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20 Questions with... Courtney LeBlanc

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full-length collections Her Whole Bright Life (winner of the Jack McCarthy Book Prize, Write Bloody, 2023), Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, 2021) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2020). She is a Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellow (2022) and the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Find her online at Follow her on twitter: @wordperv and IG: @wordperv79

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up

My name is Courtney LeBlanc and I live in Arlington, VA, about 5 miles from the White House! I’ve lived on the east coast for over half my life but I grew up on a farm in North Dakota so my childhood was very different from how/where I currently live!

Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?

I recently found my diary from when I was 13-16 (oh, it was sooo cringe worthy!) but in it was an entry that stated I wanted to be the “best writer I can be!” so I guess the desire was always there. In addition to being a poet and running an independent poetry press (Riot in Your Throat), my day job is in International Affairs, which is wildly different from my creative life.

Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.

My forthcoming collection, Her Whole Bright Life, will be published soon (April 2023) and it has two main threads: my father’s death and my disordered eating.

What are you working on right now?

Because I’m both a poet and a publisher, I’m always working on multiple things. For my own poetry, I’m working on my book tour for the new collection. For the press, I’m editing manuscripts and working on marketing and getting them ready for publication.

Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?

No set routine though I do have a Friday writing workshop that I try to attend each week. Often I just write when I’m inspired, which could be day or night.

Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?

Anywhere, everywhere! I once pulled over on 395 (a very busy road going into DC) so I could write a poem that I wasn’t sure I would remember by the time I got to my destination!

What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?

Find a trusted writing group you can exchange work with. Reading other’s work, and giving feedback, will help your own writing. Plus their feedback will then help you edit and strengthen your own writing.

Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?

I usually love them! There’s something so energetic about reading to a live crowd. Usually people are really supportive and wonderful and that makes for a great experience.

Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?

Each of my books has had their own themes, which tends to follow how I write – I will obsessively write about one topic for weeks/months and then move on from it. But there are themes that never go away – the female body/my body, disordered eating, grief, loss, love, desire. These are core things about me and they’ll always find a way to surface in my poems.

Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?

Maybe…? I don’t like to dictate what others should write about or what purpose their writing should serve. Write about what’s important and close to you, whether that’s women’s rights or gun control or the environment or anything in between. For me, I write because I have to – it’s a way to process emotions and life and all the things I deal with. That’s its purpose for me.

Do you write between genres or not?

I’ve dabbled in writing a few CNF essays but no one sees those… Poetry is my preferred genre.

Which living writers do you most admire?

Megan Falley, Jeanann Verlee, Shaindel Beers, Melissa Fite Johnson, Laura Passin, and Kelly Grace Thomas are some of my favorite poets – I gobble up everything they write.

What’s the book you wish you’d written?

I don’t think I have one. There are so many books I’m grateful were written but I don’t have any that I wish I’d personally written. I think my books give my voice to whatever topic I’m writing about.

What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?

Definitely nature, place, setting, connections with people, what’s going on in the world…basically all of life. =)

Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?

Sort of. I don’t really like the term “writer’s block” because it has such a negative connotation. Even if I’m not actively writing I like to think that I’m storing up experiences or memories or emotions for when I write again next.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

Having a reader reach out and tell me they loved a poem. Or that they felt so seen by one of my poems. Or that it made them cry. Basically, knowing they had an emotional connection with my poems is really the best thing.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

My friends are really supportive and my younger sister is one of my biggest fans. The rest of my family…well, I’m not sure if they even read my poems…

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Locally I love Politics & Prose, and I really love A Novel Idea in Philly (everyone should go there, it’s delightful!), and Shakespeare & Company in Paris (because it has a wonderful poetry section).

How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?

Writing is never going away, regardless of what Amazon does. Personally, I don’t buy books from Amazon but I buy pretty much everything else from them. I try to buy books directly from the author or from the press or my local bookshop. But I realize that I live in an urban area and have easy access to those places. If someone lives in a more rural area, Amazon may be the only way they can get access to books so I’m not going to hold that against them.

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