An HCR Interview with William Lessard

William Lessard is a poet, writer, and PR extraordinaire, working as the President and Creative Director of PR With Brains. He's appeared in McSweeney's, NPR, Wired News, The SF Chronicle, and countless literary publications across the world and webs. I've seen the guy read some of the sharpest funniest poems, feel lucky to have cracked jokes with him at drunken poet parties, and he's a welcome guest around the HCR campfire any time. Check out his full bio below!

1. What is the best thing you’ve read so far in 2016, be it poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or something else?

Lucia Berlin. She puts an entire lifetime into every story. Her work is made of blood and bones and joy. She risks everything word to word, sentence to sentence. I had never heard of her before her collection "A Manual for Cleaning Women" was on top of everyone's Best of 2015 list. I wonder where's she been all my life. Her work is so good it makes me want to throw out most of the books I own.

2. What was your last “writing revelation,” a process or idea that made your writing easier, bolder, fresher, and/or more productive?

The last writing revelation I had was getting back the edit of "New Bike" from Morgan Beatty, founder of People Holding. "New Bike" was the first time I was working in prose for a while. Morgan stripped away all the filler, all the unnecessary connecting words and phrases. He showed me that my writing was most effective without ornament. It was a revelation that pushed me to focus on what was happening in the writing, not what I was saying or thinking about what was happening. I have a tendency to overthink, so this was a crucial distinction for me.

3. What place (city/town/region/room/middle of nowhere) has been an inspiration on your writing, and why?

I am from the Bronx. For me, it's a place and it's a lexicon. Unlike the other boroughs where everything is spread out, the Bronx is concentrated. Everyone lives on top of each other. They get on each other's nerves or they learn to get along. I draw from the sound in my head formed by that accent. The sound shapes my style as well as the meaning. Since I wasn't a tough guy, I learned to get by by being cool with other people. Being cool is listening. It's about reading a situation and giving the situation back what it requires. These are the key tools of a writer and someone who grew up riding the 2 train.

4. You've got a new book coming out this year. Tell us a little about it, and what was the driving force behind it.

Instead of having a standard midlife crisis, I decided a few years ago to get serious about my writing. I have been working as hard as I can to write things that speak to the moment that we're living in and hopefully beyond it. I keyed on technology because I have worked in tech for the past 20 years and tech is synonymous with our age. I gave all my pieces a technical flavor and have been slamming them out there, getting rejected like crazy, but occasionally scoring major wins. McSweeney's. Prelude. Hyperallergic. The Ashbery Home School. I have been living my struggles in public, sharing my wins and my losses with the folks on Facebook. It was from this sharing that the kind folks from Reality Beach got in touch to ask if I would be interested in doing a chapbook. The experience has been a great inspiration. While other people might be feeling sad about where their lives have taken them, here there are these wonderful people telling me that they want to get behind my work. I don't have an MFA or anything like that. I'm just a regular guy who works and writes at night. A major poet whom I have admired for years is looking over the chapbook, to see what we can do to improve it. I feel like a pitcher coming out of spring training with a new pop on his curveball.

William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's, NPR, Prelude, Wired, Hyperallergic, People Holding. His chapbook Rembrandt with Cell Phone will be published by Reality Beach in May. He co-hosts the Cool as F*** series in Brooklyn.

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The views and opinions expressed throughout belong to the individual artists and may or may not coincide with those of the other artists (or editors) represented within the magazine. Hobo Camp Review supports a free-for-all atmosphere of artistic expression, so enjoy the poetry, fiction, opinions, and artwork within, read with an open mind, and comment wisely. Thanks for stopping by the Camp!