Wordsmith Interview - Jennifer Van Alstyne

Jennifer van Alstyne

Age: 24
Boulder, CO
MFA Candidate in Writing & Poetics

The Writer

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing in various forms for the past 10 years or so, but didn’t start writing poetry until a few years ago.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to write poems from a place between research and the personal.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Balancing writing, work, and life.

The Work

“The Ear” is about Glenn Gould, a 20th century pianist, recording artist, and composer, who saw and heard the world through a lens I can only dream of.

Anything else you’d like to share about your work in Crack the Spine?
This poem was part of a larger collection about Gould, called Scansioned Music.

What else are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on a collection about Hurricane Sandy and the LGBT community of the New Jersey coastline called Sandblast.

What inspired this work?
Asbury Park, NJ is located about 60 minutes south of New York City on the shore of Central New Jersey. Its notable residents include an amalgam of entertainers such as Wendy Williams, actors like Danny DeVito, business entrepreneurs, and even Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Margaret Widdemer. Founded in 1871 as a residential resort, the city of Asbury Park, with its boardwalk and venues such as The Stone Pony, has since become a beach-town destination. The Asbury Park LGBT community has grown since its initial rise in the 1950’s which led to the rejuvenation of the city. And, in 1999, DJ Shep Pettibone opened The Empress Hotel, home to Paradise Nightclub and the culmination of Sand Blast Weekend, the biggest gay road trip on the east coast. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and New Jersey was devastated. During this time, I was living about 10 minutes north of Asbury Park, only 5 blocks from the ocean, and we were under a mandatory evacuation notice. This collection of poetry outlines my whirlwind journey through the city landscape, the Jersey Shore, and the hurricane.

The Methods

How often do you write?
When I’m inspired. 

What time of day or night makes you most productive as a writer?
I’m most productive and inspired at night.

What are your thoughts on writing at a computer vs. writing longhand? 
I always write with a computer - I can type faster than I can write by hand.

The Madness

What is your favorite book?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Who is your favorite author?
Mary Gaitskill

What is your favorite word?

Additional Reading on Jennifer

Issue 123

When I was younger I’d spend entire days kissing a troubled boy. We’d sit in his cramped bedroom, in between piles of graying laundry, and shoot billows of white smoke into each other’s mouths – clouds collecting around our heads.

- From "Fighting Over the Best Flavor in Neopolitan Ice Cream" by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

Tell us what you think of our latest issue by using the comment form at the bottom of this page!

Contributors: Bruce Alford, Jessica Bastear, Jane-Rebecca Cannarella, Elisabeth Cook, Matthew Liebowitz, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Ed Nichols, Alyssa D. Ross

Issue 123 Contributors

Matt Liebowitz
Matt Liebowitz earned an M.A in Creative Writing from Boston University, where he studied with Ha Jin, Martha Cooley, and Leslie Epstein. He was awarded the 2002 Sara Bennett Prize for Fiction from Skidmore College, where he worked with Steven Millhauser. 

Jessica Bastear
Jessica Bastear is a college student in southern California that loves being outdoors as much as possible, especially since growing up in forest-filled northern California. Much of her photography displays this love of nature, but occasionally she enjoys editing more artistic photos that coincide with her mood or even her poetry.

Ed Nichols
Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia with his wife Judy and cat, Buck. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia. He is a short story award winner from Southeastern Writer’s Association. He has had short stories published, and/or scheduled for publication in: Every Writer’s Resource, Fiction On The Web, Short-Stories.me, Vending Machine Press, Floyd County Moonshine Review, Beorh Quarterly, Page and Spine, Belle Reve Literary Review and Drunk Monkeys. 

Valya Dudycz Lupescu
Valya Dudycz Lupescu is the author of "The Silence of Trees" and founding editor of Conclave: A Journal of Character. Her poetry and prose have been published in Mythic Delirium, Danse Macabre, Fickle Muses, Abyss & Apex, Pedestal Magazine, Doorknobs & Bodypaint, and other places Her first comic book, "Sticks & Bones," created with artist Madeline C. Matz, was successfully crowdfunded via kickstarter. They are now working on the next three issues to be published by First Comics. You can read more on her website and journal at and follow her on twitter.

Alyssa D. Ross
Alyssa D. Ross was born in Guntersville, Alabama, but spent over a decade in Metropolitan Virginia. After abandoning art school in Richmond, she went on to pursue writing. She now holds an MFA from George Mason University and is currently working on her PhD. at Auburn University while teaching American Literature.

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
Jane-Rebecca is an editor at HOOT Review, a crazy cat lady, and a Nutella enthusiast. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com. She occasionally drinks wine out of a mug that has a smug poodle on it, and she's not great at writing in the third person.

Elisabeth Cook
Elisabeth Cook is a writer and blogger living in Wisconsin. She studied writing and literature at Beloit College. She has been attempting to create a viable substitute for an MFA program from within the confines of her apartment and the occasional coffee shop. Her blog can be viewed at literarychicken.blogspot.com

Bruce Alford
Bruce Alford’s first collection, "Terminal Switching" was published in 2007 (Elk River Review Press). He received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama and was an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama from 2007-2011. He currently teaches American Literature at Southeastern Louisiana University. Before working in academia, he was an inner-city missionary and journalist. He has published fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry in journals such as the African American Review, Comstock Review, Imagination & Place Press, Louisiana Literature, and many others. He lives in Mobile, Alabama. 

Wordsmith Interview - Bill Kirby

Bill Kirby
Age 62
Hattiesburg, MS
Masters degree in English

The Writer

How long have you been writing? 
Since I can remember

Do you see writing as a career? 
Not hardly 

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Actually writing

The Work

"North of Chinle." Young man finally lets go of the everyday structure we all attempt to cling to.

Is there a main theme or message in this piece? 
Security is relative.

What inspired "North of Chinle?" 
Traveling the Four Corners and the miles and miles of miles and miles. 

Tell us about another project you have published or are currently working on. 
Two Dogs Running (tentative title). A forgotten national park, Deadwood, whale vomit, two losers who become one winner. 

What inspired this work? 
Two previous characters and the Four Corners.

Where/When can we find this work? 
I'm working on it. 

The Methods

How often do you write? 

Where do you write? 
In a small, book-filled space.

What time of day or night makes you most productive as a writer? 
Night, late night.

How do you react to editorial rejections of your work? 

How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication? 
I become giddy.

The Madness

What is your favorite book? 
Lucky Jim

What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer? 

Who would play you in the film of your life? 
Richard Dreyfus

How many of your character have you ended up killing off? 

Beach or Mountains? 

Cats or Dogs? 

Pen or Pencil? 

Summer 2014 Anthology

We are proud to present our latest print anthology, featuring the best poetry and prose from Crack the Spine's weekly digital issues. 

Issue 122

A stranger is telling me how to lick my lips and I am taking him seriously.
Don’t ask. 

- From "This Sentimental Way" by Kayla Pongrac

Tell us what you think of our latest issue by using the comment form at the bottom of this page!

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