Dear Readers, we are lucky enough to have become acquainted with Franki Hanke, a student administrative assistant with the Hamline University English Department. She also writes for its in-house blog Hamline Lit Link, and we’re thrilled that she decided to conduct an interview with us recently. My, oh my! Isn’t that exciting? We’re going to be on the front page of the University wall newspaper! So lean in, Dear Students, and squint your eyes to catch all the fine print. Oh, and please, do be polite and don’t spoil our beautiful faces with scribbled moustaches and shiners, okay?
FRANKI: Describe your site unbolt in its entirety? What is it? What does it hope to accomplish or what do you hope to accomplish through it?
TONY: Hi, Franki. Thanks for interviewing us. This should be fun!
TATI: Yes, let’s play!
TONY: Unbolt Me is a literary blog. It’s an online repository of poems, prose, and anything else we decide to try.
TATI: We have made art and audio recordings too. And a video! But Unbolt Me will always be about the writings.
TONY: As for what we hope to achieve with it, we just want fame and fortune, man. Like Scrooge McDuck, we wanna dive into huge piles of money and see how far we’ll sink!
FRANKI: Your web design leaves links all over the place to new creative work. What is the reasoning behind this feature?
TATI: Unbolt Me is a live organism. Beating. Throbbing. Breathing. Links are its circulatory system. They bring the oxygen of readers to every nook and cranny so there’s no necrosis.
FRANKI: What feedback have you gotten from readers about this feature?
TONY: They seem to like it. It can be fun to follow the links around… like a trail of breadcrumbs really. Just don’t gobble ‘em up as you go. Don’t want all our other readers getting lost!
TATI: Well… I remember one person said it’s rather annoying. But hey, don’t like, don’t click!
FRANKI: Throughout the site, do the links lead only to poems by the two of you or also reader submitted work?
TONY: It’s mostly only to our own poems, isn’t it Tati?
TATI: Yep, but not always. We’re not greedy.
TONY: Folks will just have to click around and find out for themselves. Ha ha!
FRANKI: Tell me about your writing challenges. When did they start? What’s the reasoning? How do you design them?
TATI: Actually, my writings were started like challenges, but maybe that’s off topic…
When I joined WordPress, I started to receive many awards and writing challenges. At first, I diligently tried to fulfill every challenge I received, but I later realized that I no longer had the time to get them done. They were growing in my to do list like a snowball. When I started to pay more attention to my writings and books, and when I started to work with Tony, these writing challenges became secondary.
One beautiful day, I decided to release them, and gave our dear readers the opportunity to raise this fallen banner of challenges themselves. We created a special page. It was my idea, but Tony’s brilliant execution. I’m very grateful to Tony. His mastery helps me to fulfil many bold ideas, and to create a modern design for the blog.
FRANKI: You currently have eight challenges, correct? Do you typically add more or is this typical to expect to see these same ones?
TATI: It’s actually a good idea! We should create some new challenges, Tony. Shouldn’t we?
TONY: Oh my god! A resounding yes!
TATI: By the way, I have an idea. What about a special bonus for readers of this interview? The ‘Create Your Challenge’ challenge and the ‘I would never write about…’ Challenge? How does that sound?
TONY: Yeah, totally! And our readers can make up their own rules for those challenges too!
FRANKI: For the Ears Wide Open challenge, are readers invited to offer their own readings too? Where should those be submitted and in what format?
TONY: We encourage it. If there are any poems we’ve written that tickle the fancy of our readers then we’d certainly love to receive their audio renditions of them. We accept mp3s and mp4s. Failing that, delivery via carrier pigeon in ten foot high braille is also acceptable.
TATI: Usually we use SoundCloud, and combine the reading with a fitting picture.
FRANKI: Which challenge is your favorite?
TATI: If I needed to pick a challenge for myself now, I would grab the ‘In Ten Sentences’ one. I think it’s because of my tendency to be laconic. Tony can confirm this. I’m not a chatterbox. Not in life. Nor in my writings.
TONY: Which is a boon since I’m deaf and half blind. As for me, the ‘Read Our Poems Aloud’ challenge would be my pick. Why? Because I’m an insufferable narcissist.
TATI: Deaf and half blind? Are you sure you’re human, Tony? You sound like a mole. A mole-narcissist. Really cool! Yep!
TONY: Careful! You don’t want me digging a hole beneath you…
FRANKI: How do you hope readers will interact with the challenges posted? What do you hope they gain from it?
TONY: Sexual prowess? Untold levels of virility? I’ve no idea. I guess all I want is for them to have fun with it. Writing is a chance to be creative, and we should all be given that opportunity at least once in our lives.
TATI: Finally, Tony said something valid. Amen to that!
FRANKI: What have you thought yourself doing these challenges (as they come from other nominations)? Has good work come out of the inspiration they stir up?
TATI: Every challenge forced me to think outside the box. To extricate myself from it. And challenges with a strict time frame also helped me to realize one interesting thing… Once, I wrote a piece in Russian in 10 minutes because rummaging in a dictionary would have devoured time if I had started to write in English. But the translation back into English took much longer than I had anticipated. Actually, I then wrote this piece again from scratch. It was a valuable lesson for me. Now, I never use Russian or Ukrainian drafts. I always write in English. Every language has its own logic and structure, and if you want to get a nice result then you need to think on this language, not just translate your own thoughts.
TONY: I believe challenges come from everywhere. Life itself goads one into writing something, anything, just to make sense of it all, don’t you think? I’ve never needed to look very far for my inspiration. By the way, Tat, good essay there!
TONY: Hey you, stop yawning already!
FRANKI: If someone was only willing to check out one challenge, which would you recommend as best for spurring some writing?
TONY: They should pick the challenge they’d hate the most. Methinks that’d really stretch out the old writing muscles!
TATI: Tony, what happened? The second reasonable thought during one evening!
FRANKI: Running a blog is a lot of work, what makes it worthwhile for you?
TONY: Writing and spending time with Tati is reward enough, but I do also have ambitions for our words to reach a wider audience. I feel we both have a lot to offer the literary world, so I’m definitely interested to see how far we can push this.
TATI: Yes, blogging is a great springboard. The more you shake it, the higher you jump.
FRANKI: What do you think are the benefits of writing for your own blog space versus other “goals” for writing: like writing in attempt to publish to other spaces or writing only privately, etc?
TONY: If I only ever wrote privately, then nothing would get done. I wouldn’t achieve a damn thing. That’s why I like to blog it all. This forces me to keep to a schedule, and it keeps me accountable to our readers. I feel this is the key to successful and productive writing for me.
TATI: I think it depends on goals, actually. There is nothing bad in private writings. But, yes, blogging disciplines you. It helps you to assess your efforts adequately. And the fact that I’m sitting here, struggling with my answers, means that I have made some steps toward my dream to be a famous writer. God bless you, blogging.
Interview by FRANKI HANKE
Image by TONY SINGLE
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