Writers on Writing: Michelle Reale

MICHELLE MESSINA REALE is a professor at Arcadia University and the author of 8 academic texts and 13 books of poetry. Dr Reale is the Founding and Managing Editor of Ovunque Siamo magazine and Editor of the Red Fern Review. In 2013 she was awarded the Twin Antlers Prize for poetry. She has received two Pushcart Prize nominations. Her most recent poetry collection, In the Year of Hurricane Agnes, is available from Amazon.

ANGELA: Where do your ideas come from?

MICHELLE: A lot of my poems come from memories.  I am attempting to make sense of a life—my life—and my experiences.  Many of my ideas begin with an image—which is wholly appropriate for poetry.  I am a very contemplative person—my favorite thing to do is think about things.  I turn things, events, and images over in my mind like objects of curiosity. I write my way into knowing. I figure things out by writing.

ANGELA: What genres do you write in? And, why?

MICHELLE: I am an academic writer, a voracious and inveterate journal writer, a poet, a flash fiction writer and I have been a fiction writer as well.  But I am truly dedicated to poetry.

ANGELA: What are you currently reading?

MICHELLE: That is always a difficult question for me to answer.  I am a speed-reader, so I read widely, quickly and massively.  I am reading my way through every post war British novel that my university library holds.  I am also reading poetry, spiritual books, research, etc. 

ANGELA: What is one of your all-time favorite books and why?

MICHELLE: Impossible to answer since I read so much and so widely, but A Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers is one book that I can say I wish I wrote.

ANGELA: What is your favorite literary technique/device/element to use in your writing?

MICHELLE: I love, more than anything, surreal images in my poetry, and while I am still experimenting with it, there is a danger of being too heavy handed—you can be so surreal that the poem ceases to have any meaning at all, that a reader would find it impossible to find an entry point. I love to read surreal poetry and I love inserting it into my own work.

ANGELA: What is your writing process?

MICHELLE: Every day, no matter what, I begin (and end) the day with writing in my journal.  Every. Single. Day.  That has been a discipline of mine from the time I was a child. That sounds unbelievable but it is true. That sets the stage for a certain amount of writing every day for me.  I also keep several writing notebooks where I jot ideas then do free writing around them.  I write at a cozy desk in the corner of my kitchen and listen to jazz or classical music nearly all the time. I also contemplate on what I have written to see what else arises.

ANGELA: How frequently (and for how long/how much) do you write? 

MICHELLE: I can write for hours.  It is the one joyful constant in my life.  I write every day. No exceptions.

ANGELA: Do you already have ideas lined up so that you could immediately start the next story?

MICHELLE: Yes, sometimes. But since writing is an exercise in discovery, often I don’t.

ANGELA: Do you always start the next work immediately after completing one?

MICHELLE: My mind is so fertile.  In each year that I wrote an academic book, I also released a collection of poetry.  I always have several projects going at once.

ANGELA: What do you do about writer’s block?

MICHELLE: I have never experienced it, and have my doubts about its existence. 

ANGELA: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out as a writer?

MICHELLE: That it would take TIME. Writers now, especially young ones, want to be famous right away, they are more interested in publishing than working on craft, being an apprentice.  I publish a lot, but when I was learning I didn’t.  And that is and was appropriate. There is no rush.  I wish more writers would understand that.

Connecting and keeping up with Michelle Reale
Ovunque Siamo

Interview conducted in December 2022.

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