Molly Fuller is the author of the full-length collection For Girls Forged by Lightning: Prose & Other Poems (All Nations Press) and two chapbooks Tender the Body (Spare Change Press) and The Neighborhood PsychoDreams of Love (Cutty Wren Press). Her work has appeared in Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence, New Poetry from the Midwest, 100 Word Story, NANO Fiction, and Bellingham Review. She is the recipient of a 2020 Artist Residency from both Vermont Studio Center and Wassaic Project. Fuller is the winner of the Gris Gris 2020 Summer Poetry Contest. You can find her on Instagram and twitter @mollyfulleryeah.
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book, For Girls Forged by Lightning: Prose & Other Poems, was my entry into feeling like a “real” writer. Before this, whenever I did readings, I was always the one reading off of a piece of paper. I always admired the writers reading from a print journal, or a book, and I dreamt of having my own book to read from. Even now, I am sometimes surprised by how much it means to me to be able to do a reading from my very own book--the tactile sensation of my own book is still a wonder to me.
I am working on about three projects right now.
1) 1) A book of short stories, which is clearly narrative-driven and is the least done. This is me going back to my roots as a fiction writer. I feel a little rusty, but I’m enjoying imagining my characters’ lives and really working/focusing on plot rather than language.
2) 2) A wildly experimental hybrid work that combines elements of all three genres and feels like it might be ready for the world. This is autobiographical, language-driven, almost jazz-like in its musicality, and it’s very exciting. It’s something that I re-read and think, How did I even create this? It’s wild and magical.
3) 3) A book of poetry that feels maybe more clearly recognizable as poetry, but still contains elements of language play. This is what I am currently revising.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I actually have my MFA in Fiction, but when I first started teaching after my MFA, I was an adjunct at a couple of different schools. I started writing little micro fictions whenever I had a spare minute (which was not often). These little micros were also verging into prose poems (even though I didn’t know it at the time). Around this same time I got involved with a community-based arts co-op called, Buried Letter Press, and we did readings / variety shows in the community. I met my now-husband, who is a poet, through this. He read some of my new work and gave me a name for what I was doing: prose poetry. He recommended some books to me and was very encouraging of my work. So, from there, as my confidence improved, I really started to experiment with poetry. Which sounds funny, “experiment with poetry,” haha!
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I am a binge writer. I think projects percolate for a while and then they spill out. I am not much of a planner. Even in my fiction projects. I am definitely the “write to discover” kind of writer. The joy to me is seeing what happens as I create, rather than outline or follow a plan. I am very much a reviser, so my work rarely starts out looking like the finished product. Even in my wild/jazz-like project, I had pages and pages of fragments that I printed out, cut up, and taped to my wall. From there, I organized my book into a coherent structure. It looks nothing like what I started with.
4 - Where does a poem or work of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Oh! This is such a great question. As I said before I am a binger and a finder/discoverer. I only set out to write a book once, which is my MFA thesis project. Everything since then has been a marvelous accident that has then tumbled into a book. It’s fun to take my work and turn it into a book because I can see what my subconscious obsessions have been the whole time.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I really used to be terrified of doing readings. The sweaty palms, knees-knocking, the whole bit. Now I still get nervous, but much less so and I find readings to be exciting and it’s fun to try out a piece that perhaps you haven’t read out loud to an audience yet to gauge their reaction.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
In my first book, I was very much concerned with talking about violence and objectification of women. I likened it to being akin to “poetry of witness,” to exposing the undersides of culture. Things we like to cover up and hide. My next project was much more autobiographical and about love and obsession and the muse. My current project is about the body and loss and the loss that we are experiencing through climate change as a metaphor for personal loss that mirrors a greater societal experience of loss.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Writers are the mirror. We mirror the concerns of our time. And sometimes culture wants to look away from this mirror. Don’t let them. Write the hard things. Confrontation might be my answer. Or, in a gentler sense, being a chronicler / documentarian of the times.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I enjoy the process of working with an outside editor. I find it useful to get an outside opinion, an objective assessment, and someone who asks me to ask the tough questions about the poems/poetry manuscript. As a result, an outside editor often makes the work better, stronger, more varied.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I love the Dorothy Parker quote: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Pithy. Perfect.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (prose poems to micro fictions)? What do you see as the appeal?
I love love love moving between genres. I think of it as like trying to solve a puzzle on the page with words. I adore that last final snap of a sentence that brings the whole thing together. It’s an addictive small joy.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain disease. So, I write when I feel well. I almost feel a kind of weird compulsion to write when I am able because I never know when I am going to have to spend a day in bed or have a day where the brain fog makes working impossible.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I read old favorites. I’m currently obsessed with John Hawkes’ Death, Sleep, and The Traveler. I read it at 22 and thought it was dreamy and sexy, but now at 40, I find it absolutely hilarious and such a study in craft. I read it this past summer, found it just the other day again unpacking a box, and put it on my nightstand. I love Jean Rhys, Carole Maso, Marguerite Duras, and oh! The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Chocolate chip cookies.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I love ekphrastic writing and find a lot of inspiration in art and going to museums. As of late, science and nature are heavily influencing my current project. I am jealous of writers who can write to music or dedicate a manuscript to an album because I need silence to write. I would say, though, that my poetry does have a very musical quality, and I can see and hear the influence on my work, especially when I give a reading.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Robert Miltner (haha! This is my husband), but, really, we have such a symbiotic writing relationship. Many times we work across from each other at our giant kitchen table and I constantly harass him to read things for me and vise versa. It is truly a gift to have an immediate, and such an astute, reader.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
As a writer, I would really like to either finish my unfinished novel or write a new one.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?