ROBIN McLEAN met JIM SHEPARD in a fiction workshop in Italy in 2013, two years after she’d finished her MFA in fiction, two years after she’d sworn off all workshops forever. But she’d read a few of Jim’s stories by then and was hooked. She’s worked with Jim on many stories since, has followed him and Karen Shepard around. Many do. Robin generally shows up with a pile of questions, often about agency or “rate of revelation” or “subliminal coordinates.” If you don’t know what those are, sign up for a workshop with Jim Shepard.
Here are some inquiries asked and answered on a spring pilgrimage to Western Mass in 2022, a sunny morning on a snowy hilltop, an icon of an old tape deck set on RECORD between cups of coffee, three dogs hunting crumbs around the table, then basking in the sun as the ideas flowed.
Looking for the Weirdness: An Interview with Jim Shepard
NICHOLAS GOODLY’s debut full-length poetry collection, Black Swim was published by Copper Canyon Press in September 2022. JAAMIL OLAWALE KOSOKO and Nicholas recently connected over Zoom and talked about interdisciplinary art and writing, the essential nature of rest, and prioritizing creative expression.
Intentional Offerings: jaamil olawale kosoko interviews Nicholas Goodly
In this interview, VIRGINIA KONCHAN talks with NATHAN McCLAIN about his second full-length collection, Previously Owned. Touching on process and craft, literary influence, racial justice, and faith, this rich conversation celebrates the range of McClain’s poetry and the sense of history and place in his work.
Finding One’s Way Through Bewilderment: Virginia Konchan interviews Nathan McClain
In Arisa White’s lyrical memoir, Who’s Your Daddy, she writes of her father’s absence throughout her coming-of-age in tender, genre-bending poems. July Westhale and Arisa White, former teaching colleagues and Bay Area community, approached this interview in an epistolary way, discussing form, family, voice, and taking up space on the page.
Permission to Dream Forth: An Interview with Arisa White
Viet Thanh Nguyen visited Amherst College in February 2022 in the joint roles of Presidential Scholar and LitFest headliner. In his live conversation with The Common’s editor-in-chief Jennifer Acker, he deployed humor and refreshing honesty to discuss his path to publishing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer and its best-selling sequel The Committed. The conversation touched on the complexities of Vietnamese diasporic identity as well as his desire to expand the world of literature to encompass critical thought, breaking through the traditional literary bubble to allow for politics, history, and more. This interview is a collaboration between The Common and Amherst College’s LitFest and is an edited and condensed version of the live conversation.
Belonging Is a Complicated Thing: An Interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen
Mónica Gomery’s forthcoming collection, Might Kindred, was the winner of the 2021 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. The book inhabits a variegated landscape, exploring the nature of home as a first-generation American. In the conversation that follows, Gomery and Handler discuss ancestry, identity, intimacy, and the liminal spaces between.
Poetry as Homeland: An Interview with Mónica Gomery
One of the best things about interviewing the poet, professor, and novelist DeMisty D. Bellinger, Ph.D., is how she drops a book recommendation into every answer. Another is the transparent manner in which she speaks of her work: her writing is so intentional that the scenes and characters seem to crawl inside the reader and live there. Once seen, the characters in Bellinger’s debut novel cannot be unseen. Released on April 19, 2022, by Unnamed Press, New to Liberty tells the stories of Sissily, Nella, and Greta, three lives sewn together by Dust Bowl-era Kansas, tragedy, and their own longings. Amy Reardon and DeMisty Bellinger spoke via phone and discussed whose experience gets centered in literature, how to give voice to the unvoiced, and Bellinger’s desire to write from questions to figure out how the world works.
New to Liberty: A Conversation with DeMisty D. Bellinger
In conversation, they go by Breezy. When Michael Mercurio and Brionne Janae spoke via Zoom, Breezy was at home in Brooklyn, and Michael was in Northampton, Massachusetts. Though Michael had known Breezy’s work for several years through their publications in Ploughshares, Waxwing, Frontier Poetry Review, The Sun, The Rumpus, and The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, they hadn’t met until they worked together on a program for the Tell It Slant Poetry Festival, cohosted by the Faraday Publishing Company and Black Writers Read. Here, they talk about musicality, authenticity, and the importance of bringing voice to what might be left unsaid. (Please note this interview discusses childhood sexual abuse and trauma.)
The Healing Nature of Truth: An Interview with Brionne Janae
Patrick Rosal is an interdisciplinary artist and author of five full-length collections of poetry. Former Interviews Editor Willie Perdomo connected with Patrick over email this winter, and in this lively exchange, they discuss the spirit realm and its ability to breathe life into writing. Rosal shares his perspective on music and performance in his work, as well as the importance of honoring rituals, ancestors, and legacy.
We Insist on a Godliness, a Mystery, a Laughter: An Interview with Patrick Rosal
Abdelmajid Haouasse’s transportive short story “A Hot Day” is a highlight of Issue 21‘s portfolio of fiction from Morocco. An award-winning scenographer, director, cinematographer, and author of short fiction, Haouasse is interviewed by The Common interns Sofia Belimova, Olive Amdur, Adaku Nwokiwu, and Eliza Brewer, with the assistance of Nashwa Gowanlock, who translated the interview as well as the original story. Here, Haouasse discusses his story’s unique narration, the translation process, and drawing inspiration from the Moroccan city of Asilah. This is the second of two interviews conducted by the summer interns with Issue 21 contributors; the first is with Latifa Baqa.
Language Is a Living Substance: An Interview with Abdelmajid Haouasse