Damn Your Eyes by Matt Clifford

Damn Your Eyes front
Cover Design by Jona Fine.

DAMN YOUR EYES BOOK RELEASE

Damn Your Eyes by Matt Clifford will officially release October 26, 2017.  To request a  PDF for review, email thepaperplanepilots@gmail.com

Damn Your Eyes:

Edited by Michael J. Hetzler
Interior photos by Chris Eason
Back desciption by Brice Maiurro
Interior Design by Sara Khayat

Cover design by Jona Fine

Back Description

Matt Clifford is spiking the Kool-Aid.
A caustic, yet vulnerable, thirty-something brat.
He builds a box just to escape it.
Self-deprecating, but he’s taking you with him.
Matt Clifford is Denver, but he’d never admit it.
This book is equal parts Matt and Clifford, but only sometimes.
Matt is a full-time poet who sunlights as a tax accountant.
His poems are, at once, collective and separate.
Damn your preconceived notions.
Don’t be so reliant on a back cover to tell you what to think.
This book deserves to be read.
Damn this book.
Damn your eyes.

ABOUT MATT CLIFFORD

Matt Clifford is a coastal transplant, city-ruining culture suck, snorting stardust off angels’ halos like a tax accountant and decorating the loft of his mind with student loan art. His poems don’t make sense, his band doesn’t even play real songs, and he can’t grow facial hair.

RELEASE READING

Please join the Paper Plane Pilots in welcoming Matt Clifford to Los Angeles for the release reading of his latest book of poetry, Damn Your Eyes (Paper Plane Pilots, 2017).

Urban Social House
5220 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027

Join & view the Facebook Event here.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Damn Your Eyes by Matt Clifford

Damn Your Eyes

by Matt Clifford

Giveaway ends November 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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An Interview with Willie Watt

The other night, Willie Watt and I sat down (figuratively of course) for a fun and enlightening chat about all kinds of stuff, but mostly writing. Here it is.

So, first question and perhaps the most obvious one, what inspired you to start writing?

Jealousy. Plain and simple. My sister Sarah wrote little short stories and my parents gave her attention for it, so writing was, and kind of still is, a ‘fuck you’ kind of exercise.

What writers are your biggest influences and why?

I find less influence in writers lately. I’ll read something totally badass – like Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel – and think ‘wow, that was amazing, but I would never write like that.’ I find that music and films actually inspire me aesthetically more than books, although I do read enough to learn from the masters.

If I had to pinpoint influences, though, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t mention F. Scott Fitgerald, George Orwell, Thomas Pynchon, Charles Bukowski, Tolkien, and Dostoevsky.

How has music and film shaped your style?

The film thing needs a little back-story. When I first moved to Austin Texas a little over a year ago I didn’t know a single soul in the city other than my roommate.

I just kind of went to work in an unfamiliar place, and came back to a cheap apartment with virtually no furniture. In that kind of crushing loneliness I would sit on a pile of blankets on the floor (I didn’t have a bed yet) and watch weird art movies. I don’t really know why I was drawn to these eccentric kinds of auteur-driven movies, but I just gorged myself on them for months until I made friends and had a social life.

I found that there were certain directors whose visual style was as unmistakably singular as any author, and I learned to siphon that into my own creativity.

The music thing is easy. I still listen to Eminem or Tech N9ne or some shit while I write.

Care to describe your writing process?

My writing process is completely unsexy. It doesn’t matter what you read on fucking tumblr, being a writer is not setting up your typewriter next to a window with a panoramic view, sipping on an espresso.

I usually write in my car on lunch break,or hiding in a public restroom on my phone, or at 3 in the morning with bags under my eyes and a lungful of shisha smoke.

Usually I fixate on a general idea, or a concept, or sometimes even a single word and I just free-associate my way through a poem – then go back and make it readable.

Prose is different. I’m a ruthless perfectionist with short stories, which is why I don’t write them that often.

As a writer, what would you say your role in society is?

I don’t think the writer has a specific role other than to be brutally, sometimes horrifically, true to his/her vision. I always thought being an artist -a real artist- was in and of itself an act of rebellion against societal pigeon-holing, and obligations. So I guess the short, unsophisticated answer is “fuck-all.”

Digging a little deeper, I think there are good arguments for the writer being a sort of cultural historian, acting as a sponge capturing micro-details that the large-brush portrait of a time period will inevitably miss.

But that’s secondary. First, an author must exist for his/her self. If that is missing, the art will fail, and the reader will intuitively sense it.

So would I be correct in assuming that for you, authenticity is more important than accessibility?

Absolutely. Moby Dick is inaccessible (and overrated, but that’s another subject), Ulysses is inaccessible, Don Quixote is inaccessible; but those books have stood the test of time because even when the formal complexity of the language/structure flies over your head, there is still a sort of unshakable feeling that the author is doing something very pure and true and honest. As cliche as it is the best authors are true to themselves, authentic as you put it, and the rest of the chips will fall one way or another but cannot be manipulated.

With that said, I don’t think I happen to be a particularly inaccessible writer, although I’m often told otherwise.

Is there anything else in your mind that separates great poetry from merely okay poetry?

I’ve read a lot of okay poetry, most of it my own, and I’ve read a lot of good poetry, most of it not my own, but I honestly can’t say I’ve read much great poetry.

I should admit at this point, that I haven’t read a lot of the “great” poets extensively, like Frost, or Woolf, or Emerson.

What I find that really strikes a nerve with me are poems that reflect a certain urban experience that is simultaneously high and low minded. The kind of shit that’ll reference Wittgenstein in one stanza and then vividly describe sex or violence or drugs in the next.

If it’s not too lower class of me to say, I think that Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino are two of the most important poets of my generation.

So my next question is a tad vague, but in a lot of more literary minded writing, the author expresses a certain worldview, a philosophy if you will, that informs the poem or novel or story. What is your philosophy about life, society, and the human experience in general?

If I had the answer to that I’d be writing about it, but here it goes anyway, and I apologize in advance, because this is the part of the story where I lower my “hopeful writer” facade and show how utterly pretentious I really am.

My view of the world is obsessed mainly with the aesthetics of the infinitesimal. This is not a term you’ll find in a philosophy textbook. It’s something that haunts me when I’m trying to write, and it is directly derived with my relation to the world.

I don’t have enough page space to really write it all out right now, but the short version is that everything in life is inevitably composed of almost fulfilling something, almost attaining wholesomeness, almost being happy, almost being destroyed… but for one reason or another being perpetually returned to the center fully aware that the experience will re-occur but that you can’t really do anything about it.

What I’m interested in, as an artist, is the brief moment of intense mania, depression, euphoria, paranoia, horror that occurs before the room stops spinning and everything goes back to normal; in other words, the infinitesimal essence of an experience before it inevitably loops back on itself and the entire thing is brought into doubt.

So how did you come to find yourself among the ranks of the Paper Plane Pilots?

By being a kiss-ass. I was obsessively reading a brilliant poet, who is now a kind of long distance friend of mine, by the name of Nicholas Gagnier (AKA Retkon Poet), and he did some projects with our lovely commander-in-chief HoldenLyric, as well as writing for the Pilots. So the rabbit hole led me to the website, and Sara started reading my stuff, and eventually I was drunk and was just like ‘Yo, can I be one of you guys?’ And Sara was like, “Fuck ya,” or something similar, and that made me feel really good, so I tried to contribute as much and as often as possible.

What do you think distinguishes the Paper Plane Pilots from other writers?

Well not to shamelessly self-endorse, but I think there’s a raw, embittered, razor sharp intelligence that permeates the writing on the site. Some of the material is hard to read, either because of how avante-garde it gets sometimes, or how decadent the material is, but there’s a truthfulness to it that is undeniable.

It goes back to that purity of vision I mentioned earlier.

The collective talent doesn’t hurt either.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

To be self-sufficient from it, and to write well.

I think a lot about legacies and stuff like that, but it’s all so premature at this point I try not to indulge my fantasy too much.

I think if I find myself in 20 years sitting in a quiet room, debt-free, writing professionally then I’ll be relatively satisfied. There’s a hunger for more than that, but that’s the first thing.

And for the last question, it’s an easy one, aside from being a writer of profound talent and vision, what else do you like to do with your time?

You flatter me.

I’m currently a full time student who works forty hours a week so I don’t get to indulge myself that often. But I love watching movies, longboarding, free-running, stargazing, and smoking too much shisha.

Also naps. The world needs more naps. I think that’s what all my poems are really about

Interview with Holden Lyric, conducted by M. Alden

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  1.  How do you perceive that your voice and style has developed since you began writing?

When I first began writing, I was a kid. I wrote short stories just for fun and saved them to my floppy disk. I recently found a story I wrote when I was five. It depicted a day where it rained pennies. I thought to myself: Why pennies? Why not quarters or hundred dollar bills? I think in first grade my teacher read one of my stories aloud to the class. In junior high I thought it was “uncool” to write, so I began writing music instead. ln high school, I reconnected with writing and began my first novel.

So, I guess my writing has aged much like a body would. Wiser, but more concerned with aesthetic.

2 Your poems are constructed using a myriad of forms and tropes such as strikethrough, parentheses, and spacing in between letters. What poets have influenced this aspect of your work, and how do you tend to employ it?

Hm, that’s a good question. I just get bored with one certain aesthetic and have to change it up. It’s like an itching in me to try something new. My mind starts to pace and it won’t settle unless I feel there’s some kind of evolution taking place. E. E. Cummings was a huge influence for me in that regard. It’s actually funny. In school, I was really antiform in poetry. I hated form with all of my guts. But, in hating form, my lack of form became a form? A lot of peers that reviewed my work in workshop called me a “form” poet and I was like…wait…WHAT. It’s funny to me now. A lot of things are.

3 You write a variety of both poems and short stories. How does your writing process differ between the two, and do you have a preference for one or the other?

AH! haha that is a great question. I don’t have a preference. I tend to use both formats in their own way. When I’m aiming for raw and honest, I write a poem. When I’m aiming to unleash feelings or ideas I find wouldn’t fit well with a poem, I tend to bury them in a story. Stories, to me, are a way of elongating and exploring a certain feeling or emotion that I don’t feel comfortable doing with a poem. I love to get lost in worlds, which I find I can’t really do with a poem. When working on a novel, I look up after hours of writing and feel like I really just escaped to this place only I have the key to enter. It’s an incredible experience I can’t quite describe.

Sometimes, I confuse myself. I don’t know whether or not what I’m writing is a poem or a story. Often, I find people tend to see my poetry as narrative poetry and my prose as poetic prose. So maybe it all just blends together.

  1. Do you feel that reading and writing poetry has shaped the way you perceive the world?

Yes, I do. Before I wrote poetry I used to be a really quiet person. I never spoke. I had a lot of thoughts and opinions, but I never voiced them. I always felt they weren’t well-formed opinions or convinced myself they didn’t matter. Once the poems started flowing, I became a lot louder. I made a lot of friends, and the conversations I’ve been apart of with creative people on curbsides, in parking lots, and on random front porches are some memories I value most.

  1. What is your dream career?

I’d like to be an editor for a publishing company. I love the process of creating, and I’ve done a lot of freelance editing as well as working for some presses in the past. I’ve edited manuscripts of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

  1. What places, people, and moments have most influenced you as a writer?

Well, my mother was definitely a huge influence when I was a kid. She was a Literature teacher and definitely encouraged creativity. We used to get prizes for reading books. One summer, I read 60 books and I got a gameboy. My siblings were mad because I was the youngest and they said the books were “easy”. (The books were written for a demographic three grades ahead of me though, it was totally fair! Ahem, we still debate about this.)

Also, a friend of mine in high school (I won’t call him out, but he is a Paper Plane Pilot) used to lend me novels. We used to sit in the back of our chemistry honors class and talk about philosophy, the beats, art, film, you name it. I ended up failing the class and having to take summer school.

  1. How has being a writer impacted your own sense of identity?

Well, there were things I never really paid much attention to when growing up until I started writing. For instance, my spinal surgery, Lebanese-American identity (or lack of haha). It has also helped me get through some other hard times as an adult that I think would have been really difficult to get through if I wasn’t able to write out some kind of a conclusion or insight.

One question I do often ask myself after I’ve had a taxing day or am feeling emotionally overwhelmed by a situation is: What can you take from this?

  1. If you could collaborate with any writer, who would you choose and why?

This is tough. haha I want to answer this question, but it’s kind of personal and I don’t want to call this person out. (I’m a terrible poet if I still have a sense of “too personal”)

Though, I’d say, if it’s just a writer I admire and don’t know personally, I’d go with Aimee Bender. But then I’d probably end up freaking out and thinking my work was shit and go in the fetal position in the corner and stay there for a few days.

  1. You began PPP in 2012, and since then the collective has put forth two anthologies, a chapbook, and hundreds of poems and stories. What hopes do you have for PPP in the coming years?

My vision for Paper Plane Pilots has changed dramatically over the years. At first, it was just an online workshop for some friends. Then we randomly gained followers, and lost the “workshop” vibe. We started In-flight Literary Magazine because I wanted the opportunity to publish people outside of the collective’s work. I also wanted it to be peer-reviewed, since Paper Plane Pilots isn’t (unless you include me editing every post.) My aim is to promote global empathy and bring writers from all over the world together to share in their common love for expression.

  1. What do you hope to achieve with your work?

Honestly, I have no idea. My goal when I was younger (and naïve) was to be able to make a living on writing. Now I kind of just want to reach people. I want to connect with people and be able to discuss the art and more meaningful topics with great minds. I guess it’s just a good (and valuable) way of passing the time.

  1. What inspires you to initiate a poem or story?

It can start with anything. I could be listening to a song and mishear a lyric, I could be driving on the freeway and my “inner voice” will say something that I feel starts a poem, I could be watching a TV show and think, man I thought this is where they would go with this, a certain experience I have, or maybe a true story I hear.

For instance, this is the idea I’ve had for a story for a while now:

I found out recently that I am a citizen of Lebanon by birth. I was born in Hollywood, but since my dad is a Lebanese native, apparently his children are also Lebanese citizens? Once I found that out, I came up with an idea for this short story (I won’t give too much away here, because I have yet to write it.)

I feel like that was a long tangent and I don’t know how to bring it back.

  1. What is your ideal writing environment?

Hm. I do like a lot of silence. I’ve never been able to write with other people around (including classrooms and cafes.) Sometimes, I do write in my phone when I’m out. I think I have like 1,000 notes in my phone. I just pretend like I’m texting and I blend in. I get distracted really easily, though. So it helps if it’s a secluded, familiar place.

  1. What does your personal editing process look like?

Usually I write it out and I end up hating the form and change the form. I don’t do too much editing on my work, which I’ve actually been trying to change. It’s not because I think it’s perfect, I’m just afraid of messing it up even more. haha If I don’t know where to go with a piece, I usually just send it to a friend and ask their opinion on it. (Which you’ve been the victim of a few times. haha [is it normal to say “haha” in an interview?])

  1. How would you characterize your own writing voice?

My writing voice is much like vomit. Okay, that’s not very appetizing. I’d say it really depends. It could be stream of consciousness. I’ve been told very opposing things. Some people think I’m really funny, which confuses me? Some people think I’m really depressing, which, makes a lot more sense.

I always try to find the beauty and the hope, even in writing about something that is seemingly devoid of both. I never like to write “mean” things about people. I always try to find the beauty, even if I have to invent it myself.

One thing I will say is: I try to make my writing accessible to the reader whether through narrative, vernacular speech, or even just accessible language.

A short conversation with Dani Blue

I had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful and talented Dani Blue…and here is what she had to say!
What is your main inspiration when starting to write?
When I feel that it is time to sit down and write, something has happened. I heard something, seen something, or had an odd reality check. There’s a ton of emotions scrambling to get out so that I can move on and stamp it “lesson learned”.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is committing to a story. I’m sad to admit that I’m a commitment phobe. Although, I’d rather convince myself that I’m not. I’ll work hard and spew loads of energy into a short story.
Do you believe your personality and writing style are similar? Why or why not?
Yes! And it’s something that I used to despise and wanted to run away from. For awhile it was hard to separate the two. Combining my writing style and personality once was a way to glamorize myself to myself–more than others–and I didn’t like that. Now  I embrace it, balance the two, without writing Stephanie’s fairytale volumes 1-3.
When did you decide to start writing?
I started writing when I was in middle school. So around 12-13 years old.
Is length important to you when writing a piece?
Usually l don’t consider length unless it’s required for an assignment.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
In the past, when I would suffer from writer’s block syndrome, I would completely abandon a story. Literally I’d get up, go make a sandwich, maybe even make another one and forget about the story. I’ve found that ranting in a freewrite helps and gets me in a place to continue.
Do you get inspired by any specific authors? If so whom?
Most authors that I’ve read have in some type of way inspired me in one way  or another
What is your favorite book/line or section from that book?
Alright, I absolutely admit my favorite book changes from time to time. Right now it’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a novella by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s a crazy journey that begins and ends several times in several ways.
Do you like or dislike books being made into films?
If I love the book–meaning I’ve read it more than once and it’s packed away in my book collection in my mom’s garage–then I’m not the happiest person when it turns into a film. It’s really not the same. But I will still watch it and then buy it on blu-Ray.
Where do you see yourself going in the future?
Hmm, the future. Honestly, my future is quite unclear at this point. I packed all my things and drove up to Seattle with my boyfriend in a two week timeframe. In a month I could be the president of a small island. I am planning on continuing my education and I’m positive that great things are ahead of me.
Where do you see the publishing world going in the future?
It seems that the publishing world is expanding more and more everyday. Self-publishing doesn’t seem as frowned upon. Big publishers should watch out.
Where is your favorite place to write?

Washington is beautiful. The scenery here is absolutely awesome. By far my favorite place to write.

Interview with M. Alden Conducted by Holden Lyric

M. Alden – Angers, France

In terms of your writing, what do you feel poetry represents to you in your life?

At this moment, writing and especially poetry holds more importance than ever, because I’ve come to know that what I can fashion with pen and paper will almost infallibly better express whatever I can physically say. I cleave to writing because it is a way to consecrate certain ineffable moments, a way to actualise ephemeral memories and give life to something quotidien, and a manner of manifesting the most honest part of myself. The process itself varies depending upon the nature of the poem; that is to say, writing can either feel very methodical or like a verbal purge akin to exorcism. I think my best poems are those which have gone through both of these stages in their creation.

Who do you find your favorite writers to be?

Pablo Neruda and his epicurean verse will never cease to take my breath away. His anthology Ode to Common Things vitalizes the mundane and always gives me the sense that even alone with just a chair and table one isn’t quite alone. His last collection World’s End is one of my favorite anthologies for the way it harmonizes exquisite lyricism and harrowing tragedy within a vast thematic and historical scope. I’m relentlessly astonished as well by Emily Dickinson’s finesse with form; her poems are splendidly crafted with attention to form that enhances rather than dilutes the poignancy of the piece. As far as novelists, some of my favorites are Barbara Kingsolver, Harper Lee, Mary Shelley, C.S. Lewis, and Ayn Rand.

How do you feel the internet affects poetry?

Certainly it allows writers to claim a platform for their work, and I think there’s something special in designing a space that you feel compliments and best showcases your pieces. The volume of writing blogs and websites is enormous, and though that sometimes makes each poem feel like a drop in a virtual ocean, I believe it’s better to consider the proliferation of online publication as a wealth of perspectives and voices.  It’s also  a very dynamic venue for dialogue between the poet and the reader, which print publishing doesn’t always offer.

That said, there’s also a risk that comes with sites like WordPress that allows readers to “like” or “rate” poems, which is that the author fixates on the empirical to feel artistically validated. A sort of pandering can occur, a desire to feed into a certain style or visual in order to achieve statistical success. A poem rated 2 stars or “liked” by no-one may have much more depth and stylistic mastery than another that gains favor by merit of cultural references or cliches, and it’s hard as a writer to not compromise one’s personal voice in the name of views or ratings. So in a way, as much as it fosters accessibility and dialogue, the internet also runs a risk of relatively devalorising certain pieces.

Is there a place for poetry outside of the classroom?

Absolutely yes, and I think that there are more adept ways to examine poetry within the classroom that would promulgate more personal interest in the art. In most high school literature courses the emphasis is on classical form and diction, and the curriculum operates on a very cerebral level. Technicalities take precedence over visceral depth and the multilayered nature of the message embodied in a poem, which often forces students to leave their sentiments out of reading and experiencing poetry. Which is in itself tragic, because I fervently disavow that any poet worth reading employed form and excellent diction solely so that a pack of teenagers could muddle over every syllable. I’m quite thankful to have had a couple teachers who called us to read with a degree of introspection and self-awareness, which made the work at hand much more relevant and encouraged at least a few to take more interest in poetry outside of the classroom.

Do you feel as if only writers read poetry?

I don’t think so. Poetry has a universal honesty and beauty that touches more than just writers.  But I do think our propensity to place our deepest selves onto paper inclines us more than most towards poetry. Drawing from conversations I’ve had from other writers and from my own perspective, authors read voraciously as a manner of assuring ourselves we aren’t alone in this frenetic, dire need to put words to our bizarre cerebral entropy.

How do you feel about form in poetry?

I admire immensely writers who can implement form without losing the sense of what they wish to impart to the reader. Obviously it can bestow a rhythm and even musicality to a poem that can beautifully carry the verse and highlight the poet’s virtuosity. I think that often when people think of poetry their mind goes straight to rhyme and form, but those strict adherence to those elements aren’t what constitutes poetry at all. Poetry can just as potently echo diverse forms without aligning to the formula, and to me that feels the most natural.

Is it difficult for you to share poetry with people that you know in your three-dimensional life/people that know you out of the context of your work?

I’d really like to say I’ve reached a point of no-fucks-given about people I know reading what I publish, but I’m still acutely conscious of how they might interpret a poem and how their interpretation will color their view of me. When people are familiar with the writer I think (or perhaps “fear” would be a better word there) that there’s a natural tendency to find grains of reality within a piece. With Cityscapes for example, I have a short story in which the narrator gets baked and sleeps with a stranger, and when a few friends told me they’d bought the book I was thrilled, but also like, “Oh shit, are they going to think that that’s me?” Although a lot of my work is rooted in my life, it is often an abstract extrapolation from random seminal experiences, and though that’s true for virtually all poets, sometimes it’s easy for readers to forget. Artistic authenticity is so important, but it also renders the writer quite vulnerable.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

At this moment I’m thankful to have the platform that I do to share my work, and I’ll continue posting on PPP as well as my own personal site well into the foreseeable future. When I get back to the States I’d like to pursue print publication as well as find venues for readings. Taking a step back though, I’ve never seen writing as my vocation, though I admit that my reticence to pursue writing academically and professionally also comes from a financial concern. So instead I would be very content to know that my work has resonated with readers in a way that fosters honest reflection and imparts a sense of humanity.

Do you feel poetry still has the power it once used to?

Oh absolutely. Though it seems that our culture valorizes literature less than in past centuries, poetry itself retains its power as the mouthpiece of generations, the expression of our collective grievances and desires, and a universally accessible art.

What is your ideal career?

I’m not entirely sure because I’d like to study for a bit longer before narrowing it down, particularly so that I can ascertain my professional fortes and what I can truly see myself doing for the rest of my life. My major, Global Studies, does not really prepare you for a specific career so much as it confers a wide body of knowledge. After I graduate next year I’d like to pursue a master’s degree in France to improve my languages and gain a more acute knowledge of intercultural relations. Somehow all the professional work I’ve done so far has always related to working with kids, and I’d like to continue with that one way or another, as well as find a way to use my lingual skills. So drawing from that, I think my dream job would be teaching languages or managing childcare at a refugee center.

What steps do you think we can take to make poetry more popular?

I don’t necessarily perceive a need to popularize poetry. It transcends superficial trend, and I hesitate to say that we should try to elevate its standing to any sort of cultural deity. Poetry will be found and read by those who have need of it.

What are some of your early writing influences? People/writers/environment, etc.

When I was little my mother would read aloud to my brothers and I almost every night, and that absolutely enchanted me. She gave every character a different voice and put so much verve into every page, that I used to lay there enraptured by the sense that words were coming to life, and how freaking cool it was that someone could evoke such thrill within a reader they’ve never met. That drew me towards literature from a very young age, and I’m immensely thankful for that.

Where have you traveled to?

So far the only country I’ve seen outside of the US is France, though I hope to experience a myriad of cities and nations before finishing my studies here. I don’t know if it counts much as travel, but moving to Austin, Texas and the atmosphere I found there had a fantastic, profound influence on my writing. It was the first time I was completely on my own, which was at once terrifying and empowering, and certainly a formative time that conferred the confidence that I needed to find myself here.