I’ve devoured my fair share of autobiographies over the years, from the wrestlers, comedians and actors that captivated me as a child to the playwrights, musicians and authors I admire today. I have always enjoyed learning about the people behind the words. The same is true for writers and poets I find in the small press and underground literary world. When I read a piece of fiction or come across a poem that strikes me I am sure to spend hours following the author’s digital footprint to see what insights I can gain on who they are and how they wrote something so brilliant. That is what Screaming With Brevity is all about really. A place to learn about and share interesting and authentic work by people you may or may not have heard of before.
And so it was easy to say “yes!” when Joe Marchia approached me about doing an author-on-author interview with him. I had first become aware of Joe when I submitted some poems to his online literary journal called Vagabond City which was just starting up last year. Below is the result of a number of emails Joe and I sent back and forth throughout the last couple of weeks of March. You can read my half of the interview which was published on Vagabond last week, here.
MJH: So Joe, I understand you’re from New York, what artists synonymous with that area of the world have influenced you as an author or in your other creative endeavours?
Joe Marchia: New York has such a rich history in the arts and literature. I suppose when I think New York writers though, I usually think to the Beat poets of the 1950’s. Something about their poetry reads to me as very New York in its style. You can hear the symphonic chaos in their poetry and prose. And as someone that got into serious literature through reading Howl and On the Road, it’s nice to have New York as a common thread between me and The Beats.
MJH: I’m interested to hear how you made the leap from author to editor, tell us about the birth of Vagabond City Journal and how you see it developing in the future.
Joe Marchia: Vagabond City came about after I had trouble placing a story in magazines. It’s called “Something Like Freedom” and it now appears in the first issue of Vagabond City, but my struggle with placing the story illuminated to me the difficulty certain types of poetry and fiction have in getting published. The story features some drug use and sexuality, both of which I think make editors uncomfortable. After numerous rejections I realized how tough it is to find home for creative works that are strange, taboo or explicit. Thus, Vagabond City has become home for candid literature. My plan for Vagabond has always been the same, to continue to publish great pieces. Recently, we’ve been accepting flash fiction and poetry for our Vignette series, but things can change.
NOTE: Maybe it’s just an April Fool’s Joke, but today Vagabond City Literary Journal announced that they’re ceasing publication.
MJH: Your short stories Playing Guitar and Shrinking Squares really stuck with me far after I’d finished reading them. They both conclude in an open-ended manner which allows the reader’s imagination to carry the story on. Do you set out to write stories that ask more questions than they answer?
Joe Marchia: I am always really conscious about having pieces explore and ask questions without giving easy resolutions. I also enjoy keeping things open-ended because I think it reflects life in an accurate manner. All the loose ends don’t get tied up- we’re often left with questions and uncertainties. So when writing a piece, especially as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more comfortable with leaving things unresolved.
MJH: What is your writing process? Are you quite structured in terms of when and where you write? What is your writing set up like?
Joe Marchia: I’m completely unstructured in how I write. I prefer to write in bed with my laptop, but I’ve written so much on my cell phone, and napkins, and receipt paper. Some people have a personal preference for writing longhand, but for me typing seems most natural, which is probably a generational thing. I also have a tinge of association between typing on a computer and using a typewriter and piano. So it works for me.
MJH: Can you recommend a couple of small press writers we should be aware of and where do you go to read new fiction and poetry?
Joe Marchia: In addition to you- who I am a fan of- I’ve become fascinated with Meeah Cross-Williams who is writing really strange, compelling fiction and poetry. I just purchased her collection of stories, 101 Sex Positions of the Dead. Jesse Back, who I believe is a newly published writer, but is writing interesting and complex sexual poems. Zach Nabors, who I interviewed for Vagabond City. Sarah E. Caouette, Rachel Lewis. I could really go on- many of the people I’ve published in Vagabond City have much more work available online- which I love. I can discover so many people, it’s like having a local band you love.
SWB NOTE: Unfortunately, those authors listed who are not linked to any further resource I was unable to find an online presence for. If you are one of these authors who would like this corrected so others can find more about you, please contact me.
For magazines: Emerge Literary Journal and their publications, ELJ publications,The Literary Underground, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Instigatorzine – who published my first poem when I was twenty, and who since have grown considerably. Quail Bell Magazine – who also has short films and photography.
MJH: What are your writing and publishing goals? Where do you see yourself as an author ten years from now?
Joe Marchia: I think ultimately I’d like to have a book in print. Every author I’ve spoken to has a particular feeling that books are almost sacred things. But I try and also not get too attached to that idea. Because publishing is very difficult, and when I start to get too attached to the idea of “I want something in print!” I start thinking like “hmm I could write one of those romance novels.” And it becomes a dangerous idea. And then I start writing thinking “I could sell this.” From time to time I consider writing something very mainstream and marketable. And I hope I don’t do that out of vanity. In 10 years I’d like to still be writing, and I’d like to have something in print that I’d be proud of.
MJH: You write poetry, fiction, blog posts, essays, comedy routines etc… is your approach to different styles of writing the same or are the genres apples and oranges? Tell us about some of these other creative endeavors.
Joe Marchia: This has been a tough question to answer even for myself. I’ve found myself drawn to different mediums in order to communicate different ideas. Originally I only wrote poetry, then I started short stories, then funny stories, then comedy and now I write news satire for The Portside Standard. Writing in various mediums frees me up to explore different things. So let’s say I was writing about romance. It’s a heavy topic that can be explored through poetry and fiction. But it’s also got an absurdity to it- romance can also make us behave foolishly. So there’s the comedy. But it all comes from the same creative impulse to talk about something. Life is so multifaceted. So I have a poem that’s forthcoming that deals with death- and I’m also writing a humor piece about annoying people. It all works for me, though I fear anyone that looks me up online will be very confused.
MJH: And what is your proudest creative achievement so far?
Joe Marchia: So far, writing my novella Time is something I’m most proud of. I don’t write long fiction often, but it was a labor of love to write something so long and personal. It’s not autobiographical, but when I look back on it, it does seem very personal to me thematically. It might be the most personal piece of writing I could possibly write.
You can keep up with the latest from Joe by visiting his website http://joemarchia.com/.
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