Jessie Keary: Jessie Keary is a writer and improv comic living in Chicago. She fosters an unhealthy obsession with Russian literature and spends her time loitering in cafes. Her recent work has appeared in Peaches, and you can follow her on twitter – @jessiekeary.
Edgy, intense, and quick, Jessie’s poems immediately caught my eye. There’s a palpable control of rhythm in the lines that sucks the reader quickly into the poem. For all of these reasons and more, Jessie Keary is my highlighted writer for the Summer 2015 issue.
1. If you put a majority of your work in a WordCloud, what would the WordCloud look like?
I tend to think more abstractly, so it’s difficult for me to imagine my writing boiled down to the language I use. Because of this, I think my WordCloud would be of themes as opposed to terms. It would be comprised of the topics I tend to circle back to again and again – over-thinking, obsession, love, hate, inaction, paranoia, inexperience, religion, family, embarrassment.
2. Who is your greatest inspiration–in your work or in your life?
I am currently in my last quarter of undergrad at DePaul. There, I have taken five creative writing classes with Kathleen Rooney, who has become my greatest inspiration. Both “Lick Up the Crumbs” and “Say Her Name” were products of her class.
I have found Kathleen’s work ethic to be contagious. She works so hard, and it makes me want to work hard in return. She is a professor, writer, and co-founder of Rose Metal Press. Not only does she work in every genre, she pushes genre boundaries. In her class, I feel encouraged to try new things, whether that be writing in a hybrid style or utilizing paratext. She has pushed me, and I know the majority of my writing from the last two years wouldn’t exist without her influence. She is also just a nice, quality human being.
3. How do your interests in Russian literature and improv comedy inform your poetry?
At this point, I’ve primarily read Dostoevsky and Nabokov. Their work often features characters who spend the majority of time up in their heads. There isn’t a lot of action. I have the same tendency to be in my head, which I actively try to work against in my writing. Improv helps me deal with my abstract tendencies. In improv you have to make decisions and offer ideas. There is no time to over-think; it’s all happening in the moment. I try to channel this mindset while writing.
I also try to bring humor into my writing regardless of the topic. I love to make the sad funny or vice versa. I think my interests in Russian lit and improv comedy illustrates the juxtaposing tone I strive for in my writing.
4. Are there any other forms of performance or expression that you enjoy as a writer? If so, what are they?
I personally only partake in improv and sketch comedy. But I think interacting with performance or artistic expression of any kind can be helpful to a writer in terms of finding inspiration.
For me, performance and writing are inseparable. I write mostly nonfiction, so I try and think of myself as a character to be embodied on a stage. If I do this, I have a greater sense of distance, and I can revise more easily. I also, think it is important to be aware of the concept of an audience when revising, not just for entertainment purposes, but also third-party comprehension.
5. What is your preferred method of writing and why? By hand? Computer? Typewriter? Hybrid forms?
I have to write out everything I do by hand to start. If I try and type first, I get too caught up in editing as I go. I’ll obsess over my opening sentence or hyper-focus on the blinking cursor. With pen and paper, I can at least get a draft out. From there, I type it up. By the time I have something in a Word doc, it’s a second or third draft. Once it’s typed, I’ll do another written draft. I edit, alternating written and typed, until I’m satisfied with the piece.
6. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I spent the last year working as a peer writing tutor at DePaul’s Writing Center. Providing feedback for other writers has helped me gain much-needed perspective on my own revision process. I learned quickly that it is one thing to notice where a piece of writing may be lacking, while it is another thing entirely to offer specific ways in which the writing can be improved. I was able to see the gaps in my own writing and use some of the specific suggestions I learned to offer other writers.
I also learned how important it is to get feedback from other people, no matter how confident you are in self-revision. I am always asking for feedback from fellow writers, which would have frightened me in the past.
7. How do you work through the dreaded Writer’s Block?
If I have writer’s block, I know I’m too in my head. I’m probably obsessing over sentence-level issues or too worried about reaching an end goal. To get out of my head, I have to physically get up and do something – literally shake it off. For me, writer’s block means I am taking myself too seriously. So I might crank “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and dance around my room. It’s impossible to be my more ~pretentious, literary~ self while listening to Shania Twain. I also have a mini basketball hoop, which helps.