Creative Writing

Things We Carry: Anthony Casella

Things We Carry is a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. These conversations are interested in the tactile elements of writing: what do we hold essential? What tools do we need in order to create? The things we find essential to our writing process reflect our beliefs about craft and process. 

This week, we were delighted to hear from Anthony Casella, a second year student studying fiction in The New School’s Creative Writing MFA Program.

Where & when are you writing these days? 

I write early in the morning before work and on weekends. My primary writing station is the desk in my apartment, next to a large window that overlooks a bustling street in Williamsburg. I would love to be someone who could write at a coffee shop or in a park, but people watching would get the better of me. This allows me to observe from a distance without being too easily distracted. 

Do you have any tools or tokens that are essential to your writing?

A friend gave me a leather journal with my first initial and last name on it that I use for ideas or sentences I know I want to include. I keep that close by, along with a notebook I started at the beginning of the program to capture any craft or academic advice related to writing. And a ton of sticky notes.

When I’m writing, it’s important for me to have a large glass of water that keeps getting refilled. It’s a good way to remember to get up and move my body if I’m stuck at a certain point.  

Pen and paper, laptop and wifi, or a combination? 

Both. I prefer to outline or jot down the beats of a story on paper. It feels like an easier way to get my thoughts out before organizing them later. I will also use the Notes app on my phone in a pinch. All of this gets transferred to the computer, where the main event begins.  

Do you have any habits or rituals that help you get grounded before you start writing? 

I like to read fiction before I start writing. If I’m struggling with a particular moment or how to approach a scene, I will read something similar to see how the author achieved the effect and then hope my own work will absorb some of that through osmosis.

Things also need to be tidy, so the desk I’m working at has to be rid of any clutter. The same goes for my entire living space before I sit down. I like to wear oversized clothing, nothing too tight so I feel like I could move around and be comfortable. If the weather is nice, I will leave the windows open.

You have been given a backpack and are being sent to a desert island for thirty days of uninterrupted writing time. What do you put in the backpack? 

Lots of paper since I’m not sure my laptop would survive. A gel pen. The aforementioned journal and notebook. For when I need a break from writing, I’m taking the stack of books on my nightstand I haven’t gotten around to reading. A change of clothes and a bar of soap. I’m also packing a huge sense of relief because free time is something I don’t have much of these days so this trip would be a real gift.   

Are there any words or quotes that you find essential to your writing practice?

Specificity in fiction makes the work more relatable is something I always try to keep in mind, even though I understand the instinct to believe it would do the opposite. I’m not sure why, but it’s always true.  

Anthony Casella is a second year fiction student in the MFA program. His work has appeared in HOBART, The Diverse Arts Project, and has been translated to Italian. He is currently working on a novel. He lives in Brooklyn. You can find him on Instagram @anthonyfcasella.

Things We Carry is an interview series produced by Stuart Pennebaker.

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