We asked Issue 4 contributor Alfonso Colasuonno to talk about his piece “Riding in Cars with Girls,” his writing process, and how he balances his creative writing with his other literary endeavors.
Q: “Riding in Cars with Girls” eludes names and direct descriptions. The title implies multiple girls and multiple cars, yet the conversation topics are consistent from paragraph to paragraph. When you were writing this story, did you draw inspiration from multiple road trips or just one? Was there ever a car ride to begin with? Was there ever a girl to begin with?
A: “Riding in Cars with Girls” began with the generation of the title during a memorable road trip with three of my friends. One of them has a particularly strong personality, and I could feel the odd juxtaposition between our relative silence and her desire for conversation during the ride. Of course, “Riding in Cars with Girls” is not a mere retelling of that road trip, but the seed for the story was planted at that moment.
Q. In this same story, you use some repetitive language for emphasis (i.e. procedure). Can you explain the motives behind this technique?
A: The protagonist of “Riding in Cars with Girls” is a man who has allowed himself to become victim to the whims of his companion’s will. He has abdicated his own desires, and accepted a role as a mere passive onlooker in life. The use of repetitive language in this story is meant to evoke his sense of despair as a result of that decision.
Q: You say that you use the internet as a way to connect. How do you think poets in the age of the internet differ from previous generations?
A: I find the Internet to be a democratizing force. As a result, I believe that the insularity of previous generations of poets has been minimized to some extent. As such, the challenge for this generation of poets is to produce significant work without getting sucked into the basement of mass appeal.
Q. You’ve said your work often reflects the death knell of modern civilization. Can you elaborate?
A: I find this moment in history to be a transitionary point. The old mores have been dismissed or questioned by some, yet upheld by others. I try to write from this clash of worldviews, and the confusion that defines our present reality.
Q: In a world cluttered with text messages and emails, what makes a poem a poem, and not just another collection of lines?
A: There’s a certain weight and artistry that separates poetry from mere communication. A poem, like all quality writing, can and should allow one to see beyond their own perspective.
Q. You curate the literary journal, The Adept Writer, which publishes almost every piece submitted to the journal. Could you talk a little bit about your motivation behind creating a space that is open to all levels of writers given the current competitive nature of the publishing industry?
A: The germ of The Adept Writer was borne out of my friend Russell Jaffe’s efforts to help me improve and establish myself as a poet. In 2008, as an aspiring writer without any publishing credits to my name, Russell featured my work in his journal O Sweet Flowery Roses and also allowed me the opportunity to perform my poetry at a reading that he organized. The confidence that Russell inspired in me from those gestures was the impetus towards deciding to take my literary career seriously. I hope that being published may act as a similar spark for the writers who choose to submit their work to The Adept Writer, instilling the confidence to challenge themselves and take their craft seriously.
Q. As someone who has published poetry and fiction, can you talk a bit about your creative writing process? Does the idea for a piece dictate the form or do you have a more fluid approach when writing, i.e., do you start out with a longer piece and cut it down to a poem or expand a poem to be a longer piece of fiction?
A: I begin by weighing out the pros and cons of each medium before deciding which one seems to be the most appropriate fit for a particular idea. Sometimes I’ll realize afterwards that I’ve made the wrong decision, and decide on adapting a particular work to a different form. This was the case with my paean to 1970s Brooklyn “#44,” which I now believe is a much better fit as a dark comedic screenplay than as a short story.
Q. In addition to poetry and short fiction, you write screenplays. Can you tell us a bit more about that? What are you working on?
A: I caught the screenwriting bug after moving to Pennsylvania and connecting with an assortment of talented local actors and filmmakers. I am currently working on the screenplay for a rock musical titled “Welcome to DuBois” in partnership with my friends James and Ashley Neiger of WestPaProductions. I’ve also completed a screenplay in partnership with Zubair Simonson titled “Brooklyn Blend,” which is about a charismatic slacker who manipulates his way to renown through the leveraging of a political scandal. Going forward, I plan on collaborating with Lena Olive on a screenplay for a short romantic comedy with an alternative bent.
Q. You have a couple of different online platforms where you discuss publishing and writing (The Literary Game and Alfonso Writes) and offer editing services. Can you talk about the balance between being an editor and writer and how you manage your time between the two?
A: Writing is my foremost passion, but as a former educator, I find myself drawn to assisting others in the process of becoming better writers. As to balancing between the two, I have a tendency to hyperfocus. When I have an idea, I will write unceasingly until it is completed to my standards. Similarly, when working with a client as an editor, I will labor in a similar fashion until the author’s draft is shaped to a publishable standard.
Alfonso Colasuonno is an emerging writer. His fiction and poetry have been featured in The Milo Review, Postcard Shorts, Farther Stars Than These, Zygote in My Coffee, Citizens for Decent Literature, ppigpenn, Gutter Eloquence Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, Dead Snakes, Quail Bell Magazine, and The Camel Saloon. Alfonso graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Beloit College. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.