We figured it was time to start interviewing the writers that have made Words & Sports such a great place to read sports lit, while not needing to care about sports at all. Welcome to, "I'm Just Here to Not Get Fined," with our first interviewee, Leigh Chadwick. Leigh has appeared in Volume 1, Number 1, and Volume 1, Number 4. Although you would think that should be enough for any writer, you can find her words at a place called HAD, and at a venue sometimes called the mothership. And books! She's got those, too. A poetry coloring book, THIS IS HOW WE LEARN TO PRAY (ELJ Editions, 2021), a chapbook, DAUGHTERS OF THE STATE (Bottlecap Press, 2021), and the full-length collection, YOUR FAVORITE POET (Malarkey Books, 2022).
Over the past month we went back and forth on Twitter DMs and talked about a variety of topics. The good and bad of Twitter, starting a new imprint with ELJ Editions, the future of Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and other things. Leigh Chadwick can go from talking about the NBA to literature and not miss a beat, and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
There’s really only one way to start this, and I think you know where I’m going: Jimmy Butler. Are you a Jimmy Buckets fan, first and foremost, or a Miami Heat fan?
Heat fan first. I started watching basketball with my dad when Dwyane Wade was drafted in ’03. My father was always a Heat fan (since the Zo and Timmy Hardaway, and Seikaly days), so I was basically grandfathered in.
There’s been a lot of good years: The ’06 Finals when Wade turned into a superhero and told all of Dallas “fuck your feelings.” Not to mention the Big Three era, which has easily been the most enjoyable years of basketball in my lifetime.
There’s been some bad years, too: Waiter’s Island, giving Whiteside 25 million or whatever a year, watching UD go gray.
Plus, Pat Riley is my favorite mobster, and I’ve had a crush on Spo for years.
Butler and his cheekbones are just the cherry on top.
Rony Seikaly, one of the originals! As a Mavericks fan, I prefer to never think about the ’06 Finals, but we can’t outrun the past.
Jimmy Butler has bounced around a lot, and there have been rumblings that the Heat may trade him if the right opportunity presents itself. As a Heat fan, would you be in favor of trading Butler if they could get Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant? Do either of those possible trades get the Heat closer to a title?
I would say, how the hell did you all trip up during that series, but then we did the same thing in 2011, so…I’d call it a wash.
You look at the teams Butler bounced around—Minnesota, Philly—and it’s hard to blame him. They haven’t been the healthiest franchises as of late. (I’d kill to see the infamous practice of him in Minnesota.) And really, Philly dropped the ball on letting him walk.
Personally, I don’t see the Heat moving him. I can’t see the reasoning (anyone worth acquiring—Giannis, Morant, Embiid, etc.—are untouchable). Of course, Durant is unquestionably better than Butler, but I just don’t trust him? I’m not sure if that makes sense. And I don’t see him fitting into the Heat’s system. I don’t know, Brooklyn is expecting a king’s ransom for him, and I’d be surprised if KD is anywhere but Brooklyn next year.
Anthony Davis. Didn’t M. Night Shyamalan make a documentary about him?
The Heat were a missed three pointer away from playing the Warriors (where they most likely would’ve lost in 6) in the Finals. Anyway, I say they just run it back and see what happens.
Aside from the Heat’s championship prospects, earlier you mentioned Butler’s cheekbones, and you’ve written about them in Words & Sports. In that piece, "Sestina Makes the Playoffs," you talk about the impermanence of things. For you, what are the things we can take away from sports, via fandom, that actually last?
I think it’s the memories that last. Sure, rings stay. Awards stay. Records stay until they don’t. And then there’s the arguments about eras and would this team had beaten this team if they played two decades earlier, or how many points would Jordan average per game if he was playing today, and can someone just punch Skip Bayless in the face already? So, you have the question of is a fact a fact or is it purely subjective? Or can a fact truly be solidified, or will it always be a “what if?”
Memories, though, they stay. They’re permanent until we forget how to remember. I can still remember what type of wings I was eating when I watched Ray Allen hit that corner three. Or the absolute joy of watching Haslem destroy Tyler Hansbrough after his dirty play against Wade. The Cavs championship: Lebron’s block and Kyrie’s three.
That shit sticks.
Switching it up a little bit, your latest book, YOUR FAVORITE POET, was recently published by Malarkey Books. We’re talking about memories and big moments, so where were you/what were you doing when you got the word that Malarkey wanted to publish the collection?
I was at work, sitting in my office, on my laptop. I had just sent Alan Good, founder and publisher of Malarkey Books, a screenshot of my poem, “How to Be a Poet Days After Finding Out Your Husband Cheated on You.” This was during my phase of, let’s send people screenshots of my poems through DMs on Twitter. (I’m sure I annoyed a ton of people; honestly, I’m not sure why anyone put up with it and wasn’t like, Leigh, fuck, stop, goddammit anyway!) Well, anyway, this was probably the 15th or so poem I sent him, and I think I wore him down because he was like, So, you wanna make a book or what? And I was like, Duh. The contract came a few days later. And now, here we are.
Outside of the numerous screenshots, did you have any prior poet/editor relationship with Alan & Malarkey?
None with Alan, no. I had been Twitter friends with Travis Cravey, who is an editor at Malarkey, for some time before I messaged Alan (or knew Malarkey existed, for that matter), but I don’t think Travis and I really ever talked about Malarkey Books too much.
Nice. Travis seems like one of the good ones on Twitter.
Travis really is a class act. (Don’t tell him I said that, though. He’s already full of himself enough as it is.)
You just started publishing in 2020 or 2021, right? Were you loading up on gems, waiting for a worldwide pandemic to unleash them, or is it just a case of you honing your craft over time, and then being ready to put your work out there?
I want to say I started publishing at the tail end of 2020. I know I started submitting to journals shortly before I had my daughter, which was in November of 2020.
I don’t know why I waited so long to start submitting my work. I feel like being pregnant and uncomfortable and bored had something to do with it. I kind of just said “fuck it, whatever, let’s see what happens," and I just jumped in. I had been writing for years, of course, but the idea of publishing anything was never an expectation I ever had.
Going back to Twitter, the whole experience there can be fun, but after awhile it’s just exhausting. Your persona has gotten attention, and it seems like some people take it too seriously, when your attitude about social media feels more along the lines of “fuck it, whatever.” Is that consistent with your experience?
It is absolutely consistent with my experience. Twitter can be fun, absolutely, and it has been (and still is), but I feel like I’m flirting with the exhaustion phase. I am incredibly amused by the thought that anyone might take my Twitter persona “too seriously,” because I feel like it’s pretty obvious that I’m being a caricature of myself. Not that I’m not the shit, but I’m probably only about 82% the shit I pretend to be on here. So, am I your favorite poet? No, of course not. But am I your second favorite poet? I mean, if not, I probably should be.
It does seem obvious you’re having fun with it, and also getting things done. The work speaks for itself, and you’re opening up opportunities for other writers. You recently started Redacted Books through Emerge, and you’ll be putting out two books next year, right?
Yes! I am very excited about Redacted Books, which is an imprint of ELJ Editions. Redacted will be publishing two books each year, and we’re starting our first year off with collections from Nicole Tallman and Adrienne Marie Barrios, two absolutely phenomenal poets. I feel absolutely blessed to be able to work with such substantial and talented writers. It’s an absolute honor to be able to help usher these stunning collections into the world.
(Also, I just realized I wrote “absolute(ly)” three times in one paragraph, and I am totally judging myself for it.)
It’s okay. I used “from” twice in one tweet the other day & only left it up because the writer that was featured retweeted it immediately. It was a wretched experience.
I want to ask you about the other book you have coming out this year, TOO MUCH TONGUE, through Autofocus Books. That collection is co-written with Adrienne Marie Barrios. How did the collabo with Adrienne come about?
I just put a few margaritas in me so my memories have gone weak, and I’m having a hard time remembering how me and Adrienne’s book became a book. And maybe that’s a good sign.
Here’s what I do remember: I met Adrienne on Twitter and we just immediately hit it off. I remember submitting a piece of flash to her literary journal, Reservoir Road, and I remember her liking the piece (because, obviously), and then one of us came up with the idea of collaboration on a poem or two, and then I guess we kept writing them because now we have a book.
How TOO MUCH TONGUE ended up with Autofocus, I’m honestly not really sure. I know we submitted some work to the journal and Michael (Wheaton, Autofocus publisher and editor) really liked it (because, obviously), and I don’t know, I feel like we just kind of asked him if he wanted to do a book (though I feel like that can’t be right).
What I do know for certain was that the entire project felt seamless and right and it just made sense.
It’s amazing how two people can meet virtually, have a great connection, and collaborate in a way that leaves them both creatively satisfied.
On the editorial side of things, you’ve got a lot of work coming up with Redacted Books. Do you have any other longform creative projects of your own planned, or are you giving yourself a break on that front?
There is a lot of work to be done with Redacted. I’m looking forward to being behind the scenes, editing instead of creating, championing Adrienne and Nicole’s books. It’ll be a nice change. Something I definitely need.
I do have another collection coming out with Malarkey Books. It’s called SOPHOMORE SLUMP and it’ll be released in May 2023. I’m at a strange place with it right now. I thought it was done and then it decided it wasn’t. I feel it shapeshifting every day. It’s exciting and confusing (which is probably what makes it so exciting), and I’m going back and forth on certain structural elements. After that is done, I don’t know. I could probably use a nap.
It would be a well-deserved nap. From the outside, it looks like you’ve been on a sprint for the past year and a half. Everything points to it paying off, though, as there are so many cool things you’ve got coming up, and there are a lot of Leigh Chadwick fans out there.
Before I let you go, I need to get some prognostication from you. A couple concerning basketball:
- Assuming the Heat don’t have to deal with any major injuries next year, how far do you see them going?
- Does Spoelstra stay with the Heat his entire coaching career? If so, does he spend all that time on the sidelines, or do you see him following Pat Riley to the front office?
- Okay, more than two questions, but do my Mavericks have a chance of getting to the Finals next year?
Thank you, I appreciate that. I don’t know about “a lot” of Leigh Chadwick fans (definitely not as many as there should be), but there has been so much support, it’s often felt overwhelming. I feel truly blessed.
I think the Heat can go as far as Herro can take them. We know what we’re going to get from Jimmy, and I believe we’ll continue to see an increase in productivity in Bam (especially his midrange). The question is: can Herro take the next step after his impressive jump last year? If he can continue to improve and beomce a more consistent number three (and say Dipo gets healthier), then I think the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t out of the picture.
Honestly though, and I hate to say this, but I think the championship is Boston’s to lose. The Brogdon acquisition was great, and Robert Williams III should be healthy and goddamn, that’s a lineup.
I would be surprised if Spo ever left the Heat, in any capacity. I think he’ll take over for Pat Riley when Riley finally steps down, but I really don’t see him ever leaving Miami. I think it’d be a terrible career move.
The Mavericks have less than a zero percent chance of making it to the finals.
I want to say your last point is a terrible take. Just terrible.
Oh no, it’s a very good take. But on the upside, at least you’ll be able to watch Luka waste his prime scoring 40 a night on slightly above average teams.
I think it’s safe to say any goodwill we shared has been destroyed, but let’s move on. Other than SOPHOMORE SLUMP & the Redacted books next year, is there a title slated for 2023 that you think is poised to blow up?
2023 is the year we get a new Kelly Link short story collection. 2023 is the year of Kelly Link.
Maybe that goodwill is coming back a bit. Kelly Link is amazing. Best active short story writer, you think?
Yes, I believe so. Though there’s so much talent out there, I hate to make absolutes.
We like to wrap these up with a recommendation of three writers you think the Words & Sports public should check out. These writers can write about sports or have nothing to do with it. Anyone’s name you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
This is tough because there are so many writers I want to shout about from the rooftops. There is so much talent; I’m in constant awe. It’s beautiful and intimidating and often overwhelming.
I will say I am extremely excited about Ben Niespodziany’s debut poetry collection, which will be out later this year.
Morgan Talty recently published one of the best short story collections I have read in a very long time.