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An Interview with Michael Loderstedt

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My writing reflects my upbringing on a rural island in NC, a place often visited but seldom understood. I’ve recently returned to this area to research the impact climate change and overdevelopment has had on the region. I’ve also conducted interviews that support this memoir project. In essence, these works address how geography contributes to the shaping of an artist and give some voice to an underclass culture that is seldom heard in the fields of literature and visual arts.

My debut book of poetry, Why We Fished (published by Redhawk), received the UK Poetry Book Award’s silver award in 2023. Other poems have recently been published in the NC Literary Review (receiving the James Applewhite Prize in 2021), Muleskinner Review, the Naugatuck River Review, Bangalore Review, and in recent anthologies entitled Neighborhood Voices & Poem for Cleveland. I received an Ohio Arts Council Fellowship in Literature in 2020. My poem “Why We Fished” was nominated this year for a Pushcart Prize.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

When I retired from teaching visual art at the university level, I started taking writing classes through Literary Cleveland. I also started reading more, and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club (among other works) inspired me to write my own memoir.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Perhaps the biggest factor was growing up on this island, and the fact that I had a very different childhood than most people. The death of my mother and the pandemic forced me to take a long look at my life. Being the oldest child, one of only a few remaining members of my family still alive has also made me want to tell my unique narrative.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The Yellowhammer’s Cross references the many wooden crosses that were placed above the treeline on my island by the locals for hunting migrating birds. Yellowhammer is the colloquial name for Northern Flickers, a ground feeding woodpecker eaten by some of the islanders.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, “Don’t Let the Kids Win” by Julia Jacklin, “Young Americans” by David Bowie, “Reeling in the Years” by Steely Dan, “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd.

Describe your dream book cover.

Interesting graphics made from high contrast images of Northern Flickers, preferably in a suggestive cross formation, white background, sophisticated typography.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Food service, carpentry, boatbuilding, lutherie, college professor.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray, Uncultured by Daniella Mestyanek Young, Rust by Eliese Goldbach, and lots of poetry by Mary Oliver, Ocean Vuong, Seamus Heaney, and Peter Makuck.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

That nature and art can provide meaningful salvation from nearly anything.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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