With connections to Blot’s poetry editor, Michele McDannold, and our good friends at Punk Hostage Press, it is perfectly natural to have Nadia Bruce-Rawlings as our featured writer this week. Her book SCARS received a rave review by Catherine Vlahos and we say you will rave about her interview too. Enjoy!
Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your art.
Well, I currently live in Nashville, though I lived all over the world. I’m Canadian, grew up in Norway and Egypt, lived in Denver and Texas and London and the Bahamas, and for the longest – Los Angeles. I think LA maybe is reflected most in my work because I lived there about 25 years. I love the ocean and the desert and the sand…the smells…the heat waves. I did get a bit fascinated with the South when we moved here, and the obsession with religion…so I wrote “Jesus In Her Head”.
Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?
I read and loved Hemingway and Kerouac as I was growing up. Hemingway’s simplicity, and Keroauc’s rambling – somehow I think I combine them a bit. And I love, love, love Sandra Cisneros. Her work makes me cry. She has such a way with words and with painting a picture with what she leaves out, as well. House On Mango Street is incredible to me; makes me weep every time I read it! Also…because I grew up overseas, with no TV, I disappeared into books from a really early age. Books were my escape. I read early, and I read a lot!
How do you generate new ideas for your work?
Sometimes it’ll just come to me when I am driving or whatever—I’ll get a sentence or paragraph in my mind and just go from there. But for instance, with my story “Fire,” I read a news article about a woman who burned her father to death, and I wanted to just get inside her head! What would make this woman do this? What was she thinking, what was her background? I make up stories about people I see on the street or in everyday life—how their life might be, why they have a frown or a smile or a tear?
When have you been most satisfied with your work?
Honestly, I’m not sure I’m ever satisfied. But when Punk Hostage said they wanted to publish a collection of my work, I was totally beside myself with glee and joy and disbelief! It was very validating to have Iris Berry tell me I write fantastically!
How do you know when a piece is finished?
Often I’m finished before other people feel it should be finished. Like with “El Supremo,” people have said they wanted more. But to me it was just done! I sometimes get the feeling that I’m rambling, so I try to wrap things up too quickly.
What has been your biggest failure and what − if any − lessons were learned?
So many life failures, ha! But as far as writing? I think my poem in SCARS called “By Now.” I had read something Michele McDannold had written, a wonderfully moving piece about an abortion. And honestly I needed some more pieces for SCARS, so I decided to try to write a poem about an abortion. But poetry is not my strong point, and the power of the moment wasn’t conveyed properly. I learned not to force the art…my best pieces have just come out of me, as if I just vomited the words on paper. I don’t even know where they come from. But if I try to force it, it’s just no good.
Tell us about your commitment to the writing community. Outside of your work, what else do you have going on? Or what do you see starting up in your future?
I’m really shy, and a bit of an isolator, so I haven’t been very active in the writing community here in Nashville. I did do a reading sponsored by this great book store here, East Side Story, and a couple of readings when my book came out. But I am also co-editing some books on the film industry in the 80s and 90s – interview books about companies that I worked for back then in LA that created the fabulous B exploitation films of the era. It’s been a great project and will continue for another year or so! Very exciting stuff, co-editing with this fantastic German film buff.
What is your biggest pet peeve with the writing community, trends, etc. today?
Oh gosh, I don’t know really. Sometimes I feel so old (I’m 50!!) when I’m at readings, and it all seems a bit hackneyed what the “younger folk” are doing. The self-publishing craze has made it so that anyone can have a book, whether or not they can even spell. That gets to me a bit!
What are you working on right now?
As I mentioned, I am co-editing a series of interview books on the Guns, Guts and Glory era of film companies. But I am also currently writing a story (maybe a book? Hard to say at this point!) called “Peace Accord”, which is a fairly autobiographical story of a pre-teen Canadian girl in Cairo, Egypt during the mid-70’s: the Peace Accord era between Egypt and Israel. It’s also the story of her tumultuous family and then the tumultuous time of adolescence. And the contrasts between her life in Canada and her life in Egypt, etc., etc….
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Patti Smith’s M TRAIN, and three Sandra Cisneros’ books – her autobiography, A HOUSE OF MY OWN, and CARAMELO and re-reading for the billionth time A HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. Oh…and WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK. Patti Smith is one of my heroes, too….I saw her on a televised concert from Germany when I was living in Norway, when I was about 12. There was this crazed, whirling dervish wild woman, singing and doing poetry and practically masturbating on stage, and I was like “Woh! This is what I want!!” She changed my whole outlook on life.