Q and A's

Brian Kutanovski

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I write because I think every person has thoughts they think are too strange or insane to even mention. They just sit there in the back of your mind, and you think to yourself, "why did I just think about having sex with my horse, and then you read a book about bestiality, and then you realize, you are not alone. In fact, there are probably thousands of stories written about mating with animals, but if you would have never read, you would condemn yourself alone--truly believing you are the only one in the world with strange desires.  I'm not saying you wouldn't be deranged, but surely you are not alone. And that's why I write...to make those tiny connections. Even if they are deranged (I'm not into animals though).

I became interested in writing when in grade school when I used to day dream about dating girls out of my league and creating elaborate story lines and conflicts to bring more drama, to myself. I guess it was my way of thrilling myself in the boredom of public schooling. Then I took it seriously in college when I truly understand the impact and the amount of knowledge compacted into something the size of a book. Probably one of the most powerful mediums to transfer consciousness and change peoples minds.

 Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 

Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, because he's truly one of the most revolutionary writers of our times, while managing to avoid being politically categorized.

Cormac Mcarthy, author of The Road, because his literary talent can make you feel every feeling in your emotional spectrum, all in one story.
   
OSHO, author of Sex and Superconsciousness and literally hundreds of other books, because he's really a poet, but people call him a Guru, mystic, spiritualist  (And all his books are translations of his dialogues with his students about meditation).

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

It's function in society should be to change society, and change it fast.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

Chicago has brought forth my missing element in my writing and that was...PEOPLE. I came from desolate rural farmlands, so moving to Chicago collided classes, cliques, social stances, sub-cultures, races and personalities. And Chicago is probably one of the most hardest working, to-the-grind cities. So my motivation rarely leaves me.

Sarah Wayland

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I often ask myself that question and have no easy answer. My writing has been more of a natural progression across time. It started with creative writing courses in high school and college. I embraced the opportunity to create something that was my own. Writing was a good medium for that. It came naturally. I’m not a good visual artist, so writing became my creative outlet. I started to experiment with constructing stories for publication about 5 years ago.  I have one in the works that I feel strongly about. It’s the right fit for me. I’m very excited about what lies ahead.

Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 

I have been influenced most by author Jerzy Kosinski and his novel Pinball. I admire his ability to create gritty landscapes, immerse the reader in the music subculture of his own making and his ability to develop flawed characters with redeeming qualities. He transports inside the world he creates. He can make me feel like I have been there. Ellen Hopkins is another author I’ve been following. I admire her compact writing style. She has the ability to present her story with well-chosen words. The scenes she creates are like snapshots short but memorable. I have been influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Augusten Burroughs, and Kate Chopin.

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

In my personal opinion, it should be clever, relevant and ground breaking; whether it’s a unique story, compelling characters, thought provoking social commentary or all of the above. It has the ability to engage readers in its process, provide common ground for discussion across social class, and most of all is memorable. I believe literature affects the individual that reads the work and either defines or influences their world view; in turn that impacts how the individual functions in society.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

Chicago provides access to a wide variety of experience. Living here has broadened my exposure to a multitude of life styles and diverse individuals. I have taken advantage of the access it provides to the arts. In turn, it provides me with an expanded frame of reference to draw from in my writing.

Myles O'Donnell
 
Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?
 
i'm a writer because i have a constant need to be creating some kind of art in one way or another.  If i'm not able to express myself through some kind of medium i can't fully be myself and function well on a day-to-day basis.  It doesn't matter what the subject matter is, i just need to keep on adding on to my creations i've made thus far.  i also make a lot of music, stencil art, and collaborate with friends on various other projects in different art forms, but writing has been my main passion in life since i started at a young age.  Way back in the day, sometime around second or third grade, i started writing simple stories about my life usually accompanied by drawings.  Soon i began to delve deeper into writing by constructing Tolkien-esque worlds with my brother, complete with drawings of different races or creatures we created, a full map of the world, and most importantly a large amount of written history having to do with our made up fantasy universe.  From then on i became more interested in writing and took my first steps in trying to be able to use many different styles to eventually develop my own that i have today.


Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 

i need to make it completely clear that my undisputed all time favorite poet is e e cummings, he is truly a genius and has given me the most inspiration for my work that tends to be more experimental.  Some others include William Wordsworth, Alice Notley, and Walt Whitman among countless others.  As far as prose goes, i think the main influences that are most prevalent in my writing come from beatnik and counter-culture authors, most notably Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and my beloved Hunter S. Thompson (may he rest in peace).  i can't bare forgetting to mention other authors from different times that i love such as George Orwell, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Stephen King.

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

Literature should inspire.  Everyone learns how to read before they can write, so Literature is obviously the master key to becoming a writer.  Someone isn't just going to start writing their own work without reading any books, so Literature needs to be prevalent enough to the youth in our society to get potential artists interested enough to one day create their own art.  Before a person can make their own literature, the writer needs to let the Literature that he/she has absorbed and mold their style according to what they've learned.  The Literature first creates the writer, and then those new writers create literature, which in time crafts the next generation of writers- it's been a constant cycle ever since humans formed languages.  The technology we have in the world today has transformed the way we live our lives in such a short time that Literature can't just be stuck to printed books alone.  Literature is way too important to me to see it be forgotten among all the 3D TV's and iPads and other insane inventions we have today and in the future- it needs to adjust to our new online world and stay alive through the passion that the writers of today have for it.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

i see Chicago as this beacon of hope and inspiration for art, stuck in the middle of the country, in the void we call the Midwest.  i went to school in St.Louis for a little over a year and when i first arrived it immediately hit me just how enormous Chicago actually is.  St.Louis seemed to be full dead zones where as Chicago is full of so much life and energy and a collectively shared feeling of homeliness among everyone who lives here regardless of what part of the city you're in, so i'm glad i've returned.  There's so many different cultures and areas in Chicago, and in my writing i naturally fall back on settings, situations and characters that are derived from experiences i've had throughout my life in the city where i was born.

Adam Madison

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

Don’t know exactly. I’ve always sought recognition, much like the Adam in the “Portrait Artist.” I also have a lot of things swimming around in my head, and writing helps set them free so that I don’t combust. Most recently, I’ve been writing for escape and putting myself in imaginary scenarios to distract me from the things that are really going on.

A lot of it is just a curse. My mother was an English professor. My older sister also was a journalist. I recognized early on the value of a good story, and there always was a lot of help for me to craft some.

Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 


I’ve never really gotten stuck on one particular author. Although, John Irving, T.C. Boyle, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Hunter Thompson and Ken Kesey are all names that stick in my head. I think as a writer today, however, I am more influenced by visual media. I’m 32; Luke Skywalker, Jason Vorhees, Ozzy Osborne and a handful of porn stars probably have influenced me more than someone like Ernest Hemingway. I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Q: What should Literature
 (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

I don’t want to say what’s good for society or how it should operate. But when I am standing in the bookstore, I’m looking for several things. I want to be entertained, first and foremost. Secondly, good Literature should influence the way that I live and interpret life. Literature—fictional people and events—offer more insight to life than all of the newspapers in the world. You get more than facts, you get perspective.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

Chicago was like watching a passing storm. 

I moved to Edgewater from Hammond, Ind. I didn’t have any friends, and Chicago often made me feel even smaller because it was so big. I remember riding up and down the Redline because I just couldn’t think of anything else to do. I thought if I just kept moving that I would eventually experience something really big. I’d sit with my notebook, scribbling down every thing that I saw or writing out the interesting dialogue. On a few occasions, I even followed groups of people off the train. I tried to imagine what it was like to be them, and then I’d write some more.

Josh Coblentz


Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I'm a writer because I've always had artistic inclinations.  When I was younger I used to draw all the time, and continued this into my teens.  Eventually I got into music and decided I wanted to play guitar and bass and write songs.  By the time I hit college I realized that I loved reading fiction a lot more than previously and when I got tired of the fine arts field that I was majoring in, I switched to English.  For the longest time I tried writing stories and never completed or was never satisfied with any of them.  It's only been recently that I've been able to complete stories and feel like they were ready for submission.  It almost feels like writing is sort of a new thing for me, even though I've been making attempts to write various things all my life. 


Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why?


Faulkner's style always seems to seep into everything I do.  I totally rip off his use of italics for interior monologue every chance that I get.  Pynchon is probably my favorite writer at the moment.  His complexity can be boring sometimes, but his moments of genius are unparalleled.  When I was younger i tried to write like William S. Burroughs, but that usually just made an uninteresting mess.  At one point I was also probably influenced by Vonnegut's style for better or worse - I like him, but I don't think the short bold sentences works well with me.


Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?


Literature, currently, serves as a sort of escape for people who want something more out of cultural life than the constant ultra-stimulation of TV and shopping malls.  It's intellectual pleasure that deals with issues, events, and feelings that you really can't find in many other mediums.  Music has its own way of empathizing that can't be matched by any other art form, and Literature has something distinct about it too.  The silence and isolation it provides doesn't seem as lonely as it appears to be.


Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?


I traveled to Chicago about once a year since 2006 (I lived, and currently live in Ohio).  In 2009 I moved to the suburbs of Chicago and worked in a book store after completing my undergrad degrees.  I was at a loss for what to do, and was seriously considering law school or going into public policy administration for graduate school.  But then I started reading a lot of fiction again and as a result started just writing small fragments of stories or working on longer projects that never got finished.  It was while I was in Chicago that I decided to go to graduate school for English and continue doing what interested me.  So even though it isn't much of a "Chicago formed me" sort of thing, it still had a profound influence on me for the little amount of time that I lived near the city.

Tasha Cotter

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I write because I have no choice but to write. I started writing little poems when I was maybe eleven or twelve years old. I've always kept  journals and diaries. Growing up I really liked expressing myself on paper. It felt the most natural to me. Now, I can't imagine not writing. For as long as I can remember it has been essential to me.

Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 

When I was young I really enjoyed e.e. Cummings, Poe, and Plath. Then there was a year I read nothing but Dickinson. As you can probably tell, growing up I read a lot of poetry. I still read poetry and if I had to pick five writers that have been very important to me in the last couple of years I would say Sarah Manguso, Lorrie Moore, Kara Candito, Ashley Capps, and Anne Carson. I am increasingly interested in writers who successfully blur the lines between genres; it's a direction I feel my own writing moving in.

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

I think Literature teaches us empathy and reveals a wide range of emotions that the reader may not have experienced in himself. I think Literature makes us better human beings, allowing us to fully experience and reflect on joys and sorrows. Ultimately, a life rich in Literature teaches us to fully understand ourselves and only by reading the masters can we completely understand our own desires and fears. In short, we gain self-awareness and our lives become enriched by the intensity of great books.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

I've always been a keen observer and I really believe that when it comes to poetry (and fiction, for that matter) you need everything you can get your hands on: maps, books, visual art, you name it. In poetry the ultimate goal is to say something new and surprising, to link the dissimilar. Being in a city so rich and varied is a tremendous resource for a writer who is always on the lookout for material. I feel like as a writer I am always trying to locate bridges between the physical and emotional world and to say something very precise. We writers are an avid bunch.

Kieran Neal

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I've always had an interest in writing.  I write because my mind demands it.  Thoughts well up inside of me and burst out.  If I don't write them they dissipate and eventually return and haunt me.

Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why? 

My biggest influences have been Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Pablo Neruda and Jack Kerouac.  I think Jack London and Ernest Hemingway beautifully demonstrate how powerfully language can be wielded; Neruda brings to tears every time I read his poems; and to me, Kerouac illustrates the visions better than anyone.  I think all of them though, especially London and Kerouac, use words  as they have never been used to draw meaning from the sounds.

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?

It should be truth gone mad.  The truth as the writer sees it.

Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?

 
It's a city full of lonely back streets and they demand I write.  It demands I write of rooftops by trains roaring and plummeting into black tunnels, going nowhere in the dark, of the lakefront and slimy boulders, brown bricks, crippled old men and miraculous lights.  Stare down on the city at night and wonder why we live here, and why there is suddenly nothing else.

George T. Mormann

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?
Writing chose me. I can’t necessarily say that I chose it. The idea of storytelling is almost second nature. Ever since I was a child, creating stories out of wayward thoughts was actually an enjoyment. Green and tan armymen were never just green and tan armymen. They became characters, with names, and with conflicts. I recall back in the third grade, I believe it was, the teacher handed out a paper that contained a list of Native American symbols and translations that were an alphabet of sorts. There was no assignment for them, but I went home and wrote stories using those symbols. I can’t point out specifically the time when writing began to interest me. It’s practically an instinct. I write everyday, but I did put the armymen away a long time ago.
Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why?
I admire writing that conveys the dirtiness of life. Characters that self-medicate with any form of escape from the struggles of the day-to-day. I find this in Raymond Carver, James Baldwin, John Fante, Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski, among others. Dark words,  the realest pain, and prose that places you at that poker table or bar counter, sharing the same bottle of whiskey or wine.
Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?
Literature is as real as we write it. Write what is us, and its function is self-explanatory.
Q: How does Chicago influence your writing?
I look at the side streets of Chicago for inspiration. Specifically, the South side. Skyscrapers are cute, but I find an infallible essence in abandoned lots, Food & Liquors, and the stories of graffiti walls. I find beauty within it all. For a writer like myself, there’s verisimilitude in a Maxwell Street polish sausage, not just mustard and onions.

Pete Michael Smith

Q: Why are you a writer? When did you become interested in writing?

I don't know how to be anything else. I've been writing for as long as I've been reading, and it seems like it's ingrained in my way of being in the world. I write to tell my story and make others see the things that I see.
Q: What authors have influenced you most? Why?

Influence seems like the wrong word for my relationship to the authors I love. Graham Swift and Alan Lightman are two of my favorite writers for the way they can make sentences linger and drift. I admire their structure but don't seek to emulate it. Stanley Crawford makes my skin melt with the stunning beauty of his images. I might try to emulate him. I'm sure I couldn't do anything like The Log of the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine, but I'd love to try.

Q: What should Literature (with a capital "L") do? What is its function in society?
I'm of a mind that literature should do everything. I want books to save the world or fight wars. I want them to sweep the floor and make dinner. I want a book in every pot and a card catalog in every garage.

Q: What are your first impressions of Chicago?

Chicago is big. I've been living in the sleepy little hilltowns of western Massachusetts for the last five years, and before that, Boston (which is a much more manageable city). I like Chicago, so far, and I like the possibilities of a city. I'm exploring and finding my way and eager to make it my own. And shit, that lake is so big.