The Write Stuff: Terry Taplin on Becoming Imaginary and the Tension Between Oblivion and Meticulosity

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Bousa Tataporn
Terry Taplin was born in Berkeley, CA in 1988, the year of Robert Duncan's passing. Having begun writing poetry under the tutelage of Judith Lee Stronach, he continues in his life long journey as an eternal student of poetic craft and traditions. A devout believer in the power and importance of the Liberal Arts and drawing deeply from oral and literary poetics ranging from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the 20th and 21st Century, his writing seeks a synthesis and reconciliation of forms and aesthetics.

With one hand on the human and ecological crises and one hand on the peculiarities of a mindscape equally predisposed to escapism and mingled bliss and grief, the poems of Taplin aim to transport and guide readers through literary microclimates, each striking a tension between oblivion and meticulosity and within which image/lyric are foregrounded and meaning/narrative are subsumed by alchemy and myth.

Taplin's performance work has appeared on stages ranging from The San Francisco Opera House and The Masonic Auditorium to The Apollo Theater in Harlem and Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood. His page work has been featured at reading series throughout the Bay Area, including New Poetry Mission in San Francisco, Lyrics and Dirges in Berkeley, Under the Influence at the Emerald Tablet in North Beach, as well as the 2012 Beast Crawl and the 10th Berkeley Poetry Festival in 2012. He holds several local and national slam poetry championships and final-stage performances spanning 2006-2012 across the youth and collegiate circuits, as both a competing poet and as a coach. In 2014 he became the co-recipient of the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize for undergraduate poetry and the Newman Award for undergraduate writing and was awarded an honorable mention in Spectrum for literary criticism. Both the Newman Award and Spectrum are housed at Saint Mary's College of California, where Terry studies Classical Greek and Latin.

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The Write Stuff: Marcus Lund on Life, Rewrites, and Going for That Second Cup of Coffee

Categories: Write Stuff

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Marcus Lund was born in Portland, OR, the son of a salesman and a teacher. In Portland, he wrote short stories and was a regular contributor for both an online beer magazine and a print skateboarding magazine. He moved to Oakland, CA in 2011, where he received an MFA from Mills College. Words he has written have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Paper Darts, 580 Split, 34th Parallel, Bad Futurist, Xenith Magazine, and Nib Magazine, among others. He is the co-founder and co-editor of HOLD: a journal, which will have an inaugural issue soon. He is currently finishing up his first novel with the help of his pug, Iris.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them...?

It depends on the situation. I often tell people I'm a writer, but sometimes when I do that it opens up the door for them to relay all of these stories they want to see written, like maybe I will write the story of their grandfather or an old neighbor. If I don't want to get into it, then I simply say I work nights at a restaurant in Alameda. I used to think it was really important for me to claim the title of writer, but I think that urge was grounded in insecurity, like I'm not sure if I'm a writer, but if I tell enough people, then it will have to come true.

What's your biggest struggle--work or otherwise?

Life is nothing if not a big struggle.

I work evenings so my writing time is first thing in the morning, which means I struggle with getting out of bed. I usually write for three or four hours and then go to the restaurant where I work another six or seven hours, and this all means that at the end of the day I'm very tired. Thus, I struggle with not getting black out drunk, closing down a bar, and stumbling home.

I struggle with paying my bills.

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The Write Stuff: Brittany Billmeyer-Finn on Being Urgent and Invisible at the Same Time

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Kelly Autumn
Brittany Billmeyer-Finn is an Oakland based poet, community organizer, arts educator and shopgirl. She is a co-curator of the bi-monthly living room performance series, Manifest. Her work can be found in some local publications, such as Where Eagles Dare, Mondo Bummer, and The Poetic Labor Project, and is upcoming in a few more. You can also find her work at Dusie.org, Issue #15.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them...?

I usually reply, "for love or money?" or one/all of these: poet; community organizer; arts educator; shopgirl.

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The Write Stuff: Benjamin Hollander on What Separates Anarchism from Libertarianism

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Michael Hollander
Benjamin Hollander was born in Haifa, Israel and as a boy immigrated to New York City. He presently lives on the west coast of North America. His books include: In the House Un-American (Clockroot Books/Interlink Publishing, Spring, 2013); Memoir American (Punctum Books, Spring 2013); Vigilance (Beyond Baroque Books, 2005); Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli, (Parrhesia Press, 2004); The Book of Who Are Was (Sun & Moon Press, 1997); How to Read, Too (Leech Books, 1992); and, as editor, Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France (ACTS, 1988). A review of In The House Un-American can be found in The LA Review of Books, and an excerpt in The Brooklyn Rail.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them...?

I tell them I teach writing and literature. After that, it depends who is asking. If they look like they could be remotely interested in poetry, I tell them I write poetry, although I never claim what Laura Riding called the poet-role (i.e. "I am a poet"), in the same way I would never claim Rimbaud's Je est un autre ("I am the other").

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The Write Stuff: Laurel Braitman on The Least Interesting Thing About Art

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Bret Hartman
Laurel Braitman is author of Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves (Simon & Schuster, June 2014). She just completed her PhD in history and anthropology of science at MIT and has written for Pop Up Magazine, The New Inquiry, Orion and other publications. When she isn't writing, she is organizing concerts for gorillas, sea lions and buffalo. She is a TED Fellow and an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, California.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

It depends on my mood. But I usually just say I'm a writer. People then very quickly try to find out if that's "how you pay your bills." I suppose they think this means that you're a "real" writer, whatever that means.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

The aspects of contemporary adult life that include calling large businesses with phone trees, paying parking tickets on time, dealing with insurance companies, or organizing receipts for taxes. Somehow writing a book or finishing a PhD seems a thousand times easier for me than taking care of these things.


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The Write Stuff: Arisa White on Experiencing the Articulation of Preverbal Understandings

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Samantha Florio
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow, and the author of Post Pardon, Hurrah's Nest, and A Penny Saved. A 2013-14 recipient of an Investing in Artist Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation and an advisory board member for Flying Object, she is a BFA faculty member at Goddard College. A native New Yorker, living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her wife, Arisa is adapting Post Pardon into an opera with a Cultural Funding Grant from the City of Oakland.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I write, teach, and do editorial work.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Finding a balance between my work (paying the bills) and my writing. I want my writing to be my work, where I put my most time and energy, and get paid for doing it. Paid in a way that actually allows me to eat and have a home. Sometimes, too, I tell myself it is all a matter of perspective: what I do, regardless of how I define it, is a part of my writing life. Everything connects, it's just a matter of me seeing and consciously making those connections. When I am able to rest in that mindset, I am living the life I want to live.

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The Write Stuff: Siamak Vossoughi on Keeping Close Track of Your Own Advice to Yourself

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Walter Kitundu
Siamak Vossoughi is a writer living in San Francisco. He was born in Tehran and grew up in London, Orange County, and Seattle. He writes short stories and is also working on his second novel. Some of his writing has appeared in Faultline, Fourteen Hills, Prick of the Spindle, The Rumpus, Washington Square, Black Heart Magazine, River and Sound Review, The Brooklyn Voice, and sPARKLE & bLINK. He is the recipient of the 2013 Very Short Fiction Prize from Glimmer Train. Along with writing, he works as a substitute teacher at a K-8 school in San Francisco.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

About half the time I tell them I work at a school and half the time I tell them I am a writer. I feel better when I say the second one.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

My biggest struggle is finding time to write as much as I would like.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

First of all, I would say 'That's nice of you to say.' Then I would say a lot of things: Don't have a television; Pay attention to kids; Try to remember that everybody used to be a kid; Be a walker of city streets; Try to emulate the writers you love more than the most famous writers (because you're going to do some emulating); The biggest thing I would tell somebody is, keep close track of your own advice to yourself. There is a part of you inside that knows exactly what you need to do. It can feel very small at first. Grow it each day.

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The Write Stuff: Mark Abramson on the Importance of Sensible Conservatives

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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David K. Bruner
Mark Abramson was a San Francisco bartender during the worst years of the AIDS crisis. He was also involved in several of the major fundraising events of the times, from gay bars to street fairs to the waterfront piers and theaters in between. He is the author of the new memoir For My Brothers that recounts those years and the best-selling Beach Reading mystery series, set in the present day Castro neighborhood.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I tell them I'm a writer. I always have been, but it took the publication of my first few books to be able to claim that for myself.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Finding enough hours in the day for everything I want to do plus take naps.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Read a lot. Figure out what kind of writing you relate to and read even more of that genre. Then write. Don't be afraid to copy another writer's style at first. You'll develop your own. Read some more. Write some more.

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The Write Stuff: William Taylor Jr. on Doing Your Best to Ride Out the Dry Spells

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Julie Michelle
William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. Broken When We Got Here, his latest book of poetry, and An Age of Monsters, his first collection of fiction, are both available from Epic Rites Press. The Blood of a Tourist, a book of new poems, will be published in early 2014 by Sunnyoutside Press. William was a recipient of the 2013 Acker Award.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

It depends upon who's asking. Usually I'll just mention my day job. If pushed or cornered by the right person I might let it slip that I sometimes write poetry. But everybody writes poetry. And if you tell someone you write poetry, they'll inevitably ask you what your poetry is about, and that's the worst question ever.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Finding a balance in doing what I have to do to keep a roof over my head and doing the things that give my life some semblance of meaning. I get depressed and grumpy when I'm not using enough of my time creating.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Gosh, that could mean any number of things. All in all, I certainly couldn't recommend it to everyone. There's not much in the way of sleep or financial stability involved.

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The Write Stuff: Dani Burlison on Aiming High but Having Low Expectations

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Ava Burlison
Dani Burlison has been a staff writer for a Bay Area alt-weekly, a columnist for McSweeney's Internet Tendency and a book reviewer for the The Los Angeles Review. Her writing appears in the Chicago Tribune, The Rumpus, Utne Reader, Ploughshares Literary Magazine, Hip Mama Magazine, Shareable, Rad Dad Zine, Spirituality & Health Magazine, Chevy Culture Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Know Journal, Bike Monkey, elephant journal, The North Bay Bohemian, sparkle & blink and others. She is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Lit Camp and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and has upcoming work in various online and print publications and a handful of anthologies. Her collection of essays Dendrophilia and Other Social Taboos was published in December 2013 and she is currently working on her second book.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

Until almost a year ago, I was a staff writer at an alt-weekly in Marin County and a freelance writer for a few other places. Now I teach creative/autobiography writing to older adults through a community college where I live. I still write articles here and there, including a small travel column that I co-write for The Chicago Tribune. I'm also working on my second book.

Plus, I'm a full-time single mom of two teens. That shit takes a whole special and complicated supernatural skill set. Keeping them alive and relatively well-adjusted this long is my biggest accomplishment to date. I like to think of myself as a sorceress.

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