Marías at Sampaguitas
Interview with Lannie Stabile
Lannie Stabile, a Detroiter, often says while some write like a turtleneck sweater, she writes like a Hawaiian shirt. A finalist for the 2019/2020 Glass Chapbook Series, she is penning a second chapbook, as well as a novel. Works can be found, or are forthcoming, in The Hellebore, Kissing Dynamite, Cauldron Anthology, Likely Red Press, and more. Lannie currently holds the position of Project Manager at Barren Magazine. Twitter handle: @LanniePenland. Writer website: https://lanniepenland.weebly.com
When did you first realize your affinity for poetry? What is your “origin” story?
I was 11 or 12-years-old, and my 6th grade teacher had everyone in the class write a poem. Mine was entitled “Long Live the King,” and it was unsurprisingly about a lion. I remember everyone made a big deal out of my piece, and I thought, “Huh, maybe there’s something to this.” That was 20 years ago.
We peeked around your website, and we see you’re the project manager of Barren Magazine, a Regular Contributor to Royal Rose Magazine, and a Co-Founding Member to the MMPR Collective. Whew! That’s a lot! Can you tell us about your responsibilities as a project manager? What is the MMPR Collective all about, and what’s the story behind its birth?
And that’s all the after-hours stuff. Haha. I still have a day job. As project manager, I’m making sure the big picture and the little picture are commingling. I’m generating ideas and nurturing others’ ideas, as well as figuring out a way to facilitate them.
The MMPR Collective is a group of six midwestern poets who decided accountability and support might be a nice thing. It started off with sharing work for feedback and occasional bolstering whenever those writer blues set in, but it became so much more. In fact, we just relaunched a literary magazine – Knights Library Magazine - that one of our members, Jason Crawford, started a handful of years ago. With us at the helm, we expect great things.
We also saw that you are a photographer as well! What got you into photography? We noticed that if the photo isn’t black and white, the colors are very muted. All evoke a somber, thoughtful tone. Is this your ‘style’? Do you have photography in vivid color as well? If not, why do you prefer black and white?
I didn’t really know I was “into” photography until recently. I just saw it as, “Oh, I cannot walk away from this gnarled tree without memorializing it.” Or I would freeze my wife at a certain tilt of her head because she suddenly made my heart stop. Then, without realizing it, I had a folder full of these “artistic” images.
Like loud noises or bright lights, vibrant colors tend to overstimulate me. Which is why my thoughts, feelings, and experiences are best expressed in muted colors. My mind is constantly bustling, so I do what I can to keep my external world quiet.
What is the reason for the section “Notes to Kindness”? We particularly liked the honesty of ‘Dear “DTE Guy.”’ Did someone or something inspire you to start this section?
I witnessed a series of random acts of kindness in a short period of time, and I thought, “These absolutely need to be recorded.” With anonymity, of course, which is where the “DTE Guy” and “Sink Goddess” branding comes from. I think the whole point is people are doing things out of goodness and not expectancy. So, I made a space for these heroes.
What is “Pushing the Peanut”?
Joyce Carol Oates once said, “Getting a first draft done is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.” I’m working on a novel…very slowly. Oh, so slowly. So, I figured, if I could get an hour of writing done every week, eventually I’d get that peanut across the floor.
Do you feel like your poetry falls under a certain category, such as experimental, contemporary, etc.? If you could have your work associated with another poet, who would it be and why? Who is your favorite poet and why? Do you believe you write in a similar style as they do? Why or why not?
I guess in the sense of strict definition, I’m a contemporary poet. And I do experiment with different forms - what feels organic to the piece - but, beyond that, I couldn’t break it down further for you.
Sabrina Benaim is a terribly relatable poet. Her takes on depression and anxiety have been especially influential to me. Some other favorites are my buddies, Jason Crawford and Eric Sirota. I won’t deny being biased, but, really, their spoken word is phenomenal. Eric has even been featured several times on Button Poetry.
I wouldn’t presume to compare myself to anyone, but if you want to slog through my work to find a reasonable comparison, please, let me know who you come up with. ::crosses fingers:: Please let it be Seuss.
How is writing spoken word different from ‘traditional’ poetry? Do you prefer written poetry or spoken word poetry, and why?
I think I’m in that awkward prepubescent period where I write traditional poetry but could easily transition into spoken word, if I just pry apart my ribs a bit more.The emotion is already available; it’s the passion that needs to be tapped.
Spoken word is, hands down, my preference. There’s just something about being in the same room with the creator of a piece that is literally making you weep.
What (or who) inspires your writing? Do you write purely from emotion and experience?
I’m inspired by both emotion and experience, but I’m driven by emotion. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If I can’t shake a feeling, chances are I’ll write about it.
Which do you prefer more: writing poetry or reading poetry? Why?
Writing. When I’m reading, at best, I can only experience someone else’s demons. When I’m writing, I can exorcise my own.
I know a lot of poets, writers in general, struggle with marketing themselves and their services. Have you ever encountered this feeling? If so, how did you overcome it?
This might be an introvert thing, or maybe it’s that lovely little plane gremlin, Imposter Syndrome. Not sure, but I have definitely experienced the struggle with marketing. I can’t say I’ve overcome it, necessarily, but I just try to be active, engaged, and grateful on social media. If people see you’re genuine, and you’re not shoving things down their throats, they’re generally supportive.
What are your methods for overcoming ‘writer’s block’? What do you do when you can’t seem to find inspiration?
Mishearing lyrics or misreading tweets is a great source of inspiration. You wouldn’t believe how often my faulty brain makes up something and then begets a poem.
When I can’t write about something, I write about not being able to write about it. For example, when I was struggling to write about a time I was sexually assaulted by a close friend, I simply started writing about that inability. Eventually, “I Can’t Talk About It” was written, and it’s one of my favorite pieces.
A lot of writers struggle with time management. Do you have a day job? If so, how do you balance work, photography, writing (poetry and your novel), family, and personal time?
I’m an accountant by day. And during month-end or year-end, it can be a rather demanding occupation. I’m not sure how I balance everything, honestly. I guess I carve out time for each thing. On lunch, I’ll read my book club book or work on personal projects. Some days, I’ll stay after work to read Barren submissions. When I get home, my wife and I will watch one or two episodes of Forensic Files. Then, I work on freelance projects.
Busy people get things done. What more can I say?
What do you want the readers to know about you?
My cat, Sir Algonac, is named after the Michigan city. But he’s also named after a really funny anecdote that my wife loves to have me tell. It involves knights and bears and Ramen noodles. Maybe if I meet you in person, you can wrangle the story out of me ;-)
Have you experienced discrimination as an LGBTQIA individual in the writing community?
Whenever I talk about my wife, there’s always this moment of trepidation wherein revealing this tidbit of myself will alter the relationship I have with the person I’m talking to. That they will sneer or make a snide comment or, ultimately, betray me in some way. I think, over all, the writing community is an open one, and I’ve never experienced that betrayal.
What are the obstacles you overcome being gay in the writing community that you would like the heterosexual community to be aware of?
Many of us are overcoming shame or rejection from simply existing. We’re digging through a crater of emotions with a...pen. Just think about the gravity of that for a moment. If you don’t want to read another poem or story or essay about how gay I am, there’s a meteorite with your name on it.
What would you like to see change within the publishing industry to make it more accessible to the gay community?
Publish. Gay. Works. By. Gay. Authors. Also, Barnes and Noble needs to get a fucking LGBTQIA section. A “Sexuality” section just doesn’t cut it.
In your email to us, you mentioned that you have been writing quietly for twenty years and only recently joined a writing social circle. What was the catalyst for you making your voice heard in the great void that is the internet? How do you feel now that you have a year or so worth of ‘internet existence’? How do you want your presence to grow as you continue writing? Who do you want to inspire? Who do you write for?
I had an intense bout of depression for five years or so, and I barely wrote. But when I finally dragged my corpse out of the rubble, I guess I had a lot to say because my poetry has been far better than it ever was. And I suddenly had this “fuck it” mentality. Like, why have I been holding back for so long? Why am I not throwing myself into the one thing I’ve always loved and have never wavered on? Because a stranger might tell me “no?” Because I might not know how to do this? Because I could fail? Those are puny excuses. So, I jumped in before I could think anymore because action is the enemy of thought. I reached out to Barren Magazine because I thought, “Hey, I might not have extensive editing experience, but I can learn.” I submitted poetry to publications and figured out how to follow submission guidelines, how to write a bio, and what the heck a cover letter was. I made friends. And I don’t regret a moment of it.
Honestly, I’m not in a hurry to make things happen. I know everything will move as it’s supposed to. I’m here to learn, to express, and to engage. Although I initially write for myself, to get the gunk out of my system, it’s always a good day when someone can relate to what I’ve purged.
Where do you expect to see yourself (as a writer) in the next five years? The next ten years?
That peanut better be pushed all the way across the room and into a publishing agency!
What are you able to tell us about your novel? What is it about? Do you only write in certain genres? Do we have a publication date we can announce for your novel?
I have chunks of an autobiography written, an outline for a middle grade fantasy series scratched out, and then there’s my dystopian young adult novel. I guess you could say I’m looking for the perfect genre. The novel, which idles at about 32,000 words, is about a failing government, and the actions of a young woman and her friends to overthrow it. It’s pro-science, pro-education, and pro-queer.
What do you prefer more: writing poetry or writing your novel? How does each writing process differ for you?
Ugh! What a gut punch. I only say that because I feel really guilty having neglected my novel for poetry these last several months. There are elements of both I enjoy, but my attention seems to wane quickly with fiction writing. Poetry is shorter, and I can section hop, but I find it difficult to not write my novel chronologically.
You also have an upcoming chapbook, too! Is there a theme for this collection of poetry? What are you able to tell us about it?
I have one completed chapbook, which is currently looking for a home. It’s about the toxic appetite men have for power over women. Some scientific elements, as well as mythological elements, reside within it. My newest chapbook explores a personal tie with a convicted Michigan serial killer.
Are there any immediate events that you have coming up that you want the readers to know about?
Yes! My first feature is April 7th at Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor, MI.
For writers who may be in your past position (hesitant to post their work, submit their work), what is your advice to them?
I’ll leave you with my mother’s words: The worst they can tell you is “no.”