MARK EDWARD LANGLEY – Western Mystery Author

The title of his latest release is When Silence Screams.

Mark Edward Langley is an award-winning author of the Arthur Nakai Mystery Series, including Death Waits in the Dark which won both as a finalist in the American Book Fest Awards in 2020 and winning the coveted Feathered Quill Book Award for best mystery of 2021. He is currently writing his fourth novel of the series, Broken Glass, due out August 2022. He and his wife, Barbara, divide their time between the home in Indiana and New Mexico.

Award-winning author James Wade had this to say about it: “Langley’s third installment of his Arthur Nakai Mysteries is the most thrilling yet. The characters are fully formed, and the danger is real and urgent. Langley has an unmatched feel for his New Mexico setting, both the landscape and the culture. A master of dialogue, Langley lets the banter flow freely and allows the mystery to drive the story from the opening pages to its heart-pounding conclusion. There’s not a better detective writer in the American West.”

And these best-selling authors had this praise for my Arthur Nakai series: Anne Hillerman said this: Death Waits in the Dark tells a gritty story of betrayal, deceit, and danger through the eyes of Navajo protagonist Arthur Nakai. The tightly written noir plot moves from scene to scene like a thriller, building suspense on every page.

William Kent Kreuger said this: With Death Waits in the Dark, Mark Edward Langley offers readers an utterly compelling portrait of human beings struggling to deal with the aftermath of great trauma. Langley writes about the great Southwest with a loving eye for detail that fans of Tony and Anne Hillerman will readily embrace. I was utterly captured by this fine second novel in the Arthur Nakai series. Along with those who are already fans, I can only hope that there will be many more stories to come. I recommend this book with a full heart.

Craig Johnson said this: “Combining the gait of a fine horse, the comfort of your favorite Indian blanket, and the ease of a well-worn saddle, Mark Edward Langley’s Path of the Dead is one heck of a debut novel!”

Do you write in more than one genre? I only write in the mystery genre. I have always loved reading them and watching them because I am always intrigued and try to figure them out. The best ones are the ones that surprise me!

What brought you to writing? I fell in love with it when I began reading the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker. Then, when I discovered Tony Hillerman, I kept telling myself, “you can do this! You need to do this! You have stories to tell!”

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my office. It gives me the privacy I need, and I am surrounded by inspiration. Plus, I have an extensive cd library and often play Native American flute music … and the occasional Pink Floyd album to help my mood.

Tell us about your writing process: My process consists of coming up with a title and composing a story around it. Then I do what seems to be reams of research, categorize it into a manageable pile, create new characters and begin mapping out each chapter. For the next book–Broken Glass–I contacted the Navajo Nation, Albuquerque, and Phoenix police departments and obtained closed case files concerning the main crux of the story my protagonist Arthur Nakai will move through. It’s wonderful to see how police procedures move things along in an organized fashion.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Hands down–the research. Sometimes it is daunting, but it is always worth it. Even if I search out one fact for one sentence, it makes the story that much more authentic.

What are you currently working on? I am three chapters into Broken Glass (book four) and recently had an idea based on a title (Midnight Harvest) for book five and wrote the first chapter of that. I have also begun creating another series set in another part of New Mexico featuring another wonderful character. When it comes to fruition, I will let my Members Only subscribers of my website know first.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I belong to four associations, but the most help I have received has come from Western Writers of America. ITW has done very well helping to promote my work, and I look forward to a long relationship with them all.

Who’s your favorite author? I would have to say it is Robert B. Parker. Spenser is a wonderfully written character. I loved his books from the moment I picked up my first copy. Working in a bookstore at the time gave me a wide array of authors to choose from–including Tony Hillerman, Mickey Spillane, and John D. MacDonald (whom I share a birth date with–July 24th.)

How long did it take you to write your first book? I heard someone say once that “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.” That is absolutely true. Path of the Dead took 20 years before it saw the light of day. Once I retired at the end of 2016, I focused on my writing. I think it’s worked out pretty well.

How long to get it published? I was lucky. I first got an agent. He submitted my manuscript to six publishers, and in two weeks, I had a two-book deal.
How do you come up with character names? I keep a list of Navajo and other names to choose from. I also have several other pathways and often combine first and last names to create a character.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I would say that they run the show. No matter how I map out a chapter, my characters seem to have their own minds and their own will, especially during dialogue scenes. They have lives, they have ideals, they have thoughts that lead me off my pre-written trail and down a new, unseen path.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Well, I use a lot of personal experience and do a lot of research as well. You have to find a way into their minds. In my case, it’s Arthur’s wife Sharon and her thoughts on pregnancy, depression, and PTSD, all things I have no experience with.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No. They do not. They always amaze me with their individuality and loyalty.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Yes, I have subplots. Often they are little stories inside the main story that gives the reader an authentic feel of the area. In book three, When Silence Screams, the two subplots have a more prevalent connection.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? By making something unexpected happen. Because fiction, like life, moves forward when conflict occurs.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? Stephen King. I just can’t read him. My wife can, but I just can’t get into him. I love watching films based on his work–my favorite being The Dark Half.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Like most writers, I pull from friends, school buddies, and the like. And sometimes, it’s a conglomeration of several people.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I outline. I like to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? 98% of the locations in my novels are real. I have driven the hard packed dirt roads, the open highways and visited the small towns and places I write about. I feel I have to do that in order to give the reader an authentic experience so they can feel and smell and taste and see everything that New Mexico and the Navajo Reservation holds.

What is the best book you ever read? Robert B. Parker’s Crimson Joy and Finding Rachel Wallace. I actually read both twice.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, my dream will continue to come true, and I can enjoy writing and make a good living at it. I figure I have maybe 15 to 20 years left to be creative and want to enjoy those years with my wife with what success will offer me.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Never let go of YOUR dream. No one else will ever understand because it is not THEIR dream. They may find every reason they can to dismiss you and alter your mindset and resolve, but don’t let them. YOU have the vision … don’t give them the power to change it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If anyone wants to learn more about me and my books, they can visit markedwardlangley.com and join Members Only for exclusive content access. From my website, you can navigate to all my social media pages, watch book trailers, listen to my podcast and radio interviews, and much more!
https://www.facebook.com/ArthurNakaiShadowWolf
https://www.instagram.com/markedwardlangley/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-edward-langley-68443219/
https://markedwardlangley.com/

5 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Sounds like I better get started reading this series.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview, and love the advice, “Never let go of your dread!”

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Hopefully Mark you can confirm whether I bought a signed copy of WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS. I know that may sound strange, but I knew the minute I saw the story line that I wanted that book. You have accomplished so much and I only hope I can too. This was a great interview and I hope you can make next years conference PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Michael A, Black

    Mark’s a good friend and an excellent writer. If you haven’t checked out his Arthur Nakai series, do yourself a favor and grab one. You won’t regret it. Best of luck to you, Mark. Keep it going.

    Reply
  5. Danny R. Smith

    Great interview. Congratulations, Mark. Those are some heavyweight endorsements too!

    Reply

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JON DAVIS – Educator – Mentor – Poet Laureate

I met Jon when I inquired about the low-rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Five days later, he had me admitted. During the program he wasn’t just the director, he was a mentor and friend to every student. When I had a serious medical issue that prevented my attendance one semester, he created a remote program that allowed me to complete my requirements and graduate with my cohort.

Jon, I can never thank you enough for your compassion and friendship. Yôotva  – Thank You, George

My name is Jon Davis. I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in the nearby town of Orange. After graduating high school, I worked for eight years, primarily as a mason and a warehouse manager, before attending the University of Bridgeport. I went on to earn my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. I taught for 30 years, 28 of them at the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 2013, I founded the IAIA low residency MFA in Creative Writing, which I directed until my retirement in 2018. From 2012-2014, I served as the City of Santa Fe’s fourth Poet Laureate. I have published seven books of poetry, one book of poetry in translation, and six chapbooks of poetry.

My new book of poetry, Above the Bejeweled City, will be available from Grid Books on September 15. Here’s the official book description:

In his seventh poetry collection, Jon Davis exhibits the range and mastery that is the result of fifty years of study, teaching, and practice. Above the Bejeweled City opens and closes with homages to Federico Garcia Lorca’s dream-struck ballad “Romance Sonámbulo.” In between, he inhabits what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls the “inexplicable existence” that marks our passage here on Earth.

Part absurdist, part satirist, part tender correspondent, Davis writes in the slipstream of writers like Joyce, Beckett, Parra, and Plath. In an age that calls out for hopeful verse, Above the Bejeweled City offers, instead, a treatise on defeat and despair—and on how letting go is a way of holding on.

I think of it is as the third book in a tryptich with my previous two books, Improbable Creatures and An Amiable Reception for the Acrobat. All three books were written more or less simultaneously.

Do you write in more than one genre? I write in many genres—poetry and short fiction primarily, but I’ve also written screenplays, plays, creative nonfiction, literary criticism, satire, and songs. My first published writings were record reviews, and for a while, I was the music critic for a weekly newspaper in New Haven, Connecticut. I also write poetry and perform as Chuck Calabreze, an alter-ego of sorts that I developed in the 90s.

What brought you to writing? I was always an avid reader, and, for some reason, when I was in third grade, I suddenly wrote a 23 page story, the hero of which was a young Navajo man who had stumbled across a bag of money—I think some thieves had stashed it. The story followed him as he was pursued by both the authorities and the original thieves. I didn’t know any Navajo names (I was an eight year old living in Orange, Connecticut), so I borrowed an exotic-sounding name I’d seen in the newspapers for my hero: Tse (borrowed from Mao Tse Tung!). Four years later, I began writing imitations of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. (I read both when I was 11 years old.) I’d wander the woods with a journal (I mean, the notebook actually said “Journal” on the cover!), and I’d scribble down my romanticized observations of nature. I still have one of those journals. Trust me, nobody is going to see it.

But I didn’t think of writing as something one devotes oneself to until my 7th grade English teacher talked about James Joyce and his notion of the literary “epiphany. ” I think she defined it as the writer “seeing into the heart of things.” I remember thinking, “I want to do that!” The same teacher also made me stay inside during recess when I didn’t complete my assignments on time (which was most of the time). As “punishment,” she’d make me memorize poems. I remember being given John Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” I thought it was the best punishment ever.

It took a while before I came to poetry myself, though. What finally brought me to writing poetry was a dirt bike accident when I was 18. I was riding alone on a tight dirt track I’d carved out of the woods. It was the first cold morning in November, 16 degrees. I slid hard into the berm on the first turn, but instead of sliding around the turn, the tires bounced off the frozen berm. The bike stopped dead and fell on my calf muscle. I pulled the bike upright, got back on, and rode home. I figured I’d torn my calf muscle (two weeks later, I went to the doctor, and he confirmed my diagnosis), so I hopped up the stairs, sat at my desk, thought, What am I going to do now?—and started writing poems.

I taught myself by reading the generation ahead of mine, so Richard Hugo, Norman Dubie, and others were my teachers at first. In 1977, I wrote a letter and sent some poems to a poet named Dick Allen, whose book I’d found in the mall book store and who taught nearby, at the University of Bridgeport. Dick loved what I’d sent him and invited me to take any course I wanted. The one that fit into my schedule was a 300 level creative writing class. At the first full class, four of my poems appeared at the end of the mimeographed handout. After he’d led lively discussions of the other work on the handout, my poems came up for discussion. Nobody raised a hand, nobody spoke. Dick let the silence continue. He passed the time fiddling with his glasses, poking through papers in his briefcase. Meanwhile, I was thinking, I’m in the wrong class, I need to give up this crazy idea of writing poems, etc. Finally, he stood up and addressed the dumbfounded class. “These poems,” he said, “are instantly publishable in any journal in America.” He went on to tell the class what he knew about me—I was a construction worker, I’d taught myself to write these poems—and the various virtues he saw in my poems, then class ended. I talked to him briefly after class, then drove the twenty minutes home in my battered 68 Buick, sobbing all the way.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write wherever I am and write longhand, on a computer, or on my iPhone. Sometimes I record on my iPhone. When I’m writing as Chuck Calabreze, I shout and growl lines and either record them or scribble them down immediately after growling them. I often drive with a notebook beside me and scribble poems (mostly without looking) across the pages. I keep a notebook beside my bed for those times I wake up having dreamt part of a poem. I can write poems no matter what’s happening around me. I’ve written poems in emails and group chats, on Facebook messenger, and in text messages.

Tell us about your writing process. As you might surmise from my previous answer, I don’t have a writing process. In fact, I don’t believe in the idea of a “creative process”; experience tells me poems and stories happen in thousands of different ways. So my approach is to stay open and alert and attentive to the wild world and to my own wildly associative brain. I write notes everywhere, let every glimpse or whimsy, every hurt or big idea, every cluster of words or silly thought, every fleeting buzz or bing into my awareness. I’m apt to drop everything and start writing. Or at the very least, text myself a title, a line, a part of a poem or story or song. I have this idea that the composition / revision divide (process?) is an artificial distinction that was produced by writing workshops. For me, it’s all composition—one fluid (okay, sometimes not so fluid) movement. I suspect that relying on a process will get you processed poems, not quite real poems the way processed “cheese food” isn’t quite cheese.

What are you currently working on? Even before I’d completed Above the Bejeweled City, I was deep into the next collection—by deep, I mean deep for a poet: I have about 30 pages. Some of these poems will appear in State of the Union, a chapbook coming from Finishing Line Press in 2022.

Who’s currently your favorite author? I am currently reading The Glass Constellation by one of my favorite poets, Arthur Sze, whose innovations, developed over fifty years of poetic practice, reveal an entire worldview.

Do you have any advice for new writers? For poets: Imagine what the perfect poem looks like for you, then spend your life trying to write it. Ignore fashion. Ignore equally failure and success.

How do our readers contact you?

My web site: jondavispoet.com
My email: jdavissimo@me.com
Chuck Calabreze’s blog: voydofcourse.blogspot.com
Grid Books:https://www.grid-books.org/shop/above-the-bejeweled-city
Copper Canyon Press: https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/books/preliminary-report-by-jon-davis/

4 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Love your cover. And so agree, “ignore fashion!” Good to meet you, Jon!

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I too am a poet, certainly not on the your prestigious level, but it would seem to me based on this interview that most of your poems are prose rather than rhyme. Do you believe writing prose is more likely to be published than rhyme poetry. Mine is primarily rhyme and I am looking to find a publisher. As a retired cop, I’ve written most of my poems about the street and police work or the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution. I would be very interested in your opinion of my work and if you would allow me, I could send some of it to you. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you George for providing an opportunity for him to share his story.

    Reply
  3. Thonie Hevron

    I had no intention of reading this interview. After all, I don’t get most poetry. But George’s recommendation and the support you gave him when he needed it convinced me. Your words made me a believer. I particularly like your answer about your “writing process.” I’ll be looking for your work. Thank you for sharing this, George!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Yours is an inspiring story indeed. Your passion for writing is admirable and I have no doubt that one day you will write that perfect poem. Good luck.

    Reply

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BRIAN YOUNG – Navajo Author of The Healer of the Water Monster

Brian Young is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University. He is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He enjoys reading, watching movies, playing video games (when he has time), and keeping physically active.

What brought you to writing? When I first wrote The Healer of the Water Monster, I lived in Albuquerque and worked as a meat cutter, and contributed to the native film community as a screenwriter and director. I first envisioned Healer as a movie, possibly a trilogy of feature films. But when I sat down to write it, I knew that a film interpretation wasn’t feasible. The scope and size of Healer’s story was growing in ways that would require an extensive budget to successfully depict. At that time, no one was willing to financially produce native stories because of the prejudiced idea that “Native stories don’t sell.” So, I made the decision to write Healer first as a book because those limitations that filmmaking imposed don’t exist with prose writing. It also helps that I love writing.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Such a long time! Six or seven years? The first draft took me like two months because I was really motivated and in love with the story. I already had daydreamed about the plot points and character growth paths. I did revisions to it for three years. But I was using techniques from screenwriting. I’d have huge paragraphs at the beginning of chapters and scenes going into great detail of the land and environment, then like five pages of nothing but dialogue. I had to grow as a storyteller, definitely as a prose writer. That’s why I decided that getting an MFA was going to help me get Healer published. I was super fortunate but also did a tremendous amount of work to get into Columbia’s MFA for Creative Writing. Through that program, I learned the tools, techniques, and unique abilities that prose writing has.

How long to get it published? I hear this process can take a long time. But for me, it was very short. To complete my MFA program, I did a ground-up revision of Healer for my thesis. I took a third year to rewrite every single sentence of my manuscript. Columbia University’s School of the Arts hosts an agent mixer for third-year writing students and alumni. It was there that I met my agent. I pitched Healer to him, and he wanted to read my manuscript. I wasn’t fully finished with my revision, and he agreed to wait.

A month later, I had finished the revision and sent it to him. When he offered me his representation, I cried. I literally spent ten minutes in my room praying and saying thank you to the Navajo Holy Beings. After accepting his offer through an email, he wanted to go right into sending it out to publishers and editors. After another revision I felt was needed, my agent and I sent Healer out to publishing houses and editors. The rejections came first, as they usually do. But then, we got some interest. My agent set up some meetings, and I had the massive fortune to meet with Rosemary Brosnan, who was gearing up to launch Heartdrum, a native-focused imprint of HarperCollins. I had some immediate gut vibes that told me Rosemary was the one who was going to help bring Nathan’s story across the finish line. After we met, Rosemary offered a pre-empt and my agent worked his magic. By the end, I had a signed two-book deal! It was finalized the day I picked up my mom and sister from LaGuardia for my graduation from Columbia. I had experienced so many setbacks and heartbreaks before. But all that hardship was worth it when I showed my mom my contract. All in all, it took four months, getting an agent then a book deal. After that, Rosemary and I did another revision (I’ve lost count of how many revisions I did), and that is the version that went to print.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? In my opinion, if your protagonist isn’t making decisions that shape the environment, world, people around them, then why are they the protagonist? Nathan, the protagonist of The Healer of the Water Monster, definitely runs the show. Both he and I agreed that his actions would have consequences for the worlds around him. There are very precious few stories that depict native children as heroes whose actions shape the world around them. So, throughout all the revisions and from the very start, both Nathan and I wanted him to be as active as he could possibly be. I speak of him as an actual person because I spent seven years with him! Actually more, because he is in my next book!

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? On that spectrum, I am more of an outliner. I love seeing the story in its entirety. It’s actually my favorite part of the writing process. I love looking at the macro-level of the story and tinkering with plot points and action beats. When writing a new story, I’ll often do a 27 chapter outline and write a paragraph describing what happens in each chapter and break it down further into scene outlines for each chapter.

That being said, my initial 27 chapter outline usually becomes useless because at the halfway point in the actual writing of the story is when I’ll diverge from the outline. Or I’ll discover some story bits or character emotions that I overlooked when writing the whole story. It’s also here in the middle of the story that the characters start to do their own actions and say their own words. When I’m in the zone, I don’t know what the characters are going to do. It’s like I’m reading a new book that is being written right in front of my eyes.

So, I like to start with having an outline down but will concede to the characters when they start to fully come into their own.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My biggest advice is “Write what you love.” I can’t stress enough that this is a long journey that you are on. From inception to publication, it took me seven years to turn The Healer of the Water Monsterinto a book. You, new writers, are going to be with the story that you are writing for a very long time. If I didn’t love the story or characters, I’m not sure if I would have been as committed to its publication, nor am I sure if I would have been able to devote seven years of my life to Healer. If you love your story, the sacrifices and effort needed to publish a book will be worth it.

People can buy The Healer of the Water Monster on Amazon, but I recommend Red Planet Comics and Books (native owned and operated in Albuquerque, NM)
https://redplanetbooksncomics.com/products/healer-of-the-water-monster?_pos=1&_sid=a217895af&_ss=r

To reach me, here is my author website: https://brianlyoung.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BYoungWrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/byoungwrites/

5 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    What an interesting story about Brian Young’s journey to bring Healer to fruition. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    Congratulations on the publication of The Healer. You are to a great start in your writing career.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    The story of your novel’s evolution reads like an adventure story itself. Congratulations on realizing your dream and completing your MFA. Best of luck to you with your future writing.

    Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Brian. Sounds like you’ve gotten a great start to wonderful writing career. Much success!

    Reply
  5. Alec Peche

    Congrats on getting a book deal. You mention that you love outlining and start with a detailed 27 chapter outline. As a pantser, that sounds like my version of a monster. I’m curious as to whether there were any pantsers in your MFA class?

    Reply

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DAVID CROW – Emerging From a Life in Conflict / Mental Illness / Abuse

In The Pale-Faced Lie, David Crow presents a riveting account of growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation with a mentally ill mother and violent father, an ex-con from San Quentin who groomed David to be his partner in crime.

DAVID CROW spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbying firm in Washington, DC.

Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world. Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he is donating a percentage of his royalties from The Pale-Faced Lie to the Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.

Do you write in more than one genre? I have only written non-fiction so characters are real people, and the book captures what they actually did. I hope to write fiction in the future.

What brought you to writing? I always wanted to write but knew the process is completely different from ordinary business writing, which I had always done before. I studied creative writing but must confess that my publisher was my greatest teacher. Sandra Jonas took a very rough manuscript and helped me create a readable book that has been quite successful. The creative writing process, in my opinion, requires a great deal of study and practice. There has been nothing easy or quick about it. On the contrary, it may be the hardest thing I have ever attempted.

Tell us about your writing process: I write every day, but it can be painful. I struggle to get into a rhythm and to move the process forward. It took nearly ten years to write the book. The last two working with Sandra were very challenging because I still had a significant learning curve.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I belong to several writers groups, including the Western Writers of America. I have attended the Writer’s Digest Annual meeting in NYC and several others. Every one of them has helped me better understand what it takes to be a successful writer.

Who’s your favorite author? I have several favorite authors and new ones all the time. I am finishing Kristin Hannah’s, The Four Winds, a novel about the Dust Bowl—it is excellent. I loved Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Erik Larson, Jeff Guinn, Chris Enss, and countless others. I am an avid reader.

How do our readers find you and your work?

Website: davidcrowauthor.com
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/authordavidcrow
Twitter: @author_crow
InstaGram: @davidcrowauthor

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Crisosto Apache – Poet – Educator – Leader

Mescalero / Chiricahua Apache and Diné Navajo from New Mexico.

Crisosto Apache is an alumnus from Insitute of American Indian Arts (AFA 1992 / MFA 2015) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (BA, 2013) for English and Creative Writing. His work also includes Native LGBTQI / ‘two spirit’ advocacy & public awareness.

“Entirely new, experimental, and worth the effort of reading. Passionate in places, contemplative in others, he travels from that ancient past toward the distant universe.”—Linda Hogan

“These poems record not only the nine months of history occurring while the poet formed in gestation… it attempts to make sense of the whirling world of chromosomes, of snow across body-laden battlefields, the whirl of strobe lights in a sex club, and the spiral which meets in the center where isdzán and haastiń (woman and man) become indistinguishable. Apache’s collection challenges our footing on things we thought we knew.”—James Thomas Stevens

Do you write in more than one genre? Though most of my writing falls under the poetry genre, more specifically the Native American Literary genre, I am trying to develop my narrative elements by writing a memoir. The emphasis for the memoir is my experience growing up on my Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico as a gay male, as well as my experience off the reservation in urban areas as a marginalized Native American.

What brought you to writing? I originally started my education wanting to be an artist, a painter. During my adolescent years, I did a lot of illustration in my spare time and read a lot of poetry-the classics. I was mostly drawn to the fantasy style of artwork. My illustration got me a scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the fall of 1989. I studied two-dimensional design my first two semesters when I was approached by Arthur Sze, the head of the Creative Writing department at the time. He convinced me to change my major, and that was my introduction to writing. I can say I have always acknowledged myself as a lifetime student of Arthur Sze because of the influence taught through his courses and the materials offered. My second manuscript, titled “Ghostword,” is highly influenced by a modern Japanese writer introduced to me by Arthur. The writer is Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, and the book “A Fool’s Life” (Eridanos Press). I have carried carbon copy excerpts from the book distributed in his class until I finally found the book in a reprinted collection of Akutagawa’s work. Until I located a copy, “A Fool’s Life” had been out of print. So, my second manuscript is a kind of conversation or life response.

Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies from time to time. First, I must say it is important for me to distinguish myself as an artist first before identifying myself as a writer. My identity as an artist is what fuels my creative aspiration for writing. Most of my creative bursts come during the night. I am sometimes awakened by jolting moments to write. When this occurs, I do get up and go directly to my computer and begin typing. It is during these moments many of the fundamental ideas come through for my poetry. The writing is almost automatic, and it feels closer to being on “automatic pilot.” Many of the poems in my book GENESIS have come from these waking moments. Some of the approaches for my writing focus on the juxtaposition of my indigenous language and the English language. Through translation, I found this technique interesting how the language interacts as meaning and description. It is fascinating to me to examine the interaction of language and the mapped direction the language interaction takes me, which resembles the action of “unfolding” or “uncovering.” I always look forward to reading other writers’ work because I draw influence and encouragement from what is written. I often think and wonder if the “jolting wake” in the night comes from the influence of reading, where my mind finally assembles ideas for my writing.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part of my writing process is finding time to focus on the writing and revision process. Because my time is mostly dedicated to my teaching job as an English professor (and all the facets of faculty responsibilities) and my volunteer position as the Associate Editor of Poetry for The Offing online magazine, it can sometimes be challenging to find dedicated time to focus on my writing. I have a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer. I sometimes have closed the door and try to focus on my writing. I keep the door closed when I am not in my office so I can separate the concept of the room as not part of the house. When I am in my office, I am usually in the headspace of work. It is especially important now in these current times of the pandemic. I do take my time seriously when I am in my office and focusing on my creative written work.

Do you have any advice for new writers? About writing, my only encouragement is to just write. The act of writing is the most important part of the writing process, even though it may be bad writing. I save all my scribblings and voice recorded entries to various folders on my computer. I learned to carry with me a voice recorder to voice my ideas. I used to carry a small notebook but often misplaced them. My voice recorder fits into my pocket and works simply fine. It is important to find or reserve time to focus on writing. It is simply not enough to assemble and collect ideas. Much of the writing process is composing ideas into the structure and revising. Working on a manuscript also takes a lot of time and care. Deciding how much material should go into a working manuscript and to what order also is part of the process that deserves much consideration. If you are a beginning writer and have made it to the point of assembling a manuscript, then you deserve recognition and congratulations. It is a huge accomplishment to assemble a manuscript. Publishing your work is also important. Finding places to publish your writing can be challenging. Rejection is part of the writing process. Do not criticize yourself for rejection. Sometimes it is all about timing. Most of my publishing opportunities come from my network of friends who write. Establish a network. To summarize, make time to read, submit & publish, and most importantly, keep writing.

How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want posted?

GENESIS book order Link: http://amzn.to/2FzG409

My website: http://crisostoapache.com/books-2/

Lost Alphabet’s website: http://www.lostalphabet.com/genesis/

Twitter: @Crisosto_Apache

Instagram: @crisosto_apache

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Eric Davis

    A really great piece George.

    Reply
  2. Ruby Hansen Murray

    Love the concept of “a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer,” separated for creative work. Thanks for this interview, Crisosto &George.

    Reply

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