Black Lawrence Press
June 29, 2016

Welcome, Meghan McClure & Michael Schmeltzer!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us since last summer—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.

Today we bring you Meghan McClure and Michael Schmeltzer, whose collaborative creative nonfiction work A Single Throat Opens will be published next summer.

meg2The Authors

Meghan McClure lives in Washington and studied at the Rainier Writing Workshop, the MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University. Her work can be found in Mid-American Review, LA Review, Water~Stone Review, Superstition Review, Bluestem, Pithead Chapel, Proximity Magazine, Boaat Press, and forthcoming in Black Warrior Review.

 

SchmeltzerAuthorPhoto(1)Michael Schmeltzer was born and raised in Japan before moving to the United States. He is the author of Elegy/Elk River, winner of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, and Blood Song, his full-length debut from Two Sylvias Press. He earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. His honors include numerous Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations, the Gulf Stream Award for Poetry, and the Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Prize. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in various journals such as Black Warrior Review, Rattle, PANK, and Mid-American Review, among others.

 

 

 

 

The Book

Where did you write the book?

20160614_134254-1_resized_1 MS: I wrote the book in the simplest setting: at the dining room table, after it’s been cleared of everything, with a single cup of coffee from my favorite cup to keep me company. And only after my family went to sleep. I needed the quiet, the contemplation. I needed a space to be hurt and angry and sad but close to those I love, to keep me grounded. It’s a book, a subject, I had grappled with since my childhood, and it won’t ever be finished, so the “where” also encompasses every “when” and place I’ve been. And it also projects into every future I have.

McClureWritingSpotMM: Mostly in my head between reading books to my daughters, doing dishes, sitting on playground benches, and trying to figure out life. Some of it was written in texts to Michael that I’d scribble down where I could and gather for later. When I did get to sit down to work I wrote at my desk, long after the sun was down, with the lamp on, and the deep pleasure of kids-in-bed-silence.

 

What is your favorite memory from working on this manuscript?

MS: My favorite memory from working on the manuscript is actually a series of memories/moments. Meghan and I would take turns working on the manuscript. We’d spend about a week with it and then send it along with whatever we had written. Every time I’d see that email from Meghan knowing there was something new to read, I was elated. It was this moment of possibility and surprise; I never knew what she’d write, where she’d take it. You hear so often in workshops you have to write toward your strongest line. In a collaborative setting, you have this amazing ability to exceed yourself, to write, not toward your strongest line, but to someone else’s strongest line. And that inspired me to become more than myself. This book would never have happened without her.

MM: When we first started this project, we worked on it fast and furious.  But I reached a point where what was happening in my life made it impossible for me to write about the subject.  I also had a crisis of theory (that’s what I call it, at least) when I wasn’t sure how or if to write about my family and friends.  Michael was so gracious and kind with me. I learned from Michael’s kindness that writing occasionally means stepping away from the work and giving the mind time to breathe, so you can come back to the page refreshed.

 

How did you know that the book was done and ready to send out?

MS: In the beginning it felt like a slingshot. We both wrote quickly, speeding toward this book. We maintained that synergy for a long time. It was this tremendous, organic experience. Near the end I could feel myself winding down the same way you can stay up all night drinking and dancing and within two songs know it’s time to leave, despite the energy you felt moments before. After my last entry I wanted nothing more than to just sit with every person inside that book, quietly, without saying another word.

MM: This whole project happened so organically and smoothly that it’s really hard to remember exact moments along the way; luckily I saved all the emails.  From the emails, it looks like I knew it was done in April of 2015 when Michael sent an email that said: “I added a small chunk to the end but otherwise I’m done and don’t plan on adding anything new.”  After that we just worked on ordering, editing, and small additions/subtractions. It felt whole to both of us at the same time which made it very easy to say “The End.”

 

What’s on your reading list for this summer?

20160614_135431MS: I’ve a backlist of books from AWP I need to finish reading or start reading, which includes books from presses like Copper Canyon, Jellyfish Highway, and Split Lip, among others (including Black Lawrence!) Matthew Olzmann, Vievee Francis, Deborah Landau. Melissa Goodrich, Jared Yates Sexton. Jill Talbot and Kate Carroll De Gutes. And so many more. Too many and not enough, always.

McClureReadingStackMM: I just came off a long sprint of reading poetry books, so I’m turning to mostly nonfiction this summer.  I’ve got a couple of books I’m re-reading, like Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen – both of which should be required reading for everyone. Also, a book on the Golden Section, Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill, Kate Carol de Gutes’ Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear, and Judith Kitchen’s What Persists.

 

 

 

Excerpt

Fermentation can be fragile. It can end in botulism or bread or in whisky, warming its way down your throat. The word ferment originated from the Latin fervere, ‘to boil.’

 

Boiling sugar into caramel is a fragile process. Heat breaks down the sucrose (scentless, straightforward white sugar) into fructose and glucose, which break down further into other molecules, which react with one another to create the rich complexity of caramel. Phenols are bitter, esters are sweet like rum, furans are nutty, diacetyl is responsible for the buttery flavor of caramel. If you continue to caramelize a minute too long, the sweetness will turn bitter. Catch it before that stage; pour the caramel into a piecrust before adding the apples.

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Because it is late. Because I’ve established I can lie. Because we are talking about childhood and what our mouths remember. All of this I preface in order to write a truth I hate to admit – I am tired of the body, its appetites, the senses. To go to the grocery store hungry and find nothing you crave – this must be a sign something is wrong. You write about bread, about rising. You write about pie and childhood and the only thing I can think about is this tongue and how much it wants nothing to do with flavor, or speech.

 

Once my tongue like a snail led the shell of my head. By flavor and speech I lived. And now? I want to crawl out of my own senses, leave no trail behind.

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Not that it matters – no one is following, and I know the way back by heart, by blood and beat. So let me tell you about our house where I am a teen. I am fighting with my father. He does not stop talking when he drinks. He does not stop making joke after joke. He is still alive. He is still alive as I write this. He is still alive and all the time I wasted asking him to stop drinking, or calling him a drunk. All that time I regret with no end. In the future I will want nothing more than to hear his slurred voice tell me whatever bit of celebrity gossip he heard the night before. I will want nothing more than the night before. I will want nothing more than a drink with him. I will want nothing more than a drink, then another, then another. Then, I will want nothing.

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Where is rock bottom? And how long can someone live there?

 

I’ve seen trees growing from rocks on hikes I use to manage my demons, to avoid rock bottom. Though I suppose the trees are actually growing from the soil and moss that accumulates on top of the rock. And sometimes the roots of a tree engulf a rock; it looks supernatural. I always give some of the water from my bottle to these trees, it seems like they are fighting so hard. They deserve it.

 

I’m going to resist my urge to research this growing from rock and believe in it as a miracle for a while. I want to believe that rock bottom exists and people can grow from it.

 

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