Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Grace Alice Evans: my (small press) writing day

I wake up between five and six every morning. I am cautious when opening my eyes, as regardless of whether the curtains are drawn or not, I know that I will be hit by a whirling mass of light particles. I hope that one day, I will learn what causes them – for now, they follow me everywhere I go. Once I have accustomed my eyes to being open, I slip out of bed, have a shower, and head outside to have a cigarette.
Slightly dizzy, I head back up the two flights of stairs leading to the flat, and go straight to the kitchen – I must admit that coffee (one heaped teaspoon of instant coffee, two small teaspoons of sugar, and lots of milk) is something that I cannot live without. Coffee is usually followed by a light breakfast. While I eat – usually on the sofa, by the balcony – I think over my to-do-list for the day, and occasionally make some notes in my notebook which become poems later in the day and make a few loose sketches.
I sit at the kitchen table (my preferred workspace, with easy access to more coffee when needed) and turn my laptop on around eight o’clock – Marc, for that’s his name, is seven years old this December and takes quite a while to power up. While he’s doing his thing, I check Twitter and Instagram, catching up with anything that I have missed and bookmarking poems and articles to read later.
I try my best not to get distracted while I work, which is much easier said than done, for my mind works overtime, and my thoughts tend to become rather overwhelming. My workload depends on the day – usually, I am done by mid-morning if I manage to stay focused. The next couple of hours are dedicated to writing and writing only – individual poems, and an assortment of projects which remain a secret for now. This is the pocket of time when the corporeal world blurs and during which I get completely lost in my mind, my thoughts forming the tiny universes which I then translate into words. I always write out my initial drafts by hand – poems come to me in waves, and I often find it hard to read my handwriting, but I cannot imagine my writing process looking any different.
I often hear music when writing, coming from the liminal space between my writing headspace and the outside world. If it’s particularly loud, I open up FL Studio and tinker around until I get the track to sound as close to the music as possible. I often multitask this with finishing any sketches created earlier in the day.
I try to go out for a walk at least once a day. I am lucky to live on the very edges of my town and have recently discovered a footpath among wheat fields and a small woodland area which leads to a secluded area overlooking grazing sheep. On days when I feel particularly productive and inspired, I tend to bring my notebook with me and carry on writing.
By the time I get back home, my partner is awake, and the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to spending time with them and catching up with household chores.
My evening ritual consists of typing up what I have written through the day, as well as editing (both written work and music), accompanied by biscuits, a cup of tea (as strong as possible, one sugar, and a dash of milk), and reading. This is also when I send out submissions, as well as work on the Final Cut Zine – go through any new submissions in the zine’s inbox and send out decisions. My dwarf hamster, Cybil, usually wakes up just before midnight, and I make sure I spend enough time with her every day as well.
I fall asleep anywhere between one and three o’clock – somehow, the best lines always come to me just before I fall asleep, and I often find myself waking up and writing them down throughout the night.
There are, of course, days when my mental and physical health makes even the most mundane of tasks difficult – on those days, I try my best to allow myself to rest, and the writing happens mostly in my head.

Grace Alice Evans (she/they) is a LGBTQ+, mixed-heritage poet, writer, sound/visual artist and survivor, whose work explores living with mental illness, trauma, recovery, and the dichotomy between the inner and outer worlds. Grace’s social media handle is @gracealiceevans, and her website can be found following the link at

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tommy O’Rourke : My Small Press Writing Day

I spend a lot of time thinking about the end of the world. I wake up, shuffle to the kitchen, spoon coffee grounds into a filter, and, while the machine gurgles, think how our ongoing apocalypse is beginning to mirror what the prophets envisioned. The surrealistic Johannine revelation of flaming skies in wildfires up and down the west coast. Boshean rapture in the streets in Portland. How to square these images with the whimper of our year, the boredom of quarantine? There’s no visionary parallel for the more mundane plagues: income inequity, mild winters, and bullish oil futures.

A couple years ago, I stood in the Sistine Chapel and gawked at the self-portrait Michelangelo snuck into his Last Judgement. In a gesture akin to flagellation, the Florentine grafted his own visage onto the flayed skin of Saint Bartholomew. What was he thinking about as he brushed his face onto a boneless body that dangles from the saint’s hand like a saddle from a peg? Sometimes, I think of my days as a series of these amorphous human shells, hung on some infinitely receding department store rack, a Target of the flesh.

My typical writing day consists of trying to reduce my body to complete transparency. I open my spiral notebook, click a pen, and, if I’m lucky, can see right through my hand as it scrawls across the page. The desire to slowly disintegrate may be the only constant that unifies my disparate attempts at writing something that constitutes a new form of breath, a new poem, itself a means of disintegration. In order to get there, I need to descend into language like a glass of tap water poured into Lake Michigan. The most terrible aspect of my poetics is that it’s a battle against my own intentions. The only way I know I’ve written something worthwhile is if it feels as though it were written by somebody else. The muses, God, the unconscious, call it what you want, to some degree--I do not know how to explain this feeling--I have not written anything.

Once, I had dinner with the late Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun. As a teenager, he wanted to be a conceptual artist. “Then one day,” he said, “poetry fell to me like stones from the sky.” Once, maybe twice a month, I wake to a loud crash and find a small mineral deposit steaming on my bedroom floor.

As you can see, I have trouble writing about writing. How do I write? I’m sitting in a chair behind a desk and looking at a screen. I’m drinking coffee. It’s morning. Some days I do this, some days I don’t. I teach English as a foreign language from the same chair. At night, I read. Right now, I’m reading The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch, a book fundamentally concerned with question of language, whether it is adequate to describe the unfathomable plurality of the present, whether the multiplicity bound up in instants of time can be rendered comprehensible in words.

I do not think our language is adequate for this task. Tragically, this is why I write, and it is why I write what and how I write: form, content, and process.

Hermann Broch began writing The Death of Virgil in a concentration camp. He finished it in the United States. Currently, in the United States, there are people in concentration camps. Many of them are writing. I spend a lot of time thinking about the word “end,” the word “world.” The poet Kaveh Akbar asks us, “What does it mean to be a poet working in a language, a medium, a nation, that can produce this?”

Tommy O’Rourke lives and teaches in Chicago. His poetry has appeared in Hobart, Why nICHt?, and elsewhere. He is currently translating a book of poems by the German Expressionist poet Georg Heym. He tweets @tommy_orourk.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Very Untypical – Typical Writing Day for C. Cimmone

I’ll just go ahead and level with you now: I love my bed. My bed is the only place I can relax, be comfortable from head to toe, oh, and not have to wear pants. Well, I guess I could be pant-free or topless at different writing venues, but I believe that’s frowned upon.

Moving on. My typical writing day starts with coffee. I sit out with the dog (Hammy the standard poodle) and watch him chew cicadas and left-over June bugs. He gets his fill and we head inside to ‘the bedroom.’ He’s a fine gentleman in bed – he only requires I let him lick my arm for a few minutes and then he drifts off into whatever type of REM cycle dogs have.

Once he’s kicking his back legs in a puppy dream, I untangle 15 cords and plug in my laptop. I have a Dell blah blah whatever it is (& insert memory and speed here too) with a touch screen. The touch screen is my BFF because I run a lit mag – Versification – and it helps me scroll through the issue I’m working on and then – BOOM – go into panic mode when something is wrong. Good times.

When I get inspiration, or finally have written a simmering story in my head, I pull up the blankets, turn on an episode of Dateline, Bojack Horseman, or Portlandia, MUTE IT, and get to typing. I prefer silence when I write. Sometimes I can tolerate a bit of background noise, like the sandwich guy ringing my doorbell, but for the most part, I keep it quiet. Yes, I’m THIS boring.

I may get up to grab juice, cheese, hummus, or make a baked potato (with cheese, sour cream and onions). Sometimes I wander around the house to stretch my legs because I’m paranoid of blood clots from sitting so long. No, I’m not that old, I just may have a slight case of hypochondria.

The only complaint I have about my ‘writing area’ is too much light. A lot of light seems to creep in, despite my heavy, green, velvet curtains. I hate the light. I hate noise. Perhaps I am a vampire. Maybe so. Either way, I will forever write in a low lit, cozy and quiet space. Judge me, unfollow me, hate on my choice of binge watching television – I don’t care – just leave my writing sanctuary alone.

C Cimmone is a North American author, comic, and editor. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Versification and serves as Editor-at-Large for Trampset.

Her narrative, creative nonfiction poetry and prose possess dark tones, often emphasizing women’s sexuality, mental health, substance abuse, and coming-of-age.

Her work has been featured in a menagerie of publications.

Follow Cimmone @diefunnier on Twitter and read more about her at