Contributor Spotlight: Norman Minnick

Norman Minnick’s piece “Midwest Soliloquy” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2017 issue, out now.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I live between Indianapolis and Brownsburg, Indiana surrounded by cornfields. I had never given much thought about how the region may have influenced my writing before now, but this line from a blurb that Denise Duhamel wrote while I was living in Florida elucidates it pretty well: “Minnick has been able to weave his no-nonsense Midwestern-ness with colorful Miami imagery.” I like that. No-nonsense. I think I’ll give that a try.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

Summers. The stillness of summer nights. The crack of baseball bats. The train whistle in the distance. Long stretches of highway. The Mississippi River. People on porches. The smell of manure on corn fields in spring. The excitement of driving into a city like Chicago, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis. The tranquility of driving into small towns like Burlington, Iowa or Paris, Illinois or Rockville, Indiana.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

There is a small, one-signal town in central Indiana called Bainbridge where I have found myself waiting for my mother-in-law to pick up or drop off my children for the weekend. Since she is always running late, I have found myself sitting with the regulars on the porch of the Country Mark convenience store listening to their stories. Many poems have come from hanging about in this small town and others like this.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

When I have writer’s block, I don’t write. Period. I never force it. On the flip side of that, when I am going through a period of inspiration and the ideas are flowing, I try every way possible not to impede it.

I have a bad habit of writing when I drive. I keep a small notebook on my right thigh and a pen in hand.

A lot of poets like myself go through pregnancy periods where ideas are in gestation. During this period I like to nourish the fetus-poem with as much beauty as I can handle through reading poetry and fiction and philosophy and history and so on, viewing good film, attending plays, looking at and pondering great art, listening to fine music, having stimulating conversation, taking long walks, making love, drinking rich spirits, and so on. I try to stay away from social media and off Internet as much as possible.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

I can’t. I have revised, sometimes drastically, poems even after they’ve been published in books as well as journals. I like to work on poems, put them in a file, and come back to them after substantial time has lapsed and tinker with them some more. After several rounds and the poem cannot take any more, I leave it alone. Too many poets today are in too much of a rush to send their poems out for publication. I am not innocent in this.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

I don’t appreciate having to choose just one. If that’s the case, I have to go with Shakespeare. A bust of The Great Bard sits on a shelf in my office and watches over me.

There are so many other authors I rely on; this question is always difficult to answer. For me, the deader the better. For example, I get more out of the poets of The Greek Anthology than I do most contemporary poetry.

What’s next for you?

My third collection is finally out of diapers and is being sent out into the publishing world. I have two plays, a memoir, three screenplays, a children’s book, and about ten or twelve essays waiting to be written.

Where can we find more information about you?

The best place would be to visit me in Indiana. We could grab a drink. Otherwise, my website will be a good place to start.

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