Interview with Hannah Faith Notess, Author of “The Multitude”

October 9, 2015
Photo Credit: Luke Rutan

Photo Credit: Luke Rutan

Brief Biography:

Hannah Faith Notess attended Westmond College, majored in English and studied with the poets Paul Willis and Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, among others. She also attended Indiana University, earned an MFA in Creative Writing, helped edit Indiana Review, studied with the poets Maura Stanton, Ross Gay, and Maurice Manning, and the essayist Scott Russell Sanders, among others. She is currently the managing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine by day and writes other stuff by night. Her first full-length collection of poems, “The Multitude” won the Michael Waters Poetry Prize.

Geosi Gyasi: Permit me to ask a typical Geosi Reads question. I am keen on learning why you were given the name Faith? Do you think the name put any pressure on you to live a perfervid religious life?

Hannah Faith Notess: I doubt it. I am a little bit of a contrarian, so if I did feel pressure to be a religious person because of my name, I would have likely rebelled against it. As a poet, though, I think my parents did a nice job naming me because “Hannah” and “Faith” sound good together. I thought a lot about the consonant and vowel sounds of different names when my husband and I were choosing a name for our first child. I pay lots of attention to the sounds of words; that’s one of the things I love about poetry.

Geosi Gyasi: As a writer and editor, how do you blend the two professions?

Hannah Faith Notess: For my day job, I am the managing editor for a university magazine, Response, at Seattle Pacific University. Most of my writing and editing at work is in the field of journalism or public relations, so it is less personal. However, it’s also fascinating and sometimes inspires my creative work. For instance, in 2012, I interviewed an astronomer and we spoke about the exoplanets that are being discovered in our universe. That indirectly inspired a (still unfinished) poem.

Outside of work, I mostly write poems. I have done some additional writing and editing in the past, for instance, I edited a collection of personal essays in 2009, and I write occasional articles on books, art, and culture. But right now I try to devote the most time to poetry, because it brings me the most joy.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you bother to give your work to an editor or you do your own editing?

Hannah Faith Notess: Absolutely, I love to work with an editor whenever possible. I have worked with wonderful editors, and I have always found that a good editor can provide help with nearly any kind of writing. A good editor develops a theory of a writer’s intent and honors it. A good editor develops a rationale for why and how to suggest changes. At the same time, an editor puts the reader’s needs above the writer’s needs. So a good editor has to point out to a writer anything that might cause a reader confusion.

Geosi Gyasi: You wrote your first poem in the eighth grade. Could you tell us what this poem was about? Was it published?

Hannah Faith Notess: It was a lengthy tale (in rhymed quatrains) of a girl who spent time sitting in a tree and imagining things. Though it was not published, I did write it out neatly in my notebook with a set of colored markers, writing each stanza in a different color. So it looked very pretty. And I may have decorated the notebook with some sparkly stickers.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell us a bit about your life in Westmont College and how you ended up majoring in English?

Hannah Faith Notess: I have always been interested in writing and literature, and the English professors at Westmont College shared and fostered that love. Two of my professors were poets themselves, and they took time to read and critique the poems I gave them outside of class. Also, during my time at Westmont, I studied as an exchange student at Daystar University in Kenya, and I took a class in African literature. So I am very excited to be doing an interview with a blog that highlights so many excellent African writers! Thank you for compiling these interviews.

Geosi Gyasi: Which living poets have had the most profound influence on your writing?

Hannah Faith Notess: Well, many of the poets I love best are dead, so I want to cheat and name a few dead poets first — Yehuda Amichai, Elizabeth Bishop, C.P. Cavafy, Frank O’Hara, and Wislawa Szymborska. As for living poets whose work I adore — B.H. Fairchild, Lucia Perillo, Terrance Hayes, Mark Doty, and Erika Meitner are a few.

Geosi Gyasi: You earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University. What influence did your studies have on your writing?

Hannah Faith Notess: Spending three years earning an MFA at Indiana was a wonderful experience. I read deeply and wrote so much. I tried styles of writing and experimented with forms — I had never even heard of a prose poem before! So I had a lot to learn. It opened all kinds of artistic doors.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you belong to any community of poets?

Hannah Faith Notess: Yes, I have an occasional writing group here in Seattle with a handful of other poets, and we meet every so often to talk about poetry and life. Seattle is a city full of people who both work hard and have unusual hobbies (climbing mountains, dressing up as anime characters, etc.) so I like to think our little group fits right into our wonderful, quirky city.

Geosi Gyasi: What inspired your poem “A Guide for Spiritual Tourists?

Hannah Faith Notess: In 2004-2005, I spent some time traveling in India, using, as many young tourists from around the world do, the Lonely Planet India guidebook to navigate and choose hotels, restaurants, and cultural sites to visit. I began thinking about the few Hindi phrases in the back of the book, juxtaposed against the sacred sites of various faiths that we had visited as tourists — the dissonance between what the phrasebook says and the wordless experience struck me as funny, so this poem was born.

Geosi Gyasi: Your poem, “For Money” was solely written in the first person. Do you write mostly out of personal experience?

Hannah Faith Notess: I am glad you asked, and the answer is definitely “no.” I do not think of the first-person “I” in any given poem as someone identical to myself, and I allow it to shift from poem. I incorporate experiences I’ve had into my poems, but I fictionalize freely and make things up. For instance, in this particular poem, I did have a summer job working on a farm for several months and I spent about a month picking blueberries. But other jobs in the poem are not things I have done. In drafts of the poem, I experimented with writing the poem in first person, second person, and third person. After trying all three, I settled on first person, imagining that if someone were reading the poem out loud, they could speak as though they were one person – or a chorus of people – who had done all those things.

Geosi Gyasi: Your book, Ghost House was the winner of the 2013 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. My question is: do you believe in the existence of ghosts?

Hannah Faith Notess: I should note that the title, Ghost House, in part, refers to the Mario series of video games. Ghost House levels first appeared in the Mario universe in the game Super Mario World in 1990. In those levels, the video game character Mario must enter the ghost house alone, without his friend Yoshi the dinosaur, and he is chased by “Boos” and other ghosts that he cannot kill, but must run to outwit them and survive. This scenario reminded me of many mythical stories in which a hero travels to the underworld on some sort of quest, such as Dante’s Inferno or the myth of Orpheus. I was intrigued by the idea that a videogame could tap into a deep-rooted mythos, and I wanted to explore that through poetry. As for the existence of “real” ghosts, I’m certainly open to the possibility, but don’t feel strongly about it. I am most interested, as a writer, in ghosts as they appear in our myths, metaphors, stories, poems, and dreams.


Interview with Erin Malone, Author of “Hover”

October 1, 2015
Photo: Erin Malone

Photo: Erin Malone

Brief Biography:

Erin Malone’s first full-length collection, Hover, won the Patricia Bibby Award from Tebot Bach Press and was published in March 2015. What Sound Does It Make, a chapbook, appeared in 2008 from Concrete Wolf Press. The recipient of grants from Washington’s Artist Trust, 4Culture, and the Colorado Council of the Arts, she’s taught writing at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Richard Hugo House in Seattle, at the University of Washington Rome Center in Italy, and through Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program. She’s been given a Jack Straw Writer’s Fellowship for 2015. You can find out more at

Geosi Gyasi: Beginning with your first full-length collection, “Hover”, why did you decide to write it?

Erin Malone: I’d been working on a manuscript for years—about 10—when I finally started writing the poems that became Hover. At its heart, that original manuscript was about the death of my brother in childhood; the poems surrounding it were growing up poems, falling in love poems, you know. I think I’d started sending it to a few contests. But then I gave birth to my son, and suffered severe anxiety in the months following. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read and understand a sentence, let alone write. I think it took me about a year to start writing again, and when I did the poems were expressions of that dislocation and fear I felt. So I guess my answer is that I didn’t really decide to write it; I had to write it. And I wrote it again and again until it was published—another 10 years or so. None of the poems from original manuscript made it into Hover, but the idea behind them did. The death of my brother and the anxiety about my son are what inform this book.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any special reason why you decided to become a writer?  

Erin Malone: I don’t know. I think I felt from an early age that I was good at writing. In elementary school I wrote comics and ghost stories and even a play that my teacher let me cast and produce! I was very lucky to be so encouraged. In high school I wrote terrible poems, and in college more terrible poems, but I started to get better. It didn’t occur to me that I could go to school to study creative writing until a college professor clued me in. So I went to graduate school, which helped me feel serious (too serious?) about it.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you come from a family of writers?

Erin Malone: No, but I come from a family of readers.

Geosi Gyasi: What books did you read growing up?

Erin Malone: As a younger kid, Gulliver’s Travels, Black Beauty, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Sherlock Holmes; as a teen, lots of Sweet Valley High and Stephen King. In high school and college I read (Shirley) Jackson, Hemingway, Faulkner, Hurston, Fitzgerald, Hughes. . . .

Geosi Gyasi: As a writer, who are your audience?

Erin Malone: As a poet I have to admit that it’s probably mostly other poets, although I wish it were wider, of course. I think it might surprise people to know how welcoming poets and poetry can be. We’re like rescue dogs—if you give us a little time and attention, we’re yours for life.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any persons who have influenced your career as a writer?

Erin Malone: Well, other writers. Poets like Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Donald Justice, Mark Strand, Louise Glück—I could go on and on. But other people who aren’t writers influence me too: family, teachers, friends, who ask me what I’m working on or who want to have a conversation about a book or about anything that really matters to them. That kind of support is sustaining.

Geosi Gyasi: How much research goes into your writing?

Erin Malone: Usually not much. But I am working on a project right now that requires some archival research, which I like. It feels like opening a series of doors.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Geosi Gyasi: Are you a fan of short poems?

Erin Malone: Sure. The economy of a short poem is like magic trick, when it’s done well.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me something about your chapbook, “What Sound Does It Make”?

Erin Malone: All of the poems in What Sound Does It Make are also in Hover, though some are revised. All of them have to do with that dissociative feeling around my son’s birth.

Geosi Gyasi: Was it difficult securing a publisher for “What Sound Does It Make”?

Erin Malone: It did take time, a few years, to write those poems, and during that time I was sending the manuscript around to chapbook contests. Contests are difficult, yes, because they’re hit-or-miss—you have to be patient and just keep sending to different places. That said, I was extremely lucky to land on Concrete Wolf Press—Lana Hechtman Ayers is a talented and generous editor, and I love the book she made for me.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve recently been given a Jack Straw Writer’s Fellowship for 2015. Could you tell me what this fellowship is all about?

Erin Malone: This fellowship supports Washington State writers by promoting their work through a series of readings, and by producing a professional podcast for each writer that includes an interview and an excerpt from one of the readings. Another great thing about it is that 12 writers are chosen, so over the course of the year you get to know each other—it’s a nice camaraderie.

Geosi Gyasi: Did you have a hand in the making of the photo cover of your book, “Hover”?

Erin Malone: Actually, that’s a painting by Eric Zener. I did get to choose the cover art, and I love his work. You can check out his website at

Geosi Gyasi: What are you reading at the moment?

Erin Malone: The Book of Hours, by Marianne Boruch. Also Wind in a Box (again), by Terrance Hayes.

Geosi Gyasi: What is currently on your writing table?

Erin Malone: A mess. And also a couple of new poems I’m working on.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you ever have writer’s block?

Erin Malone: I have stretches of time when I’m not writing, and that can feel very frustrating. But usually I can get through it by reading other poets, and slowing down to pay attention. If I do that and give myself some time, the writing will happen.

Geosi Gyasi: In your view, what is the best time to write?

Erin Malone: Whenever the house is quiet.


Interview with 2015 American Book Award Winner, Peter J. Harris

September 27, 2015
Photo Credit: Adenike A. Harris

Photo Credit: Adenike A. Harris

Brief Biography:

Peter J. Harris is the author of Bless the Ashes, poetry (Tia Chucha Press), winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ a book of personal essays, winner of a 2015 American Book Award.  Harris has published his work in a wide variety of publications since the 1970s.  Since 1992, he’s been a member of the Anansi Writers Workshop at the World Stage, in LA’s Leimert Park.

Geosi Gyasi: You’re the founding director of “The Black Man of Happiness Project”. Could you tell us how you started this project?

Peter J. Harris: The project grows from my deep curiosity about an elemental question: What is a happy Black man?

As I’ve matured as a writer and thinker and cultural worker, as a man, this question has become a powerful prompt to explore manhood and masculinity through the lives of African American men, who obviously exist within historical crosshairs. Taboo. Fetish. Threat. Sexual Predator. Sexual Symbol. Prey. In my research, I’ve never found one mention or index item in which Black men and happiness have been connected. So on Juneteenth 2010, I invited a variety of men to attend a video shoot at the Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles. I wanted them to answer on camera the question, What is a happy Black man? Some 20 men answered the question in a variety of ways, as I hoped they would. I was confident that each man would have his own richly individual answer, which is a major goal of the Project: to explore the individuality of Black men’s testimonies about their joy. Since 2010, I’ve created a website, through which you can view the videos, like our Facebook page, purchase the two published books, and otherwise be inspired to search for your own answer. Goals for 2016 include setting up more video shoots, launching a new blog in which I write about what I call ‘wreaking happiness,’ and raise the profile on the books, especially my book of personal essays, The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ which was chosen in July 2015 for one of 15 American Book Awards, which have been awarded for 36 years by the Before Columbus Foundation.

Geosi Gyasi: Has the aim for which “The Black Man of Happiness Project” was set up been achieved?

Peter J. Harris: Some aims have certainly been met. Besides my book of, I’ve published a special book for young people called Gritt Tuff Playbook: Hard Core Wisdom for Young People, by Glenn Harris, my big brother, who’s a broadcaster in DC with a 30-plus year track record of giving inspiring pep talks to young people in the Washington, D.C. region. We’ve co-produced several staged readings of the theater piece associated with the Project. I’ve gotten chances on radio, in LA newspapers, and in events at community organizations and on college campuses to introduce the theme of joyful Black men, as well as ask our driving question of many different kinds of men.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve worked as a publisher, journalist, editor and broadcaster. Are there any links between all the jobs listed?

Peter J. Harris: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Those are the questions my journalism professors at Howard University drilled into me from 1973-77, and I’ve found that in all the work I do I am trying to answer those questions in ways that I hope are interesting, engaging and illuminating.

Geosi Gyasi: Why did you decide to become a writer?

Peter J. Harris: I don’t know. I do know that writing has become the way I express my most uncensored voice. I trust myself when I write. I am my most ethical when I write. I’m in communion with my most visionary selves when I write. I channel my most profound insights when I write.

Geosi Gyasi: How long have you been writing? 

Peter J. Harris: I’ve been writing in a unique, valuable voice since the 1980s, although I published my first poem in “The Black Scholar” in 1979.

Geosi Gyasi: What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?

Peter J. Harris: Resisting my tendencies. To remain in thrall with the craft. In this respect, I’m often reminded by the comments of my friend and colleague Kamau Daa’ood, author of The Language of Saxophones Kamau is co-founder of The World Stage, my literary briar patch in Los Angeles During workshops over the years, Kamau has always reminded us to take linguistic and metaphorical risks. Cautioned us to make sure we don’t settle for what’s been comfortable or functional or startling in past poems. Be aware of word choices that could become crutches. I’ve accepted Kamau’s challenge and I’ve heeded those words, as I’ve also studied, experimented, and dared myself into the mysterious, the subsonic, the ineffable. In fact, after so many years of listening to poets, at The World Stage and in my flow with and among writers of all kinds, I’ve sworn off using in my poems the words heart, soul, spirit, among others; also, I’ve sworn off using mango and other easy food metaphors in my erotic poems and, even, the word ‘poem,’ as in …’This Poem.’ My commitment now is to grapple with language and meanings until I slip into lush, scary, startling dictions that emit a fragrance or evokes/invokes sensations beyond the intellectual to affect as many senses as possible. My greatest challenge is to surprise myself, to never settle, and to never ever fall in love with my writing!

Geosi Gyasi: What inspired your book, “Bless the Ashes”?

Peter J. Harris: Tia Chucha Press’s editor, Luis Rodriguez, now the Poet Laureate of LA, and a colleague since we first met in 1980, has been asking me since the early 2000’s to submit a manuscript. I had plenty of poetry, and I’d even compiled several manuscripts during that time. But in early 2013, I realized I had a collection of work that had coalesced in a mature, personally and creatively satisfying manner. I could hear the collection singing to me! The title poem, dedicated to my mother, who diedat 57 in 1984, sang most powerfully. I was turning 58 that spring. I was poised to cross a profound threshold: I was going to be alive longer than she’d been alive! And I wanted to honor my mother, June Puckett Harris, ‘January mother with the summer name,’ as the poem describes her. I wanted to thank her for teaching me to read, for turning me on to the public library when I was in elementary school, for impressing on me a love of The Word! Bless the Ashes, the title poem and the book, which was awarded the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, inspired me to lift every one of my voices and ‘sang!’ (as the old folks from my old neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C.,would say).

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell us anything about your book, “The Vampire Who Drinks Gospel Music: The Stories of Sacred Flow & Sacred Song”?

Peter J. Harris: Always been scared of vampire movies and stories. Always loved them! Fell in love with the joyful, outrageous irreverence of Richard Pryor’s timeless monologue, Wino Deals with Dracula, from his recording “That Nigger’s Crazy.” Pryor says winos ain’t scared of nothing except ‘running out of wine! Wino could deal with Dracula!’ That monologue ignited my imagination and inspired within me an amazing freedom to let my imagination do its do! I mean the idea of a Black wino boldly, fearlessly, confronting Dracula on a city street, boldly ordering the vampire to ‘go down to the blood bank’ if he wants to suck some blood! I cannot tell you how exhilarating it was to hear this for the very first time, as a 20-something college student searching for his own creative voice(s)! Pryor’s Wino-Dracula monologue struck in me some kind of, like,Storyteller’s Super Chord! Especially when the wino says as an aside, ‘hope you get sickle cell!’ In the 1980s, I began having dreams about vampires who came from an imaginary city outside of Ile Ife in West Africa. And one of them winds up in America, where in the crucible and compression of the enslavement period, an alchemy occurs that leaves the vampire addicted to African American sacred music as much to blood. My goal with “The Vampire Who Drinks Gospel Music: The Stories of Sacred Flow & Sacred Song” was to strike a silly-serious tone that imbedded cultural wisdoms within a joyful, funny matrix, in the spirit of the best of Pryor’s work, which tapped urban folklore and critiqued culture like the cranky elders who helped my parents raise me!

Geosi Gyasi: What sort of preparation goes into the writing of a book?

Peter J. Harris: It varies. I’ve given you a bit of the process for Bless the Ashes, poetry. I can actually work on deadline, b/c of my journalism training, but I don’t have an agent, nor a book publishing contract, so I have the luxury of working at my own pace, and on timelines I set up for myself. For the Happiness book, I’d been writing and publishing essays on the theme since the 1990’s, and nurturing the concept over the years. Among other steps, I’d drafted a thorough outline of the essays I wanted to write for the book. I wanted it personal and I wanted it political. I wanted it to laugh and I wanted it to weep. I wanted to pose questions and attempt to answer the elemental question that drove me: What is a happy Black man? As I think of putting together a new book of poetry, I’m driven to creating and pulling together poems that seek to slip readers into the trances I entered during Afro Brazilian song and dance classes I took during a recent cultural exchange tour with the Viver Brasil Dance Company in August 2015.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific place where you sit down to write?

Peter J. Harris: No. I honestly don’t have any kind of sacred writing space. Frankly, I’m good whenever and wherever I’m focused enough to grapple with the work. If it’s any good, it’ll block out most white noise around me anyway.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell us about the music/poetry show at KPFK?

Peter J. Harris: Inspiration House: VoiceMusic for Whole Living was a weekly radio show on KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, that featured writers in studio reading spoken word to recorded music. It aired on Monday nights from 1999 to 2004. Guest poets reflected the cultural and stylistic vitality of the LA lit community. Music ranged from aural landscapes to legacy-and-contemporary jazz to ‘gravy,’ which were old-school Motown, Stax and other R&B music tracks that I ‘poured’ as punctuation or spice or accent to whatever the poet was reading. Hippest characteristic of the show: it was improvisational. I didn’t know what poets were going to read. Poets didn’t know what kind of music I was going to play (neither did I, for that matter!) It was an hour-long program that demanded we listen to one another to create, in real time, what I call VoiceMusic, a flowing, aural sequence that listeners could feel had a beginning, middle and end — no I should say that the best shows had a great feeling of resolve at the end of the hour. Guest poets did not read titles to their poems, and were prohibited from introducing the poems in any way shape or form. Results: a seamless format that allowed listeners to really hear the poetry without the annoying, often long-winded set ups of the poet. Since the show ended its run on KPFK, I’ve produced many public presentations during which I ‘stand the radio show on its feet!’ I select 3-5 poets, and 3-5 musicians, and we address a theme using the same improvisational principles that guided the radio show. The addition of live audience adds even more VoiceMusic to the presentations, since audiences are encouraged to testify if the poetry and/or music inspires them to respond during the performance of the work.

Check out this Podcast:

Geosi Gyasi: Do you read reviews of your own works?

Peter J. Harris: lol! I have read the few reviews of my work, but for real though this is a very minor concern of mine.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as your best work so far?

Peter J. Harris: The last good line (poetry or prose) that I’ve written! Of course, I’m quite proud of the Happiness book. It opens up a new aperture in Africana studies.

Geosi Gyasi: Who are your literary forebears?

Peter J. Harris: Anyone who’s accepted the challenge of uncensored self expression!

Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as the best part of writing?

Peter J. Harris: The private challenge to write something valuable for public engagement.

Geosi Gyasi: Why are you so much interested in the lives of black men?

Peter J. Harris: First off, I’m inspired by my own journey into manhood from boyhood in Southeast Washington, D.C.  My hungers, hopes, fears. Sociologically, I seek to celebrate and explore my humanity and the complexities of living as a man of African descent in America. It doesn’t take a genius to know that our American journey (from chattel servitude to the White House, from taboo to fetish) has been fraught with too many fractures to enumerate here. Yet, we’re at minimum, some of the most culturally influential creatures on the planet, so I’m drawn to the magnetism of our existence. My work exploring Black men and joy, through which I’m seeking ‘ecstatic insight,’ is currently the most refined calling of my overall interest and curiosity in the resonant individualities of Black men.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “Hand Me My Griot Clothes: The Autobiography of Junior Baby”?

Peter J. Harris: Junior Baby is my elder alter ego (much in the spirit of Richard Pryor’s elder alter ego Mudbone). Junior Baby’s ‘autobiography’ is a series of 10 narrative poems, monologues about ethical living that pay homage to the best of my father, Pleasant Samuel Harris, Jr., and the hard-working, hard-drinking, cranky men who helped raise me in D.C. These men were complicated and flawed, but always handed out a story, or proverb, about doing the right thing. These men, like Junior Baby, stood for right living to the best of their limitations and potential. This book was published in 1993 by Paul Coates (father of journalist and authorTa-Nehisi Coates) and Black Classic Press. Griot Clothes also won an PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award.

Geosi Gyasi: What books are often found on your writing table?

Peter J. Harris: Something About the Blues, by Al Young; Zero to Three, by F. Douglas Brown; Anonymous Soldiers, by Bruce Hoffman; The Secret Game, by Scott Ellsworth; SOS–Calling All Black People, edited by John H. Bracey Jr, Sonia Sanchez and James Smethurst; Nanotechnology, Indigenous Wisdom & Health, by Kweli Tutashinda;Poems for the Millennium, Volume One, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris; The Vandana Shiva Reader, by Vandana Shiva; The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson; among others. (I’ve long ago become my mother, who used to read several books at a time, which used to astonish me as a kid!)

Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell us something about your education and that whether you studied writing or not?

Peter J. Harris: I studied journalism and radio writing/production at Howard University, from which I graduated in 1977. I’ve never studied in an MFA program. Well actually I was accepted into the new MFA program at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, but I dropped out in order to deal with some personal challenges that were keeping me from fully concentrating on my studies. I truly have been forged mostly by reading reading reading, writing writing writing, and listening listening listening!

Geosi Gyasi: Are you working on any new project?

Peter J. Harris: Magnificence, a novel that picks up some threads from the Vampire Who Drinks Gospel Music;Trance, an evolving collection of poems; and I’m researching Black male tenderness for a book I’d like to write that explores how we use ‘baby talk’ to express intimacy (to lovers, to children, to loved ones, in social settings, in songs, etc).


Interview with Indian Writer, Sunil Sharma

September 20, 2015
Photo: Sunil Sharma

Photo: Sunil Sharma


Mumbai-based, Sunil Sharma, a college principal, is also widely-published Indian critic, poet, literary interviewer, editor, translator, essayist and fiction writerHe has already published three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books so far. His six short stories and the novel Minotaur were recently prescribed for the undergraduate classes under the Post-colonial Studies, Clayton University, Georgia, USA. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012.

He edits online journal Episteme:

Some recent literary interviews done by him can be viewed on these links:



And a representative piece of fiction:

Geosi Gyasi: You are an English teacher with more than 23 years of degree-college teaching experience. Where does your love for the English Language come from?

Sunil Sharma: Being a post-colonial nation, India has inherited the legacy of the British Raj and it still continues in the independent nation as something desirable and ideal, and, not as a burden or an imperialist strategy/tool of domination. The entire thing is no longer a relic from the past but an organic one growing very fast in the national psyche for more than six decades now. In fact, it has evolved into a pan-Indian obsession by the New Millennium. English as a language is a thriving industry and average Indian is investing a lot to learn the intricacies of saying their terminal ‘Rs’ in the correct way—that is imitating the native speaker for that accent to sound like pucca British! It sounds hilarious! That wish to act like a native is not possible due to various genetic and geo reasons and it is a different story. Naturally, I am a product of a social system that is still fixated on the British model and culture. Recently the shift is towards USA. My love for English drives from this national preoccupation with the former colonial masters and their grammar and canonical texts. As a student of English Lit. I followed them closely. It was done—MA and later on PhD in English—for gaining gainful employment, a livelihood as a teacher. Most of middle-class India suffers from a sense of cultural inferiority and hence, clings on to their sole legacy that has been converted into a hegemonic power center to prove our superiority over the toiling masses. But then this is a development that is recurring in other post-colonial countries as well and has been much documented by anthropologists, experts and writers alike.

In brief, school and college education systems are geared to produce sham men and women who think in a language brought in from far-off shores and gleefully accepted by the elites here—and elsewhere.

Geosi Gyasi: As an Indian, do you speak English at home?

Sunil Sharma: I am afraid not on 24X7 basis at home or outside in a multi-lingual country. We are bilingual. English is for official/formal occasions and purposes. But, if needed, the switch is made instantly and conversational English is used which is more American in usage these days than the Queen’s English.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt as a teacher?

Sunil Sharma: That I do not know anything in life. Knowledge is a dynamic area and keeps on expanding at frightening pace, reducing us to the status of laggards. We have to be life-long learners and tech-savvy these days to remain relevant in a domain that has become a huge market now. Earlier, it was not so.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve also worked as a freelance journalist and written for the supplements of the Times of India, Mumbia? In your view, what is the similarity between a teacher and a journalist?

Sunil Sharma: Communication. An overlap exists. Both use words. One uses oral words in classroom; another written in the copy. Grammar is common. Using language as a mode in effective and efficient ways; the right words and simplicity. These virtues are cultivated over the years.

Geosi Gyasi: What is the inspiration behind your book, “Golden Cacti”?

Sunil Sharma: It is a collection of poems dealing with everyday realities of urban India as witnessed by a sensitive heart during office commute. It maps out the disparities of this India developing in such sprawls.

Golden cacti is a rare and hardy variety that blooms in the east-central Mexico and stands as a metaphor for poetry in most arid landscape. A poet has to work and survive in a tough terrain.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you give me a brief summary of your book, “Poems on Highway”?

Sunil Sharma: This second book marks continuities with the first one. It records daily journeys and experiences along the country highway. Images of nature and towns along the long way constitute the core of the book of poetry done in last few years. the daily struggles of the people in a land that has largely ignored them for decades. The songs may find resonance with other nations where the peoples have been excluded from development story by the ruling classes.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Geosi Gyasi: Is it true that a poem is easy to write?

Sunil Sharma: For me, it is. You can finish it in one sitting or two. But short fiction takes a lot of time. Sometimes, weeks or even months. Poetry comes more naturally. Novel is a ball game of different kind and very challenging for those who write for pleasure, not money or stardom or awards and have to do a day job.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you think of the recent crop of writers coming out of India?

Sunil Sharma: It is a good export. Many of them are hugely successful. They are inspiring examples for others, peers and younger ones. everybody wants to write a bestseller these days and own an island somewhere out there in the Pacific. Priorities have changed. This new and brash breed is successfully responding to market needs. I am a complete misfit in such a scenario prevalent in every national market and global markets.

Geosi Gyasi: How long did it take you to write, “Mundane, My Muse”?

Sunil Sharma: This is again a collection of everyday poetry. About the mundane and how it can motivate a poet. For me, poetry is a habit, almost a daily activity. Once I get a sizeable number, I get them published in a book form. So, roughly, three-five months maximum behind a book.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your main research areas as a writer?

Sunil Sharma: No, I do not write that kind of stuff. It is based on observations. I am not into fantasy or horror or historical. But I do research, when visiting cultural references that I often use in my poems and shorts.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you see yourself writing more books?

Sunil Sharma: Books are my route to liberation and salvation. Passage to nirvana. So far I have produced 14 books—some edited with others; some solo.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you belong to any group of writers?

Sunil Sharma: Naw! I am solo and suburban. Hence, unknown everywhere as I have nobody to promote me.

Geosi Gyasi: Who are your biggest influences as a writer?

Sunil Sharma: Many. Notably the Russians; the classic Victorians; the French realists and the Americans up to the decade of the 70s. Then Indian litterateurs.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you think any budding writer ought to compulsorily take studies in writing?

Sunil Sharma: Not necessarily. They do not teach you empathy. Life does. A Harvard does not produce a stalwart. It shapes up your talents. A Bill Gates gets moulded in a small garage in every decade these days of IT-driven world.

Geosi Gyasi: Do Indians read?

Sunil Sharma: Well, it is hilarious, the question and the underlying assumption. Akin to asking: Do Ghanians read and write? Such stereotypes! We have to come out of such thinking. Yes. They do read. But reading as a habit is dying in every nation. We are into the age of the visual.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind telling me anything about Bharat College where you’re the principal?

Sunil Sharma: A vibrant ecosystem that promotes real learning and makes everybody think and do things in a friendly environment.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you manage to find time to write amid your busy schedule as a college principal?

Sunil Sharma: I have to. Like breathing. Essential for me to do the multitasking. Finding time for writing is like finding an oxygen mask in a polluted city.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you read negative reviews of your own books?

Sunil Sharma: Hardly any reviews are done here. Most are friendly and managed. Love to have negative reviews to learn from them. Will you do that please?

Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything financially from writing?

Sunil Sharma: Nothing. My job saves me from certain starvation!

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have anything to say to end the interview?

Sunil Sharma: Thanks for your interest in an obscure Indian writer. I remain grateful.


Interview with Canadian Writer, Elma Schemenauer

September 17, 2015
Photo: Elma Schemenauer

Photo: Elma Schemenauer

Brief Biography:

Elma (Martens) Schemenauer was born in a Saskatchewan (Canada) community like the fictional Coyote she writes about. “As I grew up,” she says, “I sank deep roots into prairie life and the traditions of my extended Mennonite family.” After teaching for several years, Elma moved into a publishing career in Toronto. She’s the author of 75 published books including Consider the Sunflowers,Russia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Jacob Jacobs Gets Up Early, Salmon, and Native Canadians Today and Long Ago. In 2006 she and her husband relocated to Kamloops, British Columbia. There she writes, blogs, and walks on grassy hillsides that remind her of her prairie roots.

Geosi Gyasi: How much research went into the writing of “Consider the Sunflowers”?

Elma Schemenauer: I have strong memories of my early childhood in the 1940s. However, memories weren’t enough. I also interviewed people about life on the Canadian prairies during those years. And I consulted many books, articles, and other published sources of information.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you come up with the title, “Consider the Sunflowers”?

Elma Schemenauer: In 2006 my husband and I moved from Toronto to sunny Kamloops, British Columbia. I liked the gardens of Kamloops, especially the huge sunflowers that bloom here so I named my novel after them. In my novel sunflowers are a symbol of durability and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you personally remember about World War II?

Elma Schemenauer: I remember hearing Adolf Hitler ranting on the radio. I also remember the ration books my mother took along to the store when we shopped for groceries.

Geosi Gyasi: What has been the reception of your book, “Consider the Sunflowers”?

Elma Schemenauer: The book has sold quite well since it was published in October 2014.

Geosi Gyasi: Having grown up near the village of Elbow, Saskatchewan, can you tell me anything literary about the place?

Elma Schemenauer: Elbow, population 300, has its share of authors. For example, Rick Book’s collection of short stories “Necking with Louise” is about growing up in the Elbow area. Joan Soggie published a collection of stories about the Elbow area’s archeology, geography, and early history. It’s called “Looking for Aiktow.” Joan’s son Neil Soggie wrote “The Young-Dogs of Elbow,” a historical fantasy for young readers. Neil, a psychologist, also writes books about psychology, philosophy, and religion.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve written 75 books published in Canada and the United States. How does that mean to you?

Elma Schemenauer: I loved writing every one of those books. Some are quite short because they’re for little kids. For example, I wrote 13 children’s books about countries including Ethiopia, Somalia, and Uganda. Of course my books for older readers are longer. They include the middle-grade novel “Jacob Jacobs Gets Up Early” and the factual book “Native Canadians Today and Long Ago.”

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a personal favourite among all the books you’ve published?

Elma Schemenauer: My favourite is “Consider the Sunflowers” because it’s my first novel for adults.

Geosi Gyasi: Besides living in Saskatchewan, you also lived in Montana and Nova Scotia. What took you to these places?

Elma Schemenauer: I spent two summers in Montana teaching Vacation Bible School to children living on ranches and farms. Later I went to Nova Scotia and taught junior-high English under the auspices of the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions and Services.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a formal education in writing?

Elma Schemenauer: I have a BA in English and psychology. However, much of what I know about writing and publishing comes from on-the-job experience. I worked for a Toronto publisher for eight years. Then I went freelance, writing and editing for a number of Canadian and American publishers including Nelson, Prentice-Hall, and Grolier.

Geosi Gyasi: What motivates you as a writer?

Elma Schemenauer: I believe God made me to write. I feel most fulfilled when I’m writing.

Consider the Sunflowers by Elma Schemenauer

(Order from Chapters online or Borealis Press  . More info at

Geosi Gyasi: Do you belong to any group of writers?

Elma Schemenauer: I belong to the Interior Authors Group here in Kamloops. I also belong to the Federation of BC Writers and The Word Guild, a cross-Canada association of writers and editors who are Christian. Besides these, I belong to several online writers groups. The best online critique group I’ve found is Internet Writing Workshop.

Geosi Gyasi: What kind of books did you read growing up as a child?

Elma Schemenauer: As a child, I didn’t have access to a wide variety of books, but I read anything I could lay my hands on. When I was seven, I found a book called “Stories for Eight Year Olds.” I was so pleased to be able to read it even though I was only seven. I also enjoyed reading school books, Sunday School papers, and books from our tiny local library—whatever came my way.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you come from a family of writers?

Elma Schemenauer: I come from a family of storytellers. As I was growing up, I loved hearing my Mennonite relatives’ stories about the Old Country (Russia) and about their new life in Canada. A few of my relatives became writers. For example, Margaret Epp wrote many books of Christian fiction for young people. Rhoda Janzen, a relative by marriage, wrote the memoirs “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” and “Mennonite Meets Mr. Right.”

Geosi Gyasi: Do you see yourself writing more books?

Elma Schemenauer: Right now I’m working on an adult book of short stories about mysterious and exciting events from Canada’s history. I’m also writing a second novel for adults. It features some of the characters I introduced in “Consider the Sunflowers.”

Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as your greatest achievement as a writer?

Elma Schemenauer: Having my novel “Consider the Sunflowers” published by Borealis Press. That was a huge thrill for me.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your main research areas as a writer?

Elma Schemenauer: Canadian history, community life, Mennonites, church history.

Geosi Gyasi: Did you know as a child that you would one day become a writer?

Elma Schemenauer: At age eight I wrote a poem about spring, stuck it in a bottle, and threw it into a pond on my parents’ Saskatchewan farm. I think I knew then that I wanted to be involved in writing and publishing.

Geosi Gyasi: What is your personal view about literature in Canada?

Elma Schemenauer: I think we have some outstanding authors in this country. Among my favourites are Sandra Birdsell, Rudy Wiebe, and Mary Lawson. I also have a special interest in Canadian authors with a non-European background, for example, Esi Edugyan from Ghana, Rabindranath Maharaj from Trinidad, and Rohinton Mistry from India.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you write on a computer or in a notebook?

Elma Schemenauer: I usually write on a computer. However, if I’m having trouble with a particular passage, I find it helpful to write by hand. Or if I wake up at night with a wonderful idea, I write it out by hand.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything financially from writing?

Elma Schemenauer: Yes, especially from writing for educational publishers.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any “serious” advice for budding writers?

Elma Schemenauer: Read a lot. Be open to other people’s feedback on your writing. A good critique group can be helpful. Keep trying, even in the face of discouragement. Keep smiling.


Interview with Poet & Editor, Athena Dixon

September 12, 2015
Photo: Athena Dixon

Photo: Athena Dixon

Brief Biography:

Athena Dixon is a former contributor at For Harriet, a Managing Editor for Z-Composition, and a Fiction Reader for Gigantic Sequins. Her poetry and non-fiction has appeared both online and in print at Okayplayer, Rolling Out Weekly, Blackberry: A Magazine, Rose Red Review, Pluck!, Compose Journal, and THIS Magazine among others.

Lean more about Athena at

Geosi Gyasi: Where does your love for literary arts come from?

Athena Dixon: I’ve been writing short stories since I was around ten years old. I’ve always been fairly shy and books were my outlet. However, it wasn’t until the 8th grade I really started to love the act of writing. I had a student teacher for one nine week period who focused on poetry. She put us through our paces with a variety of styles and gave us feedback on each piece we submitted. She told me I reminded her of Emily Dickenson. Her encouragement sparked research which lead me to the works of Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Maya Angelou. It was my first exposure to black female poets. From there, I realized I’d found a voice and started to write voraciously.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you remember how your first piece of writing looks like?

Athena Dixon: I can’t remember my first piece of fiction, but my first poem was a piece titled “My Dad is Grand”. I wrote it in 1990 for my father’s birthday. I actually still have it.  It was the spark that lead to my current writing style.

Geosi Gyasi: You are a former contributor at For Harriet and a managing editor for Z-Composition. My question is what does it take to be an editor for a literary magazine?

Athena Dixon: I think it takes an unbiased mind and a curiosity of sounds. A good editor, in my opinion, approaches the submitted work as a blank slate. It shouldn’t be about personal connections or bias, popularity, hot topics, or aesthetic. If the work is well crafted and impactful, it deserves a chance to be published and spread to your readers. Additionally, a good editor should be just as interested in the sound of a work as well as how it looks on the page. I read everything I publish aloud. I think the mouth feel of poems is sometimes overlooked in lieu of how aesthetically pleasing it looks on the page. Poems should sing.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you get time to write when you have a regular day job?

Having a day job can be a hinderance to my own writing. When I was an English adjunct just out of graduate school, I had a very hard time balancing teaching Composition and completing my own work. I found I had very little energy to edit my poetry after teaching between three schools. Thankfully, I’ve worked for the federal government for nearly seven years now and I’ve been able to balance quite a bit. I tend to write on the weekends, on my breaks and lunches, and between casework at my desk. I keep a folder on my work desktop with poems, stories, and essays in progress. I usually carry a journal everywhere. Whenever the mood strikes me, I jot it down and come back to it later. I will say I need to develop a specific schedule to maximize my time.

Geosi Gyasi: As the founding editor for Linden Avenue Literary Journal, what are some of the things you look for when accepting submissions?

Athena Dixon: Honesty, if you have clearly disregarded the submission guidelines it is highly likely I won’t read your submission in its entirety. I lean towards work that relays moments in time that are often forgotten. I liken it to background music. The stories and the images used to create the work is important not intrusive tropes and wordiness.

Geosi Gyasi: Has the aim for which you started Linden Avenue Literary Journal been achieved?

Athena Dixon: It has to some degree. My original intention for Linden Avenue was to give voice to writers regardless of his or her connections, educational background, publication history, etc. In that respect, the last three years have been just what I wanted. Now, I want the journal to have a bigger role in publishing. I’d like to expand into a press and eventually a writing collective/retreat. I think there are still needs to be met in the writing community and I hope Linden Avenue can meet them.

Geosi Gyasi: What are some of the best writers you’ve published in Linden Avenue?

Athena Dixon: There have been some amazing writers over the last three years, but a few standouts are Andrea Blythe’s “Red Riding Hood Remembers” from Issue One, Darren Demaree’s “Emily As We Dance With Full Foot” from Issue Twenty-Nine, Pia Taavila-Borsheim’s  “The New Day” from Issue Twenty-Five, Suchoon Mo’s “Two Women Sing” from Issue Seven, Agholor Leonard Obiaderi’s “Reunion” and “A Taste of Cabon” from Issue Six, Janna Vought’s “All That Remains” from Issue Four, and Karen Munro’s “Ararat” from Issue Three.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your opinions on literary magazines that charge submission fees?

Athena Dixon: I don’t believe that’s an issue. I pay all costs for Linden Avenue’s staff, website, and hosting from my own personal funds, so I know how it can be a costly endeavour. If a journal needs to offset the costs of running the publication, curating contests, or producing print material, I see no problem with it.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you meet the managing editor and reader, Angie Chatman?

Athena Dixon: We attended the same graduate school, Queens University of Charlotte. When I put out a call for a reader a few months after the journal launched, she responded and she was the perfect fit.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me about your short piece, “Saturday Night at the D.A.V”?

Athena Dixon: The essay is one of many I wrote during and after the breakup of my marriage. I’d been living in New Jersey with my now ex-husband and moved back to my home state of Ohio to be near my family. I was really hurting and my mother used bingo and other activities to keep her eye on me. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t isolating myself. Bingo was therapy outside of my actual therapy appointments. The game is oddly relaxing. There’s a quiet and a repetition to playing that allows time to slip by very slowly. It was just what I needed.

Geosi Gyasi: Who edits your own works before you submit it to publishers?

Athena Dixon: I edit my own work prior to submission. Currently, I have a reader looking at a collection of my poetry. It’s the first time I am submitting a full manuscript.

Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever been rejected by publishers/editors for your own works?

Athena Dixon: All the time! I publish fairly steadily, but I get my fair share of rejections also. I take it in stride.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you manage to turn down works that do not fit in your literary journal?

Athena Dixon: Although we do have a form rejection letter for use in some cases, I do try to leave personal comments on those pieces that were almost a fit. I know it takes a lot to put your work out into the world so I am never harsh.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you ever regret being a writer?

Athena Dixon: Not at all! Sometimes I wonder if I really am a writer.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific style in which you write?

Athena Dixon: My work tends to be very confessional. I have a background in spoken word so those cadences and rhythms tend to find their way into my poetry and my non-fiction work. I also tend to use quite a few trinities.

Geosi Gyasi: How do you often choose titles for your works?

Athena Dixon: There are times I start with the title and craft the poem from there, but normally the title comes from a specific image within the work or a portion of a line.

Geosi Gyasi: Poetry and fiction – which of them do you feel more inclined to?

Athena Dixon: Poetry. It fits my personality best. It’s succinct and packs a punch into very few words. When I speak, I want people to know I mean what I say.

Geosi Gyasi: Which writers have had great impact on you as a writer?

Athena Dixon: I love the works of Major Jackson, Nick Flynn, Kevin Young, Anne Sexton, Nikki Giovanni, Jeanette Winterson, Virginia Woolf, Ai, and many others. My favorite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I find it to be the perfect blend of poetry, fiction, and linguistics.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell me a little about your past as a volunteer at AmeriCorps Vista?

Athena Dixon: I served for two years in my home state of Ohio. My first year, I taught financial literacy courses for community members and ran an IDA (individual development account) program. The program allowed participants to learn better strategies and to save towards a specific goal such as a starting a small business, furthering his or her education, or purchasing a home. All funds the members saved were matched $2 for every $1. The second year, I helped with literacy at a childcare center. One of my main responsibilities was helping the children prepare for entry into kindergarten.

Geosi Gyasi: What influenced your choice of going to Queens University of Charlotte for your MFA?

Athena Dixon: I was accepted to a summer class at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. My instructor was Major Jackson, who was a faculty member at the university at the time. I’d thought about attending graduate school, but hadn’t made up my mind. After hearing his feedback on my poetry and learning more about the school, I applied and was accepted.

Geosi Gyasi: What are your main research areas as a writer?

Athena Dixon:  I’m extremely interested in the works of Steven Pinker. Language, and how it is influenced by society, is fascinating to me. I am also interested in looking at Their Eyes Were Watching God as a feminist text. I think Hurston created a novel generations ago that still rings true when it comes to intersectionality, womanhood, and racism.


Interview with Katey Schultz, Author of “Flashes of War”

September 10, 2015
Photo: Katey Schultz

Photo: Katey Schultz

Brief Biography:

Katey Schultz grew up in Portland, Oregon and is most recently from Celo, North Carolina. Flashes of War, her debut collection of short stories published by Loyola University Maryland, won IndieFab Book of the Year as well as a Gold Medal in Literary Fiction. Her stories have won more than half a dozen contests, been nominated for 2 Puschcart prizes, and appeared in print in the United States, England, and Afghanistan. Katey has received writing fellowships in 8 different states and is currently at work on a novel that takes place in Afghanistan. She lives in a 1970 Airstream trailer bordering the Pisgah National Forest.

Geosi Gyasi: What is your happiest moment as a writer?

Katey Schultz: I’m fortunate enough to say, with confidence and gratitude, that I’ve experienced many happy moments as a writer. Earlier on in my work as a fiction writer, I was awarded the Linda Flowers Literary Prize by the North Carolina Humanities Council. I wasn’t entirely aware of how special this recognition was until I showed up to at the huge auditorium (that year, the event was on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus) to receive my award. My parents attended, and the judge introduced me and said kind words about my work. It made the accomplishment feel quite real and memorable and fueled me for a long time. In terms of Flashes of War and the book tour, one of my happiest moments was learning that the United States Air Force Academy cadets were reading my book. This fall, I get to travel to Colorado to meet them and answer questions about the work. Another powerful moment was the day I received a photo of young Afghan men reading a copy of Flashes of War.

Geosi Gyasi: Was there any special reason why you decided to study at Pacific University?

Katey Schultz: Yes. I grew up in Oregon and although I’ve been living in Appalachia for 13 years (and counting), the basis for all my early writing models and love of the land (which I hope, also shows in my own work) were the great writers of the Pacific Northwest–Pete Fromm, Craig Lesley, Barry Lopez, William Kittredge, Debra Gwartney, Judy Blunt, Claire Davis, Molly Gloss and more. Studying in the low-res MFA program at Pacific University meant working with these masters as well as a chance to fly “home” twice a year to spend time at the writing residencies. More than anything, that faculty taught me passion for the writing life, body and soul. Yes, they also taught me technical and craft skills, but they embodied focus and commitment and modeled it with every syllable of every lecture. I’m still empowered by the memory of my time there, and pulling a book by any of these folks off the shelf is almost as good as having them right there at the desk with me.

Geosi Gyasi: I am curious to know anything about the 1970 Airstream trailer in which you live?

Katey Schultz: I bought the Airstream for a few thousand dollars back in 2011 and spent about a year and a half repairing and upgrading it with my dad. I lived in it full time for several years before I met my husband, and now the Airstream serves as my long-term writing studio (and a truly crafty, comfy, streamlined space). We also spend several months during summertime sleeping in a large tent (“the master bedroom”) behind the Airstream and sharing the Airstream itself as our mutual office, kitchen, napping spot, library, and bathroom. Those days are lovely and long and I feel like there’s no barrier (or perhaps, just a thin layer of aluminum) between myself and the natural world.

Geosi Gyasi: What has been the response so far about your book, “Flashes of War”?

Katey Schultz: Well, there have been lots of kind and informative reviews (link: and, more than anything, great acceptance from the veteran and military communities themselves. Lovers of literary ficition, tightly formed flash fiction, and metaphor- or image-based narrative have also responded kindly to the work. More than anything, though, what I’ve learned is that this book is slowly but steadily finding its way onto the bookshelves of people who might not otherwise like to read “about war.” Whether by fluke, because of a review, or even just a book sale at their local indy bookseller,Flashes of War gets into their possession and they sit down rolling their eyes thinking that they don’t want to read about war…then they come away realizing they’ve read about people, and the everyday, impossible decisions for folks on all sides of conflict. This book explores conundrums of the human heart much more so than it explores any tactical or military might.

Geosi Gyasi: Are you working on anything new?

Katey Schultz: Yes, thanks for asking. I’m currently on the sixth revision of my novel, Still Come Home. The novel is set in Afghanistan and features and American soldier leading his platoon on the last mission of his last tour. It tracks his life and the life of an Afghan couple living in the town the mission takes him to, tracing their paths to a distinct and memorable moment of overlap. The novel is about how we behave and move forward when we find ourselves in situations where we can do everything right and still be wrong.

Buy Me For Signed Copies

Buy Me For Signed Copies

               Click on the book cover above to buy signed copies of “Flashes of War”.


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