Megan Falley is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, published by Write Bloody Press: “After the Witch Hunt” (2012) and “Redhead and the Slaughter King” (2014). “Bad Girls, Honey – Poems About Lana Del Rey” is the winner of the Tired Hearts Chapbook Competition. Falley has performed on TV One’s “Verses& Flow.” In 2014, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was a finalist at both The National Poetry Slam and The Woman of the World Poetry Slam. She is the founded of the online poetry course, Poems That Don’t Suck, and is currently living and writing in Brooklyn.
Geosi Gyasi: I’m often curious to know what entails in the work of a full-time writer? Do you sit down in an office throughout the day to write?
Megan Falley: I think being a “full-time writer” differs for everyone who braves the adventure. A lot of people want to ask the income question. For me, most of my financial support comes from going on tour to different colleges and high schools across the country, supplemented by smaller venue shows and book sales. When colleges are out of session, I teach online workshops in group and one-on-one settings where students and I work tirelessly towards improving their craft and expanding their knowledge of poetry and the self. I don’t have an office – but I spend a lot of time in coffee shops all around Brooklyn, thinking up ways to keep the dream afloat. Being a full-time writer is not only about writing all day, though I try to write and read daily, but a lot of it is business: emails, social media, submitting to journals and contests, booking tours, self-promotion, post-office trips to mail books, etc!
Geosi Gyasi: When did you start writing?
Megan Falley: I don’t remember a time when I was not writing. It’s always been something I’ve loved to do. I did not go full time until September 2012, a bit after my first book, After the Witch Hunt, came out on Write Bloody Press and I went on a 100 day tour all across the country, in my car by myself.
Geosi Gyasi: Which genre of literature are you mainly into?
Megan Falley: I primarily write poetry, although this November I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a 50,000+ word novel in a month. It was really important for me to accept and achieve the challenge because I realized how much I love writing fiction, but also how different the fiction and poetry muscles are. I hope to edit it and continue pushing the boundaries of what field I feel most “comfortable” in. What’s comfort compared to adventure?
Geosi Gyasi: You’re also a performer. Can you tell us some of the performances you’ve done?
Megan Falley: I am! And I think a lot of what lured me into writing poetry was the spoken word element, the idea that I could be a writer but not have to give up my lifelong passion for the stage. Some of the coolest performances I’ve done have been on TV One’s Verses and Flow, which filmed in Los Angeles, where I got to perform alongside legendary musicians like Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton for a studio audience. Performing for thousands of people in gorgeous theaters at the National Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam as a finalist/competitor in 2014 were also really exciting. I’ve performed at colleges and venues all around the country. But honestly, some of my favorite performances have been in small rooms with electric energy. Most recently I had an absolute blast reading poems at the Portland Poetry Slam in Oregon.
Geosi Gyasi: Was it easy getting your first full-length poetry collection, “After the Witch Hunt” published?
Megan Falley: Along with hundreds of others, I submitted a three poem writing sample to Write Bloody Publishing’s Open Book Contest. Within a couple of weeks I was notified that I was a finalist along with a dozen or so other writers (some whom I greatly admired) and that I needed to produce and submit a forty poem manuscript within a couple of weeks. I did not have forty publishable poems, so I spent the following few weeks writing and editing nearly every second of the day until I had something that I was really proud of. The manuscript that would later become After the Witch Hunt. Just a handful of poets would go on to win the competition and have a book published — I was one of them! I was twenty-two at the time.
Geosi Gyasi: What is “After the Witch Hunt” all about?
Megan Falley: Lots of things. Feminism. Navigating the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Finding yourself. The pressures on women’s bodies and sex lives in America. Addiction. Being a writer. Saying “Fuck.” Self-love.
Geosi Gyasi: What should readers look out for in your collection, “Redhead and the Slaughter King”?
Megan Falley: The book is told in reverse chronological order, in five chapters that count backwards. I really want readers to read it in that order and then ask questions about cause and effect. I also want them to ruminate on who or what the Slaughter King is in the book, and also in their lives.
Geosi Gyasi: I’m not sure if there is the need to call this an adventure, but why would you tour your country and Canada for 100 days?
Megan Falley: Absolutely an adventure! My first book had just come out and I wanted to go on tour (and my publisher actually requires its authors to do at least twenty shows in their first year with a new book), and as I kept putting out feelers for shows, people kept saying yes and inviting me out to their venues. I only intended to book a tour for a month or six weeks at first, but wonderful cities and opportunities kept arising for me, and since I wasn’t paying rent at the time, I decided to go for it. 100 seemed like a great number. Not 99. Not 101. 100 days on the road. 100 glorious days.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind telling us something about your dog, “Taco”?
Megan Falley: Taco is a feminist. She doesn’t like aggressive men. She doesn’t like strangers to look her in the eye. If you play hard-to-get, she’s your girl. She is the best cuddler in the universe. She sleeps in my bed and fits herself into all the coziest nooks. My mom actually found her. We put up signs all over the neighborhood and did everything we could to help find her original owner. She was never claimed. She claimed by heart instead. I have no idea how old she really is. She sleeps until noon. She loves pizza and will eat a french fry out of my mouth. She is my external hard drive of a heart. She’s going to live forever.
Geosi Gyasi: How is your writing process like?
Megan Falley: I used to write intensively towards a deadline (like the aforementioned Write Bloody one) and then not again at all, for months. Knowing that this process SUCKED and benefited no one, I decided that in 2014 I would write a poem a day, every day. 365 poems in the year to make it a habit. Now, 350+ poems into it, it is a lot easier for me to write a decent poem on the spot, and I am challenged daily to expand my horizons on what topics make good poetry. Normally I’d tell students to write in their notebooks first, but since I keep all the poems numbered/filed on my computer and send them to my intern, I’ve been typing most of my poems this year. I often write at night.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you do many drafts?
Megan Falley: Yes. I think editing is crucial for good writing. While I don’t normally do massive overhauls anymore (I have a bit more trust on my original intentions for a piece) I do a lot of fine-line editing in terms of word choice, clarity, form, etc.
Geosi Gyasi: You developed and teach an online poetry course called “Poems That Don’t Suck”? Could you tell us why you began this programme?
Megan Falley: I got a fortune cookie once that said “A good mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.” This community has given me so much and I want to give back by working with people who want to throw themselves into the catharsis that is poetry. I love challenging my students to be braver in their work, to uncover the layers of flowers and ribcages and constellation freckles to say something scary and true.
Geosi Gyasi: You currently live I Brooklyn, NY. My question is, is that where you grew up?
Megan Falley: Both my parents grew up in Brooklyn and I’ve always lived in New York. Born in Queens, grew up on Long Island, went to school upstate, and now Brooklyn. Hopefully Manhattan one day, but only if I am very very rich.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a favorite among all the poems you’ve written?
Megan Falley: No, I don’t think so. It changes.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you ever regret becoming a writer?
Megan Falley: Not a day. There are moments I wish that I was doing more with music and singing, but I don’t think that’s crossed off of the horizon whatsoever. I am one of the lucky few who get to do what I love for a living — nothing to regret at all.
Geosi Gyasi: Are there times you feel like not writing?
Megan Falley: Of course. I don’t like to write on vacation, or when I’m really tired, or when I remember the phenomena that is Netflix. But this year it’s been about doing it anyway. Working through the discomfort. Not just waiting for inspiration. Creating the inspiration for myself. Recognizing that I am a writer always, not just when its convenient. Always.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the most important aspect of writing?
Megan Falley: Normally I would say reading, which is totally true, but I think the most important aspect of writing is including the details that only you know and being as honest and brave as possible in the telling.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you ever keep a dictionary beside you when writing?
Megan Falley: No. I know all the words I want to use. I use the dictionary often when I am reading though, in case I don’t know a word and it can later become a word I will want to use. My math teacher once told me that’s the quickest way to get smarter — to read books and look up every word you don’t know. I fucking hate math but I understood that. Roger that, Mr. Lipsky. Roger that.