As a writer, I’ve built my life around writing. I enjoy reading and I’m an active reader: meaning I underline and take notes in most of the books I read. These things have led to my monthly literature blog, On Page 42.
Crazy thing? Honestly, I’m a boring person. Sometimes I dabble in carpentry and other times I dabble in visual art. Of late, my hobbies can be boiled down to listening to podcasts like Behind the Bastards and 5-4 or listening to K. Flay and Grandson. My ears have been monopolizing my time. I’ve always been into a variety of music and so for those that know me it’s probably wholly unsurprising.
Why did you decide to start your writing career?
When I was maybe nine or ten, I got into writing funny poems. They were funny for my age. Once I learned what words were capable of, I dove head first into playing with them. I remember showing one of my poems to a priest at Sunday school. It was about the speaker being sick and it was colorful and goofy. The priest just looked back concerned. I learned firsthand writing can make you feel one way, and what you feel isn’t necessarily going to translate.
After, a series of personal tragedies and 9/11, my writing turned away from humor. Writing became less about feeling good and more about coping with death and survivor’s guilt. I guess writing was always integral for me to function, so much so my family started pushing me to become a teacher the moment I could string words together. I’ve tutored, but I think for anybody that prizes reading and writing beyond stop signs, someone is going to expect them to get into education.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It often depends. The atmosphere is somewhat important. At Wells College, I loaded my schedule with any course I thought could improve my writing. My first semester there, I took Advanced Fiction. Between the campus life focused on mostly growing and courses that forced every part of my analytical skills out of their crevasses, the atmosphere was very conducive for my writing. At one point, I was able to sit down until 2500 words of a short story came pouring out. In those moments, sitting, typing on my laptop in the common area of the dorm, my energy was at an all-time high. I remember being so into a story as I wrote it that I started lightly weeping. And I don’t think there is any shame to emotional catharsis in writing.
Conversely, I have had those moments where there is an important thing I want to convey in a story or even my blog (trying to stay on schedule) and I can’t motivate my brain to finish it. It’s exhausting pushing through and going back to the building blocks. I look at the structure and say this is what I need to accomplish. And if I’m lucky, a phone doesn’t ring or a family member doesn’t interrupt the process. Writing 2500 words one day can be easier than writing 500 words the next day.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I went to Edgar Allen Poe’s museum/house in Virginia. My mother took me there and it was a neat trip. A few years ago, I stopped by his tenant house in Baltimore, but it was too early and I couldn’t stay until they opened. But the anachronism of the updated tenant house attached to Poe’s preserved section was striking to me. I felt like we put more work into keeping the dead poet’s residence pristine than we did into helping the surrounding area survive.
There were tons of ravens with a creepy tree on a patch of yard. Very expected. There was also a cop car on the corner menacing the residents that lived nearby. Writing and publishing came from a place of privilege, so its hard not to see the indentation of that privileged in a poorer area.
I’ve been trying to get out to Iowa City for all the history and opportunity that exist there, but life’s thrown me some curve balls. I presented at the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival
in 2013. The best part wasn’t even my presentation, but it was meeting so many people that enjoyed writing and reading poetry. Poets I’ll never forget like Aimee Suzara, Nicelle Davis, Dan Dissinger, Aimee Herman, Neal “The Surgeon Poet” Hall. There were so many. And it was so much fun.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Growing up, reading was difficult for me. Everybody told me “do it do it do it,” but people rarely had the patience or didn’t know how to teach me to have patience with reading. So I started with the dictionary: two or three lines at time. Then I read encyclopedia sections. The overviews on Phillip II and Alexander the Great alone helped me out later in World History Class. After that poetry. Point being I worked my way up to books. That being said my first strong emotional reaction to a story was nonfiction story about a help line operator repeatedly helping the same caller, and then that caller almost committed suicide. It was touching, but if I remember correctly ultimately tragic. The most life effecting book I’ve read was Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering. It engaged both my desire for informative text and the need for a personal struggle.
When did you publish your first work?
My first poem was in the Three Lake Sampler. I was in middle school and I remember being disappointed because the line “And I Pray” was cut out of the poem. My first short story was “Saturday Night Introvertism” over at F(r)iction Online. Its still up, but looking back it was a little raw. At the time, I was just glad something I admitted was accepted. I remember there was this submission situation through a Boston literary journal where the editor said they sent me feedback when they didn’t. They just sent me this nasty email about how I’m not listening when that was the second time I had correspondence with them and the first time they just sent, “needs work.” I avoided submitting to Boston-related reviews for a while after that exchange. Then last December I published my first poetry collection, “Calls for Help” through Atmosphere Press.
How many works have you published?
I have just the one poetry collection published. Although, I have numerous individual poems and short stories published through many reviews and journals, some are even in anthologies.
Which one is your favorite?
Over at WordsForCharity.com, they published “A Ghost Story.” It was one of my more humorous stories. Part of me is irritated its behind a paywall, but its for a good cause. I really like the story.
What writers did you enjoy reading as a child?
Dr. Suess, Edgar Allen Poe, and Langston Hughes. I remember trying to explain the subjectivity of poetry to my Aunt and I basically rolled Frost. She completely shut down. I still find Frost overrated, but there is this great analysis on YouTube by Zoe Bee about the “The Road Not Taken.”
What did you learn while writing?
There is never a point when one is done learning. I first wrote without limitation. I thought my best work would come from that. Then I wrote with limitations put on my structure or my style and it was better. Structure allowed me to tighten things up when I came from unorthodox points of view. Then I wrote what others told me to write: through prompts or competitions that specified elements. It took away my control and made me work differently. Most importantly, I read. My writing never progressed faster than when I made daily reading a priority. It doesn’t have to be the same genre. In fact, how nonfiction inspires fiction can be pretty cool. Same with fiction inspiring poetry, or the inclination of a memory sparked by either of those to inspire nonfiction. Writing is what propels me to keep learning.
Are you working on anything new?
For a few years now, I’ve been working on a novel. I’ve done plenty of short form stories and I’m trying to finish a long form one. Also, I’m not blind to the lack of seriousness that many of my family take in poetry. I think they see it as akin to a random word generator, unless its Frost.
What advice would you give upcoming authors?
Don’t expect anything. There’s no typical publishing anymore. There’s the big four and indie/ self-publishing. Unless you’re extremely lucky, you will have to call around, email, and talk to a plethora of people. Getting reviews and publicity is near impossible because most only do it for the big four publishers. A lot of people won’t respond. I was able to set up a Zoom event with authors from Twitter, but alumni from my college refused to set anything up with me. its weird that sometimes strangers are more helpful than people you know. Don’t be pressured into giving away your book. You put work into it and people asking for free copies because they know you is an acknowledgement that they don’t value the work you put into the text.
You can find Greg here:
Instagram at greg_t_miraglia
Facebook Writer’s page is Greg T. Miraglia
Thank you, Greg!