Sunday, October 23, 2011

Author Insides - Meg Johnson

Meg Johnson's poems have appeared in Slipstream Magazine, Word Riot, WTF PWM, Blood Lotus, Camroc Press Review, and others. Her poem "Free Samples" was nominated for Best of the Net. She is currently a poetry student in the NEOMFA Program, a teaching assistant at the University of Akron, and the poetry editor for Rubbertop Review. Prior to this, Meg worked for many years as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, and actress. She blogs at:

Meg's poetry appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My mom told me recently that she was looking at something I wrote in first grade about how I wanted to be a dance teacher and a writer when I grew up. I wrote poetry every year for my high school literary magazine and would secretly write in my early twenties, but I didn’t have any serious awareness about wanting to write until I was twenty-five.

Why do you write?

I feel like I have to write. I fought against that feeling for awhile, but at a certain point I couldn’t anymore.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

Yes and no. Before I ever submitted any writing to publications, I had worked as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, actress, and model. I had dealt with people who thought I could do no wrong and people who thought I couldn’t do anything right. Both extremes are, of course, crazy. So acceptance and rejection were not new concepts to me. I try to keep my experiences in the performing arts in mind to help understand possible highs and lows as a writer.

I started submitting poems to publications about a year and a half ago and I was surprised when I started getting some acceptances shortly after starting to send out submissions. I really appreciate the time editors have taken to read and consider my work whether they have accepted or rejected it. I’ve been really surprised by editors who were able to respond to submissions within one or two days. I had a poem published by Word Riot this year and I have poems forthcoming in Camroc Press Review and it was exciting to get those acceptances within 24 to 48 hours after submitting those poems.

I appreciate how publications promote their writers in unexpected ways. I was definitely surprised when the editors of Blood Lotus nominated my poem “Free Samples” for Best of the Net this fall. It’s really cool how The Battered Suitcase makes an effort to get to know their authors through these interviews. I organized a poetry and fiction reading this fall and Zozie Beatrice and I were two of the five readers. We had both published poetry in WTF PWM and the WTF PWM editors were generous enough to share information about the reading on their site.

What do you think makes a good story?

When it’s a piece that feels honest, regardless of whether or not it’s true.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I love reading poetry and non-fiction. I enjoy reading fiction but I don’t read it quite as much.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

Some poets that have really influenced me include Chelsey Minnis, Frank O’Hara, Anne Sexton, Denise Duhamel, Matthew Guenette, and Robbie Q. Telfer. Of course there are many more, but those are a few that I automatically think of.

What books or stories have influenced you the most as a writer?

I started reading books by Augusten Burroughs when I was twenty-one and his writing really influenced me, especially the books Magical Thinking and Possible Side Effects.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

My mom read to me every day when I was a kid and I’ve been thinking about how those books, like A Little Princess, have stayed with me and how they creep into my thoughts as an adult.

There are books I read in my early twenties that I had strong emotional reactions to like The Age of Innocence and Debra Marquart’s The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere. I remember being twenty-three and being obsessed with both of those books. I’m twenty-seven and a half now so I guess that wasn’t that long ago, but it feels that way.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

Some of it I find in my own life. Some of it I find from my imagination. I try to feed off the energy I feel when I read writers I really love.

What does your family think of your writing?

My dad and my brother Alec probably read whatever my mom points out to them. My mom has read about half of the work I’ve published and is very supportive. I’ve published some poems with some very adult subject matter and I’ve been relieved when she has seemed unfazed by them. She reads a lot and is supportive of the arts, but when it’s your mom you still worry.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

It’s always changing.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Yes. I wish I could be one of those people who can write in public places like coffee shops. I do jot down lines in public sometimes, but when it comes to writing a poem I need to be in a room by myself where no one can stare at me. It’s much easier for me to write behind a closed door. Sometimes I pace around. Sometimes I eat candy and drink Diet Mountain Dew.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

It depends on the particular piece I’m working on.

What are your current projects?

I don’t know what city or town I’ll be living in or what I’ll be doing next year (fall 2011), so figuring that out is obviously something I’m focused on.

What are you planning for future projects?

I have some forthcoming poems. I’m working on some new poems. I know that for at least the rest of the year I’ll be teaching dance classes. I might organize another reading this spring or summer.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’m not sure I’ve been a writer long enough to be giving advice.

Where else can we find your work?

I’ve published writing in various print and online magazines. I post updates about where you can read my work on my blog.

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