Kona Morris: Written Word Adventures

KonaWho wouldn’t love a writer who references glam rock band Queen in the same breath as Baudelaire? It’s not a surprise, though, coming from Kona Morris, who has traveled the U.S. as a teacher, writer, editor, publisher, literary panelist, and founder of word-centric endeavors great and small. With a keen eye for detail and humor, she says, “I emphatically reserve the right to fictionalize everything.”

Tell us a bit about your life and where you grew up.

I grew up in the small town art hub of Eureka, California, amid enormous Redwood trees and vacant beaches near the Oregon border. I moved myself to Boston, Massachusetts to attend e. e. cummings’ high school, wait tables, and sneak into Harvard classes. A few years later I found my way to northern Alaska where I lived in Fairbanks and the Gwich’in village of Fort Yukon for about six years. I spent a little time back in northern California, and I’ve been part of the writing scene in Denver ever since grad school.

How did you evolve into a writer, editor, and teacher? How do these roles inform one another?

I firmly believe that in order to fully own your writing, it takes a meticulous OCD level of editing. They are two sides of the same profession, but deserve to be managed at separate times, lest one runs the risk of the editor blocking free flow for the writer, or the writer being so in love with herself that she won’t allow revisions. The teaching part came later because, who would have guessed: I actually enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

When did you co-found Fast Forward Press? Please tell us a little about it.

Fast Forward was founded with some people I took a flash fiction class with in grad school in 2007. It was an online course as part of Naropa’s low residency program, and we actually created the entire first book via long distance communication. It grew and grew and grew to the point where we were receiving thousands of submissions and international recognition.  Such a phenomenal experience.

Throughout our five annual anthologies of flash fiction, we published authors from six continents and countless countries across the globe, as well as two single-author works, and we have been featured as experts of the flash fiction genre on panels and at literary events nationwide. I represented Fast Forward Press as a presenter and panelist at the 2013 AWP Conference in Chicago (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) to speak about the benefits and methodologies for using flash fiction in both the creative and academic classroom.

I read that you are both the co-founder of Write Trash Writing Group in Alaska and co-founder and editor of The Anthology of the Awkward. Tell us about these projects.

Write Trash was a writing group I started with some people in Fairbanks, Alaska, circa the turn of the millennia, and it has since been partially revived online. Crazed writers pouring themselves on a page. Poetry slams and cold cabin retreats.  Some of the best writers and people I’ve ever met.

Anthology of the Awkward is a collection of short stories focused on the mortifying aspects of the human experience. Volume One is on virginity and includes the works of some incredible authors.  It’s a project still looking for a home, so hit me up if there are any interested publishers out there.

Tell us a bit more about your own writing. How do you select and shape the material you use in your stories? Also, what is the most exciting things you are working on right now?

Bobbie Louise Hawkins, my dear friend and writing mentor at Naropa, once said, “The best writers are those who had the most fucked up childhoods.” I couldn’t agree more. Much of my material is inspired by my real life experiences and observations, though I emphatically reserve the right to fictionalize everything. I think it’s important to write from a place of experience, even if you haven’t gone through it yourself—meaning, it’s at least a situation you can emotionally step inside and empathize with.

As for the most exciting projects I’m currently working on, I have basically had the same two in the works for far too long and feel like I will implode if I don’t finish them soon. One is my novel. That sweet dark whore of a book that has been haunting me for the last few years. The other is a story collection. All I need to finish them is George Harrison singing “It’s gonna take ti—ime, a whole lot of precious time…” while doing jumping spin tucks in my library.

You are a busy and prolific writer—do you sleep? What do you do for non-word-related fun?

Travel and music are my greatest types of non-word related fun. I collect records and go to incredible concerts, mostly my friends’ bands.  I’m pretty lucky to be hanging out with the best of Denver’s music scene. Eldren, The Yawpers, Petals of Spain, LSD Bags, I love you.

Free association time: Share 10 of your favorite things.

In no particular order:
Doctor Who
Star Wars
Back to the Future
Hot sauce
Spicy pickles
Two Gallants

If you could spend a day with any writer—alive or deceased—who would you choose, and why?

What a question. I’ll have you know you’re spiraling me into a Doctor Who-finally-chose-me-for-his-companion-and-asked-me-that-question moment. Hmm…  I would have a hard time choosing between Baudelaire and Sartre, but I suppose Baudelaire would have to win. I just want to be a flâneur with him, wandering the streets and talking shit. But Twain wants my company, too. And Joyce. And goddamn the space-time continuum is just tragic.

Please finish this sentence: During her lifetime, Kona Morris was best known for xx and xx. She had also reached her heart’s desire, which was to xx.

During her lifetime, Kona Morris was best known for her eruptive laughter and dance moves. She had also reached her heart’s desire, which was to make humor the new drama.


For more, read Kona’s three 100-word stories in 100 Word Story.

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