Piper J. Daniels
Author of “Animal House” from ISSUE 01, and her thoughts on literary collage, up-and-coming writers, and toppling the gatekeepers.
What are you reading these days? Do you love/hate/feel neutral about it, and why?
Throughout the pandemic, and the personal trauma that pulsed beneath it, reading became complicated in a way it never was before. As a kind of self-imposed masterclass, I reread the canon of my brilliant mentors, Jenny Boully and David Lazar. I also fell in love with some recently published miracles—Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy, Elissa Washuta’s White Magic, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s The Freezer Door, and Lauren Russell’s Descent—arguably some of the most brilliant works of all time. EJ Colen recently published an essay in Another Chicago Magazine entitled “Under the Shadows” that is bright, wounding, ingenious, and holy, an example of literary collage at its finest. And may I mention a few forthcoming publications I’m in awe of and excited about?—C. Russell Price’s oh, you thought this was a date?!: Apocalypse Poems, Nicole McCarthy’s A Summoning, and Addie Tsai’s Unwieldy Creatures, coming soon to a bookstore near you! Finally, in my capacity as a manuscript consultant at Epiphany Author Services, I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly brilliant, world-altering authors. In addition to some gorgeous up-and-comers, Addie Tsai is in the final stages of a memoir that gave birth to an exciting new subgenre. And please prepare to lose your mind over the forthcoming works of gifted authors Francesca Harper, Molly McCloy, Laura Santi, Colleen O’Connor, and Ericka Carmona-Vega. Y’all are not ready, I swear.
When you are working on a piece, what inspirations do you draw from?
I work almost exclusively at this point in the literary collage form. Characterized by its nonlinear, associative, transgressive, and distinctly transgenre approach, collage enables me to mine, deconstruct, flesh out, and underscore my deepest obsessions whilst revealing the true interconnectedness of the universe. Literary collage is the closest thing to religion for me.
What are some ways in which you get through a block in your creative work?
Creating a painstaking diagram of what you have and how it’s working is always an excellent use of your time. Another fail-safe trick is to engage in open-minded research, sometimes referred to as going down the rabbit hole. I also love creating playlists for the manuscript I’m working on, as it enables me to engage with the work on the page wherever I happen to travel. And I cannot stress enough how valuable collaboration can be. The epistolary form is an excellent and organic way to engage.
How do you navigate the experience of submissions/rejections/acceptances?
I know I’m not the only person alive who suspects that the world might be on the brink of ending. It’s a terrible feeling, but a useful framework for rejection and success. I am a queer, mentally ill, and physically disabled writer who is committed to an emotionally rigorous, formally innovative, and fiercely antiracist practice. I use my privilege in order to dismantle it, and I seek acceptance for and from the communities of which I am a part. Success as defined by late-stage global capitalism isn’t my focus at this time. If you’re looking for an author to deliver a fun beach read, or preside as the pride of some conventional academy, I am not your femme. And because that kind of acceptance doesn’t feed me, that form of rejection cannot hurt me.
Every writer I’ve ever known, at every echelon of success, is haunted by imposter syndrome on the daily. You might say we are defined, as an occupation, by our disbelief and utter inability to belong. I think we’d all feel better if we focused on toppling the gatekeepers that define and hoard for themselves the markers of success so we may create a more perfect canon, comprised of disabled, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ authors.
Regarding your piece in Issue 01, what does it mean for/to you?
"Animal House" is probably the strangest thing I’ve ever published. I was visiting my parents one bitter winter and listening in the evenings to the absolute stampede of creatures that had infiltrated the walls in search of warmth. At that point in my life, I identified as both a shivering interloper desperate for shelter and as shelter itself, a beacon of warmth overrun by wild creatures seeking refuge. As I lay there, in my childhood bed, I was struck by the irony that every effort to host domestic animals in that house had ended in tragedy, while the unwanted animals, entangled in wire and insulation, thrived inside those walls. Finally, I was grappling with a slick and always-shifting Venn diagram on the topics of infestation, curse, and haunting that had come to represent my romantic life.
I’m so fortunate that The Champagne Room made space for this weird little essay, and I am so honored that I got to be a part of her maiden voyage. I knew The Champagne Room would be a space where I could be honest, mine connections, and leave the pages torn.
Is there anything else you would like to share with other writers?
Linear narrative is a tool of the colonizer. It is designed to simplify, streamline, whitewash, omit, erase. There are so many ways to structure our work that has nothing to do with linearity. I highly recommend abandoning that ship and seeing what new worlds are possible.
Piper J. Daniels (she, her) is a queer antiracist intersectional feminist and composer of literary collage. Her debut essay collection, Ladies Lazarus, won the Tarpaulin Sky Book Award, was longlisted for the PEN Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For the Art of the Essay, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ nonfiction. Her work appears most recently in Believer Magazine, Essay Daily, Foglifter, and The Texas Review. She is the founder of Epiphany Author Services, an editorial assemblage that centers and promotes the work of disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ writers from inspiration to publication. Interested parties should enquire at EpiphanyAuthorServices@gmail.com.