We sat down with our authors so that we could share a little bit about how they connect to the chapbooks they’ve written for us, and to their writing in general. Here’s our interview with Ryan Skaryd about his chapbook, bottle rockets.
When did you start writing?
I have always loved stories, whether it be a movie, a book, a play. I didn’t start writing until middle school. I would carry around this notebook and constantly write stories and lists of characters names and plot ideas. My classmates and close friends got curious, eager even, and I know there was power there.
What inspired you to write bottle rockets?
I recently graduated with my MFA in nonfiction. During the program, I took a couple poetry classes and began reading more poetry. I realized how interesting it was—this balance of art and story and how it didn’t have to necessarily make sense all of the time. It was a new creative outlet I sank into that was a bit messier, more nebulous that prose.
Who have been your biggest inspirations, as a writer?
When I read Cheryl Strayed’s work for the first time as an undergrad, I was baffled. There was this emotional response from black ink stamped into little symbols on a white page that I was deciphering, and yet I realized, with her work, how important storytelling could be. Her work became a backbone for my early writing. Since, I have fallen in love with the effulgence of many poets and writers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sam Sax, Warsan Shire, Kaveh Akbar, Ocean Vuong, Christopher Soto. My writing inspirations are all unique in voice, but I feel that they share the same outlook in a lot of ways.
Is there a writing project that you’re planning on tackling next?
I’m a natural multitasker, and I can never stick to one thing for too long. I’m not sure if there is one project specifically, but when I get a nudge to write, I play along.
How would you describe your writing process?
Haphazard. Abrupt. Tristful at times. Sometimes hopeful. I don’t carry around a journal. If I get an idea that stays with me, that lingers for a while, that shifts and molds into something new, that pokes and pokes until I get it out, I know it’s worthwhile. I’ve thought of stories and poems that have quickly left my mind, but it’s the characters or sentences I think of that I can’t shake out that give me drive.
What’s your favourite thing about your own writing?
I try to be as honest and unapologetic as possible. I think that the personal sparks on the page bring the voice to life.
What do you find different about chapbooks vs other styles of writing?
I found the chapbooks liberating to write. I let myself wander on the page, make discoveries along the way, dissect a motley assortment of words, and piece it together in a way that could make sense tonally. I wasn’t worried about plot or character. Instead, it was those subtle words, marks, and line breaks that made me think in a whole new way.
What is one question you would want to ask future ZED Press authors?
Why is it important that poetry is prevalent in the world today?
How queer bodies present themselves and how queer bodies take up space is a major thematic concern within the collection, and this seems to be further underscored through the use of campy sci-fi imagery as visual descriptors for both the speaker and other characters. Why use these images, what connection do you envision between queer youth and sci-fi staples?
It was a natural starting point for me—this idea of what I was attracted to as a child become this metaphor of mystery as I grew. I wanted there to be a core of innocence that was continuous on some level, and the idea of this outsider trying to fit in to a chaotic landscape as they grew became common throughout. When I was younger, I found myself hooked on stories and movies that were nothing like I had ever seen or experienced before. I wanted to understand these campy characters and out-there ideas. It turned into a metaphor, really, for how I navigated into adulthood.
bottle rockets at its core is an exploration of self. It is a coming of age narrative but in poetry. Unlike the traditional coming of age story, we aren’t given that picture perfect ending; we’re left with a sense of unease and uncertainty. What will the next step look like for the speaker? As an author, what power do you place in an uncertain open end?
I think an open end allows the reader to reflect on the experience in a different way than what they had anticipated. There is a build-up, naturally, in any collection with a central idea, and when it is twisted in an unexpected way, you cannot help but wonder why. I wanted it to be as honest as possible. I don’t know exactly how I maneuvered through my past, and I’m not confident at what my future holds. I wanted my work to be a reflection on the ebbs and flows that queer people experience, and the uncertainty of what’s ahead.
That’s all for this interview; thanks for reading! If you want to read more about Ryan and bottle rockets, check out our chapbooks page! If you’re interested in attending one of our upcoming events or keeping up to date with the press, check out our facebook page for more info!