Jennifer Silvey Q&A

LCk: Hi Jennifer. We know you (we’re basically best friends), but the people reading this likely don’t, so let’s catch them up. What first inspired you to write, and how long have you been writing poetry?

Jennifer: As far back as I can remember, I’ve been wanting to tell stories. I remember when my brothers were playing Final Fantasy II on the ole’ Super Nintendo, and I couldn’t play yet because I couldn’t read. So I reenacted scenes as I understood them with Polly Pockets. These imaginative moments were lost in translation for others. Polly Pocket adventures with dragons, wizards, and monsters from the mind of a five year-old is raw, untamed, and surprisingly philosophical. I had a similar experience the first time I saw Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. I was so young that I thought it was real. I remember growing up and all the time periods seemed like they were happening at once; Japan’s feudal times were the present and there were at least eight World Wars. I laughed hysterically when my brother told me there were only 2. Just remember, you weren’t born knowing there have only been 2 World Wars.

History started making sense through history teachers’ storytelling. When I was in the 3rd grade, I wrote a poem about my dad’s stinky feet, and it was published in my town’s newspaper. My mom saved it in a box with special heirlooms, like the rice bag thrown at her wedding, the first pictures of her children, and a note written by my grandma who died when I was a baby.

I didn’t think of myself as a potential writer till the 7th grade. Before that most of my English classes were Shirley English, which as a course was intensely into grammar with lots of songs and memorization. It was like a brainwashing version of English. I don’t know if any of that clicked for me. My 7th grade English teacher inspired me. She was snarky and had a cool tattoo. She brought us Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I don’t remember the details of the class, but I know it was engaging.

In college I danced between film and writing classes. I didn’t take poetry till the end of graduate school. I had taken about 10 screenwriting (and related) courses before that in my higher education. Honestly, I was a total mess in my poetry class. I was off the walls crazy because I took the highest level right from the start and had to catch up to people who were getting their Master’s in poetry. I was taking it as one of my creative writing electives. Fortunately, my fellow students and my professor liked me enough to push me to a paradisal direction. I ended up pursuing poetry right after the semester. I’ve been writing poetry for about 4 years now.

LCk: When you started school, did you see yourself as a future author of a book of poetry, or did you have other plans in mind? Aside from becoming the next Poet Laureate, what else do you see yourself doing within the confines of the literary world (or even without)?

Jennifer: Oh, when I first started college I thought I was going to be a film editor. That changed to being a film director. I couldn’t stop taking writing classes, so my college schedule was usually fun. I would take film production classes, then have a writing workshop squeezed in there, and I’d have a few theory/research based courses on the side. I was really confused as to how it was going to add up, and I’m still confused about it. I am one confused lady with all these semi-malleable options that fall on my plate. It’s difficult to know how I’m supposed to glue the macaroni pieces into jewelry, or this thing we call life ambitions. I would have guessed I’d end up selling a screenplay or a novel before taking poetry’s helm and splashing it with a number of crocheting dinosaurs trapped in tiny Tic Tac boxes. Dinosaurs are the mints of the future. Dinosaurs are meant for the future.

I can see myself continuing to try different writing avenues. Currently, I’m a news producer at a local broadcast station. I spend large chunks of time reviewing court documents and probable causes. My daily life consists of reading about homicides, drug busts, and indictments. I still haven’t cracked the fine art of broadcast writing. It would be awesome to sell a television pilot. I have one tucked away under my pillow that I sob into at night. Not really, it’s actually sitting in a box collecting dust. AKA, the best place for writing that needs attentive rewriting in the future.

LCk: What author(s) would you say have been most influential in your life and in your writing?

Jennifer: C. S. Lewis, Alexandre Dumas, Bram Stoker, J. K. Rowling, Lewis Carroll, Lloyd Alexander, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Roald Dahl.

LCk: What is behind the decision to release Midnight Galleries solely on paperback? Do you have plans of making it as a digital book at any point?

Jennifer: My initial thought was people should be able to hold a book like this in a tangible, squeezable, and breakable form. It’s more intimate than what the digital world can offer. There’s something romantic about a hard copy of a book in that it can get decorated with food crumbs and stains from disheveled sodas. Those more human touches make it special. I definitely think there should be digital copies too, of course. Going digital saves paper, and by keeping it digital you can secretly read the book while in class or at work. Just make sure your secret reading doesn’t make you a poor student or a former employee.

LCk: We were fascinated with your fascination with dinosaurs. Have you always been enthralled with the prehistoric, and did you ever seriously consider becoming a paleontologist?

Jennifer: I’m baffled by my massive fascination of dinosaurs. It sprung up out of me from nowhere. I found that one of the easiest ways to make friends was to somehow incorporate dinosaurs into conversation. I’m from a generation of people who happily grew up with Jurassic Park. I did recently find a picture of me in the 4th grade pretending to cower at a dinosaur in a museum. I think the dinosaur fascination has always been there, but certain life events helped make the reptilian escape my brain, speech, and typing habits.

I have never seriously considered being a paleontologist. But I do know that you can go on dinosaur digs, and it doesn’t matter what kind of education you have. I may one day go to an excavation site and try to find a T. Rex’s femur. I’m insanely fascinated by dinosaurs’ relationship with media. Whether Kesha sings about dinosaurs and old guys needing to get CAT scans or the Dinosaurs TV show from the ‘90s that ended tragically — I think one of my callings could be a dinosaur media instructor.   

LCk: Enough with the softball questions. What’s your favorite dinosaur, and, would it be able to beat John Wayne in a fist fight?

Jennifer: My favorite dinosaur is the velociraptor. If you Google “velociraptor” it will tell you the species is extinct, as if you needed clarification. Even still, I think a velociraptor ghost fighting John Wayne’s ghost would definitely win. I actually hope that in the realm beyond the veil of everything, John Wayne’s ghost is always fighting a velociraptor’s ghost.   

LCk: Is there anything else people should know about you or Midnight Galleries before they buy 16 copies?

Jennifer: Midnight Galleries is best read out loud in the comfort of your friends’ company or in a dark abyss with levitating candles. It may help you mentally if you go to an art museum before reading this book. Consistently, one of my favorite poems in the collection is loosely based on Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” It’s a poem about a magical forest and sacrificing a rabbit.

I think taking ideas from the book and turning it into a tattoo sleeve would end up looking pretty killer. There is a poem about lasagna that I hope people will read out loud to their family and friends at dinner parties and post videos of it on YouTube. Your unsuspecting families won’t understand, but you’ll be encouraging them to think differently.

Sometimes my writing takes you to serious places, but I never veer too far away from dinosaurs. I hired a dozen or so dinosaurs to make appearances, and I can’t pay them till I start selling copies of this book. Student loans are the spawn of Satan, but loans to dinosaurs are the Satan that was ruling the hell in the angel’s world that Satan himself may have defeated.