Sheena Carroll is a talented writer, reader, and musician. She is also a kind, funny person. Her chapbook, Miss Macross Vs Batman is currently available to buy (link at the bottom of this article). She runs the Hell's Lid reading series in Pittsburgh. Who knows what a nice person like her is doing on a site like this.
Starting this off with the hardest hitting question. What's your favorite mech anime?
I talk a helluvalot about Gundam and Macross on a regular basis, but my favorite mech anime is Gunbuster. It’s a beautiful 1980s sports anime parody that turns into a generations-spanning cry-fest. It was also the directorial debut of Hideki Anno, who’s better known for Neon Genesis Evangelion!
You write about some pretty heavy topics. Do you ever have anxiety about releasing anything?
Constantly. There are still so many pieces of mine that I have yet to share publicly because I worry about how people will react to them.
What was your first experience reading in front of an audience like?
In college, my classmates and I formed a slam poetry club. Before that, I’d never really experienced spoken word and was totally unprepared for our first reading. I was initially sick from anxiety, but once I got on stage something just clicked. Making the audience laugh with my poetry was super validating because it meant that they were both listening to and enjoying it, which is why I insert so much (albeit dark) humor in my work today.
I was really psyched to see you mention Joseph Campbell in your article for Totto Journal. Has studying the structure of storytelling affected the way you approach your own writing?
It has, at least when it comes to my fiction. Campbell was my introduction to folklore studies and was an amazing discovery. It de-mystified the much of storytelling process for me and helped me critically examine others’ works much better.
How has releasing your debut chapbook, Miss Macross Vs. Batman affected you as a writer?
It has been a positive experience in all aspects! It emboldened me to write more because it proved that I could finish a chapbook. If I can finish a chapbook, I can finish a full-length manuscript, right? Well, that’s what I’m hoping.
Wait, wait, wait. Did you start Neon Genesis Evangelion with the Rebuild series? How did that go? (I love the original show and the End of Evangelion movie but haven't seen Rebuild.)
I watched the original Evangelion during its run on Adult Swim a little over a decade ago. I was in 8th or 9th grade and immediately connected with Rei because she was quiet, awkward, and kind of an asshole. (Now I connect much more with Misato.) The Rebuild series has been an interesting reinterpretation, but it’s so off the wall that I don’t even know if I like it or not.
What is the origin of Miss Macross? I also see it stylized as M I S S M A C R O S S. The only thing I found within ten seconds of Googling was a vaporwave track. So, there's a part two to this question and that is: Are you a fan of vaporwave?
miss macross is a reference to the anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross (a.k.a. Robotech). Early in the series, a whole city of people ends up stuck on the space ship Macross due to some science that doesn’t make any sense. To keep a semblance of their humanity while floating through space fighting a race of warrior giants, they decide the most human thing they can do is hold a Miss Macross Beauty Pageant, complete with a swimsuit competition.
I love vaporwave but I’m more of a fan of future funk and lo-fi hip-hop. The song you’re talking about is by MACROSS 82-99, who is one of my favorite artists.
My name is stylized as M I S S M A C R O S S on Facebook because I was allowed to do that, but not to make the page name all lower-case, which is my preferred way of styling it.
In your article, "So You Want to Publish a Chapbook?" you mention reading a metric fuckton of books every year. I've been reading Finnegans Wake for about eight months and am unable to make any headway between that and my own writing. How do you manage?
Honestly, it’d probably take me just as long to read Finnegan’s Wake. I often spend a few months reading one longer, denser book while simultaneously reading multiple other, “lighter” books. When I’m struggling through a book, it makes me not want to read anything else for months. By reading graphic novels or thin poetry collections at the same time as a massive novel or biography, I avoid this.
You documented your NaNoWriMo struggles on your site. You wrote 32,141 words in that time. Do you think that compressing a creative experience into such a short time span works in the benefit of the work? Do you think such pressure is healthy for an artist?
I love the challenge of NaNoWriMo, though I’m not sure if it’s the healthiest thing I’ve done to myself. I tend to put too much pressure on myself – my output will be ridiculously high for a month, but then I’ll start cracking. I had a total breakdown this winter and I’m still recovering from it, with intermittent periods of neglecting everything in my life to write a ton of shit that I’ll hopefully edit when I feel better. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself and I don’t think that any artist should. Most significantly, I don’t think it either improves or degrades the quality of my writing in any way.
How did Hell's Lid get started and how has it grown?
Last summer, I was approached by a lovely local singer-songwriter, Sadie’s Song, about doing a reading series. She was booking events for Full Pint Wild Side Pub and they expressed interest in hosting regular literary events. I jumped at the opportunity because at the time I was organizing several readings, all at different places, and it was starting to overwhelm me. Having a consistent date and location for readings has been a huge relief, though I still occasionally book shows elsewhere. Full Pint has become a hot spot for literary events, including the amazing Steel City Slam run by the Pittsburgh Poetry Collective (which has been running for years and recently moved to Full Pint from their previous home in East Liberty).
The Hell’s Lid Reading Series is an interesting project. I had no idea what to expect and I wasn’t sure if it would last longer than a couple months. I'm pleasantly surprised that it's grown as popular as it has; many readers have told me they enjoyed it because it gave them a chance to hear the work of other local artists whose social/creative circles had never previously overlapped with theirs. I like that a lot, and I think there are still many circles of writers that I have yet to reach in Pittsburgh. I’d like the chance to bring us all together, even if it’s just for two hours on a Sunday afternoon.
Thank you so much, Sheena, for your awesome answers! Readers, please check out her links and buy all of her stuff.
The Miss Macross website:
Buy Miss Macross Vs Batman from CWP Collective Press:
Miss Macross on Twitter:
Miss Macross on Facebook:
Huge thanks to Dani Pasquini for her awesome interview! If you want a writer who'll take you through heartbreak, joy, and everything in between look no further. Check out her work!
When you first started writing The Gold Feather, did you initially know you wanted to write a series or did it emerge as you went?
Oh my goodness, it completely emerged as I went along. I had this simple little story in my mind when I started writing but then it just grew. Each character took shape in my mind so that they were living and breathing inside of me. I had to keep the story going for them. Even though the stories are told through the eyes of Lily, each character plays a distinct role in her rebirth.
Reviewers praise your work for how it "starts and ends with heartbreak, but goes through every other emotion on the spectrum" and "melds love, friendship and tragedy." To you, what's an important thing about writing emotionally-charged stories?
When I write emotionally charged scenes, I am drawing from my own feelings. Memories of heartache and joy, sadness and love. I have to draw from those experiences to give my words texture and meaning. People don’t want to read a flat story. They want to feel that love that the character is feeling. They want to feel their sadness and their hopes. It is through emotions that we connect. So, at the end of the day, I’m just trying to connect my emotions to yours. But then it gets tricky because let’s say you as the reader have never experienced heartbreak, then the connection has to occur on a different level and with a different emotion. So, incorporating as many human conditions into my work will strike a chord at least once. Well, hopefully.
Readers are also saying they "felt like [they] were a part of the story" and "feel at home in the pages." What helps you put readers "there?"
This is certainly not something that I do intentionally. I am writing the stories as if I were walking in the characters shoes. I am going through their motions and responding in a way that I would respond if I were them. I believe that by pulling the readers to interpret my words through my eyes helps pull them into the characters as I have been.
On your Goodreads page you say that your stories are inspired by some of your own experiences. Do you have a process for translating your experience into your work? Do you have any advice for those wanting to do the same?
When I was a child, I would have vivid dreams of flying. Floating off of my mattress, hovering in the kitchen and then out the door. Up into the sky. Feeling the wind and the cold on my little body. Those feelings have stayed with me to this day and I drew from those memories to write the first chapter of The Gold Feather. The descriptions and the feelings that the character feels are all drawn from those memories.
I think that we all do our best work when we pull from experiences that we have had, filtering emotions and sensations through our own minds eye. So, when one of my characters finds themselves in an emotionally charged moment, I dig into my vault of difficult experiences and pour those feelings onto the page. I am no expert in this, but what has helped me in my writing is to use what I know and what I have felt in my own skin to give my characters those same feelings. So, my advice would be to write what you know. You need to filter everything through your own past experiences to turn it into something that has texture.
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm picking up on messages of rebirth and breaking free in your work. When you write, do you have a theme in mind as you begin or does it emerge as you go?
You are absolutely correct in interpreting the theme. It is heavy on breaking free and rebirth. When it comes to the theme I think that it’s been a little bit of both. The spark for the theme was certainly there when I started but then it grew as the story progressed. It’s almost as if the characters are telling me the story and I’m just responsible for documenting it.
On your site's Inspiration page and on your Instagram, you've got a lot of motivational quotes that make me feel like I could be a badass and take on the world. Would you like to share with readers any of your absolute favorites?
I really don’t have a favorite quote because they’re all my favorite quotes. All I am trying to do is convey acceptance, support and encouragement. Believe in yourself, support others even when they are different or have different beliefs than you do and live every day in a way that leads you to feel something new. Many of the quotes that I post have done just that for me.
Is there anything you'd like readers to know?
I love to laugh. Laughter has pulled me out of some very dark days. Inappropriate laughter and cursing are some of my favorite things. Without those two things I would be in a heap of shit.
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Photo Credits: Dani Pasquini