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Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles independent publisher founded by Kate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.

Chicken Scratch: The Red Hen Press Blog

Happy World Poetry Day! 5 Poems to Read

In celebration of World Poetry Day, here are five poems from five of our forthcoming titles.

Circling the Dome of the Sky

By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
From Water & Salt
Available April 27, 2017

 

What she called home was a jar of olives
shaken from the tree by hand
sorted and stabbed
then pressed one against the other
doused in lemon and salt.

What she called home was an old photograph
corners curling in the acid of time’s passage
summer skirts fading to sepia.

What she called home was a fig tree leaning
against the wall, fruit sweetening slow
in summer heat.

What she called home was a blessings bowl
flower-scented water swirling over etched prayers,
chasing away phantoms.

What she called home was a prayer call
ache let loose from the highest minaret
circling the dome of the sky.

 

 

how to get over
               for Chaka

By t’ai freedom ford
From how to get over
Available May 4, 2017

 

consider scream. remember urge
surging amber through marrow and bruised veins.
harness that gnawing yearn into timbre,
hide swollen ache behind lovely white teeth.

consider risk whiskeying your throat warm.
the truth and Rufus’s musk perfuming
husks of lyrics you hide under wild wigs—
swig. remember wrong words to your songs
the ugly of your mouth, a moth
longing for light; flight through wild pitch.

refuse to lip-synch on Soul Train
nevermind. do it badly. on purpose.
scratch the sunlight off your tongue like
lottery ticket. consider yourself
lucky. use the wicked gift of your voice
to fracture scream. sing me something: good.

 

When She Can’t Breathe

By Lisa C. Krueger
From Run Away to the Yard
Available May 9, 2017

 

Monarchs and hollow-
boned treeswifts

fly crooked
in the drought,

their fine gristle
of color razors

her eyes. Pain is not
an epiphany, ok?

she says aloud,
studying the thought

that she did this
to herself.

From her bed
she imagines flying

imagines forgiveness
as ruptured sky.

 

 

Distance

By Ruth Irupé Sanabria
From Beasts Behave in Foreign Land 
Available April 11, 2017

 

My grandfather asked me: could I remember
him, the park, the birds, the bread?
I’ll be dying soon, he said.

His voice would stretch the ocean and end there,
inside the olive phone in our tiny kitchen.
My mother would stretch the green shell to my ear,
speak, say something, speak. My fingers tugged the cord
across our red wooden table. Listening to the dark adios,
I carved half moons into the wood with my fingernails.
In case I am dead by your next birthday, hija, remember…

We ate without him, without any elders
and the world was fine.

We have yet to bury our bones in this foreign land.
When we do, where will we come from then?
Already, home is a carnation pinned to our cold breasts.

 

 

Vertigo

By Douglas Manuel
From Testify
Available April 25, 2017

 

I tell you all the reasons we shouldn’t be
together: (None of them involve race or the face
I gave you the first time I saw your parents’ crib.)

my immeasurable desire,
my dreams of other women riding me,
the ebb and flow of daily routine

that could lull our love to sleep. You tell me
sober up, but my mind is clear
as Canyon Lake when our canoe

twirled us in circles as though the two of us
were one leaf spinning
with nothing beneath but wide sky.

 

 

Redford Goes . . . to the Huntington Library

    

The Spring Equinox is March 20th, and what better way to celebrate the start of spring than by visiting the Huntington Library and Gardens. It is magical.

Redford spent a beautiful day wandering the gardens, reading by the lily pond, and taking lots of bench breaks. He’s 23 years old. In publishing years, that’s basically 80!

He had lunch at Freshwater Dumpling in the Japanese Tea Garden. The Nepalese Vegetable Dumplings were delicious, and went perfectly with Last Train to the Missing Planet by Kim Dower and a Lucky Buddha beer.

Then he went to admire the portraits in the Huntington Gallery.

Even the rest room is gorgeous. 

He made friends with a tall, dark, and handsome poetry lover… #hotdudesreading

And the Curator of the Gardens Tim.

Then it was time to go…

“Bye, bye Huntington Library. What a clucking good day. Until next time!” said Redford.  

Red Hen Press signs debut novel by Vietnamese-American author Thuy Da Lam

Red Hen Press is thrilled to announce the acceptance of a new novel: Thuy Da Lam’s gripping debut, Fire Summer, a book reminiscent of works by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Haruki Murakami, and George Saunders.

In the summer of 1991, twenty-three-year-old Maia Trieu eagerly accepts a research grant to study folklore in Vietnam, the country she once called home. When the grant sponsor presents a burdensome stipulation—that she transport plans to overthrow the government—Maia calls into question her patriotism, and must consult a colorful cast of characters before making her final decision. Maia and her entourage—a watchful government agent, an Amerasian singer, an American traveler, and a stray cat—struggle with the compromises that come with restoring the past and staying true to one’s beliefs. The stories of these four unlikely friends intertwine with those of dead Vietnamese to create a magical, fantasy-meets-philosophy novel about transformation and self-discovery.

Thuy Da Lam was born in Central Vietnam and raised in the United States. She holds a B.A. from Hamilton College where she helped translate Vietnamese sources for Thomas A. Bass’s Vietnamerica: The War Comes Home. Thuy also holds a Ph.D. from UH Manoa. Thuy has won the George A. Watrous Literary Prize for Fiction, the Myrtle Clark Writing Award and the John Young Scholarship in the Arts. Part of Fire Summer appeared in Lost Lake Folk Opera: Black April Issue, in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Vietnam War. Thuy currently resides in Hawaii.

Red Hen Press, founded in 1994 by Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull, publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction of literary excellence. As one of few literary presses in the Los Angeles area, part of Red Hen’s mission is to promote literacy in schools, support diversity, and help educate at-risk youths in the community.

Thuy Da Lam is represented by Jennifer Lyons. The Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC, represents over eighty authors whose books have been placed with notable publishers such as HarperCollins, Alfred A. Knopf, Simon & Schuster, and now Red Hen Press, and have won the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, and the National Book Award.

 

 

5 Literary Events We’re Looking Forward to This Week

This week, Red Hen goes international. The London Book Fair runs from March 14th to the 16th; we are so excited to attend and are hosting an event with our UK imprint Pighog at the wonderful Book & Kitchen. Last week, our New York Reading Series kicked off and continues with a reading at Poets House on March 18th. We also wanted to highlight another indie press based in Los Angeles, Kaya Press, the local indie bookstore Skylight, and the thriving literary community in Long Beach, CA.

(1) March 13th, 7pm, Long Beach, CA, FREE – Rachel Kann and Sean Gunning at 2nd Mondays Poetry Party

On Monday, March 13th at 7pm, Sarah Thursday and G. Murray Thomas host 2nd Mondays Poetry Party at the Fox Coffee House with featured readers Rachel Kann and Sean Gunning and an open mic.

Read more on their Facebook Event

 

 

(2) March 15th, 7pm, London, England, FREE – Red Hen at the London Book Fair

Come join Red Hen Press and Pighog’s appearance at the London Book Fair, where authors will be reading their work at Book and Kitchen! Our extraordinary authors include: Katharine Coles, America Hart, Naomi Foyle, Vanessa Gebbie, Clare Best and John Barr.

Read about the authors and our other events at our website!

RSVP on our FB Event.

  • The London Book Fair is on from March 14th to the 16th. We are very excited to attend the conference.

 

 

(3) March 15th, 7:30pm, Los Angeles, CA – Kaya Press presents Kazim Ali, Hari Alluri, and Special Guest Abeer Y. Hoque

On Wednesday, March 15th at Skylight Books, Kaya Press hosts a reading by Kazim Ali, Hari Alluri, and special guest Abeer Y. Hoque. Kaya Press is a Los Angeles based publisher that focuses on producing literature by Asian and Pacific Island diasporic writers.

Read more about the event at Skylight Book’s website.

 

 

(4) March 16th, 7pm, Brooklyn, NY, FREE – Douglas Manuel, Ginny Wiehardt, Juliet Patterson, and Tina Cave

On Thursday, March 17th, Berl’s Poetry Shop – the only all poetry bookstore in NYC –  hosts a reading featuring Douglas Manuel, Ginny Wiehardt, Juliet Patterson, and Tina Cave.

Read more about the authors at Berl’s Poetry Shop website.

 

(5) March 18th, 4pm, New York, NY, FREE – Red Hen Press in NYC: Poets House

We are so excited for our reading at the Poets House as part of our New York Reading Series featuring authors t’ai freedom ford, Lisa C. Krueger, and Philip Schultz. We will be hosting the reading also on Facebook Live. Watch out for some powerful poetry on your news feed!

Learn more about our featured authors and other events at our website and visit the Poets House website to learn more about this fantastic organization.

 

Events compiled by Samantha Emily Evans, our Marketing and Publicity Assistant. She also goes by the Literary Pixie.  

5 Literary Events We’re Looking Forward to this Week

There are so many wonderful literary events all over the world happening this week. From Lambda Lit Fest to the Downtown BookFest to the launch of our Red Hen New York Reading Series, go out and appreciate your local literature.

 

 

 

(1) March 8th, 7:30pm, Pasadena, CA, FREE – Giving Tongue: A Celebration of Lesbian and Queer Poets

As part of Lambda LitFest 2017, the Boston Court Performing Arts Center hosts Giving Tongue, a reading that features a multi-cultural and multi-generational line-up of lebsian and queer-identified poets — Rocio Carlos, Olga García Echerverría, Eloise Klein Healy, Traci Akemi Kato-Kirayama, Damnyo Lee, Jo Paradigm Roberts and Terry Wolverton. This is a FREE event with a reception and book signing following the reading.

** This reading is part of Lambda LitFest, a celebration of contemporary voices honoring and expanding on the rich, diverse tradition of LGBTQ writers and readers in the Southland.There are events going all all weekend long in nearly every neighborhood in Los Angeles. They have programmed a week of fantastic events starting March 6th and finishing with a closing party at Akbar on March 12th. Check out the full calendar at their website, http://lambdalitfest.org/.

 

 

(2) March 9th, 6pm, New York City, NY, FREE – Red Hen at Cornelia St Cafe

Come join Red Hen Press at Cornelia Street Café and meet three of our extraordinary authors: Dan Vera, Ruth Irupé Sanabria, and Francisco Aragón. Get a better understanding of how they connect and diverge personal experience within a wider cultural and historical conversation through their latest poetry collections. Read more about our authors at our website, http://redhen.org/events/rhpinnyc2017/.

Check out our other events at and click attending on our Facebook Event

 

 

(3) March 10th, 7pm, New York City, NY – Red Hen at the KGB Bar

Join Red Hen Press at KGB Bar for our New York Reading Series featuring authors Cornelius Eady, Douglas Manuel, and William Trowbridge, moderated by t’ai freedom ford. Read more about our authors at our website, http://redhen.org/events/rhpinnyc2017/.

Invite your NYC friends to our Facebook Event!

 

 

(4) March 11th, 4pm, Los Angeles, CA, FREE – Red Hen Reading at the Downtown BookFest

On Saturday, March 11th at Grand Park, there is a full day of FREE exciting literary programs. Our friends Writ Large Press, Skylight Books, 826LA, Get Lit and other will be celebrating the Los Angeles voices. We’ll be there, of course!

From 4pm to 5pm, our Red Hen Poets Brendan Constantine, Kim Dower, Blas Falconer, Siel Ju, and Ron Koertge will be reading.

Come and roost with us! Check out the Facebook Event!

 

 

(5) March 12th, 4pm, West Hollywood, CA, FREE – No Cure for Madness: A Poetry Reading by 3 Queer Men of Color on Death, God and Desire

Three queer men of color – Miguel Murphy, Blas Falconer (the Poetry Editor of the Los Angeles Review), and Kazim Ali – will be reading at Book Soup in West Hollywood.

Read more about the event at Book Soup’s website.

 

LA Fiction Anthology Interview: Clint Margrave

An Interview With Clint Margrave

 

 

What role does Los Angeles play in your fiction?

If am I to believe that my environment affects every thought, every experience, and every moment of inspiration, which I do, then I’d have to say Los Angeles plays a tremendous role in all my writing. Having been born and raised in the greater L.A. area, that role is mostly unconscious, whether the source of inspiration comes from my own friends and colleagues or the people I share lines with at the grocery store or DMV or post office, or if it comes from the hours I spend sitting in traffic dreaming up stories or poems, or the 70-degrees-and blue-skies-all-the-time weather. I once had a publisher tell me that the sun appears in a lot of my stuff. This is something completely unconscious and obviously a result of my environment. I suppose if I lived somewhere else, it might be rain or snow. But I write about snow as much as I set foot in it, which is never. And I can only dream of rain.

To what degree do you think place shapes fiction in general?

Place shapes fiction mostly on an unconscious level for me and I would imagine for many other writers. I never sit down and say, “I shall write about L.A. today.” When I travel, sometimes I think this way, but I need more than just place. I need the people that inform the place. Though our basic humanness may be the same, the type of people you meet can differ depending on place. These are the people who can inform and inspire your characters. The apartments or houses we live in, whether we drive to work or take a subway, the smells, the weather, the type of work people do, even the food can inform a story. A character may differ in his thoughts, attitudes, actions, feelings, depending on where he eats his lunch. If he gets his lunch from a local taqueria as opposed to a diner, or if he cooks it himself from fresh eggs on his own isolated farm, or runs through a Del Taco drive thru and eats it in traffic on the 405. All of this matters to a story.

 Do you see your work as coming out of any traditions of LA fiction or poetry?

LA fiction and LA poetry have been a huge influence on me. As a young man, I learned humor, clarity, and the beauty of simplicity from writers like John Fante and Charles Bukowski. LA writing in general has always been about clear, simple prose, even if you think back to the detective novels of Raymond Chandler. Though I was never as taken by Chandler as many people I know, I was indirectly influenced, oddly enough, via a writer like Albert Camus, who was an early champion of him.

 How does being a writer affect your work as a teacher and how does your work as a teacher affect your writing?
 

In all honesty, teaching gets in the way of writing and writing gets in the way of teaching. I love to be in the classroom inspiring students, but the way the current adjunct system is set up, I have to teach an absurd amount of classes just to make a decent full-time salary, and unfortunately spend more time on the freeway driving in between schools than I get to be in the classroom. I don’t recommend it for other writers. The job takes up the same side of your brain. MFA culture has turned a bunch of aspiring writers into composition teachers. I’m not sure how good this is for the future of writing. We still need writers out there doing other things, sailing on ships or driving ambulances or delivering mail or working in an office or factory. Also, I think academia can be a destructive force for a writer. When writers’ work is too connected to their resume, they tend not to write as truthfully. And a lot of writers these days are writing stories for tenure review and not because they have to say something.

 What is your current project?

I just finished a novel and am looking for an agent with the hope of publishing it. A new book of poems has just been released by NYQ Books called Salute the Wreckage. Other than that, just writing more short stories and poems.

Clint Margrave is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His stories and poems have also appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Word Riot, 3AM, Bartleby Snopes, Ambit (UK), as well as in LA Fiction Anthology: Southland Stories by Southland Writers by Red Hen Press. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. For more information: www.clintmargrave.com

LA Fiction Anthology Interview: Kathy Hall

An Interview with Kathy Hall

Kathy Silvey Hall

What role does Los Angeles play in your fiction?

I have lived my whole life in Los Angeles, so pulling apart what piece the city plays in my fiction is challenging.  I guess I would say my stories are LA stories in that they reflect the fact that disparate groups of people rub up against each other in interesting ways here, ways they don’t in more hierarchical societies like Mumbai or Boston or New Orleans.

To what degree do you think place shapes fiction in general?

Place shapes minds.  The image of the laid back Californian is more than a stereotype.  It’s about the fact that we live at the mercy of elements from earthquakes to wildfires to mudslides to traffic.  We have to relinquish control.  Every time I hear someone honk a car horn in LA, I want to tell that driver to return to the east coast before they hurt themselves or someone else.

There is a spirit in every part of the Earth.  In Los Angeles, that spirit is at the beach and in the canyons and hanging out at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine–where a statue of Krishna and a statue of Buddha and a statue of St. Francis share space with Gandhi’s ashes, entirely unironically.

Do you see your work as coming out of any traditions of LA fiction or poetry?

I wish I could say that my writing is the next link in a chain that connects everyone who ever wrote in LA including T.C. Boyle, Walter Mosley, and Nathaniel West, but LA is such a polyglot chorus.  LA fiction is always honest, though, and it acknowledges community in a way that not all US fiction does, even if it is acknowledging how exceedingly difficult community is.  No one from LA ever wrote about graduating from an Ivy League college and moving to New York and figuring out something about him or herself as an individual or how their parents messed them up.  If we are gazing at our navels, it’s because we are doing yoga or meditation or eating an orange.  The rest of the time, we look out at the gorgeous people around us.

How does being a writer affect your work as a teacher and how does your work as a teacher affect your writing?

Teaching taught me what makes good writing good.  When I read student work that moves me or that I enjoy, I am reminded that communication has value both as a connection between people and in itself as pleasure.  Of course, I also tend to write about teaching–partly because school are where my best stories happen to be located, partly because schools are better microcosms than whaling ships, and probably mostly because young people tend to act out all the really significant questions of life in a way which midlife adults with mortgages do not.

What is your current project?

I spent 2015 writing Alta Vista High, the antidote to every inspiring story about an urban high school teacher ever to be adapted to film, one chapter of which appears in the LA Fiction Anthology and another of which appeared on the McSweeney’s website in February.  I also recently finished Conspicuous Child, the story of a girl who integrates an elementary school in the 1970s.

LA Fiction Anthology Interviews: Lloyd Aquino

An Interview with Lloyd Aquino

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What role does Los Angeles play in your fiction?
When I’m writing genre fiction, Los Angeles is rarely a setting. Otherwise, I find that my stories are almost always set in the Los Angeles area. It’s partly a product of writing what I know, but I’ve also become increasingly interested in the lives of Los Angeles residents, especially those in the less affluent areas (such as Filipinotown, where I lived until the age of five).

To what degree do you think place shapes fiction in general?
The best fiction, regardless of genre or medium, makes the setting one of the characters. I’ve also learned by writing a few plays that setting can drive and determine the action that occurs. Admittedly, this is something that I’ve struggled to transfer to my fiction.

How does being a writer affect your work as a teacher and how does your work as a teacher affect your writing?
I tend to keep the two separate, with the exception that I teach composition and creative writing, so I’m either teaching writing or else writing myself. Teaching is my primary profession, so it is my first priority, and my writing often comes second. I’ve found that I only have so much creative energy, and it has to be divided between teaching and writing.

What is your current project?
Depending on the week, I am working on several projects. I’m in the revising and editing stage of my first novel, a western titled “All The Worst Cheats.” I’m also in the beginning stages of a new poetry project, focused on the theme of healing. Finally, I’m really excited to start working on a piece of fiction centered on a Filipino street artist; I don’t know yet what medium it will be, though I’m leaning toward a graphic novel.

LA Fiction Anthology Interviews: Marcielle Brandler

An Interview with Marcielle Brandler

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What role does Los Angeles play in your fiction?

I was raised in LA. My story, “Chuze Off!” is about when I was a skinny girl at Bassett High School, and a Hell’s Angel girl wanted to fight with me. She said, “Hey, Chick, I saw you staring at me in class.”

Another story I am working on called “Perv” features La Puente.

“Sticks and Stones” is about a boy whom I liked when I was about eight years old while living in San Bernardino.

These are part of my book, Underbelly of My Soul.

I am very much an LA girl. When the family moved to Utah, I just could not relate to it. We had converted to Mormonism and were all baptized and “sealed” to each other in the Los Angeles Temple.

My abusive mother dumped me in Salt Lake City in a boarding house when I was nineteen. I didn’t even have a sweater. Those were extremely difficult years. My poem, “On the Street” from my book of poems, The Breathing House, features a homeless person. I have been homeless a few times, both in Utah and in California, so my heart goes out to the poor.

To what degree do you think place shapes fiction in general?

Wow! Great question! LA certainly shaped me as a person, so I think place is vital in influencing our work. The South certainly shaped the styles of southern writers. There is a particular sensibility in a location. It has a certain energy. LA is full of light, movement, frustration, broken dreams, new millionaires, cutting-edge thinking, crime, sweetness, Beverly Hills, homelessness, and Hollywood-contradictions.

I know that Southern writers have a very specific flavor to their work. There has been some talk that the heat and humidity forced people to hang out on their porches and neighbors would stop by, talk, play checkers or chess, and drink. Then, when the air conditioner came into the picture, the “edge” and “dark powers” were drained from Southern writing. I have no idea if this is true, but it is an intriguing idea to contemplate.

Oftentimes, place itself can be a character. Yes, place is vital to a piece.

For me, the long walk home in the concrete heat and reflective surfaces plays a very important role in my piece, “Perv.”

Do you see your work as coming out of any traditions of LA fiction or poetry?

Not really. I studied Goethe’s Faust, Kafka, and other writers, many of whom were required when I was an undergrad at the University of Utah.

I studied many poets like Yevtushenko; Dylan Thomas, whose work has inspired many of my poems; Robert Penn Warren, whom I met; Langston Hughes, who touches me so deeply;  William Blake, who is magical and touches my intuitive side; Allen Ginsberg, whom I admire for his political work and whom I was fortunate to meet; William Matthews, who mentored me, Denise Levertov, who commented on my poems before I published them; Dave Smith, who was my instructor at the U of Utah; James Ragan, who was my advisor at USC; and numerous others.

I was a singer/songwriter in the seventies, and my influences were Joni Mitchell; my beloved Cat Stevens; the great Leonard Cohen, who sent me two cards saying how much he liked my poetry; and Georges Moustaki, who sings mostly in French. My style is not particularly an LA style. My poetry is considered Imagist. Having said all of this, yes, I guess my work does come out of the above traditions.

How does being a writer affect your work as a teacher and how does your work as a teacher affect your writing?

It helps me to share with students the writer’s struggle and the need for numerous rewrites. I am open to their many styles and sensibilities. My work as a professor certainly gives me many stories for my writing. It also helps me to have more compassion for what students are going through. Their struggles become my struggles.

What is your current project?

I am still expanding “Perv,” and I am also writing several articles. My animated screenplay, Whales! is done, and I am finishing Abe’s Question, a science fiction feature. These last two have trailers on YouTube. I produce the trailers and have to re-edit Abe’s Question, because it goes too slowly. That takes money and time, but it will be worth it.

Bio: Marcielle Brandler’s poems have been translated into Czech, French, Arabic, and Spanish. She has judged poetry competitions and directed workshops for California Poets in the Schools and Performing Tree. Brandler lives in Pasadena. Find more at https://marciellepresents09.wordpress.com/poetry/

LA Fiction Anthology Interviews: Ruth Nolan

An Interview with Ruth Nolan

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What role does Los Angeles play in your fiction?
Los Angeles plays a vital, if indirect, role in my fiction and all of my creative writing. LA is the cultural and literary anchor for my writing, which careens wildly through the unbridled, remote landscapes of the Mojave Desert—my lifelong home—and other over-the-edge inland Southern California towns and outposts. In order to harness the wilderness I explore in my desert fiction leans on the necessary shoulder of LA, the stable city close to the sea that serves as parent-figure, priest, hated and beloved sibling, and inescapable counterpart.

Here’s an apt analogy for the symbiotic relationship in my fiction writing between LA and the Mojave: think of the opening scenes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, which bends the discernible lines between fiction and truth in the literal and metaphor road trip that starts in LA, takes a necessary and increasingly hallucinogenic journey through the Mojave, and plops down in Las Vegas to evoke an altered reality filled with both exiled LA and backwater desert characters who are compelled to interact.

I like to think that I can emulate a bit of this thrust in my own fiction, this tension that is tightly interwoven between these two absolutely interdependent places that give life to my storyscapes. Interestingly, large parts of the screenplay for the film Citizen Kane were written on a remote dude ranch in the Mojave Desert, the only place screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz could be kept sober enough to work, apparently, away from the temptations of LA—this is a ranch I just happened to live on for many years.

To what degree do you think place shapes fiction in general?

Place is an essential component of fiction, be it an interior or exterior location or reality. I can’t speak for all fiction writers, whose use of space as a literary device varies more widely than I can describe, but for me, literal space is essential. I like to build my stories on real-life places in the Mojave, and evoke stories from the places themselves, which rise to the surface and become malleable, with a little imagination on my part. Place becomes an agent, a character in its own right, and strongly influences other character’s actions, reactions, and interactions with place and with each other.

Do you see your work as coming out of any traditions of LA fiction or poetry?
Most definitely. I am greatly influenced by well-established, LA-affiliated authors, who have firmly put LA on the literary map and some of who have also embodied the type of the unlikely LA-Mojave Desert relationship that I aspire to convey in my writing. I’m in great awe of Joan Didion—especially in Play It as It Lays, which moves seamlessly through a middle-aged woman’s breakdown in scene shifts and back and forth movement between Hollywood film-making culture circa 1960s and the remotest, most unbearable corners of the Mojave Desert. I am inspired by the works of Raymond Chandler, and his gritty evocations of a noir-flavored, mid-century LA, and also by Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust. In my poetry, hands down, Charles Bukowski is a strong inspiration, with the type straightforward narrative poetic style depicting the compass of place down to the last detail. I like to think that I evoke the Mojave Desert in my poetry (and other writing) as distinctly and intimately as Bukowski, the ephemeral LA resident, does his hometown.

How does being a writer affect your work as a teacher and how does your work as a teacher affect your writing?

Being a writer makes me a much better teacher, because I’m looking at fiction, poetry, and other literature through a writer’s point of view. I’m able to look at structure and storylines in ways that help my students become better writers, rather than just taking the common path that many literature and writing instructors embark on, which is to analyze and interpret meaning and understanding of a text. In particular, because I teach a lot of basic essay writing classes at a community college, it’s more important for my students to learn how to perform the nuts and bolts of good writing rather than just sit around and dig for meaning in others’ writing.

My work as a teacher influences my writing, because in my teaching, I articulate and explain and frame others’ writing. It’s been a joy to be able to share my own creative writing with my students, too. In addition, my students, who mostly come from humble working-class backgrounds, have provided incredibly astute and honest feedback when I have shared drafts of my writing with them, which in many ways has given me a good earpiece to understand and anticipate the reading interests of a wide audience that doesn’t just come from literary-academic populations.

What is your current project?
I am on sabbatical this academic year, writing a researched creative nonfiction book with the working title “Fire on the Mojave: Stories from the Deserts and Mountains of Inland Southern California.” During my undergraduate college years, I worked as a seasonal wildland firefighter for the USFS and BLM, which sparked my interest in this project, as well as a memoir-in-progress about my wildland firefighting experiences. I’m also tinkering with the final edits for a few fiction stories that I will be submitting soon for publication, as well as a few nonfiction essays. I continue to blog about desert culture and the environment for several news/feature publications, and I’m generating new poetry, too, as always.

Bio: Ruth Nolan is an author based in California’s Mojave Desert. A former seasonal wildland firefighter for the USFS and BLM, she is now professor of English and Creative Writing at College of the Desert. Her fiction appears in LA Fiction Anthology: Southland Stories by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press, 2016), and her poetry book Ruby Mountain is forthcoming this year from Finishing Line Press. She’s recently published essays in Desert Oracle and the Desert Sun. She writes for KCET/Artbound LA, Inlandia Literary Journeys, News from Native California, and Sierra Club Desert Report. Ruth lives in Palm Springs, CA.