INTERVIEW BY JANE ORMEROD
Lynette Reini-Grandell is great weather for MEDIA’s guest prose editor for 2017. Submissions for our next anthology are open October 15th 2016 to January 15th 2017—so send her your best short stories, flash fiction, dramatic monologues, and creative non-fiction.
Lynette is the author of Approaching the Gate (Holy Cow! Press, 2014) which won the 2015 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Poetry. Her work is published in It's Animal but Merciful, The Understanding between Foxes and Light, MNArtists.org, Poetry Motel, Revolver, Poetry City U.S.A., and Evergreen Chronicles, among others. She has received grants for her work from the Finlandia Foundation (2013) and the Minnesota State Arts Board (2011). Based in Minneapolis, she performs regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company. In addition, she is a 2010 What Light Poetry award winner, received a 2009 Intermedia Arts Writer-to-Writer Mentorship, won the 2003 SASE/Ache prize for fiction, and edited Rifle Sport Alternative Art Gallery's literary journal, Magazine.
Her poems can be found on the walls of the Carlton Arms Hotel in Manhattan, in an installation created with husband Venus de Mars, a transgender artist and musician. A feature-length documentary about their relationship, Venus of Mars, by Emily Goldberg, has toured film festivals around the world.
Lynette has performed fiction and poetry at countless spoken word venues, among them Prøve Gallery, Intermedia Arts, Patrick's Cabaret, Kieran's, the Turf Club, the Poetry Café (London), Cacophony Chorus, the Love Ugly, Ricochet Kitchen, Soul Invictus (Phoenix), El-Chango (Bisbee), and the Minnesota State Fair. She also appears regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company, appears on J. Otis Powell's CD, Theology: Love and Revolution, and co-hosts "Write on Radio" on KFAI; a radio show interviewing local and national writers.
Lynette holds a BA from Carleton College and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation is titled "The Modern Sound: American Poetry and the Rise of the Recording Industry, 1920-1940." She is an English professor at Normandale Community College, sings in a church choir, and has been variously vice president, president, past president of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English.
JO: Hi Lynette. Could you tell us a little about your background? How did you start to write? How important is geography and personal history to your creative work?
LRG: Though I’ve been writing since childhood, for many years I didn't understand how to bridge the gap between wanting to write and really participating in the writing community. Few institutions had MFAs when I was in grad school—I never heard of it as a possibility until I was nearly finished. So I am sympathetic to people who feel outside the system! That said, I am lucky to have lived in Minnesota all my life and there is an incredible writing community here, especially in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. I was mentored in writing by a performance poet and eventually met other writers who shared craft and work habits.
Regarding geography and personal history, for many years I tried to keep those elements out of my work because I was afraid they would stereotype me. Discovering that those kinds of poems were often the ones people liked best gave me the courage to put more of my authentic self onto the page.
You collaborated with your husband, Venus de Mars, on a poetry and art installation at the Carlton Arms Hotel in New York City. You also play jazz violin to accompany writers and burlesque performers, and work with Nordic rune-singing and chanting. What is the influence of these activities on your written work?
A few nights ago I was watching a drum and dance performance and was reminded of how vital rhythm is to everything we do in life. Have you seen the videos of how patients with Parkinson’s can walk nearly freely when they are listening to rhythmic music? Rhythm ties everything together, and tone is another form of expression.
I learned to play jazz when I was 14 or 15. It's hard to describe its influence to someone who doesn’t understand improvisation. I was talking to a jazz flute player I have been collaborating with (poetry and jazz music), and he said that when he teaches improvisation to other flautists, he gives them a newspaper article and tells them to "play" the sentences in the article, with all the rhythmic stops and starts, the tonal ups and downs, etc. I guess it's a new language. Working with all these interdisciplinary art forms constantly gives me a new language.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
There are so many, and I am always discovering new ones! For prose, I just finished The Book of Night Women by Marlon James and loved that. Lori Ostlund, Nick Flynn. Anything by Louise Erdrich is amazing. I once retyped an excerpt from one of her novels for one of my classes (don't ask why!) and was amazed at how good her writing is on the level of sentence, phrase, and word. I also am blown away by Diane Ackerman’s craft as a writer.
For poetry I love Natalie Diaz's work, and Dwayne Reginald Betts' Bastards of the Reagan Era. I go to AWP, listen to readings, and buy a ton of books... A.E. Stallings, Tim Seibles, Claudia Emerson, Lucia Perillo. Old favorites include Robert Bly and Mary Oliver.
What is your writing process? Any rituals, superstitions? Tips for kick starting the creative juices?
I think the true only ritual for me is a deadline—I've promised something new to someone or at least will feel terrible if I read the same old stuff again. I like to sit by a window when I write, preferably with some kind of view. If it's at night, the window still works, but maybe a fireplace or some other gentle light source will pull me towards it. I do most of my writing on a computer, but I get inspired by snippets when I'm not doing anything in particular, i.e. driving (I try to record those) or sitting in church listening to music or pondering a sermon. (I have a Moleskine for those.)
As great weather for MEDIA’s guest prose editor, is there anything you particularly look for in a submission? Anything that would put you off?
I'm always attracted to a good sense of voice, where I feel the presence of a speaker. I generally like writing to be "about" something and am not fond of navel-gazers. On the other hand, that could be the point of the piece, so I wouldn't automatically rule out a piece of writing that seemed unusually self-obsessive. The speaker in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" is definitely self-obsessive!
As a poet and short fiction writer yourself, what have you learned about the ups and downs of submitting work for publication? Any other advice for new writers?
I've learned it helps to have a tribe of friends who are also submitting and getting rejected so you don't feel alone. I personally have a hard time with rejection—it often will stop me from writing for a while—and for that reason I don't send work out as often as I should. But I do a lot of readings, and when audiences are supportive that gives me encouragement to send it out again
The best advice I’ve heard for submitting is to send things out and then forget about them. Have enough in circulation so that when something is rejected you still have hopes for other pieces floating around out there. The second best piece of advice I’ve heard is to realize that each issue of a publication is put together so that things will fit, and that's not just a space consideration. Perhaps they already have a piece about elephants, so they're not going to take yours this time around. Or perhaps they already have two or three pieces about elephants and want to turn it into a theme, so they aren't going to take your piece about bonobos. If they invite you to submit again, do so. They mean it!
Finally, what’s coming up on the horizon for Lynette Reini-Grandell?
I’m committing myself to some new writing deadlines this fall and am putting together a manuscript for a second book. I hope to have it out in spring of 2018.
Submissions for great weather for MEDIA’s next anthology are open October 15 2016 to January 15 2017