Randon Billings Noble micro-interviews Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

RBN: Let’s jump right in!  How important is naming something (like genre) to you – and why? 


BAF: For me, naming the short pieces that I was writing “micro-memoirs” gave me permission to keep writing them. Prior to that, I was doing these little scribblings in my notebook, and while I was entertaining myself, I kept waiting for something to add up to something. My scribblings didn’t look or feel like poems, or essays, or parts or a novel, so I felt anxious. When I came up with the name, I was able to relax into the possibilities of the form, simply because it existed. Rather circular and self-serving, but useful: they existed because I named them, and because I named them, they existed.


RBN: What is the value of fluidity in your work and/or your process? What is the value of rigidity?  


BAF: Fluidity is the goal; staying in the fluid place is the challenge and discipline, for writers and yogis and seekers. The accumulation of expertise should not lead one, I feel, to act the expert. Beginner’s brow is my favorite look. It goes with everything.


RBN: Do you have a favorite prompt or practice to recommend – to help poets move into something more hybrid? Or for writers to write weird? 


BAF: Sometimes I like to read aloud the index of first lines in the back of giant tombstone anthologies, like Norton’s, and read not for meaning but just to get a little drunkish on vowels and consonants. Mouth-feel, the food scientists call it.


RBN: How do you come up with such great titles for such short pieces? 


BAF: In short pieces, the titles are super important. They simply make up a great percentage of the meaning because they make up a greater percentage of the word count. They have to be load bearing.


RBN: Please complete this analogy – Micro-memoir : poetry :: __________ : __________. 


BAF: Turducken : duck


RBN: <3


Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her collection Be with Me Always is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press in March 2019 and her lyric essay chapbook Devotional was published by Red Bird Chapbooks. Other work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, and elsewhere. She is currently the founding editor of After the Art and you can read more at www.randonbillingsnoble.com.
Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of six books, most recently Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs. She's a professor at the University of Mississippi. She recently agreed to write about butter for a gourmet website, and she's being paid in bacon. More info about her can be found at www.bethannfennelly.com.