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Interview with Carly Severino, author of Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir

Welcome readers. I’ve had a very long few weeks at work in which the work just kept piling up and I felt like I was going to drown.

I want to apologize to Carly Severino for not getting this interview up in a timely manner. I hope you’ll forgive me.

First here’s a little bit about her new memoir, Bruised Brain: A Poetic Memoir:

“bruised brain” is a poetic memoir that explores themes of child abuse, self harm, depression, mother-daughter relationships, healing, and more. Examining hardship through poetry, this debut work serves to let readers everywhere know they are not alone.

Please give Carly a warm welcome:

1. When writing, do you outline how you want to structure your books or do you just go with the flow?

I’ve tried to be better about outlining but I find it distracts from the creative direction the writing wants to go in. When I try to outline, it feels like I’m trying to tell the story what it should do when really I should be listening to what the story thinks I should do to make it happen the way it’s supposed to. I try to write as soon as inspiration strikes so I can ride the creative wave and let the story take shape. I’ll worry about the technical stuff during editing.

2. Explain a little bit about your day job in PR and how it relates to your other writing pursuits.

I love books and reading and writing, and so a lot of people think I should be in publishing. For a while, I really wanted to do just that but after working for a few literary magazines and working at a literary agency, I sort of realized I didn’t want to make what I was super passionate about my job because then all the things I loved the most became work. So I compromised by working in PR and advertising, and honestly it was the best decision. I get to work with some really creative people and the work is never the same. I have such interesting clients that do all sorts of different things, so the material is never boring and I’m always learning something new.

I really love working in PR because it’s a challenge. I have to do a lot of research about things I never thought I’d be writing about, and to me, that’s the best when a job can teach you something new every day. Then on the weekends or at night after work, I take an hour to do the kind of reading and writing I really love.

3. Your memoir deals with some very tough and traumatic issues. Did you find the process of writing the poetic memoir cathartic? How so?

It’s funny; I never wanted this to be my first book. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the writer with “mommy issues.” But the more I let it fester inside, the more I felt like I needed to let it out. I started writing this accidentally, to be honest.

I just wanted to compile a bunch of poems to sell at slams, but it just morphed into something else altogether. I realized I had a poem for every traumatic event in my life that described my relationship with my mother, so I wrote them and then compiled them in chronological order starting with my birth.

Cathartic is a really great word to use; it’s how I describe most of my writing—especially this book. It was great to sit down and unpack all this emotional heaviness.

I love poetry because even though it tends to deal with some tough topics, ultimately what you’re doing is taking that pain and trauma and making it into something beautiful and artistic, and I think that’s really important. If you let your pain sit there, the pain wins and gets worse with time. But if you try to paint it in a different light, you’re understanding it in an entirely different way and are able to move on from it.

Thank you, Carly, for answering my questions and best of luck with the new book.