Name: Norb Aikin
Where are you from? I was born in Buffalo, NY, but I’ve been a resident of Cortland (which is just outside of Syracuse, NY) for almost three years.
Tell us a little about yourself ie. education Family life etc. After graduation from high school I studied Communications and Journalism for a year, and I recently went back to further my education in Computer Information Systems. In between those stints, I spent the majority of my career in Retail Management, which can be a fruitful resource for many authors…not in terms of money, but for anecdotes and generally dealing with people.
When and why did you begin writing? I started writing as a teenager- poetry, primarily. It was and still can be an excellent source of relief, and it’s great for saying things which in certain moments you might find yourself unable to get out. It’s a way of finding closure.
Do you have a novel/collection published? Would you like to tell us about it? That, I’m still working on. I’m in the process of going through my old notebooks- over twenty years’ worth of poems- and archiving them in my Writing.com account. I started with a collection from about fifteen years ago called Cabin Fever, which I think is my first solid, front-to-back piece of work I felt comfortable sharing in its entirety. I’ve received a good amount of positive feedback on it so far, which has encouraged me to keep digging through everything else I have. When I’m settled on what I want to do as far as publishing, Cabin Fever will be what I’m looking to promote…but I’m still in the “gathering information” phase.
What inspired you to write your first book? A lot of times with poetry, it just boils down to experiences and what you’re going through at the given moment. With Cabin Fever, it was a lot of life changes happening around the same time…including learning to deal with different kinds of adversity as an adult for the first time. I was in my mid-twenties, and was sort of forced into learning a new reality…something that’s scary and carries a sense of the unexpected, no matter how old you are.
Do you have a favourite character from your book? If yes, who is it and why? No…most of it is written from a personal perspective. And in retrospect I wouldn’t say I was all that fun to be around most of the time back then!
Is your book part of series? If so what can readers expect to find in your series? It wasn’t conceived that way; not at the time. But the more I read through items I’ve written after that, I’m noticing a bit of a pattern. There’s a relation in the overall themes. I haven’t totally figured it out yet, so I can’t say I’m on to some kind of non-traditional trilogy…but down the road, with time maybe that’s how I’ll remember that period of writing the best.
Do you have a specific writing style? I don’t; at least I don’t think I do. I know what people have said in the past as to who I reminded them of, but I don’t put much stock in that. More often than not, everything starts with a random sentence that’s been rolling around in my head, or a potential title, and a tempo more than a specific form. I’ve always hated the constraints of traditional poetry forms…I think you lose emotion when you can’t use the words you want because they’re a syllable or three longer than you’re allotted in a line. And I’ve always been sort of turned on by rhythms that are unique.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Conveying the emotions I’m experiencing properly to the reader. Even though I prefer free-verse, it’s not always easy to get your point across as intended. I know everything’s open to interpretation, and that’s a good thing, but it can be frustrating when someone reads an item and it hits them in a manner completely opposite from what I was feeling at the time.
What are your current projects? I’m slowly touching up a collection right now called Ribmeat Of The Family Tree, which picks up sort of where Cabin Fever had left off. It’s growth by extension, I guess…I’ve never gotten comfortable with doing the same things over and over, and there’s a slightly more mature focus in Ribmeat. As I suppose happens with age. In addition to that, I often take on little projects at Writing.com, and I try (admittedly, not hard enough) to maintain a blog, Still Figurin’ Out Who I Think I Am. I’d like to think of that as more of an outlet for daily life and humor; a lighter side compared to poetry’s more emotional depths.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? My blog is available to anyone publicly at www.writing.com/authors/fivesixer/blog. I’m trying to work on updating it more frequently, but I’ve also learned not to force myself to squeeze out words that aren’t there.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Probably 90-95% of everything I’ve written, either in my blog or in my poetry, is based on my own personal experience. It’s that age-old mantra: “Write what you know!” I have a hard time with fiction…I mean well, and I get very gung-ho about ideas for a day or two, maybe a week, and then I get bored with it and give up. It’s not as instantly gratifying as completing a poem, or hitting send on a blog entry. I don’t have to invent a plot or flesh out details from thin air…I just have to hope my memory holds up!
What books have most influenced your life most? Do you have a mentor? I don’t have a mentor, but I feel like I’ve been influenced a lot by many of the bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with on Writing.com…and not just from a technical standpoint or in the writing process. To be able to see how others react in certain situations, and what they go through if we happen to be covering similar topics, is a tremendous resource. And confidence…another author’s confidence can be contagious, especially if you’re unsure of your own work at the time. Writing.com is a great community for that…sure, people are willing to lend assistance with spelling and grammar and whatnot, but it’s the moral support that really helps people find their own voice.
Have you ever been able to travel in regards to your books? What was it like? I’m sort of the other way around still regarding travel; I haven’t been fortunate enough to go anywhere simply because of my writing, but my travels have wound their way into poems and blog entries. However, I did once take a train trip to New York City for a long weekend to visit a fellow Writing.com author, which was a really fascinating experience.
Do you have any advice for other writers? I feel like it’s the same things everyone else says…just keep doing it! And make time to read and interact with other writers…hearing their voices can be just as important as finding your own.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for the support and encouragement I’ve received over the years…it truly means a lot. From page views and advice, down to the simple “Thank you for sharing this!”, it all registers on a level as something so important and immeasurable. Without that, what are we? Just a kid in his bedroom, venting frustrations. To go from that to knowing people look forward to what you have to say, I can’t really explain how awesome and humbling that feels. I’m very grateful.
What book are you reading now? Right now, I’m rereading The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan…an old coworker turned me on to him years ago, and I’m absolutely in love with his attitude and demeanor in his narration. He may not be for everyone, but I definitely recommend giving any of his works a shot, especially if you find yourself in a rut artistically and are maybe looking to inject a change of direction in what you’re doing. I also recently installed the Goodreads app on my tablet, and I’m starting to grow a virtual to-be-read pile there as well.
Do you remember the first book you read? If not tell us what your favourite book is and why. Wow…I don’t remember that far back! I remember getting my first library card, and taking out a stack of books that I’d tear through during summer breaks from school. I was a fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, as well as the Hardy Boys books…we didn’t have Harry Potter growing up. And as far as favorites go now, I’ll again bring up Richard Brautigan and In Watermelon Sugar. His portrayal of the fictional town is so colorful under what seems to be dreary circumstances, and I can appreciate how well in ways it relates to society almost a half-century later.
Other than writing do you have any hobbies? I find myself doing a lot of miscellaneous reading on the internet…there are millions of rabbit holes you can find yourself being sucked down that are so full of random bits of information, obviously. I have a short attention span, so it’s not hard for me to start reading up on one topic and an hour or two later I’m overlooking something at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s not only enlightening, but it can stimulate a dormant thought that winds up becoming a blog conversation or a poetic topic.
Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do? Right now, I’m in a middle place of sorts…I’ve been dealing with a bit of a disability issue, which has been making me rethink working in retail anymore. On the plus side, it’s given me an opportunity to explore different avenues with writing. The downside, of course, is everything that comes with being unemployed.
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching? I don’t actually own a television! I haven’t for the majority of my adult life; for so long, the airwaves were devoid of witty programming that I could sit down and enjoy and feel like I was gaining something from. But with the explosion of cable, satellite service, and streaming options, there’s so much out there now that if I choose to watch something, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time staring at a screen. I’ve always leaned toward sitcoms, so I’m catching up on Arrested Development (again) before the next season drops (which hopefully will in 2016). Friends has always been a guilty pleasure. And over the last two nights I watched a bootleg link (shhh!) of the movie Straight Outta Compton, which brought back a lot of memories from when I was just a kid. I don’t watch a ton of movies- I can’t sit still and pay attention for that long- but that was one I knew I’d see eventually. I do the majority of television and movie watching late at night…I still can’t get over the stigma I’ve placed upon myself that I could be doing more productive things with my time.
Favourite foods /Colors/Music. It’s taken me a long time to reach this level of understanding, but pizza will always be there for me and will never let me down. I wish I could say the same about tacos, but if you’ve had a bad taco it takes awhile to recover from the emotional torment of having your heart broken by it. Tacos are like the bad boys of food…everyone wants one until they break your heart. Pizza will always be there to comfort you, no matter how many times you friend-zone it.
Colors? I’m preferential to black and dark blue. And music…I grew up on the oldies, and then gravitated toward hip hop and then grunge. I have a large collection of just about every genre…it’s the other constant in my life besides writing.