Creative Writing

Things We Carry: Carlton W. McGrone

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 thrilled to hear from Carlton W. McGrone, a Mississippian studying fiction at The New School.

Where & when are you writing these days? 

This, as it’s been for a lot of us in the program, has been a constant struggle to figure out. But over the past few weeks, I’ve become a big fan of “morning writing.” I was very resistant to the idea, but after being frustrated by a weeks-long dry spell of words, I hopped out of bed at eight a.m. and wrote for hours. Going off of that, I agonized over finding the ideal writing spot, but I’ve become a fan of simply waking up and before anything else, crawling over to my desk, which looks out over my street in Harlem. Sunny days, when the beams are blinding, I’m at my most inspired. 

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

Cold brew with almond milk. This is essential to getting the creative juices flowing. Second only to international ballads. Lately, I’ve been blasting a Korean ballads Spotify playlist, but I’ll occasionally wander into the Italian countryside, some Spanish night clubs, a German pub or two.

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

Laptop. All the love and power to those who need to “feel the words through hand before typing them,” but my hand cramps easily, and then I’d just be thinking about how much I want to type this rather than write it. Plus, my handwriting is ATROCIOUS! 

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

The lovely Ann Hood (shout out, name drop) said to us, “Before anything, just get out of bed and start writing. Don’t interact with people. Don’t turn on a television or even touch your phone. Just. Start. Writing.” So, I guess that’s the best ritual I have. Also running helps, I guess. 

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? 

I guess a cell phone loaded with TikTok for when I inevitably get bored of my pretentious thoughts. 

Are there any words or quotes that you find essential to your writing practice?
“Just get it done,” –Some Guy on the Corner of 142nd and Amsterdam, circa 2023

Carlton W. McGrone is a proud Black and queer Mississippian author. He is currently working on novels that explore a vast array of love and desire, and he is perpetually interested in twisted, obsessive characters. Of course, none of these faults reflect his actual issues. 

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

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