1. When did you start writing?
"I started writing in third grade. My friend Linda and I were deeply obsessed with fantasy novels and storytelling, so we decided to write one together where we could create this magical world and populate it with characters who were so vibrant and real to us. We told each other this story, verbally, during recesses, and I would transcribe them onto notebook paper later. Through this process, I began writing more consistently and fell in love with storytelling and with the possibilities that it holds.
I have also always been drawn to image and to the line itself. That is something that definitely helped me branch into poetry and to embrace the smaller-scale sense of wonder or discovery that you can get through experimenting with language."
2. What drew you to write poetry?
"I actually exclusively wrote prose until the fall of 2020. What changed at that point was I’d made a lot of online writer friends who were these incredible and inspiring poets, and seeing what they were doing catalyzed my more serious exploration of poetry and the freedom it provides. The collection of poetry that really helped me get into it was Crush by Richard Siken (a very standard favorite). For me, this book was so wonderful because, in addition to how gorgeous, emotional, and skilled it is on a craft level, Siken’s often more narrative style helped me bridge the gap in my mind between prose—and the narratives I crafted in prose—and poetry. It introduced me to this new genre and opened up a lot of possibilities for exploration.
One of the reasons I continue to write poetry is because of how liberating it can be, form-wise. I am a big fan of experimenting with form and fitting the form of a piece to its content, and poetry is so unlimited in that sense. Another thing about poetry that I love is the distance, or the lack of distance, between the speaker and the writer. In prose—obviously, there’s autofiction—but oftentimes in fiction, the characters are very distinct from the writer. However, in poetry, there’s a blurry area where sometimes the speaker is me, and sometimes she’s a specific facet of me talking, and sometimes she’s me in a hypothetical situation but still reflecting my fears or desires or the ideas I’m grappling with. And it can be unclear to the reader how much of me is in the speaker and how much of the speaker is me, which allows for a slight veil of privacy while discussing what can be intensely personal subjects."
3. What drew you to write prose?
"Like I said before, I was initially drawn to writing prose because I adored stories, storytelling, and having this cast of characters who I could live with in my mind and on the page. That feeling of creation was something that I fell in love with at a very early age. Now, I still write prose because I love to see these characters through their arcs, as well as how they come alive in different situations or when interacting with each other. The long form also provides a lot of space to let characters, themes, and ideas develop and transform, especially in novel, which is a form I’ve recently picked up again. It creates a lot of opportunities to circle these ideas and to explore various facets of them through different characters or different sections of the project."
4. Where does your inspiration come from?
"My inspiration comes from so many places! I think one of the best things about writing is that you can look at the world around you and see something simultaneously so mundane but so wonderful that you want to write about it. However, I think some of the funnier places I draw inspiration are random places online, like YouTube comment sections or Tweets or other posts that I find so funny/intriguing they stay with me as a possible seed for a piece. The most recent example of this is my poem 'My Neighbors Make a Ghost', which was inspired by a tweet where people were crafting ghosts out of chicken wire and using them as Halloween decorations. When I saw this, I thought 'That is so genius, and so strange and simple at the same time.' I guess I’m drawn to things that are very everyday, but that are imbued with some strangeness or surrealness that makes them stand out."
5. How did Inheritances of Hunger come about? When did you realize you had material for a book?
"There are two possible origins for the chapbook, depending on how you define 'come about'. Technically, the first story, 'Games', was written in March of 2021. However, I did not realize I had material for a chapbook until April of 2021 when I wrote 'Changeling'. After writing that story, I looked at these pieces that I’d written consecutively and at the commonalities between them, like the prominence of hunger, desire, and cruelty, and of these familial relationships between women. With these threads in mind, I wrote some bullet points on hunger as a literalization of desire/cruelty/hurt, and how characters could play an active vs. a passive role in their hunger, and the relationships between these ideas and family. As I wrote these notes, I realized that these could be through-lines for a thematically-linked chapbook, and I began brainstorming and constructing stories along those lines."
6. Would you like to share what current writing project(s) you are working on?
"I have not been writing consistently for a few months, but technically, I should be working on two novel projects. The first one is When Cicadas Sing for the Dead, the first chapter of which you can read in the 2022 YoungArts Anthology. This is a novel I’ve been working on since July of 2021, and it has transformed so much regarding structure and characters and the framework within which I try to explore my ideas. It’s been a great process so far, and I hope to finish it within the next few years.
My second novel project is currently untitled, and I only have the first chapter. Still, within it, I was thinking a lot about myths, how living people become myths, and the selective memory required to make someone a myth. Going off of that idea, I was also thinking about how people interact with their myths—trying to escape their myths or entering their myths from the periphery. That was very vague, but it’s something I’ve been having fun with."
7. What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve been told?
"My favorite writing advice came from my friend, Miriam, who was leaving comments on my poems. She told me I have to earn my abstractions, which really helped solidify the way I think about concrete and abstract language and imagery. After reading that comment, I’ve become very conscious about anchoring my ideas or images in the concrete before letting them blossom into the abstract so these abstractions have something to hold onto rather than floating around in a haze."
8. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"One major part of my life that I don’t talk a lot about is cycling. I started biking with my family at a young age, and from eighth through twelfth grade, I mountain biked competitively. I also enjoy long-distance road biking trips, in which I load all my belongings onto the bike and ride for a few weeks like that. Something so amazing about those trips is that I get to experience the area in a much better than I could from a car. Specifically, when I was biking along Route 66, I could go on the historic Route rather than the modern highway, allowing me to see exactly where the Route shifts between alignments/pavings/widths from different time periods, as well as relics of the past like the tiny Conoco gas stations or motels. It really made for a more intimate experience, and I loved being able to experience that accumulation of history in a much more up-close way. I haven’t really written anything about biking yet, but it might happen eventually."
Hear Nova read her flash piece "on building a nest."
Amy Cipolla Barnes
Cristina A. Bejan
Elizabeth M Castillo
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Emily M. Goldsmith
Lukas Ray Hall
B. Tyler Lee
June Lin (mini)
Calia Jane Mayfield
Maria S. Picone
Charlie D’Aniello Trigueros
Heath Joseph Wooten