Fiona George

Fiona George

Fiona George writes regularly on, and occasionally publishes elsewhere on the internet. She is currently working on a novel. George is Unchaste alumni from November 18, 2014 where she accompanied Anca Szilagyi, Margaret Elysia Garcia, Lavinia Magliocco, Shawn Aveningo, Ally Yancey, Hobie Bender, and Lisa Galloway on the stage at The Knock Back Bar.

Jenny Forrester is the curator of Unchaste Readers, a reading series. Forrester interviewed Fiona George January 1st, 2016.

Let me first say thank you for saying yes to this interview. I’ve known you since you were a child, so your path as a writer and a person has been supremely and exquisitely glorious to me, and yet I only know a tiny fraction of who you are and what your life has been like. This, to me, is incredible knowledge – that we can know someone for much of their lives and still know so little about them and yet, as writers, considering the human condition is what we do. As a writer, how does this knowledge affect you? How do you go at the work of writing a piece of the human story?

This is something I’ve thought the most about in terms of personal essays. I write a lot of them, and sometimes other people are in them. It can be hard not to take what you know about someone and make a fictional story for them. And if you put one of those fictional stories out there, it can be hurtful.

I feel like this applies to life more than it applies to my writing: your story about someone is not that person’s story. Remembering that, separating what you know about a person from knowing a person like they know themselves can build complex and rich characters: there are things that the narrator doesn’t know about the other person in the room. That makes them a real person.

I don’t have a real way of going at the human story, or my piece of it. Usually, I just sit down and wait to be fixated on something: a physical or emotional feeling, an image, a piece of language. I just try to write my own story as best I can, I don’t want to tell anyone else their story or what their story should be.

Writers are born and made, but mostly made. It takes dedication to the page, for sure. What was a pivotal moment in your life when writing came into it? Or were you always a writer? How are you educated as a writer? How do you continue to educate yourself? Were there, or are there, times when you stopped writing? Who are your influences? How would you describe your writing? What are your favorite forms? What are your favorite words?

I pretty much knew since I moved on from picture books that I wanted to be a writer, but it took me till I was 19 to really write a goddamn thing. I used to journal sporadically, I wrote a couple high-school-crappy poems, attempted to start novels. But when my mom brought me to visit the workshop class she was in, Dangerous Writing with Tom Spanbauer, was when I really started writing seriously: with actual discipline. That class has been the foundation of my education as a writer, and I don’t think there could’ve been a better teacher to start me on my path than Tom.

I’ve taken several other workshops and classes since that beginning. This last term I lucked way out with a stellar fiction teacher my first term in college. I’ve been in workshops with Suzy Vitello and Jennifer Pastiloff, and basically any class I can get into with Lidia Yuknavitch. Connecting with her has been pretty much better than drug. And I love drugs. She’s given me invaluable support.

I haven’t really had the chance to stop writing since I started. Right now I’ve definitely hit a rut where I haven’t really been able and sit down and produce every day, or even every week, but between writing a column and attending classes I don’t really have the choice to not write.

I try not to describe my writing, at least not yet. I’m just starting out, and I feel like my writing is constantly shifting, changing. I’m not ready to define it yet. I love experimenting with form. I want to try poetry, but usually find my prose is more poetic, so I’ve taken some of my essays and re-written them into poems to try and kind of unlock that voice.

I like long pretty words like juxtapose and serpentine, but very rarely end up actually using them. Also: vagina vagina vagina. For some reason I get a real kick out of using medically accurate terminology to talk about vaginas. Labia, cervix, etc. It’s fun.

You write often and publish often. What’s the most important part of writing for you? Is it the art of the arc or is it words or is it the love of the poetic aesthetic or something else entirely or multiple things? Do you love writing all the time? How do you write when you don’t love it? How does the deadline help you? Do you create your own deadlines?

Language! If I write something with the perfect ‘story’, or narrative arc, but the language feels flat to me, I‘ll scrap it. I don’t feel good about something until I feel it’s rhythmic, like I want to feel the rhythm as I’m writing. It’s not something that can just be added in later. Not for me, at least.

I don’t love writing all the time. Sometimes I think everything I write sucks, so I just want to stop. But I try to just write a bunch of stuff that sucks till I write something I like. I write a lot of throw-away work, but I wouldn’t be able to get to the point of writing something I’m pleased with if I didn’t write a bunch of shit that (I think) sucks first.

I cannot create my own deadlines. Self-discipline isn’t easy for me. But the most useful thing someone can do for me to get me to produce is give me a deadline. I’ll cut it right close to the wire, but almost always get it in. I have this idea in my head that if I can’t do it for writing (that I LOVE), I can’t do it for anything. So I fucking do it.

Where can we find your work? Do you blog? Do you do social media, etc?

Most of my published work can be found on Nailed Magazine as part of my column: In This Body, as well as other places on the site. I’ve also got a piece published on the Manifest-Station. I’m not very good at social media, but I do have a facebook page for my writer-self. (


  Jenny Drai

Jenny Drai

Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Jenny Drai. I’m pretty quiet, an avid reader. At home, it’s just me, my husband, and our cat. In terms of writing, these two questions seem inextricably linked, because I’ve thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember. But I’ve had all sorts of adventures. I’ve lived all over the place as an adult, including Wisconsin, Schleswig-Holstein, Munich, Oakland, the Los Angeles area, the Pacific Northwest, Oxnard (California), and soon to Bonn, Germany. I’ve worked what feels like every odd job imaginable—au pair, bartender, bookstore clerk, and legal assistant among others. My poetry has been published or is forthcoming in American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Dusie, New American Writing, and The Volta, and a lot of other places. I’m also the author of two chapbooks, :Body Wolf: (Horse Less Press, 2014) and The New Sorrow Is Less Than the Old Sorrow (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), a full-length collection of poetry, [ the door ] (Trembling Pillow Press, 2015), as well as Letters to Quince (winner of the Deerbird Novella Prize, Artistically Declined Press, 2015). A novel was a finalist in a recent contest. I’m pretty much in love with books.

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
My writing process depends on what I’m working on. When I work on a longer fiction piece, that does require a lot of discipline, but I would stress that on days when I just don’t feel like writing, I don’t do it. Poetry is a little more of the moment. And since I have them both, I can use them to play hooky on each other. I’m really, really blessed with being prolific and being able to write quickly. And I’m not a very social person. A lot of energy that otherwise might be expended on interpersonal interactions goes straight into my writing.

What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
I really think a good writer needs to be emotionally and intellectually curious, and to understand that the heart and the mind are not mutually exclusive concepts. Empathy helps. In terms of what are the most important elements of good writing? I guess I like to be surprised. My reading tastes are eclectic and run the gamut from…I don’t know…anything to anything. But it seems that I respond most to the unusual. Even if what is being said is very basic, I like language that creates a new picture of that basic theme. I guess…yeah…make it strange. Such a cliché, ironically, but it works on me.

What motivates you to write?
I don’t know exactly. I only know that the urge pretty much has always been there. If I were prevented from doing it, I would become sick and miserable. It’s in my marrow. As I was writing that, it occurred to me that maybe this question just means, how am I motivated on any given day…I guess it just depends how I feel when I wake up, which seems a bit less dramatic.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I lived in Munich from 1997-1999, and I think it would be accurate to say that I lived, breathed, dreamt, and slept in the German language. So eventually, when I would try to turn on the English spout to write, it was all dried up. That was one of the big reasons I moved back. It took me awhile to get started again, but since then, writer’s block hasn’t been a problem, knock on wood. That doesn’t mean there aren’t quieter periods, but then I binge on novels and good TV. I am moving to Germany again in next week, but this time I plan to hold onto my English. My husband is American, so I will have someone to talk to, and I am shipping plenty of books.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
There is a lot of advice out there for writers, so first and foremost, figure out what works for you and do that (in terms of your writing process). But most of all, just read. I really think that’s the most important thing. It’s the best way to learn, and it’s fun. Also, take heart. Rejection sucks but it’s something we all go through. Don’t give up.

What is the message in your writing? What are your readers’ reactions to it?
I have three publications out this year, but they’re all forthcoming, so in terms of reader reaction, I’ll have to let you know. But essentially—our human world is breaking apart in our hands—through abuse, neglect, lack of love. From where/how do we summon the human love to fix that? (When I say love, I’m not really talking about romantic love, even if a poem or other work centers on a relationship.)

What have you learned from completing your projects?
Writing a novel taught me something about solitude and perseverance. The novella being published is a good reminder that a lot of people actually think I’m funny and that is an important aspect of me as a person, and I should explore that more in my writing. But most importantly, I learned I can be a great critic. I don’t always have people that I exchange writing with. Letting something sit awhile and then bringing fresh eyes to it is maybe the best revision tool ever.

What are your current / future projects?
I’m currently submitting queries to agents for my completed novel, so wish me luck. I am working on the second draft of another novel, but I have mixed feelings about this work. I’m kind of stuck in its mire, and although writing this rather autobiographical work proved to be extraordinarily important for my personal development, I am not sure I want it out in the world. It isn’t about something I think about anymore, which means getting back inside of it to rewrite/revise is profoundly difficult and it’s also kind of embarrassing. But who knows? Maybe eventually. I also have ideas for either a future novel or a linked group of novellas as well as for my next book of poems. I’d also like to write more short humor pieces and try to get them published.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
The single most important book to me, in terms of influence on my writing, is Nude Memoir by San Francisco Bay Area poet Laura Moriarty. I had just moved out to Oakland from the Midwest and was interning for Laura at SPD. Up till then, my limited exposure to poetry had basically revolved around what my college poetry professor liked to read. (Lots of confessional poets, if memory serves.) I was yearning for something more, but didn’t know what I was yearning for because I had no idea what existed. Then one day, I decided to buy some books at SPD, and since Laura’s book had just come out, I bought that. (At the time, knowing someone with a book out was a fairly new phenomenon to me.) Anyways, I inhaled that book as if it were manna from heaven. It blew the top off my head. But I almost think it would be more accurate to say that a geographical location—the Bay Area—was the greatest influence. There are lots of wonderful experimental poets who have at one time or another been associated with the Bay Area—Rusty Morrison, Elizabeth Robinson, Brenda Hillman, to name a few. (A really useful way to view ‘experimentalism’ in poetry, in my opinion, is to imagine a trajectory stretching from the ‘mainstream’ to the ‘Avant Gard’ where the experiment is a little red ball bopping every which way along the trajectory. In other words, ‘mainstream’ and ‘Avant Gard’ are fixed concepts, but experimental work defies easy categorization and draws from everywhere to make something new.) Outside of the Bay Area, Lisa Fishman’s book, The Happiness Experiment, reminds me that poetry can be joyful. Pattie McCarthy is another favorite. In terms of fiction and the novel I wrote, I probably owe a lot to Virginia Woolf. The novella, though, is all me. That’s just my sense of humor. In terms of writing that’s influenced my life and thought—Roxane Gay, Julia Serano, Christopher Hitchens, Angela Carter, Marcus Aurelius. I could go on and on so I’ll stop there.

And finally, what does it mean to be Unchaste?
Being Unchaste means I will write how I want, when I want. I will not worry about producing a brand of writing that will attach itself to my name. I have more than one prevailing voice, and I will allow those voices to come out in various ways. I will break rules. I will endeavor to write kindly. I will accept loneliness even as I strive to connect. I won’t satisfy myself with the status quo.


  Linda Rand

Linda Rand

1) Who are you? What do you do?
I’m Linda Rand, a mother of two bright and funny boys that I’ve been training to be curious travelers since birth. “How are you supposed to explore the world if you’re not an adventurous eater?” I’ve admonished. It’s working and we’ve had some adventures. My favorite so far has been Oaxaca but there’s so much room for more! In fact, it’s time to renew their passports.

As a kid I grew up in Panama and have a great love for nature. Currently I’m a Portland, Oregon based artist and have shown at wonderful galleries around town like Good: a gallery on Mississippi Ave., Gaurdino Gallery on Alberta St., Afru, Sidestreet, Redux, as well as participating in Siren Nation, Crafty Wonderland, and “The Love Show,” in the Ford Building. I’ve also shown in New Orleans, Detroit, Tennesee, Los Angeles at the Santa Fe Arts Colony in Studio C’s “Oneira: I Dream the Self,” curated by the formidable Peggy Nichols. She compiled the artwork in a beautiful book by the same name available onAmazon I also show paintings and mixed media at Kat Monroe’s Sevven Gallery in Huntington Beach, California and have a solo show opening February 7th.

I’ve kept a journal since I was a kid, am an avid reader, and write a bit. I’ve had non-fiction journal snippets published in Ariel Gore’s book, “Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness,” and have a short story in an anthology called, “The People’s Apocalypse,” edited by Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester. Otherwise, a couple of chapbooks, a degree in psychology, but ultimately bartending has always consistently paid the bills. Go figure.

I’m very thankful for how I’ve somehow stitched together an authentic existence. I’m interested in how we cope with life and how we process it. These are very interesting times for our species!

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
I want to express and write the most when I am experiencing intoxicating or disorienting emotions. My goal is to have a routine someday. Going to bed at 5 a.m. on nights that I bartend and waking up at 7 a.m. on mornings where I take the kids to school creates a topsy-turvy existence for me. The thought of routine is pretty daunting.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must haves for writers?
I think it helps if every cell of your being is soaked in the written words of others and your own. Read!! Reading and writing can transcend death and time and space between author and reader. It is a strange miracle and I’m so glad my boys love reading and write and draw like little maniacs. When the rhythm of writing and reading is in your DNA, then writing is like dancing to a tune within. Strengthen it by doing it. Feed it by deciphering what moves you. Be generous with your praise and express what resonates within. Not everyone will like it or understand, but more people than you’d guess will. Good writing is true and specific.

4) What motivates you to write?
Something will snag in my brain and the only thing that helps is to write it out. It’s funny, ever since being a small child, writing has had a looming presence,however, I’m always wanting to procrastinate because I feel I can’t do it justice. It is so vast, the human experience, so many layers of sentience and stimuli happening in one person simultaneously. It’s overwhelming. I’m motivated because I was born to find meaning, connection, and truth. I think we all have the potential to share our love and truth. Sometimes I think this is the only thing I’m truly interested in.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Writer’s block (artist’s block really) ruled my 20’s. I read countless books (whatever I could find anyway) on creative maladies. “The Midnight Disease,”by Alice Flaherty was an excellent one I read post-partum that kind of clicked with me. Finally, when I had my two boys and my 13 year relationship dissolved while in grad school, I realized that being a psychologist wasn’t right for me anymore and it was freeing. I’m done with quadruple thinking everything. Too much rumination leads to stillbirth for me. Fuck that shit.

6) Do you have advice for other writers?
Remember who you were as a kid and what you wanted to be when you grew up. Persevere. Listen to critiques from those you admire and respect. Don’t wall yourself off for too long, but know when to retreat. Write! Read! Keep your mind athletic by exercising it. I feel that I spend a lot of time with my emotions but have to prevent them from being crippling. I see my emotions as spirited horses charging and pulling the carriage (my life). My mind needs to control them though, or we all crash. Take care of yourself. Experiment. Have fun. Be silly and irreverent, then be holy and have reverence.

7) What is the message in your writing? What are your reader’s reactions to it?
My message is to be honest and particular to the moment. In retrospect, I find that I consult the five senses plus whatever perspectives are happening within. I’m always so utterly moved when anyone relates or shows positive feeling towards me after a reading. It is always the best surprise!

8) Did you learn anything from your writing projects what was it?
I learned it’s worth the risk of exposure, even as an introvert. I’ve learned that painful moments can be a gift and spun into gold. Stretch…it’s required to claim your space.

9) What are your current/future projects?
I have a show opening February 7th at Sevven Gallery in Huntington Beach, California. Afterwards I’d like to start a new phase in painting, on a larger scale and more personal. I’d also like to do a lot more writing and incorporate visuals with stories, to invoke the spirit that inhabited my wondrous child-self, when the world was mysterious and foreboding and drenched in magic.

10) What books/authors have influenced your life?
Oh! This is so difficult and important too! As a kid I loved the Jezebal story, the locusts, the burning bush, and Revelations in the Bible. I loved Grimm’s fairy tales, Edgar Allen Poe, and Stephen King. Then Clive Barker, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Dostoevsky, Isaac Asimov, Neal Gaiman in my teens and early 20’s. I love Margaret Atwood, Harlan Ellison, Haruki Murakami, Michael Cunningham, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Nabakov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, J.G. Ballard, Anne Sexton, really the list could go on and on and I’d still forget some uber-importants and feel guilty. It’s fun that my appreciation of the contemporary is experiencing a renaissance: B.T. Shaw and Dan Kaplan are poets I like, Jesse Reklaw and Mari Naomi are graphic novelists I greatly enjoy, Lydia Yuknavitch, Ariel Gore, Jenny Forrester are electric, plus Aimee Bender, Karen Russell, Whitney Otto, ack…truly the list could go on and on. Plus I have stacks of books cued up to read including Jenny Diski and Aubrey Hirsch. This is not including all the inspiring people who kept diaries or had memoirs come out by people who were very close to them. Most recently Vali Myers and Kiki of Montparnasse seem particularly lovely and moving to me. It is endless.

11) Why are you unchaste?
I am unchaste because I trust the mystery of life. I am unchaste because I have the courage to defy the abyss. I am unchaste because I didn’t choose the easy path even when it was offered.


I’m Anca Szilagyi, a fiction writer and writing teacher in Seattle, Washington. I write short stories and novels in a fantastic vein. Though I like to call what I do elastic realism, because I stretch the boundaries of realism to different degrees. I teach creative writing atRichard Hugo House, and this year I’ve been blogging about writing prompts for Ploughshares. My short stories have appeared in Fairy Tale Review, Gastronomica, Washington City Paper, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere.

2) What is your writing process?

My writing tends to be very visual and visceral. I often start with an image I’m curious about, such as a jar of teeth, or eating glass or a boy in a bubble. The images tend to drive the narrative with a kind of dream logic.

3) What motivates you to write?

The urge to deepen my experience of life, the urge to capture strange, magical, fleeting moments and feelings that are difficult to pin down.

4) What are your current / future projects?

I’m revising my second novel, about a struggling 25-year-old visual artist who’s chosen the quirky medium of dioramas and starts to feel resentful of friends who don’t seem to be struggling. She takes a job as a paralegal just before the economic crisis of 2008, gets swept up in the drama of a trial between a bank and an insurance company, and finds herself rooting for a glorified loan shark, all set against the backdrop of the Bernie Madoff scandal.

I’m also planning a third novel, but it’s too soon to say much about that.

5) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Sanctificum by Chris Abani
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Also: Borges, Kafka, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Edith Wharton

Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

Being unchaste is being unafraid to speak your mind and to make art that matters. Burying the creative impulse to express what you need to express might be more dangerous then letting it out on the page. Sometimes you have to get out of the way and let the story tell itself.

Photo (above):  from Ann Hamilton’s exhibit the common S E N S E, at the Henry Art Gallery


 1) Who are you? What do you do?

Hi, I’m Gloria Harrison. I live in Portland, Oregon with my twelve year old twin sons. I’m a full-time parent, but I share physical custody with my coparent week on, week off. Monday through Friday, I sell eight-and-a-half hours of my life for gold to help run an administrative office at a hospital. I spend a lot of time working for the boys’ school in various PTA communications positions. I also spend a lot of time advocating for and sharing time with parents of high needs, behaviorally atypical children who, like my sons, require a type of attention that is outside the bounds of the typical school structure. I also play an embarrassing amount of online Scrabble.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
It’s my understanding that there are magical humans in the world that have a writing “process” and a regular “routine,” but I am not one of those. I should be. But I should also eat less sugar and get better sleep. Mostly, when I write, it’s because I have something to say that desperately has to get out. It’s really more like an exorcism or word diarrhea than an identifiable routine or process.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
The most important element of good writing, in my opinion – the only one that truly matters – is honesty. Bold, unfiltered, gutting (when applicable) honesty. It’s wonderful if people are able to accomplish this with flowery prose or lyricism, but that’s flavoring more than anything. A dish of only thyme and cumin is unpalatable. The base ingredient must always, always be honesty. So, the most important must-have tool for a writer, I think, is bravery and the ability to hold her feet to the fire without shying away. Also, she must have something to say – and she must know what that something is, or at least have a strong idea. Make a commitment, stick to it, see it through to the end. See what you’ve got. Then edit it to make it as fine-tuned as it can be. Even if it turns out to be shit, make it the best, most honest shit you could write.

4) What motivates you to write?
When it comes to memoir, which is mostly what I write, my main motivation is connection. I spend a lot of time in my head feeling like I’m the only one who ever… What I’ve found over and over, though, is that there is usually at least one other person who is feeling similarly disconnected about whatever subject matter I’m cogitating on. And I’ve found that if I can express my thoughts clearly and honestly and then find that one other person, they feel less alone, more connected, and maybe even less nuts. A lot of times, I feel like an alien on a bewildering planet and writing helps me find the other shipwrecked souls.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I suffer from writer’s block all the time and so I don’t write. I’m probably not the best person to look to for guidance in this area. I know people say daily practice helps unstick you, but I’m the worst at that. I stepped away from my memoir about four years ago because I was blocked and couldn’t figure out why and it was more painful than pleasant. That’s when the idea that you must write for yourself and no one else really was driven home for me. What was I doing it for? Who was I doing it for? What was I trying to accomplish. That voice that was telling me I must write this, I was failing if I didn’t – whose voice was that? It was incredibly relieving when I realized that I wasn’t a slave to some phantom overlord voice demanding more from me than I had to give, so I stepped away. I concentrated on other things and did a lot of therapy and got more involved in my children’s school life and tried dating. Basically, I got on with my life. Four years later, I’m reinvested in the memoir and I hope to finish it by the end of the year. For the first time ever, I’m trying out this whole “routine” thing people have talked about. My commitment is 1,000 words a day, no matter how bad they are. I don’t have a set time or place to write these, but just the number: one thousand. I’m keeping my manuscript in a Google Drive doc so that I can access it anywhere and write it in bits throughout the day if necessary. But it took me four years to become unblocked and get to this place where I could commit again – and I’ve realized and processed all the elements that blocked me in the first place (fear, mostly, but also confusion and audience.) I needed that entire four year period to be able to write again.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?
Know who you’re writing for. Think critically. Be clear about your motivations. Take breaks if you need to. The race is only between you and yourself.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?
I have no idea what the message in my manuscript is and I can’t think about that or it’ll be another four years before I write again. I have, however, excerpted pieces of the thing in various publications and the reaction is always positive and connecting.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? Talk to me in spring of 2015. I hope to have at least one clever thing to say.

9) What are your current / future projects?

I’m over the moon excited that my essay “Let’s See How Fast this Baby Will Go,”  which was on This American Life in 2013, is in a just-released anthology called Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping. I’m featured alongside the likes of Kerry Cohen, Meg Worden, and Monica Drake. It’s totally, completely awesome.

Finishing my memoir is the most urgent current project (working title: Crowdsurfing through Hell). I feel like I’ve been pregnant with this thing for ten years. That’s a long time to gestate. This fucking thing is going to come out fully grown and ready to go to college. I’m already looking for discounts on dorm fridges and educational electronics for it.

In the future, though, I hope to write a nonfiction book relating my experience raising high needs children and all the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and the tools I’ve gained. There are a lot of parents that don’t have a map for navigating this brave new world and I think there’s a lot of suffering going on out there that could be mitigated by collaboration and connection.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Any book I’ve ever read and loved has somehow influenced my life and writing. I find good writing and good art in general to be a type of fuel I can’t get anywhere else. That said, if I could have a dinner party with a group of writers I love, I’d pick Kurt Vonnegut, Lidia Yuknavitch, Jack Kerouac, Anita Diamant, David Sedaris, Flannery O’Connor, Ursula Le Guinn, Sarah Vowell, and Stephen King.

Why are you Unchaste?
Well, I don’t think I am. Synonyms for unchaste are sinful, unworthy, immoral. I used to feel all of these things about myself because, I mean, come on –that’s what or culture says we should feel as women who circumvent that dominant paradigm of patriarchy and conflicting messages about sex and sexuality. But I’m 38 years old, I’ve done a lot of therapy, my body has proven itself to be strong and worthy, and fuck that – I don’t have to believe the lies handed to me anymore. I’m not some bastion of morality or lacking in sin (but also not religious, so don’t really believe in sin), but I’m a decent person who tries not to be a dick to anyone and I believe we’re all here to help each other. Ideas of chaste and unchaste don’t even fit into that.

What makes you Unchaste?
Depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? If you ask me – nothing. If you ask a fire and brimstone preacher from a flyover state, I’ll bet there would be a long list: tattoos, sexual freedom, the tendency to curse like I’m trying to win a competition, drinking, smoking (sometimes…), my entire history between 12 and 20. But, I’m not asking them, so I don’t worry about it!

Why is it important to be Unchaste?
What it’s important to be is truthful with yourself. I work with a lady who was raised in a fundamentalist household who had all kinds of should-and-should-not ideologies forced on her until well into her thirties. She told me the other day that she was in a college course in critical thinking a few years ago and it occurred to her that she hadn’t ever thought for herself in her whole life. She was beaming when she said it. And I just thought that’s it right there. You can’t be truthful with yourself or anyone else if you’re not thinking for yourself. So, that’s a good place to start.


  Milcah Halili Orbacedo

Milcah Halili Orbacedo


1) Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Milcah Halili Orbacedo. I’m a writer, a pornographer, an entrepreneur, and an aspiring single mom. I do everything I love. Otherwise, I’m a resentful hag and nobody likes an ingrate. I like to stay grateful, so I only do exactly everything I like. If I’m doing something I don’t like, then I’m doing it to challenge myself and challenging myself makes me happy.


2) What is your writing process?

My writing process: Read, read, read, write. Read anything I can lay my eyes on and write on any surface available. Rinse and repeat. I take lots of space from writing to meditate and do menial chores and during these trance-like states I write lots in my head. I read, read, read all the writing in my head and then my body writes. Just like that. When there’s an urgency in my fingers and I can’t not write, after all that physical and psychic reading, I motherfucking write.

3) Which piece of writing are you most proud of and why?

To date, I am most proud of my “About” on my website, It’s taken me 5 years of studying effective online marketing to get it together to write an “About Me” that’s more centered and straight to the point. It has been really challenging to train myself to write in a more marketable way since poetics occur in me organically.

4) What are your current / future projects?

My current project is Motherblazing. Motherblazing is coming out with Motherblazing Books next year. Motherblazing, a multi-media entity, promotes abundance for artists who blaze trails only mothers can. Innovation is rewarded in a familial fashion. 60% of Motherblazing’s earnings will go to families in the form of supporting careers of and providing income for creative parents. 20% of Motherblazing’s earnings will go towards her press and expanding and organizing material from my two literary projects, and (launching December 2014, originally Art Faccia) and my two personal brands, and The last 20% will go towards keeping me afloat.

How does this make any sense? How can I last when I pay myself last? Because I’m a life hack. I don’t need much. I live a very minimalist lifestyle with families supporting me along my trails. It’s only proper I give back. My service and my spirituality is my true payment. Besides, I’m unchaste. I make porn and get my hands dirty in other entrepreneurial pursuits, so I don’t need to worry about literature supporting me financially. I do it for love.

5) Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

I choose to be unchaste because it’s so much fun. My courage to get dirty, raw, nasty, and inappropriate makes me unchaste. I’m also not afraid to speak to power dynamics, which I’ve found makes me a very naughty lady. Gasp! I’m giving away everyone’s power secrets! How unchaste.

Love is the language of the brave. It’s important to be unchaste because it’s important to be brave, to address truths that make unchaste women dirty, raw, nasty, and inappropriate in a world so immaculately hateful that it hurts to be chaste. It’s okay to be chaste, and I’ve found for myself that it’s better to be chaste in love for being chaste than in fear of retribution should I waver and become unchaste. Because when I fear retribution I live in shame and I hate myself. These days I’m proud. Now I know it’s okay to be chaste and unchaste, whatever I choose. No self-hate in my bones.


Who are you? What do you do?

My pen name is Jenna Zine. I have three last names because I’ve procrastinated in officially taking my married name. Why don’t men try changing their names? I bet that tradition would die off in a minute! Anyway, I go by Zine professionally in the hopes that it is memorable. It’s also a nod to the zine culture of the Nineties that I love and miss.

I’m a writer, freelance proofreader, standup comedian, and events coordinator. I love melding all four together, any chance that I get.

2. What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I’m never without someway to write. I have a notebook at my desk, one on my bedside table, and I carry a small journal in my purse. If it’s too dark to write, I’ll email little notes to myself. Any idea, or snippet of dialogue, starts there. I write in very small bursts and then look for longer periods of time when I can really dig in.

Sometimes I almost feel scared to write and I’ll do anything to distract myself. But I feel really depressed if I go too long without writing and that usually trumps the anxiety. I keep thinking that a routine would help. I should look into that!

3. What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

I’d say the most important element of good writing is honesty. And editing skills! I’m lucky enough to get paid to proofread and, though the magazine I edit in no way relates to what I do, the act of it has really strengthened my own writing. I’d say both are must-have tools for writers.

4. What motivates you to write?

Guilt, fear, and anxiety top my list! Just kidding – kind of. Really it’s the joy I get from finally sitting down and doing it. There’s nothing cooler than reading a finished project and thinking, “I wrote that!” It’s been really great with standup – I am a deadline person and I always have set written and ready for a gig. I would never want to let myself down by not being prepared for any stage time I might get.

5. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Um, yes! My first order of business is to daydream. Sometimes I’m really confident, but mostly I feel shy and socially awkward. I fantasize about saying the perfect thing in all these different scenarios. At first I found it funny and gratifying – but then I realized I was actually coming up with dialogue! Letting myself live the moment in my mind, and then “coming to” and writing it all down has shaped half of my book, as well as informing my comedy routines.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll give myself a little break. I like to get out in the world. Walking is great. One of my favorite “secret” places is the mall. It’s so out of the realm of my daily reality that it shakes me up. I love people watching and creating stories. By the time I get home, I’ve usually overheard a crazy conversation or have gotten a helpful nugget from imagining what I think the sale clerk’s life at Marshall’s might be like. If it goes on too long, I get more into “strong arm” mode where I just have to sit down in front of the blank page and deal with it.

6. Do you have any advice for other writers?

God, no. I think I set a terrible example – I’m lazy! That said; don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve wasted more time over a guilt trip when I could’ve just been getting on with it.

7. What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

Well, I’ve been penning a “New Adult” (to old for YA, too young for adults) book on and off for a while now. It’s very fun. The message of that project is to speak your mind, go with your gut, be at peace with being yourself, and take joy in life. It’s written from the perspective of a 20-something woman – so that’s about as deep as it gets! The only readers I’ve had so far have been fellow writers, but the reaction has been positive. I wish I was writing the “Great American Novel,” but I’m happy with how it’s turning out, for the genre I’ve chosen.

On a personal level, something really exciting happened to me in the middle of writing the book – I discovered standup comedy and fell in love with it. It’s put the novel on the back shelf, though I do still plan to finish it and self-publish on Kindle. Meanwhile, writing bits for standup has been a really fun challenge. It’s shorter, punchier, and is supposed to sound more like talking – which works well with my daydream dialogue trick. It’s also been a great way to delve into my life and provided a place for stories that didn’t really fit elsewhere.

8. Did you learn anything from writing your book? If so, what was it?

That I am lazy and full of fear! I doubt everyday that I can do it – but I’m realizing more and more that the alternative on not finishing is so unsatisfying that I’m just going to have to do it. I also think I’ve learned a lot from my characters – it’s been fun to live different lives on the page.

9. What are your current/future projects?

Currently I want to finish my novel.  I’m excited because my characters are still talking to me, even though I put them on a dusty shelf last year. But, beyond that, my current and future plan is to pursue comedy fulltime. I really feel like I’ve found my home – it’s definitely a passion. I’m working on material for standup open mics and gigs all the time. It’s funny – when I was in a writing group, I was always producing the bare minimum and I felt terrible. With comedy, I never stop thinking about it. Little snippets seem to come to me on a daily basis. Now I look back on that writing group and realize that I was moving forward – I just didn’t have the right outlet. Even further in the future is the script I’d like to write for a storyline that I have. That feels daunting, but I’m looking forward to trying!

10. What books / authors have influenced your life and writing?

Anything and everything by Ariel Gore, of course! Judy Blume had a huge impact on me when I was young. I’d die happy if I could write even a smidge as good as David Sedaris. Tina Fey is a total inspiration. Steve Martin is the gold standard.

11. Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

It’s important to be Unchaste because it’s a life force. Passion, creativity, drive, and community – I can’t imagine anything better.



Facebook: friend me on FB under Jenna Zine

Pubs: sadly no pubs to list, but do come see me do standup!


  Photo: “At Michael H. Shamberg’s Manhattan Apartment"

Photo: “At Michael H. Shamberg’s Manhattan Apartment"

1) Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Melody Owen. I work in an old 1920s fire station boat house on the East Side of the Willamette River. I was set on a path to “make/create” from childhood. At first, I was interested mostly in theater and movies. I went to a Magnet Arts elementary school and wrote and directed two plays by the time I graduated high school. I fell in love with writing by reading. I won a poetry contest at age 16 to study at Lewis and Clark College with William Stafford. Apparently, I bummed a cigarette there from Katherine Dunn whose bemused look, I can still recall.

My work (conceptual, collage, video, installation, video, drawing, photography) has been included in exhibitions at the Portland Art Museum, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, where I am represented, as well as venues and festivals all over town and around in the world.
I have participated in artist residencies in Iceland, Quebec, Paris, Switzerland, Eastern Oregon.

Lately, I have been bringing words back into my work. Slowly, a few at a time.
As they begin to surround me, I feel like I am with old friends.
Writing travels well. It is a light and snug companion.

I have been a vegetarian and avid bike rider since early childhood. I think a lot about the welfare of animals, insects, birds, trees, eco-systemsand humans. When I look at the world, I feel like I am watching a slow motion airplane crash and there is nothing I can do.
Still, I am willing to try. I can wave my hands wildly. I can jump up and down. I can throw my phone against a wall.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

Sometimes, the words urgently ask to be written and I use my fingers to help them along.
I am still creating my routines. I have a list of projects to complete before I die. The list is written in invisible ink. I am knocking off the stuff on the list, one by one. One thing on my list is to make a routine.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

Commitment, endurance, a belief in writing and an ability to be honest with yourself (about your work, at least). Believing that something needs to be made (or written) and then needing to do everything you can do to make it made. Staying true to your voice.

4) What motivates you to write?

I am motivated by a compulsion to record things, events, places, people, fragments of thoughts…as if I am responsible for archiving the contents of an invisible museum, a museum that floats just above my head. Reading good writing is always motivating and germinates words.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

No. But I don’t have deadlines. Deadlines and expectations create blocks.
Conversely, I also don’t suffer from paychecks or royalties.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?


7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

My latest book is a collection of reports that I have done on the industrial West Side of the Willamette River. I make these reports on Twitter and Facebook. They are straightforward yet askew. I allow poetry to put a foot in. Many photographs and collages are included in the book too. People seem to enjoy it.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned (again) that you can collect many small things, put them together, and make a whole other thing which becomes a different thing, a new thing. Paying close attention to stuff you care about is good. Rivers are important to me and a lot of other people.
I like making reports.

9) What are your current / future projects?

The book I just finished is called the River Report. It is releasing June 28. I put it out, myself. I pretend to have a press called Thistle Press. My website was called for a long time. There is another Thistle Press out there though, it has something to do being Scottish and taking walks. The River Report is available on Amazon and will be at Powells in a couple of weeks.

Next, I will be tackling Grimm and capitalism.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Lewis Carroll . Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
JD Salinger . Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Catcher in the Rye
F Scott Fitzgerald . May Day and Gatsby and Tender is the Night
Vladimir Nabokov . Invitation to a Beheading and Lolita
Sylvia Plath . Bell Jar and the poetry
TS Eliot . The Wasteland
Arthur Conan Doyle . Sherlock Holmes
Henry Miller . Black Spring and the Tropics Series
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry . The Little Prince
Bruno Schulz . Street of Crocodiles and everything else
Truman Capote . Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the early novels
Carson McCullers . The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and the rest
Lawrence Durrell . The Alexandria Quartet
Nathaniel West . The Day of the Locust

Also, Tom Waits, Dylan Thomas, E.E. Cummings, Jorge Borges, The Brothers Grimm…

Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

Chaste is an illusion, a dress made of snow, the empty space your body makes when you leave a snow angel behind.

Chaste is a projection upon the unknown, an intimate close up of a flickering screen goddess, her gaze as solid as a beam of light.

Chaste is a story we tell about division, about divide and conquer, about demons and angels, and a belt cinched around desire.

All are unchaste. None are unchaste. We write like fire is burning the path behind us. It is licking at our heels.

My site:


The River Report
Dream Journals, When I Was 19, I Was an Old Man
So Close to the Glass and Shivering (art catalog)
The Disappearing Book (curated)
Trading Saliva (zine)

  Carrie Seitzinger

Carrie Seitzinger

1) Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Carrie Seitzinger and I am a poet.

2) Which piece of writing are you most proud of and why?

To be honest I am not proud of my writing until I’ve had a good, long time away from it. There are pieces that I wrote when I was 18 or 19 that I read now and I beam. (However if I wrote them now I’d think they were silly and in need of tons of work!) I guess if I had to force myself to champion something more recent, say from my book Fall Ill Medicine, I’d say it is what I think to be the saddest poem in the book, “Nutshell.”

There is also a moment of pride just after finishing a poem (though for me it is pretty fleeting). Anyone who writes a poem that truly has a proper end should be proud.

3) What motivates you to write?

Many different things. Music is a big motivator for me. What I think makes poetry successful, that translation of feeling, is often instantaneous in music, and it inspires.

And of course, experience! The story and the emotion. Though anger is a greater motivator than joy, and grief even greater than anger. Lately the process of healing has made for most of my new writing. This is some of the most challenging writing I’ve sat myself down to deal with because the emotion is no longer hot in the blood and if it is a deep kind of healing, it is hard to get far enough away from it to write about it in an exposed way. But writing from healing feels hugely purposeful, so there is plenty of meaning there.

4) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Sometimes I have terrible writer’s block. Give me all the prompts, good music, or psychedelics in the world but when you put a page in front of me, the mind is blank. The more I force myself to write shit during a block, the more awful I feel about the whole thing. The best thing for me is to give myself time. A change of setting or a focus on strenuous exercise, giving myself a different kind of challenge, can help.

5) Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

I believe that it is time now in the current generations for women to reclaim their bodies. I wrote an essay about it on NAILED Magazine ( (I posed nude to for the header image that accompanies the essay.) As a woman writer, it is important to be Unchaste in whatever way best serves you to present the most honest version of yourself to the world. The more that women write as abiding, complacent figures in culture, the longer we will have to remain locked down in the thought-forms of previous generations.


  Amy Temple Harper

Amy Temple Harper

1) Who are you?

When asked who I am, I get confused. The short answer is that I am a Korean American Adoptee that became a writer–not necessarily by choice, but by peer pressure. Thus I am easily swayed by other people’s opinions. And weak. Yes, I am very weak.


What do you do?

This is more easily explained. I am a mother and I am a teacher. Those have been the most daunting and relentless tasks I have ever faced. These jobs have made me human and taught me about compassion. I also stand in awe of what others are capable of and worry less about what I am capable of.

2) What is your writing process?

I write when I have time. I feel undisciplined most of the time, but I feel life is sometimes more important than documentation. Sometimes living is hard enough.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

The most important elements are very basic. It depends on who your audience is. I teach my students that essentially good writing is good communication. If it is research based, then did you discover what you set out to find? If it is a poem, did you speak to your truth? If it is fiction, did you say what you meant to say?

4) What motivates you to write?

My motivation to write usually stems from trying to put into words things I myself don’t yet understand.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I don’t suffer from writer’s block ever. That doesn’t mean that everything I write is worthwhile. I write a lot of shit.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice for other writers is to not be afraid of your authentic self. Allow others to critique you in order to understand your own writing. And if you are a good writer “citizen,” you will get to the point where you yourself will be a good critical reader.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

The message in Cramped Uptown, is that life is fragmentary and at the same time has stages. If we can approach life like an experience that can never be fully understood–but as humans we keeping striving for understanding; we will have succeeded in living.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

That writing is hard.

9) What are your current / future projects?

I am putting together a new collection of poetry and I am finishing a memoir.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

This may be my favorite question and also the hardest question. I have been influenced by a wide range of books, anywhere from Mother Goose rhymes to the Bible. Most of what I read is history. But what I am the most awed by is good literature. For me, good fiction writing is the hardest thing to write and most magical thing to read.

11) What makes you Unchaste?

I believe I am fairly chaste, but I love the idea of being Unchaste. It suggests honesty and passion and freedom, things I don’t often feel, but when I do, I have a need to put pen to paper.

Why is it important to be Unchaste?

It is important to be Unchaste in order to know yourself better.

How can you be Unchaste?

Take some risks. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Live like life is going to be hard. Then live like life is the most wonderful thing. Then repeat.

Amy Temple Harper is the author of Cramped Uptown, a compilation of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her writing can be found online if you google her name. She is a writing instructor and mother to Alexander Hamilton Harper.


I’m Margaret Elysia Garcia and I write…stuff. I’m also a college professor, a mother of two, radio DJ, and have recently taken up singing again.

I try and follow a regular writing routine but it almost never works out. Wednesday and the weekends are suppose to be my writing times in my office but it’s rarely ever that linear.

Writers need to not be afraid to be alone with their head and their hearts. It’s a scary place but that’s where real writing comes from. We need to not be afraid of making ourselves look bad when we’ve been bad. We also need to revise. Try harder. Walk away and comeback.

The things I tend to write come in waves of images and sound to me and I have to get them down so they leave me alone.

I don’t have writer’s block ever. I have life block of being a parent, broke parent, broke parent who is also a teacher who grades too many papers by students who don’t give a shit. Sometimes life takes over writing time. That’s when I get resentful. When I do feel blocked, so to speak, I tend to cook elaborate meals or do elaborate art projects with my kids to get me out of it. My family can tell what’s up with me by whether they’re over fed or eating top ramen.

I don’t know that I ever have advice for other writers except shut up and quit talking about writing and just sit down and write.

I don’t know if there is one solitary message in my writing. I feel often that I lived kind of a strange life –birth to present. Though I’m part of many ‘subcultures’ I never feel really represented by any of them: gay family, Mexican family, Anglo family, army brat, agnostic, urbanite living in rural countryside, poor kids with education, etc. But I’ve always met people that I can relate to. I guess I kind of want to say “We are here! We are here!” And I’ve come to acknowledge that the heart and desire do funny things to you. Best not to deny any of it. Like that Gnostic quote: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. (Gospel of St. Thomas).”

I learn a good deal from all my writing and art projects and music projects. Sometimes I sense connections between all of them even if I can’t quite articulate it that way.

I have too many projects at once—kind of one in each genre. My memoir about growing up in a gay military family is near the end of edits (yay). When done, I want to go back to my novel about a girl coming of age in West Germany in the 80s with Marlene Dietrich as a guardian angel. At the same time? I’m working on a book of poetry where food and beverages tie into the ecstasy of spirituality and sex (Recipes for Ascension). Also along the line of food, I’ve always wanted to do a cookbook about leftovers and stories about various cultures and their leftovers. That’s in note and recipe stage. Probably the next thing I finish will be Before You Barefoot –a play I’ve written that’s also in editing stage about aLibertinish sort of man with a foot fetish for deformed feet who then marries someone with perfect toes and banishes his lovers. It has both Diana Ross & the Supremes covers AND a Greek Chorus AND a treatise in it as to why the Disney’s Little Mermaid sucks. Oh and I’m doing a zine called SadGirl with my nine year old. Oh and working up a collection of erotica.

When I think of influences of my writing, I look no further than my bookcase in my office which houses the books I never sell and always get up from my desk and consult—as if they are a team to help me through. In no particular order that bookcase houses a complete collection of William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Zora Neal Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Kate Bravermen, Jeanette Winterson, James Ellroy, Julio Cortozar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s next to a poetry bookcase that houses Charles Baudelaire, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rexroth’s 100 Japanese Poems (possibly my favorite book), Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Hernandez Brothers’ Love and Rockets. But the funny thing with me is for all my heavy hitters (and Jesus, look at all those men on that list?) my true loves are really art, photo, and music. I’m just as influenced by songwriters and staring at art and photo as I am by reading novels of fiction. Architecture too. As hokey as it sounds? I’m also influenced by my mother carrying around bic ballpoint pens and yellow legal pads in the 70s writing household budgets with poems in the margins. Fuck. That made me think of Lynda Barry. Freaking LOVE her and the freedom she’s given so many of us. Also my office mate is the award winning environmental journalist Jane Braxton Little and she’s freaking amazing too. I look up to her –though she’d say that’s because her office is on the second floor.

Margaret Elysia Garcia writes essays, fiction, memoir, and poetry. Her recent work can be HipMama and Catamaran Literary Journal as well as many other literary places. She writes the zine SadGirl with her daughter Paloma Garcia-Couoh. Her short story collection Sad Girls & Other Stories will be out this July on Solstice Literary Press. She lives in the remote northeastern corner of the Sierra Nevadas, where she teaches at Feather River College and hosts Milkshake & Honey–a women’s music radio show on Plumas Community Radio at She’s also a two-time regional director for the national Listen to Your Mother show.


  Susan DeFreitas

Susan DeFreitas

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I am Susan DeFreitas–writer, editor, and spoken word artist. I write everything: fiction, nonfiction, poetry–even hypertext. As an editor, I specialize in developmental work–story doctoring, so to speak–and speculative fiction.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I write every morning and edit every afternoon. I’ve kept up this routine for years.

Since completing my MFA, though, I have developed a new writing process, in which I compose the first draft of any new work either via dictation or by hand. I find that this allows me to shut down my inner editor. Which, as you might imagine–given my occupation–has a tendency to take over otherwise.

Having a strong editorial bent is a blessing and a curse. It allows you to create order out of chaos, to see the way through something that might look like a mess to anyone else–you can see what the work could be. It also pushes you ruthlessly toward improvement at the level of the line.

But I think what you want in a first draft is wildness and strangeness. You want to surprise yourself, and therefore the reader. You want to work as close as possible to the subconscious, and that is a cluttered, magical, scary place. In order to mine its riches, I believe you have to allow yourself to write very, very raw first drafts. This is the process I have found by which to do so.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing?
According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

In addition to working as a freelance editor, I am the managing editor of an annual short fiction contest and a reader for Tin House. So I really cannot answer that question in any way but a practical one.

In the first few paragraphs, what good writing must have is presence on the page. That’s what longtime acquisitions editor Dawn Raffel characterizes as “a feeling that you, the author, are in control; that you have a deep respect for language and a well-made sentence, no matter how plain or ornate; that something is at stake; and that in addition to whatever plot you are hatching, you can create friction in the simple act of rubbing two sentences up against each other.”

As the piece moves on, I’m generally looking for clarity, characterization, a structure that serves the story–that’s competence. At the next level up, I’m looking for strangeness, paradox, emotional resonance, and/or the power of a big idea–something I had not, perhaps, considered before, or seen in that light.

As for the tools that writers must have, I’m sorry to say I think you pretty much have to have them all to even have an opening hand in this game. That’s why it’s so hard! Strong characters, voice, command of language, clarity, a feel for pacing and structure–that’s why it’s helpful to have a good writers group.

Or, you know, an editor. =)

4) What motivates you to write?

I think writers, in general, are the people most deeply affected by books. Once you have been moved by the power of a great story, you cannot help but want to write one yourself. Especially if you are the sort of person naturally overflowing with thoughts and observations–the sort of person, as a child, prone to wearing out even the most generous of attention spans.

But maybe what you were asking is what motivates me to write despite the general lack of support for the arts in this country. Despite the deep, deep difficulty of getting published, of connecting with readers. Never mind even beginning to approach the standards set for us by the writers we love, who have affected us most deeply as artists.

And to that, I’d have to second what many others have said: I write because I have to. Because I am the sort of person whose mental hygiene is largely dependent on making sense of myself to myself. Because I am on a voyage of exploration through human consciousness and language is my spaceship. Because the moments when what I’ve written does manage a direct hit to the heart and/or the head of another human being, I feel that’s the best I have to offer. It’s the best thing I can do.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I have never stopped writing for more than a few weeks at a time in my life–that’s since third grade or so, when I started writing a long series of (highly derivative) fantasy and sci fi novels that would remain forever unfinished. So I don’t suppose you could actually call it blocked.

But in grad school I did experience the sense of things slowing down and becoming hard. Of staring for long periods time at the page. The maddening feeling of not knowing where a story was supposed to go–or that I’d spent hundreds of hours doing the wrong thing. All part of the learning curve, you could say, but as far as I’m concerned, writing really shouldn’t be that hard. And the only thing that makes it hard–for me, at least–is trying to get it done too fast.

Not the first draft–I’m not talking about that. I can write a first draft quite quickly these days, due to the fact that I don’t give a shit–not one!–about how it turns out. But then I put that draft away and forget about it for a while. Then I come back and get the structure right. Then I put it away again. Work on something else. Then, finally, come back and allow myself to obsess about the words and sentences and paragraph. Not before.

It’s both a slower process and a quicker one, which did not fit the deadlines set by my MFA program (or any such program I know of). Also, it’s more fun. And really, if you’re not having fun doing this, why are you doing? It’s not like there’s some great payoff at the end, no matter how successful you might become. As writers, we’re always in the middle. The middle might as well be your favorite place to be.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

Work with your own brain. Get to know yourself. Develop your own process. Especially if writing feels hard.

That will usually call for some experimentation. Try writing earlier, or later; in long stretches, or short spurts, perhaps with a timer; on notecards, in notebooks, via dictation on your phone; with coffee, with wine, with a certain album by Arcade Fire; you get the idea.

Also, get as much exercise as you can. And get outside. Sitting is an occupational hazard, and working on a computer all the time can turn you into a kind of computer yourself. But you’re not a computer, you’re an animal.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

If there are messages in novels, they arise from the subconscious and are encrypted. Only another subconscious can decode them.

I’m working on the second draft of a sci fi novel. My first novel, a literary one told in stories, is currently being sold for parts. Perhaps someday those parts will come together again and appear as a book. But maybe not. I do my best to adhere to the prescription contained in the last line of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers: “Move on to the next question.”

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I am still very much in the process of learning from it. Here are some things that I am learning:
1) It’s not completely crazy to write the first draft of a novel via dictation.
2) It’s still kind of crazy to write the first draft of a novel via dictation.
3) Once you know the story, it’s not all that hard to write it.
4) The only way to know the story is to complete a first draft.

9) What are your current / future projects?

See above. My sci fi novel is called KUBLAI. It’s the story of a woman who’s the pet of a robot in a near-future Earth, after artificial intelligences have risen to power. It’s the first of a trilogy, which I’m thinking of as The Three Kingdoms.

I’m also working on a collection of love stories influenced by science and science fiction called Strange Attractor.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Italo Calvino; Vladimir Nabokov; Gabriel Garcia Marquez (RIP); Margaret Atwood; Ursula Le Guin; and Amiee Bender, among (so many!) others.

11) Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

I am unchaste because the word chaste is as vestigial as the spleen in the world I live in–a world where women and men are free to chose who they are, how they present, and whom they love. I am unchaste because I am unchastened by those (largely) unspoken dictates regarding what women should not say or write (be it social commentary or sci fi). And I think it’s important to be unchaste because it’s more free, it’s more fun, and it’s more human than the alternative.

Susan DeFreitas is a writer, editor, and spoken word artist. Her work has appeared in The Utne Reader, The Nervous Breakdown, Southwestern American Literature, Fourth River, Weber—The Contemporary West, and Bayou Magazine, among other publications. She is a regular contributor to Litreactor, PDXX, and The Bear Deluxe, as well as the managing editor of the Doug Fir Fiction Contest. She holds an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Portland, Oregon, where she serves as an associate editor with Indigo Editing & Publications and a reader for Tin House Magazine.

More information on Susan can be found on her blog, her Author Website or Facebook. Tweet to Susan: @manzanitafire
Susan’s work can be found online at the following journals:
Gardener’s Refrain, Equinox ~ About Place Journal
Fear of Men ~ HEart Journal Online
At Both Ends ~ Pine Grove Literary Review
Follow her work online at:
PDXX Collective


   Moe Bowstern

 Moe Bowstern

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I am Moe Bowstern. I am a writer, singer and Master of Ceremonies. I play a few instruments. I am a Fisher Poet. I publish a zine called Xtra Tuf that reflects the lives of commercial fishing men and women. I am a worker and have worked since I was 18 as a deckhand on fishing boats, a laborer on construction sites, a helper to electricians, a plumber, contractors, a finish carpenter, a mason, housepainters (interior and exterior), roofers, and gardeners. I run a small housecleaning business. I host poetry readings featuring Tough Guys, men and women who work on the sea. I tell stories all the time, and in the telling, I reflect to the audience their own experiences; as an artist I hold up a mirror to the world. I use the art of story and song to heal and ease the challenge of being a human being.

2) What is your writing process?

I write to projects and to deadlines. When I am working as a migrant and am far from home, I write to integrate the worlds I am bridging, but when I am grounded in one place and paying rent, I write to deadline. I contemplate the project for a long time, and roll it around in my mind, then usually get it all down at once. For longer projects, like informal histories or memoirish pieces, I make an outline and try to include everything. When I create a zine, I make a list of everything I want in the zine and in an odd combination that is both haphazard and methodical, I work my way through the list.

3) Which piece of writing are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of the writing that touches people deeply and helps them feel less alone. That changes with the person, so I can’t really name what piece, specifically. I had a poem called I Give Up solicited for a queer anthology called Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Religion, Faith and Spirituality. I am proud to have been asked to contribute, I am proud that the collection has since been published in Japan and I am proud to have been able to bring a poem rooted in queerness to Alaskan commercial fishing audiences.

4) What are your current / future projects?

I am promoting my most recent project, an audiozine called Report From Uyak Bay, which is an hour-long radio program about the accidental death of a Kodiak Brown Bear in 1997, with updated interviews with folks involved from January of 2014. I write book reviews for Hip Mama zine and have a new column coming out in SCAM! zine. I am working on the next 2 issues of Xtra Tuf: #7 The Jonah Issue: Stories of Good Luck, Bad Luck and Superstition and #8 XXXtra Tuf: Love and Lust on the High Seas. I am recording a soundtrack for filmmaker Sika Stanton, who is making a video of a puppet show I helped produce, The Life Cycle of the Chinook Salmon. I also play improv/jazz music most Sundays at Slabtown Bar with the Grand Style Orchestra.

5) Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

When I looked up Unchaste/chaste in the dictionary, the definition seemed to center on an old root from Middle English that means morally pure. To me, chastity reflects an external morality imposed upon a being, from without–specifically, the patriarchy’s idea of what purity is, and how individuals should act–or repress their actions, action as inaction–based on an external source. I prefer to cultivate my inner wisdom and step with guidance and intuition into my heart’s desire, navigating by my internal compass of right and wrong. I think it is important as a human being to determine the path of our life’s work during our brief time on earth and to do that we must each look into our hearts and stand in our own authority.

In general, ‘unchaste‘ is not a label I’ve ever applied to myself, so in turn I ask you, why do you choose me as an ‘Unchaste‘ reader? What makes me unchaste?*

Xtra Tuf #1;
Xtra Tuf #2; Xtra Tuf #3: The Beach Seine Issue; Xtra Tuf #4: How I Got So Xtra Tuf; Xtra Tuf #5: The Strike Issue (winner of the 2007 Lilla Jewel Award); Xtra Tuf #6: The Greenhorn Issue
Second Set Out
This Little Light Of Mine: Novenas for You (temporarily out of print)

Xtra Tuf #5.5 Moe Bowstern Songs and Stories
Xtra Tuf #6.5 Bloody Tales of Love and Death
Xtra Tuf #6.75 Report From Uyak Bay
Mary Garvey: Songs of the Lower Columbia

Available from Moe Bowstern at I have a creaky old outdated website where you can read a lot about me but can’t buy anything or really link anywhere.


As a strong woman with your own mind, Moe, you’re like all Unchaste women, past, present, and future – you’re darned if you do and darned if you don’t. I’ve admired your work for a long time. So happy that you’re among the Unchaste!


  J enny Hayes

Jenny Hayes

Who are you? What do you do?

I am Jenny Hayes. I grew up in Berkeley and now live in Seattle with my husband, daughter, and cat. I’ve always been a writer in one way or another, and sometime in the mid-2000s I started to get serious about writing fiction—mainly short stories, though there are a couple of longer projects I’m toying with (or perhaps they’re toying with me). And then I use a pretty different part of my brain to write technical content for a living.


2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

Hell no I don’t follow a regular routine. After years of trying to make that happen I’ve finally accepted that it’s not something that’s going to work for me, at least not at this point in time. I wish I could be one of those wake-up-at-5-AM writers but that just isn’t workable for me, so I get my writing time in here and there. I also seem to do a fair amount of the work of writing before I write a single word, letting an image or idea percolate in my mind for a while and begin to find its shape.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

I think everyone’s must-haves are different. I write best on the computer where my fast typing can keep up with my train of thought. I often get a rough draft down fairly quickly and then spend a lot of time editing, tweaking, and refining. A LOT of time. So much of the process for me is revision, even when I think I have a pretty solid start. I also have a few notebooks going at any given time, which I use for rambly near-illegible freewriting, dream fragments, brainstorms about longer projects, phrases or ideas that seem worth preserving for some possible future use, and occasional drawings.

The writing that I’d call “good” comes in all kinds of shapes and forms and styles. The most important element of good writing is hard for me to articulate, but I think it’s the same as good art in any form: that it follows the thread of the creator’s vision fully, that it is wholly itself, that it’s the best execution that it can be of the ideas and feelings that inspired it, that it tells some kind of truth … that all sounds kinda lofty but I think I just mean that the writer/artist infuses their own self into the piece and takes that as far as they can.

4) What motivates you to write?

You know, I’m not entirely sure. And it probably changes from day to day. Sometimes it’s for superficial reasons – wanting to “achieve” and get acclaim. Sometimes it’s an impulse to explore or explain a moment or interaction from real life, which usually works best for me when I transform it into something different than what actually happened. Sometimes I want to follow the start of an idea and see what happens. And sometimes it’s just the pure pleasure of playing around with words.

There’s a quote in Jonathan Lethem’s book You Don’t Love Me Yet that kinda gets at the deeper reasons why I write, where a character addresses the question of why he makes art: “I want what we all want … To move certain parts of the interior of myself into the external world, to see if they can be embraced.” That’s definitely part of it for me, and it feels very vulnerable but very necessary.

Aside from that, I just know I’m happiest when writing is in my life. I can go for a long time without doing it, and that’s happened more often than I’d like to admit. But that’s when I start to feel off balance and adrift. When I’ve been writing regularly I feel buoyant and joyful and centered. I have a stronger sense of myself. I feel more excited about life.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes, and it sucks, doesn’t it? I do any or all of the following: fuck off for a while and don’t worry about it; go back to old pieces I’ve started and see if I can get them somewhere; start writing new things with the complete understanding that it’s fine if they’re crap, allowing myself a mental gold star just for managing to sit down and work at it for a while. I usually have to do that last one for a while before I get to the point of writing something I actually like. Writing stuff that I know is bad can be excruciating, but it seems to be a necessary part of the process for me. Usually my block is more about fear of sucking than an actual lack of imagination. I just have to push through it.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

There is SO MUCH advice out there. My advice is to pick and choose and realize that one size truly does not fit all. Disregard anything that smacks of “you’re not a REAL writer unless …” or “you HAVE to …” or “THIS is the way.” Be open to trying different approaches, even ones that you think might be silly. You’re the only one you have to answer to, so you have to just go with what works for you.

7) What are your current / future projects?

I have a handful of short stories that I’m trying to find homes for, and I hope to eventually pull some of them together into a collection (working title: Dig This, Lonely Girl). I wrote a novel (as yet unpublished), and I have plans for another, but I’ve realized that talking about projects while they’re still germinating really does turn out to be a total bonerkiller so that’s all I’ll say about that.

8) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Early favorites that left a mark on me are Jane Austen, Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, and Lynda Barry. Some of my favorite contemporary short story authors who inspire me to work harder are Elissa Schappell, Claire Vaye Watkins, Danielle Evans, Jodi Angel, Roxane Gay, Steve Almond, Jess Walter, and Janice Shapiro. The biggest influence from childhood was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. And I’ve been lucky enough to study with two writers who have impacted my writing life in immeasurable ways, both with their books and their teacherly wisdom: Karen Russell and Ariel Gore.

9) Why are you and your writing Unchaste?

I had to think about this one. I love a good dirty story or dick joke, but I don’t write about sex all that often, and when I do, it usually isn’t real explicit. So I went and looked up the definition of “chaste” on The derivation is the latin word castus, which I found defined as not just “pure” but also “cut off; separated.” That doesn’t sound like fun: I may be an introvert at heart, but I still want to come to the party. As far as definitions, “not having sex” was the first and most obvious one, but the others reveal the sense of obedience and compliance that permeates the word: “innocent of unlawful sexual intercourse,” “pure in thought and act,” “refraining from acts or even thoughts or desires that are not virginal or not sanctioned by marriage vows.” Even thoughts or desires?! Screw that. Chaste is about sublimating oneself to what others think is best. My writing goes where it wants to go. It follows no rules but those I make.

And along with the definitions, I also found this amazing list for “rhymes with unchaste”:

bald-faced, barefaced, bold-faced, distaste, dough-faced, foretaste, impaste, lambaste, lightfaced, moonfaced, pie-faced, po-faced, posthaste, self-paced, shamefaced, shirtwaist, snail-paced, slipcased, stone-faced, straight-faced, straitlaced, toothpaste, two-faced, unplaced, white-faced

Someone write that into a poem!


  Shannon Barber

Shannon Barber

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Shannon Barber. I am a writer. I’m fairly creepy. I like dead things and bugs. I want to evolve my form and when I am old look like an Evil Alien Queen. I’m not as elegant as I appear to be on the Internet. I am flaily twitchy and prone to anxiety fueled bubble guts. I love to dance; I’m kind of a nerd. I am also really shy in the presence of people I really like.

I write. I write fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes I write poems that I’m not sure are good or not. I like to write weird little things that sometimes turn out to be kind of great things.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

When I am writing at my day job I check the things I am supposed to, open whatever program or cloud app I’m using and go. If I am at home I arrange my pillows on my bed, get my ashtray and water bottle. I settle in with my lap desk, (it is adorable and has a bulldog puppy on it), put my headphones on and go.

If/when I am able to I like to write between about 1 AM and 3-4AM. Unfortunately due to my problems sleeping properly that has been very difficult to maintain.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

It depends on what I am writing. If I am doing non-fiction if I don’t feel queasy or like I might crap my pants I am probably not going in the right direction. When I write fiction unless I have some specific aim or thing I want to play with, I have to feel it. Sometimes it is fear, the kind that makes my gut feel like it is full of concrete. Other times there is that fear, the what the fuck did I just do fear.

So essentially good writing for me is about the naked feelings I don’t actually tell people about. The fear, the anxiety reactions, sweating, cursing under my breath, my crotch tingles not in a sex type way but in a yes keep doing that kind of way. That last bit is why I jokingly at some point declared myself the matriarch of cunt lit.

As for tools I think the most important thing is a seed of passion. I don’t care what plants the seed or what people write about. To quote what I tell myself frequently, write that shit. By any means necessary, write it.

4) What motivates you to write?

To be honest I’m not entirely sure. Sometimes I really don’t want to. I have all this stuff in my head, voices and worlds and things I want to explore. So I write it down. Sometimes it feels really amazing and other times I’d rather do anything else in the world. I do it to survive.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes. When I feel that way I try to do something. Maybe a blog post, a book review, write one of those stupid lists. I also do things like crochet; I will go read/listen to stories that move me. I will look at art. I also use a free write technique where I just let things happen and that often gets me back to a place where I can really put in work.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write that shit. Write everything. Write fan fiction, write essays, write blog posts, write angst filled love sonnets, and write. Write it. WRITE IT. All of it. And don’t throw it away, even if you think it sucks hold on to it.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

I don’t have a book at present. My favorite reader reactions to my work is a kind of blank stare followed by a fist pump or a I had to stop reading and go deal with my arousal, or someone asking what is wrong with me. When I write things that make people look at me differently and tell me about it. My favorite reaction to something I wrote ever was a friend who is a weirdo creep like me, told me I gave him nightmares for a week with something I wrote. That was amazing. Even if someone hates something I’ve written, if they caught some feelings I’m into it.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I am currently working on a project. I am rewriting a self-care book I put out a couple of years ago. So far I’ve learned that I am most confident and terrified when I am completely naked and vulnerable and telling my secrets.

9) What are your current / future projects?

Goodness. The self-care V2.0 thing should be out by next month. I want to continue writing short fiction and possibly shed some fear and write the horror novel I’ve been picking at for about four years.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

I am a very promiscuous and masochistic reader. Just about everything leaves some kind of mark. I feel like my biggest influences have been the people who support me. Having anyone believe in my work just floors me and turns me into a puddle of emotional goo. The most important influences I have (in a very long list) are the people who write the ugly parts. Who make me hurt and I come back for more because it makes sense to me.

Why are you Unchaste? What makes you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

I am Unchaste because to be otherwise would be a lie. I am Unchaste because, there is desire, there are people who are in the margins, and sometimes it is not nice. I think my work is fleshy and salty, bloody and imperfect. It is the real truth even when it is fiction. I am naked in my writing, showing it all without shame.

It is important to me to be Unchaste because the clean, sanitized world is not my world. It is not the world (fictional or not) I trust. I want to look back when I’m old and think about the sex and the bad words and the naked gross truths I hope to keep in my work and I want to smile. I want to grow up and look back to see that I’ve left a trail of messy, cunty words that hid nothing. That is my greatest dream.


  Dena Rash Guzman

Dena Rash Guzman

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I am Dena Rash Guzman, a poet, beekeeper, food industry writer, homeschooling mother, performer, sometimes actress, and staff writer at Luna Luna Magazine.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

To paraphrase Cheryl Strayed, my writing process is basically writing whenever the fuck I can find time to do it. That’s my routine.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

Good writing is never the same as other good writing. I haven’t ever sat and made up my mind about what elements all good writing shares. Tools: paper and ink or some other method of recording writing.

4) What motivates you to write?

I have had to write poems since I was in elementary school. No one made me. I made me. When a poem is coming on I feel this connection, like someone flipped a switch and I have to write a poem that moment. For non-poetry writing, these days mostly only money motivates me, to be honest. Now and then I have to write an essay on an important topic when it feels like that switch got flipped.

5)  Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I didn’t write from the time my son was born until he was about 7 or 8. That’s a block. I didn’t do anything about it. I was too busy.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes. Find community and don’t be an asshole. People do talk.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

The message in Life Cycle—Poems  is that every single thing has its own life cycle. I was blessed with many positive reader reviews, as well as book reviews and nearly everyone remarked on how good the book was.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes. Writing a book of poems is HARD.

9) What are you current/future projects?

Four poetry manuscripts called Waggle Dance (Bee Language), JOSEPH, Woodland Savant, and How to Have Hands. I am also keeping a daily beekeeping journal and writing pioneer letters every day for a book called DEAR SISTER WENDY. Sister Wendy appears in JOSEPH as well.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

This question is so hard. Can I just say Margaret Atwood and John Steinbeck and bell hooks over and over and over again?

11) Why are you Unchaste?

I am Unchaste because being chased is exhausting. I am Unchaste because I believe good women empower each other. I am Unchaste because I would rather make out than make dinner.

Dena Rash Guzman’s work can be found online and in print in journals and anthologies from around the world. She works as a beekeeper on her family’s farm near Portland, Oregon.

Learn more at  – twitter @denargbee

photo credit: Eva Steil


  Wendy Chin-Tanner

Wendy Chin-Tanner

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Wendy Chin-Tanner. I write poems, essays, interviews, and sometimes graphic
novels. I edit poetry at Kin Poetry Journal and The Nervous Breakdown and write an interview column at Lantern Review. I teach Social and Political Science and sometimes Creative Writing. I’m the mother of two little girls and the wife of a graphic novelist.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I keep a journal where I routinely write down lines, sounds, words, thoughts, images, and quotes that might make their way into poems later. When I’m ready to draft a poem, I flip through my journal and allow something to spark my imagination. At this stage, I move to my laptop and start laying down lines. I tell myself, “Don’t judge, don’t judge, don’t judge.” After that first pass, I polish, polish, polish until it feels right. Then I let them poem sit for a while. I send it to my writing partner in New York and incorporate some of his feedback if it resonates. Then I let it sit for another good while before revising it again. I’m a chronic reviser.

The only true routine I have is to make sure I do something writing-related every day. Like most poets (and mothers), I’m part one-woman band, part juggler, and part magician. I have to roll with how the days shake down.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

Attention to craft, careful editing, acknowledgment but not mimicry of the prosodic traditions of the past, complexity, contradiction, multi-layeredness, risk-taking, humility, curiosity, musicality, restraint, a desire to communicate, and resistance against solipsism.

4) What motivates you to write?

An itch in the brain that can only be scratched by pen on paper and fingers on keyboard.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

There was a period of 10 years when I didn’t write creatively at all. To get past that place and to keep myself from slipping back into it, I’ve learned to switch off my inner critic at the incipient phases of writing and switch her back on when I’m revising. I’ve also learned that I’m a lot more productive when I chip away at my work instead of trying to do it all in one big push.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

One of the many changes in the publishing landscape is the pervasiveness and growing influence of online journals. In this age of near-instantaneous publishing, I think it’s important for writers to be careful not to release their work until it’s truly ready. There’s a temptation to keep churning out new content to feed the increasing demand but there’s a danger that one can wind up producing disposable writing as a result. I try to maintain a perspective of quality over quantity to resist this temptation.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

“Turn” is a memoir in verse that’s written in three parts representing three stages of life. Our lives are marked by circular patterns both big and small: we all begin at a certain place, react against it, and then (hopefully) find a sort of resolution before beginning again. This cycle is what “Turn” is essentially about; the cycle of emotional growth and maturation in a person’s life. So far, despite the fact that the much of the book stems from autobiographical experiences, readers have strongly identified with it on a personal level. This feeling seems to transcend race and gender. Readers from all walks of life, some very different from my own, have told me that they see themselves in the poems and that makes me very happy.

8) What are your current / future projects?

Apart from continuing to edit poetry at Kin Poetry Journal and The Nervous Breakdown and writing my interview column at Lantern Review, I’m working on my second poetry manuscript and editing an anthology for Sibling Rivalry Press, the publisher of “Turn.” The anthology, whose working title is “Private Notes on the Public Art of Poetry,” will collect pieces of advice on poetry, poetics, and the poetry industry from a variety of established poets.

9) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

This is just the tip of the iceberg: Gaius Catullus, Ovid, JD Salinger, WS Merwin, John Updike, Louise Gluck, Sharon Olds, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Philip Larkin, Junot Diaz, Nancy White, Eduardo C. Corral, Frank Kermode, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Ferdinand de Saussure, Judith Butler, Laura Mulvey, Helene Cixous, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said.

10) Why are you Unchaste? Why is it important to be Unchaste?

I’m Unchaste because sexuality plays a key role in my life and work. I’m fascinated by how we can understand character, behavior, and human nature through expressions of sexuality. When it’s done well, the exploration of those elements in creative work demonstrates a kind of risk-taking that can make good work great.

Author Website:


  Nina Rockwell

Nina Rockwell

1) Who are you? What do you do?

I am Nina Rockwell. I am a rambling, stuttering, dancing survivor of young life. I write creative non-fiction, memoir, poetry, and short stories. I work with a group of people with developmental disabilities.

2) What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a real consistent writing process. I started writing for real during the 2009 National Novel Writing Month so I had dedicated a certain number of hours every day to writing and editing. I didn’t stick with it, and I didn’t finish the word count. I think that because I base so much of my work on direct experience I just have to write when the experience hits me with the right words. I will go months without writing anything of substance and then I’ll write so many powerful pages in one night.

3) What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

Walking out the door makes my writing better. I wouldn’t be able to write if I didn’t give myself experience and life. You have to be able to shut yourself away too, though.

I think to be the best writer you have to have the self awareness to know when it’s time to turn off your phone and stay off the internet and just write.

4) What motivates you to write?

I will occasionally notice myself writing more after an uncomfortable sexual encounter. Something in the awkwardness of bad sex is inspiring. Mostly I find myself being inspired by having a memory. I’ll experience something sensory. Something like a familiar scent that reminds me of a special person or a song that played during a moment I want to remember. At that point I’ll cancel all my plans and lock myself away to write until the sensation goes away. I also rush-write when I get asked to do a reading. If I did a reading every week I’d probably be done with the project by now.

5) Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I don’t know how to make My writers block go away, but I tell clients and other writers to pick a word they hate and to write that word over and over again until they get so angry at the word they are forced to write something else. I get writers block a lot, especially when the weather is crappy and I don’t go outside.

6) Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you’re writing memoir remember that you have probably already processed the guilt/shame/resentment that resulted from what you’re writing about and that it’s important to avoid re-entering that ugly place. So, in one sentence… Go Easy On Yourself.

7) What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

I think the end-all be-all message in everything I am working on and plan to work on in the near future is one of growth and redemption. Even though it sounds so cheesy. I am a proud queer, sex positive, body positive, survivor of many things. I did not feel this way about myself when I was younger. I have hurt a lot of people and I have let a lot of people hurt me over the years. I am writing the stories of how I climbed out from that hurt and from shame, fear, co-dependency, and hate and found myself. A lot of people are grateful and appreciative, and a lot of people fucking hate it. I have received reviews that made me gasp from the sheer love I feel from my peers, but I have also heard a lot of negativity.

8) Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

That I am always growing, that I will never stop learning, that I am lucky as hell to be where I am, and that writing a book is really hard. This one’s been five years in the making. I’ve been seriously pregnant with these words for way too long.

9) What are your current / future projects?

Currently I’m completing the story I started writing for the 2009 NaNoWriMo. It’s a chronicle of the Portland underground house shows spanning over six years – those years also spent coping with serious personal/medical/romantic/abusive circumstances. My nearest future project is kind of under the radar, but it is an open forum I am calling Adult Child.

10) What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

I read Dangerous Angels; The Weetzie Bat Stories by Francesca Lia Block when I was pretty young and she made me want to write about beauty and tortured souls. Michelle Tea’s Valencia influenced my life pretty seriously as a young queer in small town Utah. Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Ariel Gore and the Hip Mama crew were around when I was growing up and they had a big influence on me.

((And one day someone who either goes by Nadine or Noah will write a masterpiece. Everyone will love it. Their words will inspire generations of lovers. This person inspired me first, strongest, and most importantly. Because this person taught me to love myself and my stories.))

11) “Why are you Unchaste?”

I am unchaste because I don’t know how to be anything else. 
I take up space in this world as a passionate friend and sister and daughter. 
I am a woman who was raised by and with other unchaste women. Unchaste doesn’t call names or judge you for your history. Unchaste wants you raw and up front and proud. Unchaste scratches her chest open for her words like blood and loves like fire. 
I am all of these things. I am incredibly heartbreaking and mildly narcissistic and would never want to be anything else.

 This just in, as of June 17th, 2014, Nina has a project for writers:

We are all adult children learning to fix something that got broken or bruised when we were young. Maybe that’s why we write.

Some of our stories are traumatizing and horrible. Some are beautiful and hilarious. Some are about abandonment, some are about abuse. Some of up grew up with ramblers as parents and traveled the world because that’s what they did. Not every story is negative, but everyone can tell something about their parents or their upbringing that still effects them now.

The nicknames that belittled us, the unsafe people who came around and peeked through door cracks, the bad food, the boredom, the new house every year, the experiments.

Adult Child is where we can begin to tell our different stories together.

Parameters: the only solid rule is that the story must be yours. Submissions are free. Creative non fiction/memoir/flash/poetry.

Contact Nina Rockwell and Sunny Hatch at or


  Stephanie L. Harper

Stephanie L. Harper

Stephanie L. Harper

1)    Who are you? What do you do?

Those are the million dollar questions, aren’t they?  Until quite recently, I thought I was 100 percent sure of who I was and boy was I not going to apologize ever for being me…  Well, these days, I truly have nothing to apologize for, because I’m not sure of anything.  I’m not sure that I am the same person for more than one day in a row, for that matter.  Every now and then, I have a crazy dream that forever changes my view of myself in the waking world; or I have a conversation with an insightful peer that blows my mind, and then I am forever different; or I read Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book on psychic mythology and I feel like an essential part of me has been spoken to for the first time, which prompts me to make changes about how I relate to and function in the world and that is the hugest thing ever, and so I wonder if I even was truly alive before the first time (last week) I stood up for myself, upon realizing that someone close to me had emotionally blackmailed me for most of our lives, by utilizing me as the tool for trying to get her undefinable, unfillable needs met, rather than respecting me as a person who also has needs and limitations (and Lord knows I played my role in that whole mess) – and so the one thing I do know unequivocally, is that I am no longer a person who practices that brand of dysfunction…

Aside from the numerous and varied daily tasks being a homeschooling parent of teenagers involves, what I do might seem simple on the surface, but please take my word for it that any endeavor undertaken by the brain in the head of the likes of me can never, by definition, be simple.  I write, yes, mostly poetry, and I read voraciously and sometimes create illustrations, many of which accompany my poems.  The reining-in of the convoluted and/or tangential thought-streams that is required for the execution of such pursuits eludes description, though, I often wonder if being me would necessitate quite the same degree of energy expenditure for someone else as doing so does for me?

So, right, writing…  I write about who I am (on a given day) and who my kids are and who animals are and why they should all be considered paramountly important and amazing. I advocate for the marginalized and the misunderstood, with whom I’ve always identified very closely.  I try to see statements I intend to make through to their logical conclusions and appreciate all of their implications before making them.  I readily admit my mistakes as I become aware of them and strive to make changes for the better/more sustainable.  I write and get oohs and ahhs from a lot of savvy, cool, forward-thinking people, many of whom even like metaphors; and I receive a lot of rejections from publishers who don’t have the interest, guts, or budgets to represent me.  Yet, regardless, I feel like now, more than ever, I am up against the edge of another shift in my life.  I feel like the “thing” that is supposed to happen with my writing in the way that will best serve me, the people I love and the world I want to celebrate and protect, is either just about to happen, or is already happening and I only need to acclimate some more…


2)    What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I write at least a little and often a lot on most days.  I don’t generally need a particular form of prompting, as my most comfortable and effective mode of expression is writing (whereas my verbally-articulated messages often get lost in a mire of long-windedness and TMI that my teenagers are convinced are signs of early-onset dementia). I often import some of my functional, day-to-day writing in the form of “professionally-oriented” responses or inquiries via email and other technological vehicles into my creative/artistic writing.  My daily life, trials, insights, lessons, exposure to current world events and the brands of inanity that abound in the media, as well as my dreams and my reflections on experiences from my past, all inform my creative process.


3)    What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?

I hesitate to answer this question, not because I’m not opinionated on the matter, but pretty much because I am.  I know what I need to do to feel successful, but I also appreciate that my expectations for myself are that and only that.  I know of a lot of “successful” artists, writers and human beings who act and do nothing like I do, and the world hasn’t come to a complete, screeching halt yet, so who am I to make qualitative judgments about what feels right and effective to other writers and their audiences?  I am learning that it is not my place to do that.  Not being an anal retentive asshat (or freely admitting to being one, as the case may be) is an important element of good writing.  Being candid and having a semblance of humility are also important.  I’m still getting used to the idea of needing to “have” these things, and I’ve learned that they can’t be bought in a kit on (I haven’t checked Craig’s List, but I’m pretty sure you can’t get them there, either, at least not unless you are prepared to invest in a package deal that includes a paraplegic puppy).


4)    What motivates you to write?

Pain.  If I don’t get the words out in written form, I suffer physically and mentally, kind of like being stuck in labor.  Just as pushing is the best part of delivering a baby (because it is a concerted action over which you can have some control), writing is the best part of leading a daily existence.  If it comes out in a somewhat decipherable form, that is a bonus.


5)    Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Uhhh…  Yes, when the words don’t come or seem to have run dry, I just spend a lot more time reading.  I also ruthlessly edit my writing, sometimes over the course of months or years.


6)    Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, my advice to the 50 million of you poets flooding the market, whom I’ve never met face to face and who I can only assume pass your days in abject isolation much like I do (because even though there are so freaking many of you, poetry is still apparently the loneliest of endeavors):  Go, the lot of you, and get new hobbies and jobs and stop submitting your manuscripts to journals altogether.  By allowing me somehow to catch a break, you will be doing a great public service (wink, wink)…


7)    What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?

My new book, Protector of the Innocent, is a collection of formal and free verse poems and original art. It is my manifesto of hope – in its infinite guises and promises.

I have always been willing to delve into those denigrated places that we associate most closely with hopelessness – child abuse; exploitation of animals; personal regrets and humiliation; religious disillusionment; suicide; fear of the mortality or stigmatization of our own children – in the hope of repairing the rift (on both my own and others’ behalf) that looms between fear and possibility.  As a poet and a human being, I try to be a voice of truth, humor and dignity for the innocent and to celebrate the courage and wisdom of those who inhabit themselves wholly and authentically in a world that shuns human vulnerability.

An amazing writing colleague and dear friend of mine, Paula Houseman, has this following, awesome (ego-boost-and-a-half) thing to say about her impression of my writing:

I think the greatest scourge of the twenty first century is lost or diminishing hope. Hope resides in the heart and we are disheartened when we lose it. And so much of what is going on around us (particularly of late) can make us lose hope. Without it though, our very survival is at stake. And because our will to live depends on hope, if we’re not looking inside our own hearts, we’re at the mercy of a salvational fantasy — the fairy tale hope that someone or something out there will save us.

Every child brings hope into the world with his/her arrival. I tend to feel my way through people’s writing, and what I have felt is at the very core of all of Stephanie’s writing (her poetry, her stories, the way she speaks about her children…) is that she is more than just a protector of the young. She’s a guardian of hope in children.

As far as fans and all-around, brilliant people to have in my corner go, I could certainly do worse…


8)    Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

My book went through dozens of revisions before it finally began to congeal into a unified theme.  It was sometimes heart-breaking to cut out some pieces I had felt married to, but they are still floating about, waiting for me to rediscover them and see them in a new, more objective light.  They may remain loners, or they may someday find a home, but in any case, everything I write has value and lends shape and direction to my process.

Sometimes, when I write something that is not particularly clever, but it is just a truthful account of a less-than-stellar childhood experience, say, that stuff is the bomb.  I have read some of these pieces out loud and have spontaneously begun to cry with the realization of the power of what I was communicating. Many people have told me that reading my poems has moved them to cry for themselves, both for what they’ve lost and for having found a new sense of solidarity.  There’s no more rewarding feeling for me than knowing my creative passion has allowed me to touch others in a positive way.

I’ve learned that my writing can be many things: compelling, surreal, intimidating, underappreciated, long-listed, short-listed, flat-out rejected, but bottom line, a lot of it is just really funny and I share it because it gives me joy to hear people chuckle and wonder about my attachment to reality.  I’ve learned that no matter what labels and fates are assigned to my words, their importance to me (and I humbly believe, to many others) won’t be diminished.


9)    What are your current / future projects?

I plan to focus on continuing to express the raw truth of how I see the world through my writing, in the hope that the things I produce will in some way benefit others.  I will continue to read more and more contemporary literature and poetry, as well as reviews, criticism and history of various works and movements in literature, so that I may have as many tools of my trade at my disposal to inform my creative voice.

I’d like to venture into the world of performance someday, especially since I study classical voice and I could use a goal to keep me plugging away.  I enjoy making people feel comfortable and helping them to laugh at me and themselves.  Maybe I’ll put on a cabaret show that involves light-hearted singing and reading my poetry while lying across a (sturdy) piano?  I have been a person who feels capable of such a thing for the past five days now, so it may indicate a trend.  Stay tuned.

Also, Jenny talked me into signing up for NaNoWriMo 2014.  That should really help in the acquiring humility department…


10)What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Tons!  I have pretty eclectic tastes in fiction.  I also read a lot of non-fiction (including psychology, sociology, ecology, spirituality and memoir), too.  I admire and follow writers who bring stigmatized/misunderstood topics related to mental health to the fore (Temple Grandin, for one).  I read a lot of contemporary poetry and short fiction to keep current with what literary journals are doing these days, and one poet I’ve recently discovered who really stands out for me is Mary Elizabeth Parker.  I’ve read some of her interviews online, too, and she is gorgeously smart, skeptical, serious and candid about how and why she does what she does.  She doesn’t sling an ego around with her as part of a “marketable package,” and she doesn’t use sensationalist or provocative ploys to make a name for herself, because she is just plain brilliant, which I find extremely refreshing!

Some authors and titles that I attribute to having sparked my interest in writing and influenced me as a human being are:

John Krakauer’s Into the WildInto Thin AirUnder the Banner of Heaven; Kahlil Gibran’sThe Prophet; David James Duncan’s The River WhyGod Laughs and Plays; Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible; Jane Smiley’s The Age of GriefThe Greenlanders; Ursual K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series; Stephen Baxter’s Evolution (made a sci fi fan out of me!); Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ; Margaret Atwood’s The Handmade’s Tale; Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; Max Frisch’s Homo Faber; Plato’s Symposium; Delwin Brown’s What Does a Progressive Christian Believe?; Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Wounded Healer; Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg (which I recite from memory), Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time and Letter on Humanism; Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-talk: toward a feminist theology…

Some of my all-time favorite poems are John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode to Melancholy, La Belle Dame Sans Merci; Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven; Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How Do I Love Thee?; T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and Paul Celan’s Todesfuge (Death Fugue), to name a few…


11)Why is it important to be Unchaste?

When Jenny first invited me to read at an “Unchaste Readers” event in the summer of 2013, it took me a while to find the website, because I was looking for “Un-chased Readers.”  I couldn’t understand why readers might find themselves being “chased” in the first place, but I certainly didn’t have anything against readers wanting to be “un-chased” (I don’t particularly enjoy being chased, myself), as I am not one to judge other’s motivations, in general, unless they are based on fear-mongering and other various forms of hate and violence, in which case I really have a problem…

As far as being unchaste is concerned, the same principle still applies for me.  I believe human beings have the need and right to inhabit and celebrate their sexual natures to whatever extent they choose (barring any threat to the well-being and safety of others), without being judged or persecuted.  Moralism, repression and hypocrisy are not known for their contributions to the enlightenment or advancement of the collective human psyche, but those guises of hatred do have a disconcerting (and downright tragic) track record of demoralizing and destroying the human spirit.  Anyway, I think Jenny and all the wonderful Unchaste Readers supporters and contributors are really onto something – written expression in its myriad forms is a marvelous way for humans to explore, organize and share from their depths in an intimate yet broad-reaching, powerful and healing way.  To be unashamed in stripping down to our naked hearts is unchaste.  To be re-born into our own flesh (which is how our species unavoidably must exist in order to thrive and propagate, any “spiritual” births we may also undergo notwithstanding) is unchaste.  Receiving, nurturing and embracing our naked counterparts in the moment of their becoming most essentially themselves is unchaste.   So, yeah, I grapple all the time with my own sexual sensibilities, hang-ups and judgments toward myself, in order to be unchaste on behalf of the world; because the alternative would amount to being a proponent of relegating human beings to a sterile, shackled, living death, based on some errant determination that they deserve such treatment, or are incapable of making decisions for themselves…  Even I am not that presumptuous.

SLH 11/2014