Melissa Boston’s piece “Untitled” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, out tomorrow.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I grew up in Sedalia, Missouri. I attended college at University of Central Missouri and if it could have been possible I would have attended graduate school there. At present, I live in Fayetteville, AR which has some Midwestern culture but, for me, the Midwest will always be home. I actually still have my permanent address and car tagged in Missouri.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
There is a silence and openness that is very distinct to the Midwest. Its imagery is very present and uninterrupted by clutter to where the foliage, sedimentary, and fauna rule the space; it’s something that stays with me, and that makes its way into quite a bit of my writing. This is also why, for me, Midwesterners are so generous and polite: it’s not about them.
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?
Once I began to travel and live alone in unfamiliar places I found it easier to write even more effectively about what I wanted to write. For example, I lived in Las Cruces, NM for a year and I found it easier to write about Missouri, specifically Warrensburg because I felt so alienated from everything that was familiar, so writing about a place that I spent a lot of my formative years helped me establish my identity as a Missourian writer and Midwesterner.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
Lately my better poems get done on my lunch break at work. My poem in MG was written in the Walmart Home Office café, which is currently my home away from home. It is guaranteed 30 minutes of solid, uninterrupted writing time because, in a corporate setting, lunch is sacred “me-time.” Also, knowing that I only have those 30 minutes forces me to write something, even if it is just one line of decent writing that I play around with at a later time.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
It is really difficult to know when I have finished a piece of writing. I will send a draft to an outside reader when I am really struggling but, for the most part, I will read drafts to a few trusted friends until I feel that the silence is no longer awkward after the last line.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
Like most writers, I’m continually reading, and what I read affects what I write.
But the first poet whose work I really fell in love with was Georg Trakl. I had an excellent instructor at UCM who introduced me to Trakl’s work and it opened doors for me. His work is silent, patient, and austere, something that has allowed me to write more directly and effectively about the Midwestern landscape.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a full-length manuscript!
Where can we find more information about you?
I don’t have a website but my work appears in Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bird’s Thumb, PMS, These Fragile Lilacs, Driftwood Press, The Fourth River Review, Blue Mesa Review, and Four Ties Lit Review.