Image: “Deirdre in Rita’s Living Room,” by Leanne Shapton, 2008.
Sinkhole Editors: How did you begin writing “Grocery Shopping with Mary McCarthy”?
Sinkhole Editors: How did you begin writing “Grocery Shopping with Mary McCarthy”?
Emma Raddatz: How did you begin writing ‘leprosy,’ ‘lust,’ and ‘live’?
Rachel Godfrey: ‘lust,’ the one about the boy, Ivan, I started writing in December because I had sex with him at the end of September, and I tried to erase that that happened. So I started writing ‘lust’ slowly. It was very easy to write because the way I write is I, first, write out all my thoughts in a stream in my journal and then I turn it into something that’s fitting. ‘leprosy,’ I just wrote, it was a weird Saturday night, I was in the ST lab, and I didn’t want to do my work, that’s when I wrote that one. The last one, ‘live,’ I wrote like two days before I submitted it, I don’t know where it came from.
Emma Raddatz: How did you begin writing “Misplaced Anger”?
Jack Reibstein: I started from a prompt, an assignment for one of those master classes they have in the Shapiro Writing Center every semester. The prompt was to write a story, and the main character had to be ourselves 20 years from now. And we had to commit a crime. And my crime was public indecency. When I turned the piece in, a lot of people were like, “Oh, you didn’t really do the prompt. It all happens in his head!” I don’t know, I wrote out this entire other story where me, 20 years from now, gets drunk and pees in public and gets arrested for it. It just didn’t really—it was sort of interesting and definitely entertaining—but it didn’t really resonate, and I couldn’t really see myself actually doing that. Like I do do that sometimes, but I’m definitely not going to be doing that 20 years from now. Then again, I don’t know that I’m going to be a widow 20 years from now. I really hope that I’m not a widow 20 years from now.
Liz Cettina: How did you start writing “Impact Zone”?
Will Bellamy: The plane crash in the story happened in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I remember walking with a friend a couple years ago, and he pointed out that on one specific intersection, the buildings on three corners were all made up of pretty old-looking architecture while the building on the remaining corner was brand new. And he said it was set up this way because of some plane crash that happened back in the 60s, when two planes collided in midair and one crashed into this exact corners. So I had that in the back of my head for a couple of years and I would think about it every time I would pass by the intersection. Gradually, I started doing more research on it, first because I wanted to simply know more about it and eventually because I wanted to write a historical fiction piece centered around the crash. I’m in Cliff Chase’s Merging Forms class this semester, and our first assignment was to write a piece from three different perspectives, so originally I wrote a piece on the event with three different sections. Then, as I started editing more, I thought that the piece was incomplete with just three, and so did Cliff, so I just expanded it out and made it into seven, then cut it down to what it is now, which from what I remember is five.
Liz Cettina: How did you begin writing “primer”?
Rick Hong Manayan: I started writing “primer” because I’m in Advanced Poetry Workshop. We get a bunch of assignments and later compile work from them into a chapbook at the end of the semester. The assignment for one week was about color. We were instructed to go the Pantone website, pick a color, pick different shades of that color, and write prose poems for each of those shades. So I chose white. I was fascinated by the fact that white, in order to be anything other than white, has to have color added to it. All these various shades of white are actually not white at all. I was interested in the racial and political implications of what that meant. All the colors had these weird names like, “Bone White,” “Brilliant White,” “Whisper White.” And I was just like, “What would it be like if I was a white person whispering? I began writing these prose poems about whiteness and the little and big ways that whiteness infiltrates everything. Then when I was coming up with the title for this project I was like, “Hm, white paint, white paint, primer. Because primer is the base coat for everything.” I really like (hate) the idea that you put white under everything, like white paint gets set down before any color gets set down. I was like, “Wow, that’s kind of fucked. Why did we normalize putting white on everything?” So that’s where a lot of the poems come from. The poems are about who started what, why people like Christopher Columbus are so “important,” who comes into being, who gets counted historically.
Liz Cettina: How did you begin writing “The Monster Mosh”?
Mara Woods-Robinson: I wrote the piece for Rachel Ellis Neyra’s class “Lyric Poetry & Music.” I took it in the fall of my junior year. It’s funny that I’m talking about this piece because this isn’t what I usually think about when I talk about my writing process, because I guess I think of myself more as a fiction writer. But basically this class looked at a lot of different music movements, and we had a brief section on punk and riot grrrl. And at the end of the class, my professor was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to write a research paper on any subject somewhat related to this class. Go nuts, guys.’ I was at a loss for what to write about, but then I ended up watching this documentary, Penelope Spheeris’s “The Decline of Western Civilization,” which I reference a lot in this essay. I don’t listen to that much early punk, but my dad introduced me to X when I was in high school and I listen to them a lot, so when I was watching this documentary, I was like, ‘Wow, wait, this is them contextualized in this distinctive moment in history.’ And that was cool. Then, it got me thinking about mosh pits and my own personal experiences with them. I always have a lot of fun moshing, but I’ve also faced near death experiences in mosh pits. I think I was 12, and I was at a show in Oakland for this band The Matches who I really liked growing up, they were an arty pop-punk band, a local Bay Area band. At that show, I fell down in the mosh pit and thought I was going to die because I was getting trampled. Someone pulled me up.
Liz Cettina: How did you begin writing ‘Dreams of War’?
Doc Polk: I was actually trying not to write about the military when I first came to Wesleyan. I wanted to put that behind me and write about these other ideas I had, but every time I started writing, it kept turning towards the military. Eventually I said, ‘Okay, well, maybe if I just write it once, get it out of my system, then I can move on to something else.’ So I wrote it once, tried to move on to something else, and it fell flat. Even now, when I try to write about other things, the military stuff just comes out. I figure I’ve got to get everything out before I can move on to something else.
Emma Raddatz: When were these poems written? Were they written together?
Justin Greene: Three of them were written at the same time, mostly in my advanced poetry class, which was a year ago, or so, and then one, “Mimesis,” I wrote in my intermediate poetry workshop two years ago when Ben Lerner came to speak. He’s my favorite author ever. He kept vomiting genius at me, and I wrote everything down and thought, ‘Why not turn this into a poem?’ So that happened.
Liz Cettina: How did you begin writing “are you there?”
Anna Schwab: Well I found a message in a bottle actually, the summer before I wrote it. And it was kind of the feeling of finding a message in a bottle and being really excited, and it was actually a family from Nantucket—and it wasn’t very exciting, so I thought I was not going to respond. But my boyfriend, Jack, said,“No, you have to write them back! When do you find a message in a bottle?” And so I wrote them back, and it was a really sweet experience, and all the kids sent me photos of them waving, and they were so happy that someone actually found their message in a bottle. They kept emailing me saying, “Where are you from? Who are you?” It was really sweet.
Liz Cettina: How did you begin writing “Deadweight”?
Claudia Schatz: Well, it’s based on a true story. I first got the idea from reading an article about this happening in Idaho. A two-year-old shot his mother in a grocery store. It was pretty big news so you might have heard about it. It was in the same vein as a story I’d written in the past also about accidental shootings though that one was more of a general exploration and less of a specific event. Reading this article gave me the concrete: This is what happened, and I wanted to explore the after-effects of that. So that definitely sparked the idea in the first place. And hearing that story, I felt like I had to write it. But by the end, as we discussed in my workshop [Art of Revision], the initial catalyst was taken out so I guess in that regard it’s interesting.