Edwina Jordan started talking with me about writing by talking about quilting--family tradition and personal artistic practice for her. I was especially interested in her poems that incorporate old family photographs and enter into dialogue with them.
Ramon Evans talked with me about how he began as a writer, practicing by writing to win a penmanship award. And one of his first models for writing was a copy of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which he was told to read at the precocious age of nine. Here's a guy strongly committed to the art of the written word.
Sylvia Shults and I sat in a coffee shop in Pekin to talk about her career writing horror and ghost stories, but especially her new book on ghosts at the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Fractured Spirits. She also writes romances, but thankfully not of the goopy, earnest variety. We also talked about her role in founding the publishing collective Dark Continents. Over the course of the conversation, I came to admire her determination and enthusiasm.
Poet Nicolas Walker and I learned that we share the same favorite Walt Whitman poem, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." So we recorded a reading of it together, trading off sections as we went through it, and then talked about why it means so much to us.
Rachael Stanford--playwright, poet, kindergarten teacher--talked to me about her writing in her living room in Washington, IL. She's warned me that cats might interrupt our conversation about high literary matters (including the writing and performance of her plays), but they left us alone and let us talk.
Rick Becker, Professor of English at Illinois Central College, within months of his retirement, sat with me in his office, while the taxidermied heads and bodies of hunting trophies watched us, to talk about his career teaching literature and humanities classes, as well as his favorite writers and whatever else this fine raconteur felt like discussing.
Rachel Burns, a soft-voiced poet who writes ferocious poetry full of startling verbal invention, talked with me about her writing and about the generous mentoring and encouragement she's received from poet Ariana Reines.
Mike Foster and I met at his old farmhouse in the territory between Washington and Metamora, Illinois. We talked about his poetry. One of these days, I'll have to go back and talk to him about his expertise as a J. R. R. Tolkien scholar.
Mark Brown and I met in his office, decorated with superhero action figures, at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, Illinois, where he teaches English. We talked about his poetry, his short stories, the beautiful craftsmanship of the books he makes by hand, and the Idaho setting of a lot of his work.
Poet Cathie Gilbert's great grandfather was among the first paleontologists to dig fossils out of the La Brea Tar Pits in California. She is working on a collection of poems not only about digging up bones, but also about digging into family history. We spoke in her office at Heartland Community College in Normal, where she let me hold an actual saber tooth tiger's tooth from her family's own fossil collection.