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Emma Arlington M. /

E.A. Midnight


Author of “Point-and-Shoot” from ISSUE 01, and her thoughts on identity, dismemberment, and her perspectives on what it means to be a writer

What are you reading these days? Do you love/hate/feel neutral about it, and why?


I tend to read multiple books at once. I recently finished You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman, which I am honestly not sure how I feel about. While the primary mode of the story is a commentary on societal obsessions and cultural behavior complications, I was fixated on this underlying idea of identity and the inability to truly decipher what it means to be oneself. This idea got under my skin and infiltrated my days and nights. It made me question what I know of myself. It made realize that which makes me “unique” is also just a conglomeration of pieces and things that have happened to me, traits I’ve picked up from others, and concepts that I have wanted to identify with or as. So in a way, I am fake, like everyone else, living a little fake life and nothing is real. Which is an unsettling concept. 

I also just finished my second reading of Obit by Victoria Chang, which sits with me every day, ghosting my every move. Chang writes about her father’s stroke, her mother’s descent toward death, and the weight of her (Chang’s) pain in a way that made me feel seen. I understood her poetic sentences and the braidedness of the text in my bones. I knew this grief narrative; it was wearing the same face as me. It was interesting to be reading these two books at the same time in that Kleeman had me questioning who/why/how I am, and Chang reminded me that I am not alone in my lostness.


Could you provide for us a passage of writing that deeply shifts something inside you? 


There is this line in Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers where the following question is posed, “Tell me what you know about dismemberment.” and the interviewee says, “I miss your bones.” (72) I think about that all the time. Like Kleeman’s novel, those two lines in conjunction with one another got deep under my skin when I first read them back in 2005 and they have been haunting me (and my work) ever since. I want to hug those words into a tight embrace, but I also want to suffocate them. Whenever I sit down to write something that I know is important, that I need to say, I think about those two lines. I try to write what I know of dismemberment and then the missing of its bones.


When you are working on a piece, what inspirations do you draw from?


I tend to gravitate toward women authors in general, so some women whose work I always feel I am in conversation with would be Selah Saterstrom, Piper J. Daniels, Kaia Solveig Preus, Sarah Veglahn, Katie Jean Shinkle, Shira Erlichman, Teresa Carmody, Sarah Manguso, Claudia Rankine, Ariana Reines, and Maggie Nelson. I find that how these women navigate their own truths through the thin space of the page always serves to inspire and challenge me in the best of ways.


What craft elements are you most interested in/attached to within your writing?


Craft is such a hard topic for me. I want to engage with it, but mostly I still don't feel that I understand what it *really* means. When I was in my MFA program, I struggled with the craft essays we had to write, always feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. I remember having a conversation with a good friend about it, and he was like, "craft can be anything; just like genre, it can be whatever you want it to be." My brain was pretty blown by that concept at the time. Now when someone uses the word *craft* I think they are talking about themes that they noticed in the text or tools they feel the author is using to generate a specific response in the reader. I will say that literature that really moves me tends to be musical in its voice, plays with color (or the idea of it), and leaves little breadcrumbs of subtext throughout the narrative that points toward other sub-stories/themes. 


Who (or what) are some of your writing obsessions, and why?


I am very interested in any author who is willing to defy the rules of the page, whether that means hybriding the text with image/video/art/etc. or distorting the space of the page to fit what the piece needs it to be. It is enchanting to me to watch brilliant writers see the boundary of what is and say, no thanks, this work needs more than that. Some authors who are exceptional at this in my opinion are Samiya Bashir (Field Theories), Diana Khoi Nguyen (Ghost of), Sarah Minor (Bright Archive), Jennifer Sperry Steinorth (Her Read: A Graphic Poem), Victoria Chang (Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief), Steven Dunn (Water & Power), Anne Carson (Red Doc>), and many more that I don’t have the space to mention. I also love a good food-store crime novel (i.e. - anything by Michael Connelly). 


What are some ways in which you remain productive/find time to be a writer? 


I think being a writer is embedded with being a lot of other something elses. I work a full-time job (in IT, the furthest thing from literature), am a caregiver to my father, a dog mom to two very needy pups, a wife, etc., etc., and when I can make it work, a writer. My point is that we all have immensely busy lives, and often writing is something we do because we are moved to do it. Sometimes that is when you are about to get into bed or during a meeting at work. Part of being an artist is being plagued by inspiration arising at inconvenient times. Writers feel a deep cavern of need to create, to let out that which has grown heavy inside us. But that heaviness doesn’t exist all the time and sometimes when you have the time to write, you end up watching forty-five minutes of dog videos instead. Eventually you will get okay at recognizing when you are in *the* moment and happen to also have the space to create, and when that happens you just start writing. Basically, my two cents is that being a writer is an ebb and flow and you just honor that experience the best you can.


What are some ways in which you get through a block in your creative work?


I watch dog videos for forty-five minutes. Just kidding. Kinda. Whenever I am facing a particularly bad block with a piece of writing, I pivot to something else. I might turn to one of my many journals and transcribe some of the scribbles. Sometimes I will put on music and try to free write alongside the harmonies. Or I’ll unearth an old project I cast aside and approach it with new eyes. Trying on the editor hat in place of the writer one can sometimes jiggle loose the creative that is stuck. It is nice to occasionally step back from a larger project and focus on individual pieces. Also forcing yourself to submit work through periods in which you don’t feel particularly creative can help unlock unseen things inside you. Basically, you just keep going, you keep being; the writing will come back to you when it’s ready.


How do you navigate the experience of submissions/rejections/acceptances?

Submitting my work is probably my least favorite part of being a writer. I would guess that this is the same for many other writers. I love the swell of creation, I completely adore the revision process, but when it comes time to offer up my hard-worked efforts to publishers, I am awash with emotion. Anxious, hopeful, angry, disinterested, celebratory, etc. Everything tidal waving over me each time I hit the submit/send button is hard to manage. I think it’s important to submit to places you respect, where you feel like your work would fit well. Keep editing your work. Keep pushing yourself to submit, even with rejections, even with all your doubt. And keep celebrating the wins. Every place that says yes to you, throw yourself a party, buy yourself that nice bangle, eat all the pie. This whole world is always taking us down, you have to be your writing’s biggest and best champion. So do the hard work and then believe it.


Regarding your piece in Issue 01, what does it mean for/to you?

My piece in Issue 01, “Point-and-Shoot,” is a Polaroid poem about an abusive relationship. The haunting beginning of a love soon-to-be tainted, which quickly morphs into cruelty, the inability to bring yourself to leave, and the ultimate realization when you are ready to try and walk away. I chose two relationships from my life and mashed them into one for the purpose of this piece. The places and spaces are all rooted in my experiences during my college years in Western North Carolina. This piece felt integral to birth out of me, to remove from me, so that I could move on with my life. I had been carrying those two things [the place and the people] around for so long, I couldn’t keep doing it without losing my now. The piece wrote itself, merging the two moments in time, and fused them into my commentary on everything I saw, but also didn’t see back then. I hope that in some way it provides a mirror through which others can see their reflection and take a beat to evaluate where they are, why they are, and where they want to go. I chose to make this poem into Polaroids because I felt that best captured how we look back on our past; everything a little hazy and blurred at the edges, while also being an honest portrait you cannot ignore. Also, for what it is worth and/or whomever needs this: the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.

Do you have any recent publications and/or projects? 


Yeah actually, I have a few new things out/coming out in the next bit of time.

- My cherished piece “mundane objects: the therapist’s office” was recently published by Heavy Feather Review on their Haunted Passages Series. Just maybe don’t tell my therapist I wrote this piece about his old office, haha.


- My treasured story “The Living Room, The Dying Room” won 1st place in Landing Zone Magazine’s Novel Excerpt Contest. It will be published in their first print issue, which will be available for purchase on their website, in the very near future.

- Lastly, three of my landscape poems are forthcoming by Inverted Syntax

Anyone interested can keep tabs on my website for updates regarding these (and hopefully more) publications!


Is there anything else you would like to share with other writers?

Two things. First, once your writing moves out of you and goes into the world, be prepared for and understand that it is no longer really yours. Every set of eyes which takes in what you write will move into the reader, become about them, it will change in them and become something else. You have no control over anything in your life except your decisions, so when you decide to release your writing into the wild world, remember that it is a release and thus it is no longer just you. 

Secondly, from one overburdened human to another: give yourself whatever you need to keep creating your art. If you write because something inside you needs to get out, give yourself the space and time to make whatever decisions you need to in order to honor that journey; which sometimes means not writing, sometimes means taking care of others, sometimes means paying bills, sometimes means watching dog videos, sometimes means surviving. You do what you have to every day. The writing will come out, keep the faith in yourself to be able to bear the journey.


Much light and respect out there, friends. 

E.A. Midnight specializes in multi-modal cross-genre hybridities. As a person living with mental difference, she is a vocal advocate for challenging the boxes creative artists are put in. She received the 2017 Goddard/PEN North American Scholarship Award, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her manuscript, landscape of the interior, was longlisted for the Dzanc Books 2021 Nonfiction Prize. E.A. Midnight resides in the Colorado wilds.

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