Thursday, September 29, 2011

1/2 Dozen for Gregory Sherl

A 1/2 Dozen for poet,
fiction writer, and essayist
Gregory Sherl.
A fearless and obsessive
talent whose work
is intimate and sublime
and heartbreakingly
Listen in...

Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with the page?

This is something I've been thinking about recently. When I was lucky enough to take your workshops as an undergraduate, I hated writing. I hated writing so much I only ever wanted to quit. Hell, I tried. Do you remember what you told me, Baggott? You said (not verbatim, but very, very close -- I promise), You can try to quit writing, but it will always haunt you. It'll haunt you when you wake up in the morning, when you're eating your breakfast, while you're in the shower. It'll haunt you on your drive to work.

I thought you were crazy, but it's true.

And as many cigarettes as I smoked and movies I saw and coffee I drank and miles I walked, I could never get the writing to go away. So I kept writing, and I kept hating writing. That was until I took Bob Hicok's poetry workshop at Virginia Tech. Poetry was, and for the most part still is, a new thought process for me. But something happened in that class. The form and what poetry is, seemed to work for me. Maybe I was never meant to write short stories, or maybe I wasn't meant to write short stories or start a novel yet. But as soon as I started writing poems, things started making more sense. I stopped hating writing and started craving it more and more. I couldn't stop. I can't stop. Why would I want to stop? Don't make me stop.

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

Always kiss them between their shoulder blades. For the writer, everything will always feel like the end of the world, but it won't be, it won't ever be -- that shit won't even be close to the end of the world -- so kiss them between their shoulder blades and let them ruffle their feathers until they get so tired your lap is the best pillow ever.

Pep talk (or bootie-kicking) for the downhearted writer. Let fly.

It'll get worse. Much, much worse. And then one day, you will get an email saying that your story/poem/essay/micro whatever has been accepted into a journal. There will be ten minutes of good feelings. Then you will realize that you will not be paid for said story/poem/essay/micro whatever that will be appearing in said journal. Then you will wait six months, maybe a year and a half, and then your story/poem/essay/micro whatever will finally be published and no one will read it, not even the other contributors in the journal.

Rinse. Repeat. Rinse and repeat for the next couple of years.

Current obsessions -- literary or otherwise.

Lately my girlfriend, Kat, and I can't stop watching Felicity. (It's streaming on Netflix!) There's something about 90's melodrama and frumpy sweaters and late 20's to early 30's "actors" pretending to be freshmen in college.

I really hope Felicity never gets canceled.

Also, this:

What’s your reading life like? Do you have any current favorites or sleepers that may have flown under our radar?

My reading life is consistent with how often I have to use the restroom.

I get my best reading done while in the bathroom, doing bathroom things. I would consider my reading life boisterous, especially if we can (and should) call Esquire and Vanity Fair reading. But there are novels too; for a while, I wasn't reading novels, as I didn't have the energy. But I'm finding them again, and loving them. Loving them so much. I just finished Light Boxes by Shane Jones. It's one of those tiny books that was published on a tiny press and then Spike Jonze was like, Hey, maybe I'll make this a movie, and then the Internet buzzed, and then Light Boxes was quickly, and too quietly in my opinion, scooped up by Penguin. But thank goodness so many people now have the opportunity to read this tiny book with such a big, beating, bloodied heart.

One book I would like to mention that might escape a lot of radars is Ben Mirov's Ghost Machine. I don't know what to call this book. A poetry book, yes, but there's something more there, something infinite, possibly timeless (I hate that word, but I think it's true here). It's a book of thought, a book of repetition, a book I wish I had written. It's a book at times so sad I have to look down, a book I am so grateful to have found.

And what about this Bob Hicok guy? How cool is he? His fragments of thought, his ideas of love, but he is a radar. Still, I mention.

Was there an extremely influential writing teacher who was impactful on your writing life?

Hi, Julianna Baggott, it was so nice to have met you back in 2006.

Gregory Sherl is the author of Heavy Petting (YesYes Books), as well as the forthcoming collections The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail (Mud Luscious Press, 2012) and Monogamy Songs (Future Tense Books, 2012). His poetry has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Redactions, diode, Gargoyle, and Sycamore Review. He blogs at

To read more 1/2 Dozens by novelists, essayists, poets,
short story writers, and agents, click on the below.

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John McNally

Justin Manask (agent)

Melissa Senate

Steve Kistulentz

Christopher Schelling (agent)

Dani Shapiro

Jeff VanderMeer

Catherine McKenzie

Emily Rapp

Stephanie Cowell

Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Paul Elwork

William Lychack

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Michelle Herman

Lise Haines

Benjamin Percy

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Karen Salyer McElmurray

Kim MacQueen

Crystal Wilkinson

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