Twenty-three photos of male go-go dancers become the basis for stories, poems, essays, and drama by twenty-seven authors, revealing unexpected mysteries, romance, fantasy, and humor. Contributors include 2015 Sue Kaufman Prize winner Michael Carroll, 2013 Lambda Mid-Career author Trebor Healey, and Lammy winners Jeff Mann, David Pratt, and Jim Provenzano.
NB: Not Just Another Pretty Face had the unique factor of starting from a picture prompt. Was that unusual for you? Where do your normal writing ideas “spark” from?
MW: Hi Nathan! Thanks for having me on Sunday Shorts! I’ve always been drawn to prompts and/or anthology calls, especially for poetry (which seems to be much less common than fiction). When I came across the call for Not Just Another Pretty Face, I got in contact straight away and was given a bunch of photographs to peruse. Immediately, one jumped out at me and the poem almost wrote itself (I love when that happens). I’ve written other things from prompts—my poem Mongrel was from a prompt, and I try to write a poem each month for Rattle’s Ekphrastic challenge. It’s a good way to widen your scope, and also change up what you’re writing.
: Ekphrastic is a word I learned thanks to this anthology. (You can read the definition here
, but it basically means a creative piece of prose inspired by or describing an image.)
: Regular writing ideas can spark from anywhere. One of my recent poems, (Gown
, published on The HIV Here + Now Project
) was very autobiographical and came from a hospital visit I had. A long performance poem of mine, Blue Boy
, came from the title (There was a band called Blue Boy which had a minor hit called Remember Me
and that song was stuck in my head that day. The poem has nothing to do with the song however!). For the past few years, I’ve been working on a huge project called American G.I.
It’s a trilogy of novels in verse. I’m working on the first one at the moment, Circumference
. The whole project was sparked from a single image in a docudrama I saw many years ago called A Very British Sex Scandal
. It was about Peter Wildeblood whose experiences led to the Wolfenden Report and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK. In it, there’s a scene where he picks up an American GI outside a tube station. Years later, I saw a call for a lit mag about pulp era figures, that image popped into my head and when I wondered who the GI was, the book was born.
Some ideas, however, come from really odd places—I recently wrote a basic outline for a future novel that was inspired by a jumper my father bought me!—whilst others things, like the romance novel I’m working on at the moment (under my pseudonym, Chris Colby), I’ve no idea where the idea came from, it just appeared!
NB: I love the all-to-rare “spring from the head fully formed” moments. Also, I want to see the jumper. You mentioned your pseudonym (who also appeared on this series for a short story chat) and novel-writing. Now, another facet of Not Just Another Pretty Face is the collecting of poetry, prose, nonfiction and a play in one volume. The crossover between writing styles and genres isn’t something you often come across – what do you hope a reader coming to your piece who might be used to a different genre might find?
MW: I love that there’s a mix of forms in the anthology. It allows the initial reaction to the image and the creative spark to be unconstrained and take whatever form it wants. My poem, Yggdrasil, is quite surreal and hopefully it will be something different from the fiction around it. For those who normally exclusively read fiction, it might be interesting to be presented with poems, perhaps for the first time since school, to engage with. Also, as you said, one of the great things about this anthology is the mix of writing genres which will encourage readers to explore genres they mightn’t be used to – not just poetry or playwrighting, but also photography (or writing, full stop – perhaps the anthology will have photography enthusiasts exposed to lots of different types to writing for the first time!). Finally, there are some amazing writers included in this anthology! I was honoured to be included in this anthology alongside writers who I’ve read for years like David Pratt (whose book Bob the Book you should all read) and Raymond Luczak.
NB: Bob the Book was fantastic, yes. And I have to agree about the company we’re keeping: it’s a great feeling. What’s next from you? What should we be on the lookout for?
: I’ve recently had a long poem, Armature
, featured in Matt Bright’s anthology The Myriad Carnival
and my first short story as Chris Colby was featured in his other anthology, Threesome: Him, Him and Me
. Currently, I’ve finished a chapbook that I’m very proud of called How to Live When Life Subtracts
which I’m looking for a publisher for, and I’m working away on Circumference
as well as some new poems. I’m also writing an as-yet-untitled romance novel set in Texas about a computer programmer and a private detective.