Interview: SFPA Grand Master – Linda D. Addison

Grand Master Linda D. Addison

Linda D. Addison is an award-winning author of five collections, including The Place of Broken Things written with Alessandro Manzetti& How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend, recipient of the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Mentor of the Year and SFPA Grand Master. Addison has published over 360 poems, stories and articles. She’s very excited about the 2020 release of the film “Mourning Meal” (inspired by her poem of same name) by producer and director Jamal Hodge. Her site: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com.

SFPA Vice President, Colleen Anderson (CA), interviews new (2020) SFPA Grand Master Linda D. Addison (LDA).

Congratulations on being voted in as the Grand Master of the SFPA. This is another honor to add to your 5 Bram Stoker awards for poetry collections, making you the poet who has won the award the most times. You were also given the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award and were the first African-American to win a Bram Stoker Award, as well as being the first African-American Grand Master of the SFPA. 

How does it feel to have this new honor?

LDA: It’s an incredible out-of-body experience that I’m still getting used to. Even being nominated was exciting and unexpected. The other nominees are so talented that I didn’t really think about receiving it, until the email arrived! Such recognition from one’s peers is wonderful and humbling.

CA What inspires you to write poetry and why speculative poetry? (What themes do you explore or do they always change?)

LDA: I am a big daydreamer from when I was a young child and those daydreams were always speculative, things like cats with wings. I was totally into the early fables with animals that talked and walked. I’ve always wondered What if? in the realm of Speculative-ness. Although I write fiction too, poetry is my first voice. I hear poetry inside all the time.

Everything inspires me to write, my reactions to the world around me and inside me. I’m not sure I can look at my work and say what themes they explore, since I write organically, without a lot of planning, unless I’m writing to a theme for a project. I would say the themes change, depending on what touches my heart and soul. Perhaps this is a question better answered by my readers.

CA Your talent has made you a world-class poet. With what do you credit the building of your skills as a writer?

LDA: I have always worked at learning as much as I could about writing poetry and fiction. Early on, I read about the life of writers, their process, etc. I read poetry from all areas and tried my hand at different forms. In rewriting poetry, I’ve developed different approaches to make the writing interesting. I’m always open to adding new tools to my toolbox.

The biggest thing is that I capture anything that comes to mind in journals since 1969. I have boxes and boxes of them. This is the place I go for seeds to start a new poem or collection. 

CA Do you feel that there are still barriers to African-Americans in speculative writing and publication? And if so, how do you see this changing?

LDA: Hurdles for African-Americans (and others) are not explicit Keep Out signs, but exist as our absence in the published arena. A saying by Verna Myers: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

It’s not enough to say anyone can submit work to a project that rarely has others (not just African-Americans, etc.) in it. Mindfulness and extra effort is required to reach out to different groups for submissions. It’s important to have diverse gatekeepers (editors, etc.) involved, so they can assess the different voices being submitted.

Star*Line 43.4 was an excellent example of mindful effort by SFPA and editor Melanie Stormm to create the first All-Black issue of speculative poetry. It introduced many Black speculative poets to the reading community.

The reason to do this is because we live on a planet of so many different humans; why deny readers their work?

CA You’re not just a poet, but also a fiction writer. Which area captures your heart the most?

LDA: I’ve always been curious about physics/planets/psychology of humans (and myself) so growing up I read a lot of human-based science-fiction and fantasy. In college, I discovered quantum physics and became obsessed with the concepts, as well as the idea of multiple realities, etc. I love writing work inspired and extrapolated from actual science!

CA What projects are you working on now? What new writings can we expect to see from Linda Addison?

LDA: Actually, the latest personal project is a hard science-fiction novel that plays in the area of multiple realities, etc. It was inspired by a story (When We Dream Together (2010) from Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction) I wrote in a universe I always wanted to explore again.

I have poetry coming out this year in magazines and anthologies; some hasn’t been announced yet. What I can talk about is poetry in Weird Tales Magazine #364Chiral Mad 5 anthology, and fiction in Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda anthology and Giving the Devil His Due anthology. I also wrote a chapter on poetry for Writers Workshop of Horror II.

CA If you could only give one piece of advice to new writers, what would that be?

LDA: When mentoring new writers I always talk about how important the first draft is to creating work that will draw in readers. It’s been said there’s no new subject to write about, but what makes things new is creating a different view. That’s done by allowing yourself to write whatever touches you, whatever comes to you, without editing or judging. After the first draft is out, then editing, polishing, etc. can begin, if you decide you want to share it. By allowing yourself this free, wild writing your muse is what matters to your soul, what moves/hurt/disturbs you. If it touches you, there’s a good chance it will touch others.

CA Tell me about your jewelry, your love of it, and any special connection to any pieces.

LDA: In general, I love fun or meaningful jewelry. Anyone who has seen me at conventions know that, not necessarily expensive, just shiny unusual stuff. I also have jewelry that has special meaning.

My latest piece that I wear every day was designed and created by Amber, my cousin (not just for me). La Madrada jewelry comes from her original artwork called Out of the Closet, (which will show up as my next tattoo at some point). I feel very connected to my creative energy when I wear the necklace. Check her site for all versions of this powerful symbol and its meaning.

Another piece I wear often for its meaning is a silver ring inspired by La Virgen De Guadalupe I bought from Contreras Gallery and Jewelry here in Tucson. I got it the day I was going to a memorial for my good friend Isaac Kirkman, who suffered from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and was a creative and energetic force in my life. The symbol on the ring was important to him and is a reminder of the gift of him in my life.

I could write a book about the jewelry that has been gifted to me from my cousin Iris (who makes incredible earrings), my friend/artist Jill Bauman’s necklaces and bracelets, not to mention so much fun jewelry given to me by friends, who know the shinier and bigger the better!

I’ve also bought some wonderfully unique pieces from conventions and my travels.

CA With so many great achievements under your belt, do you have your goals set for anything specific in the future?

LDA: Well, part of my dream has been to see my work in visual/film format. That dream has already begun with the 2020 film Mourning Meal by Jamal Hodge (Director/Screenwriter), inspired by a poem of mine by the same name. He (and his team) did an amazing job of creating a film that was beautiful and haunting.

Yeah, I want more of that…

SpecPo: Thank you, Linda, for being such an inspiration to all types of poets and for granting us this wonderful interview!

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