The HCR Interview with Hillary Leftwich


It's been over a year since the last issue of Hobo Camp Review and it's our first issue since our 10 Year Anniversary Anthology, and while we have a lot of new names and faces around the campfire for this new issue, I wanted to bridge our past and future by interviewing one of our favorites to speak about her new book. I hope you enjoy this brief interview with writer Hillary Leftwich, and please take a look at her collection Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock when it comes out.

James Duncan: When I was a young writer starting out, so many of my early literary heroes moved to or spent notable time in Colorado, and as I get older I still sense this allure of the area and the idea of getting away from the coastal life for something more adventurous. As a writer living in Colorado, what do you think is the appeal of the region for artists and writers?

Hillary Leftwich: I was born and raised here, (my family is from Indiana) so I can only speculate on what the appeal might be for artists and writers. I know many writers here in the Denver area that have been here for generations. Kali Fajardo-Anstine, whose debut novel, Sabrina & Corina, takes place in Denver where generations of her family have lived. Bobby LeFebre, Colorado’s first Latino and first person of color to be named as poet laureate. There is a lot of history here as well originating from the days of gold mining, ghost towns, and the Wild West that serve as inspiration for many western writers. Denver’s seedy history as well, the infamous Colfax Avenue has so many stories and has appeared in some of my work. Authors such as John Fante, Kent Haruf, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and several others. The Arapahoe, Apache, Comanche, Shoshone, and Ute tribes were all here before “here” was a concept. Other tribes were part of a federal relocation site to Denver in the ’50s and late ’60s. Colorado has several incredible local indigenous writers such as Stephen Graham Jones, Erika T. Wurth, Crisosto Apache, Jennifer Forrester, and Linda Hogan (to name a few). The Land Library http://www.landlibrary.org/ is also a wonderful resource for local writers that many people aren’t aware of yet. I recommend checking out their website.


JD: I've known you mostly through your work in poetry and as an editor, and now your debut full-length collection is about to come out and it includes a lot of prose. Tell us a little about Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock and how you balance poetry and prose in your life.

HL: The book is a collection of essays, stories, prose poems, and micro pieces that have been written over the past eight or nine years. I started out writing essays and flash fiction and didn’t start writing poetry until I decided to study it during my MFA. I don’t feel there is a balance, or at least “balance” isn’t the right word to describe it in my mind. I feel it’s more like a point of not looking back, or a series of steps every writer takes with time if they’re taking care to learn and grow. I don’t want to say it’s ever a “growing out of” prose or poetry, but more of an opportunity to build on each genre and use certain elements from each. Someone once told me if you’re intimidated by a subject or genre, take time to learn the hell out of it, but not only that, use it to build your work.


JD: What was the most challenging aspect of completing the book, and how did you overcome it?

HL: Time. But looking back over the last nine years, I realize it wasn’t necessarily time, not in the sense that many people look at as far as deadlines. I had no deadlines. But the opportunity to write when I was working full time and raising a son on my own and reading/writing was almost zero. But you know what they say about priorities. After I earned my first MA then moved on to my MFA on top of working for the government as well as raising my son, who is now fifteen, I sometimes look back and wonder how I found any opportunities to write. It wasn’t a matter of time. It was a matter of wanting. I sacrificed a lot. If I want something bad enough, I will find a way to do it. No excuses. No feeling sorry for myself. So, to all the writers working full-time jobs, the single parents, the hustlers, I see you and I admire your tenacity.


JD: What's the most impactful book you've read this year, whether poetry, prose, nonfiction...?

HL: That’s the toughest question to answer so far, James! I can’t just answer with one, so here are several that have had an impact on me from this year:

You Who Enter Here – Erika T. Wurth
Water & Power – Steven Dunn
The Book of X – Sarah Rose Etter
Where the Dead Sit Talking – Brandon Hobson
Manhunt – Jaime Fountaine

And my most anticipated books forthcoming:
HoodWitch – Faylita Hicks
Out of Water – Sarah Read
Felon: Poems – Reginal Dwayne Betts
The World Doesn’t Require You – Rion Amilcar Scott
Sugar Run – Mesha Maren
Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods – Tishani Doshi


JD: Any plans to tour or read around the country in the upcoming year?

HL: I just don’t have the funds or time off from work (or means to leave my son to his resources) so I am doing a series of reading here in Denver and the Front Range starting in October through the end of the year. I’m more excited about reading with my friends and writers I admire than anything else. They have all supported me over the years and it’s more of a “thank you” than simply a book release reading.


JD: What's your next big project?

HL: Remember when I talked about building on each genre? I’m working on a memoir using different tools from different genres that I’ve learned over the years. Trauma writing is hard, and I’m trying to get past the resistance my head and my heart is giving me.


JD: Where can people find out more about your work?

HL: My website is the best resource: hillaryleftwich.com. I’m trying to do better about blog posts and hoping to get more followers on my Wordpress site so I can talk about book reviews and news, as well as the reading series I host, At the Inkwell Denver (which I’m pretty proud of), and upcoming featured readers.



HILLARY LEFTWICH is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock forthcoming from CCM Press/The Accomplices on October 7th, 2019. She is the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review and runs At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series. Currently, she freelances as a writer, editor, and writing workshop instructor. She lives in Colorado with her partner, her son, and their cat, Larry. Find more of her writing at http://www.hillaryleftwich.com


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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!