Scroll down to browse excerpts from Cleaver’s latest interviews of authors and translators of books by small and indie presses. Interested in interviewing authors or being interviewed? Contact interviews editor Hannah Felt Garner.

Andrea CaswellA CRAFT CHAT WITH HANNAH SMART Estimated reading time: 5 minutes Andrea: “The Detriment of Doubt” (Issue 44) is such a clever and creative piece. How did the idea for a 911-type call that’s not exactly a 911 call originate?  Hannah: I developed the concept for this story first. I knew I wanted to write a piece that questioned the nature of truth, and I knew that in order to do that, I’d need a scenario with lots of built-in assumptions about truthfulness. My fiancé and I were throwing around ideas, and one of his suggestions was a 911 call. Since 911 dispatchers are required to take callers at their word, I immediately knew it was the plot-grounding form I’d been looking for.  Andrea: You’ve written this story using only dialogue. Was that an original constraint or parameter, perhaps related to a prompt or exercise? If not, at what point did you decide to write it as a dialogue-only text? Hannah: The story wasn’t in response to a prompt, but it did develop from the concept I mentioned above. I intended it to be all dialogue before I even started writing, because I figured that was the best way ... Read the full interview
Craft Chats, Interviews, Writing Tips /
A Conversation with Danuta Hinc, author of When We Were TwinsPlamen Press, 232 PagesInterview by Andrea Caswell Danuta Hinc’s novel, When We Were Twins (Plamen Press, 2023), follows a group of characters caught in cycles of violence and war. The book imagines the evolution of an intelligent young man into a radicalized terrorist, challenging us to see into his heart and humanity. In this interview with senior fiction editor Andrea Caswell, Hinc discusses the importance of creating connections across cultures, and explains how writing historical fiction forced her to question her own assumptions about human history and the consequences of war. Andrea Caswell: In When We Were Twins, the main character, Taher, begins life as an innocent child, but evolves into a radicalized terrorist. His twin sister follows a different path. Can you tell us about the idea of twins and how this symbol informs themes in the novel? Danuta Hinc: The novel is full of dualities and mirror images. We have the twins Taher and Aisha, and the young twins Markie and Julie. Also, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible and the Quran, quoted by men fighting on opposite sides of a war. We also have a Ukrainian soldier, Wołodia, ... Read the full interview
Andrea CaswellA Craft Chat With Monique D. Clark Estimated reading time: 6 minutes Andrea: Congratulations on “The Love,” (Issue 44) which feels like a perfect short story. It’s got it all: deep love, disenchantment, humor, food, family secrets, and a profound moment of truth, encapsulated within 1500 words. What’s your “recipe” for creating a powerful short story? Monique: Thank you so much! It was an honor to have “The Love” published in Cleaver Magazine. This is a great question, and in theory feels like an easy one to answer. However, it truly isn’t. My best answer is: Know at least one thing for certain, whether it’s setting, a theme, or in this case, word count. For this piece, the primary goal was for the story to be a maximum of 1500 words, with very little room for compromise. I had spent the past two years in my MFA program at Drexel University working on a short story collection. Each of those stories was between 5000 and 7500 words, and I wanted to compose some shorter bodies of work. The second most important ingredient in this piece was the POV. Because I had such a small space to work within, it ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Beth Kephart author of My Life in Paper: Adventures in Ephemera Temple University Press, 336 pages Interview by Michelle Fost I had the chance to have a conversation with Beth Kephart, whose new book, My Life in Paper, has recently been published. Our conversation took place over email, one back and forth a day for about a week. Widely creative as well as accomplished, Beth became absorbed in making handmade books and paper during the pandemic, a practice that is central to My Life in Paper. Take a workshop with Beth Kephart online, Sunday February 25, 2-4 p.m. WRITING ADVANCED BY CATEGORIES: TURNING OUR OBSESSIONS INTO STORIES. Sign up here. Michelle: Congratulations on the publication of your beautiful new book, My Life in Paper: Adventures in Ephemera. Your book invites making connections of many kinds, craft to craft, potting happening in the basement and papermaking a floor above, the writing of a book to the making of paper. I want to start with a comparison of your working to that of a potter, with a specific potter in mind. This is something of a chance comparison, but I am really curious to see where it sends our conversation ... Read the full interview
Justin Eells A Conversation with James Sullivan, author of HARBORING James Sullivan and I attended the same MFA program and later shared an office as adjuncts at that same school, Minnesota State University, Mankato. Over those years, we shared work with each other and shared conversations at Wine Cafe, our beloved local dive, about writing, reading, teaching, whiskey nuances, and life. When the publication of his novelette Harboring was announced by ELJ Editions, I was excited, not only because of my friend’s success but because this meant I would get to read another story by a writer whose work I had come to love and respect. The story of an alien who inhabits a human form and adopts Kobe, Japan as his home, Harboring interrogates the Japanese kaiju and tokusatsu film genres while exploring questions of belonging, morality, duty, and sacrifice. Much like its protagonist, Takeshi Furuya, this book is a complicated mix of seemingly disparate elements: Sometimes, when he’d have to repel some alien threat from Japan and he’d grow as tall as his office building, Takeshi’s eyes would fill—just for an instant—with the light of his home, and the tones of some other language would sound through his ... Read the full interview
Jessica KlimeshAn Interview with Kathryn Kulpa, author of COOKING TIPS FOR THE DEMON-HAUNTED I recently had the delightful opportunity to interview Kathryn Kulpa about her latest chapbook Cooking Tips for the Demon-Haunted, winner of the 2022 New Rivers Press Chapbook Contest. Kathryn is an editor and workshop instructor at Cleaver, and I’ve had the good fortune to be a student in a couple of her workshops. So I was especially excited to chat with her and learn more about her process, her ideas, and how she so successfully took 14 captivating yet discrete stories and made them fit so effortlessly and perfectly together. The stories in Cooking Tips for the Demon-Haunted are full of a spectral kind of splendor, displacing the reader with a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar, as in this opening to “Sororal”: Sister Sister always takes the front and makes me ride in the back. Sister with her doll that’s a ghost of her, ghost of me, held tight in her hand like she’s never going to let us go, my gaze fixed eternally on the back of her head, O Sister Sister her bunny rabbit ears her bunny rabbit nose. Why is she me if ... Read the full interview
AN INTERVIEW WITH RUTH MADIEVSKY, AUTHOR OF ALL-NIGHT PHARMACY by Simona Zaretsky Ruth Madievsky’s novel, All-Night Pharmacy from (Penguin Random House, 2023) is a gorgeous and dark exploration of sisterhood, sexuality, and traumas inherited and experienced. The unnamed narrator struggles with addiction to drugs and to her sister, all while trying to come out from under intergenerational trauma (Shoah grief, as the narrator terms it) with the help of her self-appointed spiritual guide, Sasha. Madievsky has previously published a poetry collection, Emergency Brake, and her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are featured in many publications. Her writing has been awarded numerous prizes, and she is a founding member of the Cheburashka Collective, “a community of women and nonbinary writers whose identity has been shaped by immigration from the Soviet Union to the United States.” Madievsky’s knife-sharp humor balances the heavy sadness of the book. The vibrant prose pulls the reader in and makes each sentence a poem in itself: My eyelids were a gradient from silver to galaxy black. The wings of my eyeliner sharp as needles. Lips the color of honey and more symmetrical than I’d ever felt. “Do you like it?” she said. The uncapped lipstick in her hand ... Read the full interview
AN INTERVIEW WITH TOM DALEY, AUTHOR OF FAR CRY (Ethel Zine, 2022) by Michael McCarthy Tom Daley is Boston’s bard. His dedication to the craft should be obvious to anybody who's spent an hour with him, for in that hour, he will have likely recited any number of poems from memory, as he does in this interview. Employed as a machinist for more than twenty years, he left this work to pursue poetry full-time, making him one of perhaps a half-dozen people I know who make their living exclusively as practitioners and instructors of poetry. You’d be forgiven for mistaking him for one of the Boston Brahmin due to his love of Robert Lowell, his friends at local universities, and his tweed. That perception collapses once it becomes clear that he is, quite literally, a card-carrying socialist. Politics is at a far remove from his most recent chapbook Far Cry. Intimate, searing, musical, and poignant, the collection probes the death of a friend from whom he had become estranged. The nature of their separation reveals itself verse by verse, as in the terse and pointed poem “Hearsay”: Was it better then that I fractured our fixture with silent regret, a ... Read the full interview
An Interview with Author Phoebe Reeves on Two New Publications by Hannah Felt Garner I Think of My Poems as Being Products of Sound— Phoebe Reeves Phoebe Reeves is a poet and an English professor at the University of Cincinnati having a very productive year: she published her third chapbook last fall and débuts her first full-length book in May. The Flame of Her Will (Milk and Cake Press, November 2022) is a chapbook of erasure poems that mines a 15th c. guide to witch-hunting called the Malleus Maleficarum, or “Hammer of Witches.” Through an alchemical process, Reeves turns misogynist propaganda like “All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman” into lines pulsing with feminist imagination: “Woman is the lion./She is by nature/the song of strength/and the flower of thorns./But her end is as bitter as wormwood.” Her poem from this project, "Chapter One: Methods of the Innocent" appeared in Cleaver Issue 25. In Helen of Bikini (Lily Poetry Review, May 2023), Reeves takes up misogynistic myth-making in another form: the title refers to the sexualized code names of atom bombs tested during the Cold War. The poems in Helen engage with the nuclear, but also the ... Read the full interview
FLASH-WRITERS: TRUST YOUR READER: a conversation with Nancy Ludmerer, author of Collateral Damage: 48 Stories (Snake Nation Press, 2022) by Kathryn Kulpa I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Ludmerer, a student in one of my Cleaver flash fiction workshops, about her full-length flash collection Collateral Damage: 48 Stories, published by Snake Nation Press. Nancy’s work, both fiction and nonfiction, has been widely published in journals, and she moves effortlessly from brief, lyrical microfiction to longer, more complex stories that push the boundaries of flash fiction. A master of compression, she can unfold a lifetime in a paragraph, as she does in this piece from the collection, originally published in Night Train: Bar Mitzvah When Benjy started to choke on a piece of celery stuffed with scallion cream cheese, I turned from the buffet table and asked, are you okay, and when he shook his head, I said raise your arms but he kept choking, so I slapped him on the back of his fancy new suit, and then two words clicked in my head Heimlich maneuver so I punched my fist into his stomach even though this was the wrong way to do it, but I couldn’t think, couldn’t ... Read the full interview
I Tell My Students All The Time, "Your Job Is to Make Art. Your Job Is Not to Explain Shit," a conversation with Christopher M. Hood, author of The Revivalists (Harper 2022) by Hannah Felt Garner I met Christopher M. Hood in the English teacher’s lounge at the Dalton School in New York City, where he’s been a teacher since 2008 and where I periodically substitute. Starting out as a high school English teacher, Christopher went on to found Dalton’s Creative Writing Program, which he now runs full-time. My first impulse for this interview was envy-tinged curiosity: how does he approach creative writing to college-bound high-achievers? And how did building a curriculum for teenagers impact his vision of the craft? Which brings me to the interview’s other major impulse: to discuss Christopher’s debut novel, The Revivalists. The premise: Bill (our narrator) and his wife Penelope are surviving in Westchester in the aftermath of a devastating shark-flu pandemic in the near future. When they hear disturbing news from their daughter Hannah, stranded in California, the couple set out on a cross-country road trip beset with obstacles both comedic and horrifying. Christopher and I sat down to chat during school lunch hour, ... Read the full interview
Wisest is she who knows she knows nothing: a Conversation with Alison Lubar, author of Philosophers Know Nothing About Love Thirty West Publishing House, 2022 by Michael McCarthy Read Alison's poem "Grand Slam" in Issue 39 of Cleaver. I first met Alison Lubar at Fergie’s Pub in Center City Philadelphia. Kind of. The Moonstone Art Center runs poetry open mics every Wednesday there. One night I took to the stage to read a poem I had written in an online workshop. When I stepped down, Alison came up to say they recognized my poem. Only then did I recognize them as the leader of the very same workshop for which I’d written it. A digital interaction became a real-world one, though I suppose COVID-19 collapsed the border between digital and real-world realms a while ago. Anyway, we met. I went to Fergie’s every week and often heard Alison read there. Their debut poetry collection, Philosophers Know Nothing About Love, draws upon their encyclopedic knowledge of Western philosophy and retells select myths in bracing, piercing, harrowing verse. This makes it sound rather heady, but it’s also a delight for the senses, a playground for the intellect, and a cleansing of the ... Read the full interview
I LIKE TO THINK THAT ALL OF MY CHARACTERS HAVE A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: A Conversation with Chaitali Sen, author of A NEW RACE OF MEN FROM HEAVEN Sarabande Books, January 2023 by Gemini Wahhaj Chaitali Sen’s short-story collection A New Race of Men from Heaven (Sarabande Books, January 2023) won the 2021 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Her novel A Pathless Sky was published by Europa Editions in 2015 and her short stories have appeared in Ecotone, Shenandoah, American Short Fiction Online, New Ohio Review, and Colorado Review. The daughter of Indian parents, Sen grew up in the US and now lives in Austin, Texas, where she is an important part of the literary community. In the fall of 2022, we participated on a panel about Bengali women writers at the Conference on South Asia and I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of her manuscript. In “Uma,” a young woman emigrates from her native Calcutta to the US, where she is ultimately reduced to a guest in her brother’s atomized suburban home on Long Island. In the opening pages in Calcutta, though, Uma is surrounded by an abundance of human relationships and hilarity: she ... Read the full interview
Will Huberdeau speaks with Lucian Mattison about his new collection of poetry Curare from C&R Press. Will: Starting with the title, what does “curare” mean to you? I had to Google it and got a variety of definitions and explanations. How did you develop the concept for this collection? Lucian: I’m not normally a big obscure reference kind of guy. Usually, I like to lean more into “Let’s all get along and understand each other.” But in this case, I made an exception for a couple of reasons. On a more surface level, I read the book Shaman’s Apprentice about a scientist from Berkeley who goes into the rainforest to study medicine. He tries to get the ingredients for this poison called curare that is applied to the tips of arrowheads and darts. It becomes this elusive thing, and no one has a recipe. Or they don’t trust the white guy enough to give it up. It really got me thinking. Where does a medicine turn toxic or poisonous? A drug in small doses might turn out to be medicinal or helpful. And then there’s other cases where a higher dose might be good medicinal practice. But I wanted to ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Interviews with Poets /
Poetry Editor Claire Oleson speaks with emet ezell on their debut poetry chapbook, Between Every Bird, Our Bones, out now with Newfound. Claire: This book gives us bite-sized poems in paragraph-like vignettes. What drew you to this form, this body, for your language? emet: In BETWEEN EVERY BIRD, OUR BONES, the text and the body are unapologetically queer— which is to say, they never fully solidify into a single shape. No table of contents, no capitalization, and no titles. Instead, these poems fly through the sky with infinite beginnings and infinite iterations. I found this poetic form by listening deeply to the physicality of language. Sparked by images and sounds, I wrote slowly by hand. This allowed me to prioritize the carnality of language, its cadence and direction. When I listened long enough, the writing told me what it wanted: wide margins and solid blocks of text. I needed a form that could hold oscillations between insurmountable paradoxes; I needed a form that acknowledged the fact that not everything resolves. In threading the vignettes together, I found resonance with Etel Adnan. Adnan writes in a similar form in her book In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country, grouping ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Interviews with Poets /
IN WHICH LIFE?: A Conversation with Chauna Craig, author WINGS AND OTHER THINGS, speaking with Emily Huso
IN WHICH LIFE?: A Conversation with Chauna Craig, author WINGS AND OTHER THINGS, Press 53, speaking with Emily Huso Chauna Craig’s second story collection, Wings and Other Things, speculates about the possibilities that exist beyond fear, self-doubt, and patriarchal control. Most of the collection’s sixteen stories are set against Midwestern expanses and center female protagonists who dare to imagine the roads not taken and to re-imagine themselves. In these narratives, Craig explores moments of silent but irreversible rupture: an unwelcome revelation about a significant other, words that can’t be unspoken, a dream dashed. Like the exposed anatomical heart depicted on the book’s cover, Craig’s prose demonstrates vulnerability, a rawness of syntax and image. Through sharp sentences and halting fragments, we are shown not just the breaching whales and the prairie’s sky of infinite stars but the wiped snot, feet scraped raw in a field of corn, mouths that taste of mint, smoke, and betrayal. Like the illustrated heart, the collection has a distinct rhythm and pace. If the book’s flash fictions are like skipped heartbeats and its longer stories sustained throbs, then the female characters are the collection’s steady pulse. In their quiet assertions of self, their desire for “other ... Read the full interview
MAKING EACH STORY ITS OWN:  A Craft Conversation with Tony Taddei, author of THE SONS OF THE SANTORELLI, speaking with fiction editor Andrea Caswell
MAKING EACH STORY ITS OWN a Craft Conversation with Tony Taddei author of  THE SONS OF THE SANTORELLI speaking with fiction editor Andrea Caswell Tony Taddei’s debut story collection, The Sons of the Santorelli, is a fast read: the prose is smart and snappy, the characters are funny and flawed, and we can’t look away from the situations Taddei has put them in, situations he believes “best evoke their mortality and individual points of view.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with the author about his book and the craft of short fiction. The discussion included reflections on writing family sagas, the do’s and don’ts of assembling a linked story collection, finding just the right words, and how Taddei’s training as an actor has helped him as a fiction writer. Our conversation has been edited for clarity. —AC, May 2022 Andrea Caswell: Tell us about the title and the title story. Tony Taddei: The title came to me after I’d finished a couple of stories about the “sons of the sons” – the second-generation boys of the Santorelli family. Those were the first stories I wrote, and I’d already decided on the surname “Santorelli,” which in Italian means “little ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Ann de Forest Editor of the Anthology WAYS OF WALKING by Amy Beth Sisson
A Conversation with Ann de Forest, editor of the Anthology WAYS OF WALKING, New Door Press, 258 pages, Interview by Amy Beth Sisson I met writer Ann de Forest many years ago, but during the pandemic we formed a new connection around poetry. We became critique partners and attended Claire Oleson’s Poetic Anatomies class. Ann is an accomplished writer in multiple genres who often focuses on the resonance of place. When she mentioned she was editing an anthology of essays about walking, I knew it was something that I, as a walker, reader, and writer, wanted to get my hands on. After reading the advance reader copy, I was impressed not only by the excellent essays but by the thoughtful structure of the collection. I was delighted to have this conversation with Ann about the project. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.) —ABS, April 2021 Amy Beth: Tell me how you came to edit this compelling collection of essays about walking. Ann: In 2016, I was involved in Swim Pony’s Cross Pollination artists residency with Adrienne Mackey, JJ Tiziou, and Sam Wend. Together we decided our collaborative project would be to walk around the perimeter of Philadelphia ... Read the full interview
A CONVERSATION WITH NAMRATA PODDAR, AUTHOR OF BORDER LESS 7.13 Books, 157 pages Interview by Grace Singh Smith Full disclosure: I met Namrata Poddar—writer, editor, UCLA professor of writing and literature—in a room filled with Vermont sunlight, at Bennington Writing Seminars. But what I should actually say here is that I met Joohi Mittal, a widow whose fortunes have fallen (“Poor Joohi, Mount Sinai duplex to Malava cubicle!” Mount Sinai. Need we know more?). Joohi appeared in Namrata’s story, “Silk Stole”, which we were “workshopping.” I don’t remember any of our comments, helpful or not; what I remember is a day in Joohi’s life unlike no other in her recent memory, where, thanks to an unexpected return from an investment, this mother of three—who works “three plus jobs”—allows herself a window into her lost life. She buys a designer silk stole, a drink at an Americanized café (Coffee Keen!), and—if only for the length of a facial massage, a Prada purse-wielding snooty fellow customer notwithstanding—Joohi feels “the lines on her forehead dissolve.” Ahhhhh. But then the story’s last two words disturb Joohi’s, and our, brief equilibrium. She “. . . sank deep.” Several years after I wanted to clobber that ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Kathleen Courtenay Stone, author of the collective biography, THEY CALLED US GIRLS: STORIES OF FEMALE AMBITION FROM SUFFRAGE TO MAD MEN, Cynren Press, 222 pages, Interview by Jean Hey I met Kathleen Stone during a residency at Bennington College while we were working toward our MFA degrees. We were both from Boston, and Kathleen invited me to attend BookLab, a vibrant literary salon that she runs. But our friendship really took off in coffee shops. Once a month we met — and would still, if it weren’t for Covid — to discuss our projects, share writing advice and cheer each other on. Kathleen was working on a collective biography about women in male-oriented jobs in the mid-twentieth century, when prejudice and gender discrimination were the order of the day. She told me she was struggling with certain aspects of it, such as whether or not to insert herself into the narrative. She didn’t ask me to read any of it, and it seemed simpler to us both not to share work. As her project neared publication, though, I welcomed the chance to interview her about it. After reading an advance copy, I was struck by how skillfully ... Read the full interview
Five and a Half Questions for Michelle Ross on SHAPESHIFTING from Stillhouse Press Interview by Kathryn Kulpa Michelle Ross has published short fiction in Cleaver (“Lessons,” Issue 13; “My Husband is Always Losing Things,” Issue 23; “Night Vision,” with Kim Magowan, Issue 34). She spoke to us recently about her new short story collection Shapeshifting. Kathryn Kulpa: This is such a strong collection! One thing I really like about Shapeshifting is the diversity of points of view, style, and even genre. There are short, flash-like pieces, longer stories, realistic and often funny pieces like “After Pangaea,” with the parents sleeping in cars to keep their place in line to sign their kids up for kindergarten, and darker, more disturbing stories like “Keeper Four” and “A Mouth is a House for Teeth.” Did you worry that the stories might be too divergent, or that publishers might want a more uniform voice? Michelle Ross: Thank you so much, Kathryn, and thanks for talking with me about the book! I can’t say I worried about the range of the stories in that regard. Many years ago, I accepted (and have since embraced) that I’m a writer who needs to work in a variety ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Amy Koppelman Author of A MOUTHFUL OF AIR Two Dollar Radio Interview by Michael McCarthy I spoke with Amy Koppelman as she was finishing making her first book, A Mouthful of Air, into a feature film. Though she wrote the novel eighteen years ago, it still seemed fresh in Koppelman’s mind. As I spoke with her over Zoom, she searched for the right words to describe her first novel. In this work, Koppelman engaged the experience of postpartum depression when conversation about the topic was rare. The book was first published in 2003 by MacAdam/Cage (a small press that has closed) and is now being reissued by Two Dollar Radio. In this interview, which Koppelman and I have edited for clarity, Koppelman discusses how she began writing, the encouragement she received from Joan Didion, and whether writing is a world in which she feels safe. —MM ◊ Michael McCarthy: There are a lot of words that could describe this book: masterfully written, engaging, suspenseful. But one word that also describes it is important. In it, you talk about an issue that has still not received much attention: postpartum depression. When was the moment when you knew you ... Read the full interview
Michelle Ross Interviews Dan Crawley, Author of STRAIGHT DOWN THE ROAD, a novella in flash Dan Crawley’s novella-in-flash, Straight Down the Road, was highly commended by judge Michael Loveday in the 2019 Bath Novella in Flash Award and published by Ad Hoc Fiction. His debut short story collection, The Wind, It Swirls, is forthcoming from Cowboy Jamboree Press this year. Michelle Ross: Straight Down the Road is set during a family road trip. There’s a kind of out-of-time feeling to the trip. Are they on the road for a couple of months? Is it years? For the reader, it feels like the road is home for this family. Is the road home for them or do you know this family in other times and places that don’t appear on the page? Dan Crawley: I love this question, Michelle. Yes, the “out-of-time” feeling is very intentional. When I first started writing these stories, I was constantly debating whether to give a timeframe and if I might place these characters in a static setting, like a home. I decided the dad would briefly mention a rental home in a micro but came down on the side of not wanting to specify the ... Read the full interview
A MEMOIR CONVERSATION with David Marchino and Beth Kephart
A MEMOIR CONVERSATION with David Marchino and Beth Kephart A former student (now a writer and a teacher) finds himself in his once-teacher’s memoir. A conversation ensues about mirrors, facsimiles, and blankness ... Read the full interview
DUMP TRUMP, Illustrated T-Shirts by William Sulit
William SulitDUMP TRUMP: Illustrated T-Shirts Many artists have the ability to verbalize their thoughts with great clarity and eloquence—sadly, I’m not one of those. This must be a great source of frustration for my wife Beth, who is an extremely accomplished writer and well versed in the art of verbal communication. But she does not complain; she smiles and lets me babble aimlessly until I get distracted by a squirrel or something. Oh well. As I used to say to my mother when she was yelling at me for something I did (or didn’t do): That’s just the way God made me.In any case, I should stop rambling and get to the point which is to write a few words about this image. I decided to make a series of drawings that chronicle the pure and unadulterated stupidity perpetrated by the current occupant of the White House. I really didn’t want to spend too much time staring at reference photos of Trump so I picked a character that visually had similar characteristics: bottom-heavy, awkward, graceless, has difficulty drinking water with one hand, etc. And so I landed on a duck, even though I am fully aware that even the dumbest ... Read the full interview
Art, Interviews, Philadelphia Writer/Poet /
The Cooperating Witness book jacket
In Mike Avery’s debut novel, an ambitious law student is determined to find the truth to save an innocent man accused of murder. But the truth is never black-and-white, and the secrets she discovers hit close to home. The Cooperating Witness is a compelling legal thriller in which the moral ambiguities of justice are on trial. Mike Avery mines his fifty-year career as an attorney and law professor to craft a suspenseful story of murder, the mob, and a young woman’s determined idealism. In the following interview, conducted via phone and email, the author discusses his novel, the freedom of writing fiction, and the complex intersection of our legal system and morality ... Read the full interview
Book Jacket Cover Art for HALF
Writers have a way of finding each other in Virginia, thanks to several strong literary non-profits. Sharon Harrigan teaches at WriterHouse in Charlottesville and I used to help run James River Writers in Richmond. We met years ago at the annual JRW Writers Conference. When my first novel came out, Sharon generously reached out and offered to interview me for Fiction Writers Review. I moved to Cambridge several years later, but we continued to keep track of each other’s careers, cheering on each new publication. I’m delighted to interview her now about her debut novel, HALF. In sparse, lyrical prose, it tells the story of identical twins who speak in one voice, until they can’t any longer ... Read the full interview
Things From the Creek Bed jacket copy
Claire Oleson’s chapbook, Things From the Creek Bed We Could Have Been, is the winner of the Newfound 2019 Prose Prize, awarded annually to a chapbook-length work of exceptional fiction or nonfiction that explores how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding. In this following interview by Andrea Caswell, Claire discusses the work, and how making art can reshape our understanding of what we see in the world ... Read the full interview
CLAIRE RUDY FOSTER MADE YOU A MIX TAPE, an interview by KC Mead-Brewer
I got to know Foster’s fiction through their first story collection I’VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Foster doesn’t disappoint with their new collection, SHINE OF THE EVER, thirteen stories full of humor, beauty, sincerity, and refreshingly nuanced queer and trans characters. Foster’s dedication to challenging mainstream preconceived notions about queerness is well reflected in all their works, from their essays to their flash to their upcoming novel. In SHINE OF THE EVER, they focus their vibrant, energetic style to a deceptively simple task: no sad endings. To learn more, go here ... Read the full interview
The Disaster Artist.jpg
Perhaps no other film has so improbably risen from obscurity to cultural significance than 2003’s The Room. Grossing just $1800 in its original theatrical run, the film now famously dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” went on to connect with audiences through years of midnight screenings and an insightful, entertaining, and sometimes heartbreaking book about its making ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Elizabeth Mosier Author of EXCAVATING MEMORY: ARCHAEOLOGY AND HOME from New Rivers Press, 96 Pages Interview by Nathaniel Popkin Elizabeth Mosier logged one thousand volunteer hours processing colonial-era artifacts at Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park Archeology Laboratory to write EXCAVATING MEMORY: ARCHAEOLOGY AND HOME, which uses archaeology as a framework to explore personal material, including her mother’s memory loss, the layering of shared experience in creating family or community narratives, and the role that artifacts play in historical memory. The essay titled "Believers", a 2015 Best American Essays Notable pick, first appeared in Cleaver. Novelist and essayist Elizabeth Mosier has twice been named a discipline winner/fellowship finalist by the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Millay Colony for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her nonfiction has been selected as notable in Best American Essays, and appears most recently in Cleaver, Creative Nonfiction, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She writes the "Intersections" column on alumnae lives for the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin. More information at Nathaniel Popkin: You write, early in the collection, in regard to your work processing objects from an archeological dig near ... Read the full interview
Stephan Salisbury has been a cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than three decades. Britt & Jimmy Strike Out, his first novel, is a dystopian, satirical quest story about branding, live streaming, social media, and commercialization of lived experience. Britt and her friend Jimmy set out into a blighted urban landscape to find answers when Britt’s online brand starts to fail, friends start disappearing, and mysterious men show up at her home to intimidate and threaten her for not getting in line with the President’s brand. Ken Kalfus describes it as the “first great novel of the Trump Era.” Stephan Salisbury is also the author of a non-fiction book Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland about the anti-Arab hysteria after 9/11 and its devastating effect on people’s lives ... Read the full interview
Ada Limón is the author of several poetry books, including the National Book Award finalist Bright Dead Things, which was named one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by the New York Times. This year Limón released her fifth book, The Carrying, to wide acclaim, including being named a Best Book of Fall 2018 by Buzzfeed. Since the release of The Carrying, Limón has been traveling extensively for poetry events but was able to take some time out for Cleaver to discuss the new book and aspects of craft in her poetry. She lives in Lexington Kentucky ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Interviews with Poets /
A Conversation with Nathaniel Popkin author of EVERYTHING IS BORROWED and Grant Clauser 
Nathaniel Popkin, Cleaver Magazine’s fiction reviews editor, published a new novel this year, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books). It draws deeply from his love of Philadelphia history and his passion for research, but is also a compelling story about one person’s obsessions and regrets. In addition to the new novel, he’s the editor of a new anthology, Who Will Speak for America, author of the novel Lion and Leopard, and two books of non-fiction, Song of the City and The Possible City. We recently asked Popkin to talk to us about Everything is Borrowed ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Melissa Sarno author of JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS published by Knopf Books for Young Readers Interview by Kathryn Kulpa Melissa Sarno reviews children’s and young adult books for Cleaver and has just published her debut middle-grade novel, Just Under the Clouds (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018). It tells the story of Cora, a middle-school girl trying to find a place to belong. Cora’s father always made her feel safe, but now that he has died, she and her mom and her sister Adare have been moving from place to place, trying to find a stable and secure home they can afford. Cora is also dealing with bullying at school and is sometimes challenged by looking after her sister, who has learning differences. But her life holds some good things, too, like a free-spirited new friend and her father’s tree journal, where he kept notes about the plants he took care of. Cora has kept his book and uses it as a way to record her own observations and feelings as she looks for her own true home in the world. While many children experience homelessness, it’s a subject that is seldom explored in contemporary children’s fiction, ... Read the full interview
Janet Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, has received praise from critics and readers alike. Kirkus Reviews called the book a “monumental accomplishment.” Both National Public Radio (NPR) and Library Journal recognized it as a Best Book of 2017. Lilli de Jong was also a 2017 Goodreads semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction, sharing space on the list with works by Pulitzer Prize winners Michael Chabon and Jennifer Egan ... Read the full interview
"The only thing that matters is the work you do. It’s nice to have a narrative of beshert. It’s useful to have as a model in a long marriage. That kind of can float you through difficult times. Times when you could give in. It is irrelevant to the strengths of your marriage. The only thing that matters is how much you’re willing to prioritize your partner. That is what marriage—all the wonderful ties. Even when you don’t feel like it. The only thing that matters is the work." —Ayelet Waldman ... Read the full interview
If you’re a fan of short fiction, it’s likely you’ve come across Kim Magowan’s witty and layered stories in one of the many venues her work has appeared in. I met Kim a few years ago, and since then she’s become a go-to writer for feedback on my own work. Additionally, Kim’s innovative flash stories, particularly those that experiment with form and structure, have been an invaluable resource in the flash workshops that I teach. Last month, Kim’s collection, Undoing, winner of the Moon City Short Fiction Award, was published by Moon City Press, and next spring her novel, The Light Source, will be published by 7:13 Books. Magowan’s female characters, who often engage in what many might consider taboo behavior, are complex, intelligent, difficult, and compelling women ... Read the full interview
In 1974, Peter France visited Russia to do research for a new translation of Boris Pasternak. He was invited to meet Gennady Aygi, a Chuvash poet who, as a student in Moscow, had been friends with the much-older Pasternak. France describes that meeting with Aygi as having altered the trajectory of his life, both professionally and personally. For the next forty years, France would translate Aygi’s work, bringing him to a Western audience, a task that has been criticized by those who argue that Aygi’s poetics do not conform to Russian tradition ... Read the full interview
If you love fantasy and science fiction films and television programs, chances are you’re familiar with the work of David J. Peterson, the masterful conlanger, inventor of languages. While best known for inventing the Dothraki and Vayyrian languages for HBO’s massively popular Game of Thrones, the University of California San Diego graduate has created more than forty languages in his film and television career.You can find Peterson’s original languages in such Marvel Studios films as Thor: The Dark World and Doctor Strange, as well as over half-a-dozen television shows, including the critically acclaimed Penny Dreadful ... Read the full interview
Rachel R. Taube interviews Ros Schwartz, translator of TRANSLATION AS TRANHUMANCE
Ros Schwartz has been a literary translator for 36 years and has been an active participant in the evolution of the profession. She has translated over 70 books from French to English by writers as diverse as Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun and French crime writer Dominique Manotti, as well as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. She has presided as vice-chair of the Translators Association, as chair of the European Council of Literary Translators Association and as chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation program. Most recently Schwartz translated Translation as Transhumance, which was reviewed by Cleaver. In this interview, Ros Schwartz discusses the process of translating a book about translation, including her work with Gansel, her theory of translation, and translation as activism ... Read the full interview
I would like people to feel their own strength and resilience. I hope that people can tap into the possibility of facing suffering and pain honestly, not pushing it away or denying its existence or impact or effect. But also, that each and every one of us is strong and gifted with a right to fight back and say NO to malevolence, wherever it comes from. This is a delicate message I’m trying so hard to communicate. The hurt is real, the pain is real, suffering is right here all around us and don’t turn away from it. Your trauma is important and real. So is your power. You may not win or overcome, but just in standing firm you have done an incredibly powerful thing. I think I want them to feel that power of resistance ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Interviews with Poets /
Jericho Brown, author of the prize-winning poetry collections Please and The New Testament, visited Bucks County Community College in September to give a reading. This interview was conducted at a picnic table outside the school's auditorium building prior to the reading ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Interviews with Poets /
BENJAMIN PERCY, AUTHOR OF THE DARK NET, interviewed by Brian Burmeister
Benjamin Percy has a fascinating and wide-ranging career as a writer. His short story “Refresh, Refresh” was selected as one of the Best American Short Stories 2006 and was further anthologized as one of only 40 stories included in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. He has written four novels, a book of craft essays on writing, and has contributed works to such publications as Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Journal. In addition, Percy currently writes for DC Comics’ Green Arrow and Teen Titans, and for Dynamite Entertainment’s James Bond. He newest novel, The Dark Net, released in August 2017, explores many of the dangers of our current digital age ... Read the full interview
A Conversation with Andrea Jarrell, author of I'M THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, by Elizabeth Mosier
Haunted by her father’s absence and riveted by her single mother’s cautionary tales, Cleaver contributor Andrea Jarrell longed for the “stuff of ordinary families,” even as she was drawn to the drama of her parents’ larger-than-life relationship. In her forthcoming memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away (She Writes Press, September, 2017), Jarrell revisits family stories starring wolves in cowboy clothing and lambs led astray by charming savior-saboteurs, to recount how she escaped a narrative she'd learned by heart ... Read the full interview
I was first introduced to Sonya Huber's writing through her prescient 2010 book, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, about the elusive hunt for affordable care, which I was assigned to review. This writer stayed on my radar, and her newest nonfiction book is a satisfying reward. In Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System (University of Nebraska Press 2017), Huber takes her readers inside for a multifaceted view of her experiences with chronic pain, and how that changes a 30-something woman ... Read the full interview
BEAUTIFUL IN ITS SLOWNESS: An Interview with Rachel Slotnick by Millicent Borges Accardi
Everyone kept telling me that I was writing and painting in a way that inhabited the same space and when my publisher decided to link these two worlds, at first, I was ambivalent. It was not something I thought possible. I was always working in both realms, often reimagining stories as portraits, and vice versa. I knew I was tapping into the same world, though there was a different sort of energy depending upon my point of entry. No matter how tired I was or how much my head ached, painting always made me feel better. I walked away energized, enthused, even daresay, upbeat. But writing was much more morbid. After writing, I felt drained and would often collapse into bed. It took something from me whereas painting gave me something back. I think by performing both behaviors I achieved stasis ... Read the full interview
Interviews /
Claire Rudy Foster's short story collection I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE made its official debut just this week from KLĒN+SŌBR Interventions. It's a tight collection with six stories' worth of addiction, struggle, pain, and grit. Foster's critically acclaimed short fiction has been nominated for an AWP award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Best of the Web award. Foster will be giving her first public reading from the collection at The Alano Club of Portland this upcoming October 22nd ... Read the full interview
I wanted to at least shift my purpose and practice. Since I was living in Japan and studying Asian art, I started by painting images of kimonos, of figures wearing kimonos; I took photos of models in kimonos, wearing geisha or kabuki makeup. These exercises soon seemed appropriated and hollow and I realized I needed to be making objects themselves, that I was no longer interested in the pictorial representations of things. At the same time, I wanted to create things that were abstractions, that is, non-objective. Does that make sense? I wanted to be creating things where the process and materials were more important and evident than their subjective objectness or narratives. I wanted, ultimately, to create something not representing something, but actually being something, as physically as possible ... Read the full interview
Art, Interviews, Issue 15 /
I had the chance to catch up with fellow Cleaver editor Kathryn Kulpa about her chapbook, Girls on Film. It is just out from Paper Nautilus and was a winner of the press’s Vella Chapbook Contest. An intriguing part of the prize is that the writer receives a hundred copies of the beautifully designed chapbook to distribute as she likes. Kathryn will be selling signed copies through her Etsy shop, BookishGirlGoods, and she’ll also have them available at readings, writing workshops, and other events. Paper Nautilus will also have the book on sale. For more about the Vella Chapbook contest and Paper Nautilus Press, have a look at the press’s website.—M.F ... Read the full interview
THE JUNCTURE INTERVIEW Beth Kephart and William Sulit Interview Each Other
For many years, my husband, William Sulit, and I have collaborated on projects for corporate America—annual reports, commemorative books, employee magazines. When corporate America changed—when the cultures shifted, the ideals, the relationships—we began to explore a new idea, a company we could create and manage as our own, a company through which we could define the quality of the product and the nature of the conversation. We have called that company Juncture Workshops. Through it we offer memoir retreats, a monthly newsletter, and video essays that showcase the work of memoir masters and offer ideas and prompts. As with most things, of course, it all sounds easier than it has been. Here we provide a behind-the-scenes look at our memoir-steeped lives, post video production ... Read the full interview
NP: You’ve traveled to El Salvador, the subject of Revulsion. Did you know about the author Castellanos Moya? LK: In 1995 I traveled by land from Austin, Texas (where I lived at the time) to Costa Rica and spent about a week in El Salvador en route south. I visited the beach at La Libertad described in the book and experienced San Salvador but I don’t remember seeing any book other than the one I was somewhat inappropriately reading at the time (Cheever’s big red collection of short stories). I hadn’t read Bernhard at that point. I hadn’t even heard of him. But six years later I became exposed to the Bernhard virus and started reading him like mad, hunting down copies (Vintage hadn’t re-issued new editions yet and the University of Chicago editions weren’t so easy to find, not even in NYC; in Iowa City, circa 2002 or ‘03, I found a first-edition hard cover of Gathering Evidence but not a single other Bernhard book in any of the town’s many bookstores, which, at the time, may have excessively disheartened me about humanity, as though I needed Bernhard to raise my spirits during the first G.W. Bush administration) ... Read the full interview
HOW COME BOYS GET TO KEEP THEIR NOSES?: A Conversation with Tahneer Oksman
Ranen: I love all the epigraphs you begin your new book with but especially the one by Grace Paley, which is such a great way to think about the art of her narrative: "Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life." Perhaps it is also a kind of prophecy of the radical forms of becoming that so many female Jewish artists seem to be so passionately exploring in our time in visual art, from Jill Solloway’s Transparent all the way through the seven wonderful figures you explore in How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses. In discovering the complicated ways these women explore the relation between self and ethnicity or collective identity, have you learned something about yourself? Does invention figure in your own life as an academic or otherwise? Tahneer: Oh, absolutely! I was a creative writing major in college, and for a long time I thought that the only way to pursue my dream of becoming a writer was to write novels. It took some time for me to realize that there's creativity involved in all different kinds of writing and also that you don't need to write novels to be a "real" writer ... Read the full interview
Interviews, Issue 13 /