches journalism at Keene State College. His latest volume of poetry, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Battlefield Guide, was chosen by Small Press Review as one of its bi-monthly picks of the year. He has been awarded an Appalachia award and has received fellowships to study T.S. Elliot and Thomas Hardy at Oxford University and John Milton at Duquesne University. He directs the Milton Ensemble and is currently serving as editor for Hobblebush books Granite State Poetry Series.

Amoskeag: Your narrator thinks about his/her father and reflects upon the different things he did for his children, regarding the father as a “shepherd”. How does the narrator get to that point in their life? Why do they see the world the way they do?

Rodger: The poem arcs back in time with the narrator as an adult looking back on a childhood memory. The narrator recognizes something as an adult he did not recognize as a child: That a father of six children without a mother had an almost Herculean task of trying to raise children alone in those mid-Twentieth Century years. As a child, the narrator saw the father as an entity who was always about but never really entered into a child’s world–akin to the Peanuts comic strip where the adult world is exists as unintelligible background sound while the children create their own make-believe worlds oblivious to the adult world that supports their pretending.

As to how the narrator found that perspective? He has become a father himself who raised children likely as part of a pair-bond and suddenly realized the weight that must have rested on his father’s shoulders trying to do it not for one or two children but for six and trying to do it solo.

For the narrator this realization of what his father accomplished, shepherding these children through to adulthood without losing any of them, and the strain that must have taken on his body and soul (The implication is the father is no longer present.) brings a great sadness because the narrator was able to tell his father he finally understood what he had done. The weight and constancy of that memory is evidenced in the relentlessness of the darkness, the weather, the constant motions of the train, and the ferry and probably the wit’s-end absurdity of putting children on a ferry to keep them entertained. The implication is that he has also taken them away from something they remain unaware. What that something is left to the listener.

This leads into the father and why he sees what he sees. Besides taking them away from something, he is also slumped against the cold, steel bow of the ferry. He can push whatever it is that weighs on him no further, he has reached his limits, he may have planned something further but cannot do it and so gathers his children and returns to the world he almost left and moves on. Again, whether he was contemplating something terrible, fleeing, or lost, matters little except that he pulls back to try again one more day.

Amoskeag: Your poem begins by listing various towns along the Thames. What is the significance? Why did you begin “there”?

Rodger:Your question has made me wonder exactly how I did begin the poem so I’ve pulled out my drafts to have a look. On the very first draft, which is hand-written and likely legible to no one but myself, I did begin with the towns. They are real towns in Kent along the railroad line between Charring Cross in London and the towns along the River Thames where I lived as a child. I liked the repetition of the names because their cadences paralleled the sound of the train’s journey. I edited towns out (Barnehurst) which didn’t add to that effect.

I was then and still am a lover of trains so it’s not surprising to me towns along a train track show up in my writing. Why do so many of the Harry Potter stories begin with a ride on Hogwart’s Express. The trains were a childhood’s symbolic escape from the home-land, someone else did the driving. You got on and went on an adventure.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?
Rodger: I knew the end because the poem was based on a memory of an actual event. It had been a memory that always remained hidden from others in that I never spoke about it, but it remained clear to me, recurring regularly. I see a note at the top of my first draft indicating the sound of three Chinese bells. I’m going to guess I heard them and they reminded me of this trip and Chinese bells are bringing up that kind of memory, I needed to investigate. Poems are how I investigate those things.

Amoskeag: Is your character’s view of the world reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Rodger: The narrator’s view of the world is closely related to my own. But the character of the father is an imagining. I do not know what my father was thinking or doing. It was something I observed and took me decades growing-up before I could imagine the possibilities and the weights associated with those possibilities. Perhaps if I had asked my father, the answer might have been so mundane as to remove the need for the poem in the first place.
But the ambiguity of not knowing permits the poem to open into all the vast possibilities– past, present, and future–parents struggle with in ushering their children alive and safe into adulthood.

Amoskeag: You use words such as “pirated”, ”slopped”, and “sloshing”. How did you construct the language of the piece? How did you come to hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Rodger: Part of that would be a child’s ability to imagine and pretend. We could easily make a pirate ship out of a ferry. The sensuousness of the sea sounds in “slopped” and “sloshing” I hope would bring the event alive in a listener’s imagination. You also have that with “flushed” and “salty,” and somewhat with “drizzle,” the s/z-sounds mimicing waves.
To record the feelings of the narrator came easily. It was a personal memory, and as I relive the memory I relive the feelings. The sounds come from experience, I’ve ridden trains, ships, planes all my life. I love to travel. I listen to those sounds, smell those smells, and try to find the language that echoes them.

Amoskeag: What is the significance of the last line, “We broached the far shore and simply, the way we came, returned.”?

Rodger: Literally, my mother died of cancer when I was seven. My father married her during World War II. We moved stateside and when she died, my father packed all five children (ages 9 to 3) up and moved back to England where he married my mother’s cousin who added a daughter and eventually a seventh child to the pack. Not surprisingly, it all fell apart and one day we were packed up again and returned to the USA. So in one sense the poem is about that family’s journey.
Symbolically, it is a tribute to any parent facing immense, relentless hardship who looks for an escape, reaches that “far shore” and then realizes the option, whatever that option, was wrong and turns back to the world again. It’s a tribute to parenting.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape? What do you want the readers to feel and what do you hope to accomplish through your writing?
Rodger: I’m pleased when a poem gets accepted. I don’t worry too much about what the reader will do. I trust the readers and listeners to go wherever they need the poem to take them. I figure they will likely see things I didn’t imagine when I wrote the poem—like the final line of this poem. When I wrote it I was thinking only of that ferry ride. It has only been much later (like when you asked me the question ) that I realized it was also a family’s ride back-and-forth between two continents.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?
Rodger: I’ll keep writing the poems as they work their way out of me (which usually means six to twelve a year). I’ll continue my blog (OpenSalon.com, Monadnock Pastoral) where I have discovered I rarely have anything worth saying except about four times a year. I’m in awe of those prolific bloggers. I’m just not that interesting.
I’m toying with the idea of a train collection of poetry and perhaps a collaboration of place poems and photography with a photographer capturing the place of the poem in some special way. Hmm, maybe we’ll get to go to Tillbury, Kent, UK.

Author Spotlight: Trisha M. Cowen

Trisha M Cowen is a PhD student at Binghamton University where she studies American literature and fiction writing. Her work has been published in The Portland Review, 2 Bridges Review, Bitter Oleander Review, among others. She’s currently working on a historical fiction novel and teaching Early American Literature in Zhenjiang, China.PhotoTrisha

Amoskeag: Your narrator is intelligent and mature enough to understand certain things, such as the fact that “Mama ain’t coming back” yet she remains inquisitive and mildly hopeful of the world around her. How did she get to that point in her life? Why does she see the world the way she does?

Trisha: My narrator, essentially, has had to raise herself. Her mother leaves her and takes a barn cat instead of taking her, and her father isolates her emotionally. She is a realist in that she knows her mother won’t be back for her, but she’s also still very much a child. She has not given up on love, nor has she given up on her father. She sees love displayed in the world; for example, through the family of barn cats. She knows love exists, although she has yet to find it.

Amoskeag: Why did you begin with an image of the father beginning to play the harmonica? What made you begin “there” and what inspired you to shape the narrator’s “daddy” as an intimidating and potentially violent being?

Trisha: I began the story with an image of the narrator witnessing her father play the harmonica because it is the first time she sees her father in a different light. She has had one image of her father, assumingly since the departure of her mother, and observing her father play a musical instrument makes her question her idea of who her father is and was. The seemingly mundane moment is pivotal to the narrator’s conception of who her father is as well as her own identity. She is in such disbelief that she thinks her father may eat the harmonica, instead of play it since, to her, he’s always been better, metaphorically, at taking the music away. Unbeknownst to her, he is capable of creating something beautiful.

I shaped the narrator’s “daddy” as an intimidating figure because I wanted to emphasize how isolated the narrator is. The narrator is a girl-woman simply searching for love, especially from her father who doesn’t pay much attention to her due to his own pain. As she watches her father play the harmonica, she realizes that there may be something about her father that she overlooked, and that he may have been different before the narrator’s mother left them. The story culminates in her silent realization that her father used to play music for her and, perhaps more importantly, that he used to display his love for her.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Trisha: I knew the ending before I wrote the rest of the story. As a writer, I tend to work in a very non- linear fashion. In the case of this story, I knew I wanted to write about making maple syrup. Making maple syrup with my own father was one of my favorite activities growing up. Of course, I am very lucky to have a wonderful father, unlike the character in my story, but the story’s roots came from my own childhood memories of making syrup with my father. I was always afraid that the great vat of sap would overflow and be sucked back into the earth before we could finish it. I don’t remember this ever happening; however, the memory of my own fear as a kid is where the ending of my story is derived.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world in any way reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Trisha: I like to take readers to unfamiliar, unexpected places because as a writer I like to also be taken down a path of unfamiliarity. I write best when I write about what I do not know—yes, this may be the opposite of what the average creative writing textbook will tell you but, for me, this holds true. My world view is quite different from my narrator’s but, for a moment, I was able to imagine what it would be like to be a girl on the cusp of womanhood, trying to negotiate her identity devoid of healthy models of what it means to be an adult. Was I surprised by what she experienced? Sure was. But that’s what made it fun to write.

Amoskeag: Even though there is no dialogue, the words and ideas of the narrator flow evenly and without interruption. What advice would you give to other writers in success of the writing process?
Trisha: Thank you. My advice for writers is to first know your characters. We must constantly ask ourselves: how would our characters see the world, and how would they tell you about it? To me, character is the most important craft element. Once I am able to dislocate my own voice from my character’s voice, I know I’m ready to start writing from another perspective. This piece is driven by voice, so until I could hear my character’s voice in my head, I was unable to write this piece. As writers, we must have the capacity to “hear” our own writing, as well as to trust in the unfamiliar. As my favorite writer Toni Morrison once said, “The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.”

Amoskeag: What makes the last line, “I think and decide that maybe, at one time, he thought me beautiful, like the sap that will turn to sweet, sweet sugar if he just don’t let it boil over” so significant in this piece?

Trisha: I believe this is a pivotal line because in this scene the narrator juxtaposes herself against the sap. She watches her father tend and care for the sap as it matures and transforms into sweet maple syrup while, at the same time, her father ignores his daughter’s maturation. The narrative suggests that, at one time, her father did watch her and play music for her but he let her metaphorically “boil over,” as he neglects to tend to her any longer. In this scene, the narrator mourns for the love that is only offered to the sap. Now, this is my interpretation of the final scene. I welcome other readings.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the story that you worked so hard at to shape? What do you hope to achieve through your writing?

Trisha: Once I write something and send a piece out, I have accepted that the work is no longer mine. I’ve labored over it, and now it’s someone else’s turn to be taken captive by the voices in my head. (I do mean that in the sanest way possible.) I encourage others to find their own interpretations of the work. Good stories make me work for the meaning, but give enough so that I can create interpretations from the text.
Through my writing, I do hope to make people think. I want to place layers into the story, so that if they read it again, they will notice different things. But most of all, I want to make readers forget they are reading. A writer truly must work to weave the strings of a story just so; one minute the reader is reading the story and the words are there and the next moment the words disappear and the characters come alive. That is what I aim to do as a writer.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a writer?

Trisha: Currently, I’m working on my dissertation to complete my doctorate degree at Binghamton University. I’m writing a fiction novel about sexual slavery during World War II Japan. I’m currently teaching in Zhenjiang, China and plan to travel to Japan to do more research for my novel while I’m in Asia. When I graduate, I plan to apply for university teaching positions in both contemporary literature and creative writing.

Author Spotlight: Gaylord Brewer

Gaylord is currently a professor at Middle Tennessee State. He has published in Best American Poetry and the Bedford Introduction to Literature. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent being Give Over, Graymalkin

Amoskeag: Your poem begins with “Steaming kettle, cracked bowl, palms / risen dripping to the face.” What made you start here and why?IMG_2816

Gaylord: Three reasons come to mind. To begin the action quickly and physically, the former for narrative interest and latter as counterpoint to the ethereal quality of the poem’s inhabitants. I also liked the incantatory syllabics, evocative perhaps of a witch’s spell, and the hard consonants. Of course, I’m also invoking and playing with a baptismal motif of cleansing. That may be more than three reasons.

Amoskeag: What does poetry mean to you and has your idea of poetry changed since you began writing? If so, how?

Gaylord: This is a significant and far-reaching question, perhaps so much so that the scope and years and personal change involved make it nearly impossible to answer truthfully or meaningfully. Poetry has treated me well for the last thirty years, and I try to show it a good time, too. I’m less angry and limber than I used to be, but there are compensations of perspective, guile, and toughness. Regarding this poem in particular, I like it enough to have sent it out into the world to fend for itself.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Gaylord: I sense in your question some particular response to the ending that you’ve not articulated but that on an intuitive level I recognize and appreciate. Generally, at some point the ending begins to show itself, somewhere there down the lane, around the turn, emerging from the murky dawn. If it’s in the headlights from the beginning, that’s obviously a problem. The way you prepare is to accelerate, trusting your decades of driving instincts.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world in any way reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw? How they felt?

Gaylord: By “they,” perhaps you mean “he,” or even “she”? This is a fairly private party between Ghost and his/her stenographer. I think. I’ve been debating for five years whom exactly the narrator of the Ghost poems is when that ghoulish old boy isn’t speaking for himself. I’ve had some hints, and I’ve concocted some theories. To answer your question, I would say I share some of the speaker’s elusive and sometimes cynical conceits, but not all.

Amoskeag: What can you reflect upon the movement of your poetry—from line to line, idea to idea, image to image? How did you reflect the emotions of the narrator through your words?

Gaylord: I’d like a vibrant, balletic movement line to line, and a surprising inevitability, to misquote Aristotle, in the juxtaposition of image and revelation of sustained idea. Emotions are iterated and reflected through action, reverence, mystery, and obedience to Ghost’s often demanding insistence upon attention to his needs.

Amoskeag: What or why does the Ghost matter in this piece?

Gaylord: You’d better not let him overhear you asking that. To be honest, though, I’m not sure I understand the question. When Ghost beckons—whether with a regretted event to confess, a fractured dream to mitigate, or with some message he feels the urgency to report in his own weary voice—I listen and record. Hey, it’s his poem. I’m here to humbly serve and then stay the hell out of the way.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape?

Gaylord: I feel fine with the process of publication and readers.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Gaylord: In additional response to your previous question, an entire book of Ghost poems—my ninth collection, which arrived incrementally over three intense summers and as a surprise to me—entitled Country of Ghost, will be published by Red Hen Press in early 2015. In time, I am told, for the AWP Bookfair in Minneapolis to celebrate and lament my 50th birthday a week earlier. That’s the plan, if I’m alive. If I’m not, I suppose they’ll celebrate anyway. In the meantime, spring 2014, Stephen F. Austin University Press is publishing a culinary memoir, if you will, called The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, and Desire. A cheeky hybrid of recipes, memories, snippets of poetry, and general kitchen insolence. I hope folks will find the book and enjoy it. Wait until you try the caramel-bourbon sauce. You’ll love me all over again. The next book after those is top secret.
Anyway, with two books, two very different books, appearing less than a year apart, I’ll be out and about, roving and cajoling. Folks can contact me or keep up with the hustle at my website (www.gaylordbrewer.com). Thanks for asking, by the way, and for your thoughtful attention.

Author Spotlight: Alice B. Fogel

Alice is currently a teacher at Keene State College and Landmark College. Alice has published in Best American Poetry and the 2008 Poet’s Guide to NH, and elsewhere. She has also published books such as The Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader and Be That Empty; which was #8 on National Poetry Society’s bestselling list.

IMG_0406(1)Amoskeag: Your poem opens with “The house unlike you loves the passage”. Who is the    narrator speaking to and what is he/she trying to communicate? Why did you begin “there”?

Alice: The poem (and the whole series it is part of) is written in the 3rd person, in the point of view of a house speaking to its inhabitants as “you.” I like starting these poems right off with a plain statement that reveals that voice. The house is a kind of omniscient narrator, and while the house has its feelings about things, the house is also wiser than its people. I think what the house wants to convey here is that you can’t “save” time by saving the things of time. Instead we should pay attention, now, to now.

Amoskeag: How is the last line, “no matter how many times you crumble it always weaves another home” relevant to the poem? What kind of message are you trying to send to the reader?

Alice: Because of the lack of punctuation (other than those implied or imposed by line breaks), the poem’s sentences have to be interpreted and reinterpreted as they are read, through shifting expectations, and through inflection and participation in making sense. The “it” at the end of the next to last line at first refers to the spider’s web recently spoken of, and then switches to refer to the spider itself. Do “you” crumble the web, or do “you” yourself crumble (fall apart, cry, feel lost)? Each and both. So to answer the question about message–the messages are multiple, and while there is almost a kind of moral imperative suggested here (wrap and unwrap each day–like the gift it is), some of the others are about syntax and possible meaning, others about how we read, how we construct meaning, construct a home, a life.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Alice: All poems surprise me. I would have to look back at early drafts to determine how much I “knew” this ending before I put it there, but I do remember that the spider web was one of the triggers for the poem. Being way out in the woods and fields, my actual house gets a lot of critters in it, and some spider webs are so prodigious that they actually do sound like plastic wrap from a package when I try to remove them–and then they’re back the next day. I don’t always try to destroy them (maybe if they’re in my kitchen I will) because I think spiders are so cool. Apparently the house thinks so too, because it’s advising “you” to be more like them. The poem sets us up for the spider by using a lot of spidery language all throughout: “knit a bridge,” “spin,” “crawl,” “sticky,” “houseflies,” “spoke of the wheel.” A reader might not think of a spider when reading those words, but maybe subliminally there’s a kind of preparation happening.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Alice: Through this series, I have learned so much from the house (the narrator). Using the house’s voice instead of mine gave me new perspectives. It was terrific fun, and also sometimes felt like it was saving my life.

Amoskeag: Throughout your poem, you employ similes such as the one in line 26, “Like the spider overnight constructs a web so thick”. How and why did you construct and incorporate these into the piece?

Alice: Most poems that I write are a layering of images or associations that adhere to each other as I compose. If I use a simile it’s probably because I want to connect something else that furthers the visceral sensations I’m playing with. In a way, almost the whole poem is made up of comparisons or additions that just don’t literally spell out the words “like” or “as.” I wouldn’t want to just throw in any simile; it has to push the overall effect of the poem into some kind of emotion-based shape, so it’s all of a piece–at least for me.

Amoskeag: The poem adopts a mood of regret as the narrator discards fragments and memories of his/her past. How did you come to develop, hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Alice: I would have to go to analysis to find out why the house often has that slightly wistful tone. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s plea to consider that God feels about each of us the way we feel about that person in our lives, “X,” who so disappoints us and “shipwrecks” our dreams. Why don’t we look to ourselves when considering who ought to get his shit together? Certainly, in this poem containing so much about time’s accretions and losses, time’s pentimento, and how badly the people in the house (the “you”) handle these, it would have been hard for the narrator to avoid that mood of regret.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape? What do you hope to achieve as a poet and what do you want your readers to feel?

Alice: A poem needs to be read. As you suggest, it’s what completes its purpose. I am grateful when one of my poems gets read seriously by an editor, when it’s accepted and given to more readers, and I love letting go of it then and feeling free to move on. Carl Sandburg once said there were only four things he needed in life, and one of them was having his writings published. (Another one was to not be in jail.) It’s fundamental for any artist to have her work taken into consideration as an act of value. As for what I hope to achieve as a poet–why not shoot high? I want to make something that wasn’t there before, something impossible to say or to make, and yet true, something, in that sense, like each of us–and I want readers (I could stop right there–I want readers) to find that impossibility nevertheless there in the poem and feel it spreading through their bones, even if it never occurs to them to think about it that way, and I hope that somehow that uplifts our shared value of the mystery in or of life.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Alice: I am working on a series of poems responding to abstract expressionist art, trying to explore what happens to our cognition when we’re confronted with something that doesn’t seem to represent reality, or that represents a reality we have little language (and therefore coherent thought) for. Looking at the art is inspiring and exciting, and the poems arise in that spirit.

Author Spotlight: Nat Schmookler

Nat Schmookler graduated in 2011 from Harvard College where, among other subjects, he studied writing. “The Can Down the Road” is his second published story; the first appeared in Gulf Stream in 2012. He lives in New York and is a freelance writer and editor.

Amoskeag: Your main characteDSCN284r is hopeful as he faces extreme difficulties with a person whom he deeply cares about. How does the narrator, as well as Mel, get to these points in their lives?  What makes their personal views of the world so different from one another?

Nat: I’m not sure I agree that their perspectives are really so different. I think what makes them a great match is that they both believe that things will be better in the future. That’s what keeps them going in spite of the obvious horror of their relationship. And that’s why things can get to such a state: they both say to themselves (and each other) that things will soon improve. The metaphor I imagine is that of a family locking itself in the cellar to wait for a storm to pass over: It’s horrible while you wait, but imagine how glad you’ll be once you emerge to those clear blue skies.

Amoskeag: Are either of your characters perspectives of the world reflective of the way you see the world?  Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Nat: So far in my stories, I have found that the only compelling characters I’ve managed to create are those I can empathise with. To me that means that I can catch glimpses of what’s going on inside them and see what it feels like to be them. Does Joe Protagonist massage a sense of victimhood when he sits in traffic? Does he care that he forgot to pack a lunch? What thoughts does he keep at bay by watching baseball? All these aspects and countless others, if considered from very far away, blend together to become our “point of view.” And, if my characters come off as believable, it is because I managed to get a sense of that point of view. So, I suppose that means I do share a point of view with my characters, at least partially, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also surprise me. That surprise comes when I realize how wrong I was in my assessment, and some new piece slides into place. That surprise is a great feeling.

Amoskeag:   Why did you begin “there”?  What inspired you to choose such a sensitive issue /conflict for your story?

Nat: Those who struggle with body issues and eating disorders are an appallingly large group in this country, and this group is troublingly faceless. There is no Michael J. Fox for this group, so it felt important to humanize those peculiar sterile words “bulimia” and “anorexia.” To that end, I started in the car, hoping to capture the words’ essence: crisis. The story starts in the middle of one and it ends when the crisis defused. But of course it isn’t really defused; there will be another one the next day, and the next day. The story could have started anywhere and have been more or less the same.

Amoskeag: Did you plan for your story to end the way it did and why/why not?

Nat: I did not. I’ve only written one story whose end I knew when I start, and I felt it came out too tidy and therefore absent of life. Much better for me is to start with a character or situation that interests me, and see where it takes me. Each story is always telling you where it needs to go next, you just have to listen. My hope is that if I find my ending surprising, the reader will too.

Amoskeag: How did you construct the language of the piece?  How did you come to hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Nat: To the extent that I thought explicitly about tone, my thought was this: the pacing has to be just right. Moments of crisis seem to move by at breakneck speed, but not quite: they also lurch into moments of odd overfull stillness. I wanted the reader to experience the event with the narrator, so it was important to get his sense of time. But how does one strike that tone? Couldn’t say. Lots of drafts though.

Amoskeag: What is the significance of the line “You don’t love me, you’re ashamed of me”?

Nat: This is the line Mel uses to get the narrator to relent and put off the confrontation. He decides to wait until a better moment to press her to keep her word. Of course, she won’t keep her word next time either. The line is also significant, I hope, because I believe that Mel is correct. The narrator is lying either to her or to himself, and it’s true he no longer loves her. Sooner or later, he’ll confirm her worst fear.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the story that you worked so hard at to shape? What emotions do you want the readers to feel or what messages do you want them to comprehend?

Nat: It feels great! As a young writer with little chance of getting paid for my stories any time soon, writing is necessarily a solitary labor of love. I write because I love it, because I need it, because I don’t know what else I’d do. And so when a story gets accepted, it means that somebody connected with what I wrote, and that makes me feel more confident in my work. But I don’t have specific emotions or messages I’m trying to communicate; I’m not sure fiction is a great medium for messages and, even if it were, I don’t have one. Instead, I just hope that each reader finds the story engaging enough to finish, and gets enough from it to be glad to have done so.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a writer?

Nat: This fall I’m taking a fiction workshop at the 92Y and applying to MFA programs for next year. And, of course, doing at least a little bit of writing each day.