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20 Questions with... Nolcha Fox

Nolcha Fox

Nolcha has written all her life, starting with poop and crayons on the walls. Her poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her chapbooks, “My Father’s Ghost Hates Cats” and “The Big Unda” are available on Amazon. Nolcha is a nominee for the 2023 Best of The Net. She edits Kiss My Poetry.

Twitter: @NolchaF

“My Father’s Ghost Hates Cats”

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

I was born in North Carolina, where my father was in the Marines. My parents hated the place so much, as soon as my father’s stint was up, they drove in front of a hurricane to get out of the state. It was probably the only time in their marriage that they weren’t late.

I started writing as soon as I could support myself in my crib. Poop on the walls was my favorite medium, although I did eventually move to crayons. I also tried to write on my face with my mother’s red lipstick when I was a toddler, although I mostly missed and painted my blond hair red instead.

I developed asthma when I was two years old. I was sick enough often enough (I still remember plastic curtains surrounding my bed in the hospital when I developed pneumonia) that I turned to reading to amuse myself. My parents had a wall of books in the hallway, which included classics, science fiction, and fantasy, and I read every one of those books. All that reading, which grew into a voracious reading of every one of the classics I could get my hands on as I grew older, developed my writing brain and my odd sense of humor.

It didn’t help that I inherited my father’s sense of humor, which was further corrupted by reading a big storage box of my aunt’s collection of Mad Magazines from the 60s (I believe), as well as a love of National Lampoon and Harvard Lampoon magazines, Charles Addams comics, Tom Lehrer’s songs, and Monty Python.

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

I have always been a writer, but I never admitted it to myself that I was until I fell into my first technical writing job. Getting paid made it ok. I was a technical writer for over 20 years, which was a mystery to most people who had no idea what that was about.

I never admitted I was a creative until I started writing and publishing short stories and poetry after I retired, even though my success as a technical writer was due to the creative ways I approached my job.

I’m a little slow, sometimes.

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

The Writers Club published my poem, “I asked the birds,” Saturday 8/29, which I wrote as a response to a “birds, birds, birds” prompt from my online poetry group – I had no idea what to write, so I decided to ask the birds.

What are you working on right now?

I accidentally fell into interviewing. I interviewed my friend, John Yamrus, who has been publishing books and poetry for about 50 years. He actually suggested it. I submitted the interview to A Thin Slice of Anxiety, and it will be published soon.

I also submitted it to Roi Faineant, and the editors want me to submit future interviews to them. Yours will be one of them.

I’m an editor for Kiss my poetry, a forum and literary magazine, sort of.

Every morning, I provide a writing prompt to an international group of writers I was invited to on Twitter.

And I write at least one poem every day, sometimes more. At least, that’s the goal, unless I hit a dry spell.

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

I like to write in the morning, although it’s not unusual for writing to continue in spurts through the day. I need to be on my first cup of coffee to start. I always start with reading poems from various magazines and organizations that are sent to my inbox every morning.

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

I write in my office, on my computer. It’s easier for me to find inspiration and resources. One of my favorite resources is WordHippo. I’ll start with a word that might lead me to a different meaning of the word that might lead me to other words, and somewhere along that trail, I’m writing a poem.

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

My advice: Enjoy what you write, write what you enjoy. Don’t write to be published.

The best advice I’ve heard is: Do one thing every day (whether it be writing or submitting or exploring literary magazines or reading poetry).

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

I am not a fan of live readings, although I participate in them on zoom and occasionally stand in front of live people.

I agree with what a poet posted on Facebook: A colonoscopy is preferable to a reading. I wrote a poem entitled “Chum” to express my love of poetry readings.

I prefer reading poetry on paper or on the screen. How a poem is written, and where the lines break, are so much a part of the meaning.

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

Some family themes occasionally poke their heads up in my poetry. The majority of my poetry is literally all over the place (I’ve written about vampires, Big Foot, dust bunnies, wild turkey, you name it). I think I channel dead poets when I write.

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

Well, I think writers should have morals.

I wouldn’t say I write with a purpose, with something amazing to impart to my readers. I write because I love to write, and I’m happy when my writing makes people laugh. Or even think. If there is any social commentary in my writing, it’s what my readers read into it, not what I intended when I wrote it.

My challenge is to write what I’m afraid to say, even what others are afraid to say. There are far too many secrets in the world, and the majority of them are unnecessary. Ask me what it took for me to dig up my family history of migraines. Crazy hard. Good grief, they’re migraines, not the secret to building the pyramids.

Do you write between genres or not?

I’m focusing on poetry right now. I sometimes think about going back to writing flash fiction, but then another poem comes up.

If interviews are a genre, I could say I’m doing that, too.

Which living writers do you most admire?

Which dead writers do you most admire?

I admire living and dead writers who make me laugh (I don’t have any favorites). As a migraineur, laughter is a wonderful antidote to pain.

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

I never intended to write a book. I’ve written two, and a third is due out maybe next month (or whenever the publisher gets to it). Later this year, I expect another one to come out.

If anything, I publish for my mother. She’s more thrilled that I write than if I had become a doctor.

I didn’t realize how much marketing and publicity was involved when I published my first book, and I didn’t realize I had to do almost all of it myself. If I were a raging extrovert, it would be wonderful. I am a raging introvert, and it sucks.

I actually prefer to publish in literary magazines. I can submit in my pajamas and make faces, and nobody knows.

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

I am not influenced by nature/place, although I’ve written some awful poetry about nature. A few of them were decent enough to be published (but I don’t brag about them). I live in Wyoming, which some consider one of the most beautiful places in the United States. There are some amazing nature poets here, and I am not one of them. Sorry, I grew up in Los Angeles, and my poetry is more citified.

I am not influenced by music, even though I have a musical background. Although I did write several poems based on misheard song lyrics last week, and they were great fun to write. They’re out for submission now.

Most of my inspiration comes from silly things that happen in my life. You should see all my dog poems (we have three rescues). I write about fun with aging, since I’m almost officially old, although I’m thinking of using my father’s trick of getting younger every birthday.

I’m also inspired by poetry written by others. Sometimes a phrase sticks in my head (or my prompt notebook). Sometimes the subject of a poem sparks me to write a poem about the same thing.

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

I do have the occasional dry spell. Makes me crazy. When I complained to John Yamrus about it, he told me it’s just part of the writing process, and it’s ok.

How do I overcome it? Sometimes I write about having nothing to write about, like my poem, “I asked the birds.”

Sometimes, I just try to get over myself and crochet.

Eventually, I start writing again. Even though I think I never will.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

Laughter. I’m also very happy when people write to me about a phrase in a poem that they love.

Wow, I can do this.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

They’re thrilled. And confused. It’s difficult for them to tell how much of what I write is real, and how much is imagination. Truthfully, it’s 95% imagination.

I admit to a dark humor streak, which concerns some of my friends, who are definitely worried about my sanity (they have no idea that I’m chortling as I write). I’m not struggling with depression. I have no need to harm anyone or anything. Really. But writing dark is fun.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

No. I almost used to live in Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks, and Crown. (All defunct chain stores, but I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which was the home of chain restaurants, chain bookstores, and chain theaters. So ugly.) I still love the smell and feel of a book.

I admit that the majority of my reading is online, reading other people’s chapbooks and reading literary journals.

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

Self-publishing is huge now. It requires no submissions to publishers, no rejections. Some of what is self-published is truly wonderful, and may never have gotten past a publisher’s slush pile. Some of it isn’t so wonderful.

I prefer to be published through a publisher. It’s validation that someone else thinks my writing is worth showing to the world. Many publishers, including our beloved Alien Buddha Press, rely on Amazon to sell books.

I haven’t seen another platform that has the self-publishing capabilities and popularity of Amazon. So, unless something more brilliant comes along, I think we’ll continue to be dependent on Amazon.

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