Q&A with Jasmine Griffin

We are thrilled to feature Jasmine Griffin’s Bye Bye, Blackbird as part of our weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Jasmine!

What is the first book that made you cry?
The first book that ever made me cry was, Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. That woman could tell a story. She had this way with words and the characters were so well developed. I was emotionally invested from beginning to end and it was one of the works I can truly say that inspired me to want to write.


If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
As a teenager I would probably say that I should've believed in myself more and invested in myself more as a writer. I think I was afraid in the beginning. Even with the support of family, friends and teachers. I didn't believe I could do it professionally or anyone would want to read the stories I had to tell. It took me a long time to build up my confidence and embrace the fact that I am and always have been a writer.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Too many! I am one of those writers who gets ideas and starts them and then gets stuck and stops. The project I am working on now though is something that has stuck with me for years and inspired by my grandfather in a lot of ways and I feel like it is just as much his story as it is mine and so I want to finish it and bring it to life in a way that he and my grandmother would've been proud of.

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Q&A with Ayshe Dengtash

We are thrilled to feature Ayshe Dentash’s Escape as part of our weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Ayshe!

What is your favourite childhood book?
I found it hard to decide whether it was Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson or Danny, the Champion by Roald Dahl. I’ll go with Double Act though. I loved reading the story of a set of twins who were so identical in appearance yet so dissimilar in character. As someone who felt so different from everyone else at school and home, the book helped me understand that it was OK to be “unusual.” 

What is the first book that made you cry?
There are so many books that have made me sad, like Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame, but I hadn’t cried until a couple of months ago when I read Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, a non-fiction book about the writer’s account of how three generations of her family involuntarily suffered under a political regime. The writer’s mother’s unconditional love for her daughter touched me deeply. 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have two cats, Morgan and Daniel (both female). The first is named after Morgan Freeman, the latter after Daniel Bryan, a professional wrestler (my husband’s idea). Daniel is not very easily manipulated, she’s always eager to do as she pleases. Screams at the top of her voice when she’s getting her claws trimmed, growls when she sees a male cat, and has certain hours in the day when she just goes to her room to rest by herself, body and soul. I consider her an independent woman. So, she’s definitely my spirit animal.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK, home of playwright William Shakespeare. I’ve also been to Westminster Abbey, eternal resting place of several writers and poets, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, T.S Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, and William Wordsworth to name a few. Also, I had the chance to stay at the Lake District for a week, where I absorbed the beauty of the luscious green hills where Williams Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge took long strolls together. 

Anything else you would like to share?
As a writer born to parents from Cyprus, my short story Escape was inspired by the oppression women have had to endure on the island for centuries. I lived in Cyprus for 12 years and experienced the oppression first-hand. I believe every woman deserves freedom, and that change can only come if stories of oppression are spread honestly. The women in the story are fictional representations of Cypriot women in the past and the present. And I hope I am able to show all domestic abuse sufferers that their current situations, which may seem to them permanent, can in fact be changed. All that is needed is self-belief and self-worth. 

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Q&A with Brittany Balin

We are thrilled to feature Brittany Balin’s Nice Mommy as part of our weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Brittany!

What is your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I found a copy of this book among my stepmother’s belongings as a child and was immediately enthralled. Having a child for the sole purpose of being an organ donor for an older child with cancer is a situation I am sure no person would wish on even their worst enemy. The book enriched my life perspective by including chapters written from the point of view of each of the main characters providing readers with several different experiences and life outlooks. This writing technique is what lead me to become a Jodi Picoult fan overall. I would also recommend her books The Pact and Nineteen Minutes. They are very entertaining and life enriching reads as well. 

What is the first book that made you cry?
The first book that caused me to break down in tears was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I could feel the pain of the characters right off the page as I shared in both their triumphs and losses. The most painful scenes in the book for me were the revealing of Baba as Hassan’s biological father and Hassan’s assault at the hands of bullies in his quest to locate Amir’s kite.

What is your writing Kryptonite?
My writing kryptonite is being able to write pieces that focus on purely the beauty in life without all of the ugly. My viewpoint has always been that suffering is life and life is suffering. In order for us as people to truly love and embrace life, we must take both the beautiful and the “ugly.” A little bit of both or perhaps moreso the ugly is where my writing tends to lean. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
My favorite under-appreciated novel is Hate List by Jennifer Brown. This is another novel that takes a terrible tragedy and truly analyzes it for what it is and isn’t by diving deep beneath the surface to show the events that lead up to the disaster as well as what happened after.

Anything else you would like to share?
As an emerging writer who has a passion for both writing and reading, I would love to encourage anyone else who has any desire to write, to settle down and do so no matter how infrequently it ends up being. Writing is an art, an expression of the human form put into words. Each of us is only helping to make the world a richer place by sharing our own perspectives with others. We should all feel free to contribute to the human conversation of life. 

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Q&A with Troy Allan

We are thrilled to feature Troy Allan’s Holy Fools as part of our weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Troy!

What is your favorite childhood book?
To be honest, I was not a “book worm," as a child. My brothers and I spent a great amount of time outdoors exploring craggy creek bottoms and hitting the baseball with my dad. However, although books were not high on my priority list, the theatre was. I cannot recall a time in my childhood I was not sitting at the feet of my father while he directed. Above everything, it was the theatre that caught and held my attention as a child. My first time on stage, and I am digging as deep as I can, I played the role of a child in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, The King and I. It must have been 1977 or ‘78, I was in preschool. Like many artists, writers, actors, or poets, I can trace every moment of my first experience with the art. I smell the metal-like stage make-up, the heat of the stage lights on the top of my blonde head, and the singing of the company combined with the crisp applaud of the audience. I see the bright costumes that flow as if sprinkled with fairy dust. But, more than anything, I recall thinking: this is magical! I spent most of my adolescent years reading plays and memorizing lines. So, perhaps the question should be, what was your favorite childhood art memory and I would answer: it was playing the role of the courier in Sherman Edward’s, 1776, and singing, “Mama, Look Sharp.” I was twelve-years-old. 

What is the first book that made you cry?
When I think of books that have stirred strong emotion, I think of books like Richard Adams’s, Watership Down. There is something special about the way Adams illustrates the struggle of the human condition with the group of wild rabbits searching for a home. This resonated in my soul as a young boy. Books that anthropomorphize creatures have a special place in my heart, and I believe it is because of the connection I have to nature. Maybe this explains why Annie Dillard’s, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is so moving. 

How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have a set number of hours I write. When I find the muse, I go to work! But, I hardly ever write more than two hours at a time. Most of my writing comes in the afternoon or early evening after a full day of teaching, thinking, and engaging with the world. I write as much as I can every day. 

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
That is easy. Read. Read. Read.

Anything else you would like to share?
My son is a visual artist, and we work together in his studio. I see the joy art brings to us. I would encourage everyone to support the arts—literature, visual, music, theatre- the world needs more artists and programs that support the arts. I believe we all struggle with the human condition and through art, we can come to understand the journey and perhaps even find God. 

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Q&A with Ryan Goodwin

We are thrilled to feature Ryan Goodwin’s Another Man’s Place as part of our weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Ryan!

What is your favorite childhood book?

The first novel that really inspired me to become a writer was S. E. Hinton's "The Outsiders". I fell in love with the characters and the easy going approach Hinton took while describing such a beautifully brutal era of childhood. I was even more amazed when I found out how young she was when she wrote the novel and it took this otherworldly thing, a novel, and made it tangible and touchable. Her success gave me hope that maybe one day people really might care what I had to say about the world. In short, that book changed everything for me.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I'm not certain I can detail the first time a book made me cry, but I do know I cried like a pinched infant when Old Yeller was shot. It was the first of many dog deaths both real and fictional that pulled tears from me.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

My first screenplay was an adaptation of "The Giver", written on notebook pages in multicolored pens in 8th grade. That book woke up a part of me that had been asleep. It really showed me the teaching and healing powers fiction can have on a young mind. When, in the novel, you first see the color red in a world of grayscale, there's no going back from the realization of how deeply a well constructed story can infiltrate your mind. I'm still in awe of the talent and purpose coursing through that novel.

How long on average does it take you to write an essay/flash fiction?

I wrote the first draft of "Another Man's Place" in one sitting. As soon as the connection between those three moments of my life was realized, I just ran with it until I felt I didn't have any more to say. It took hours of editing and benefited from many great conversations and critiques before it reached a final draft, but that first draft was maybe three or four hours of all out, fingers can't keep pace writing.

Anything else you would like to share?

I am lucky enough to have a great support system and a lot of very talented writers and readers looking out for me and encouraging me at every step. I am and will always be grateful for that.

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Q&A with Cristy Dodson

We are thrilled to feature Cristy Dodson’s Sylvia Plath Said More In 30 Years Than I Will In 60 as part of our new weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Cristy!

What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book is Corduroy.

What is the first book that made you cry?

The first book that made me cry was Where the Red Fern Grows, and I was on the school bus when I began to cry.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual or healing practice?

I think both writing and reading are healing practices. Even in classes, I right down my point and read it off the page once I have it down. Writing allows me to form connections that I would have never seen otherwise.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

The ethics of writing about historical figures is a tough standard to pin down. I think the best we can do is to hold ourselves to higher standard when writing about people who are no longer here to speak for themselves and write based primarily on facts and primary sources.

Anything else you would like to share?

This is my first time being published.

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Q&A with Terry Barr

We are thrilled to feature Terry Barr’s Cold Coffee as part of our new weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Terry!

What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book was "Beautiful Joe: A Dog's Own Story" by Marshall Saunders. I found a copy of it a few years back in an antique store. I loved the book, narrated in first person by Joe himself, because it showed compassion and alerted me to how inhumane people can be toward animals--and also how loving.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Probably "The Call of the Wild" made me cry. I loved Buck and hated to see him go wild in the end. Now, I like his "choice."

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don't be afraid to be funny. Not everything is deadly serious when it comes to writing.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When i was five and visiting a friend's hose, I wanted to show them that I was disappointed that I couldn't stay for supper. I really wasn't disappointed, because my friend's mother was a terrible cook, and mine was terrific. Anyway, to feign disappointment, I said "Dad blame it." My friend's mother turned abruptly and scolded me about using "slang." I didn't know what I was saying then, just repeating what I had heard at home. This same family, though, made no bones about using "Ni***r" for black people. Very enlightening for a small boy.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one book that I'm currently shopping around. At least one more beyond that.

What does literary success look like to you?

Those moments when I am reading an essay to an audience--any size audience, any place--from one of my two already published books (from Third Lung Press of Hickory, NC).

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

In the sense that I go deeply inside myself, lose track of time, and find details and memories coming from some hidden part of my mind, yes, I do find writing "spiritual." I think doing yoga is spiritual, too, but that's as close as I ever get to anything of that nature.

Do you hide any secrets in your work that only a few people will find?

Not really. I change names, but anyone who knows the story, or rather who lived the story alongside me, can reasonably figure out who these "characters" are.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Regarding the essay published here, I still like to find old diners, even if the coffee is not "gourmet." There's a place in Bath County, VA., called The Country Cafe. They serve Maxwell House, and it's delicious. It tastes like a memory that I enjoy re-experiencing.

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