Writers Influences 13: Alise Versella on Francesca Lia Block

Part of the fun with the writers influences series is sometimes the fun when the writer / artist puts down a influence I hadn’t actually heard off before and sometimes I find this can leave me surprised as well as interested who they are.

Today’s case is a prime example in point here where at the time when I first starting to Poet Alise Versella she surprised me by admitting one of her major influences was YA writer Francesca Lia Block.

“My influence on my writing has essentially always come from music.” Alise begins first of all reflecting on her childhood and her love of music “From an early age my dad would sit me down and have me listen to the really influential rock bands of the 60s and 70s and he would always tell me, “Listen to the lyrics.” So the words to songs like “Gimme Shelter” or “Fortunate Son”, “Ohio” stuck with me as this way to not only comment on the times one was living through but how one was surviving through. Lyrics and words- refrains, stanzas, last lines… they became the way I survived through my world and how I connected to it. I was never a really confident kid, speaking didn’t come easily to me so writing was my way of using my voice, of finding it. Really early on I found speeches and poems to be influential. I remember the speech at the end of The Color of Friendship being so powerful and moving to my 8 year old self, like “wow words had the power to enact change and bring people together?” At least that’s how it felt, that hopeful full feeling. And then there was this really underrated Disney Channel Original Movie, A Ring of Endless Light, that focused a bit on the power of poetry and it was mesmerizing. Somehow I was able to see those images and turn it into “well I feel misunderstood and “other” so I’m going to write about it.” I remember writing letters to my parents after arguments and even to ex-boyfriends after breakups…god a bit embarrassing now. But like that quintessential Didion quote “ I don’t know what I’m trying to say until I write it down.” I mean that is truly how I feel. I don’t speak as eloquently as I write; I find it much harder to get my thoughts across verbally.”

“Literature became a huge solace and I connected pretty automatically to one of Francesca Lia Block’s characters, Witch Baby, in her Dangerous Angels series. “ She carries on “I remember that book being the first YA book I picked up after finishing the children’s section of the library. I was transfixed by Witch Baby. I related so much to her feelings of not fitting in, how she felt everything so heavily. Francesca’s work has been a major influence on my writing style- the central imagery and the mythos inserted into my poems. I have always loved mythology and Wiccan/pagan traditions but Block’s stories really infused all of that and I was introduced to much more myth and magic. She has this way of “turning pain into poetry” that opened me up to really allowing myself to be vulnerable. That one could turn these really hard topics into something extremely empowering and beautiful. I especially love how she does this in her book The Hanged Man. I was able to take a few of her classes online as well and she edited Wolves in its very early stages and then again in its later form. I am still beside myself that I had this opportunity to work with her and learn from her. It’s a really cool thing in our tech age to find your favorite author and then actually correspond with her, have her notate your work. I still fan-girl over it.”

“I think about that line “I am a tapestry of all the things I’ve ever read.” And I find that, really, influence is all around us.” She concludes with a very good point about writing which I completely agree with regard to writing “Anything we are subject to daily influences our work, so I try to read a lot and get acquainted with new things and then sift through them to find what’s mine. Because over time, writing, you do develop your own style and so I try to learn new things like a poetic form, or a topic I want to dive into and figure out how to do it in my way. Influence and style two of the most important things as a writer I guess! “

Alise Versella is a Pushcart-nominated contributing writer for Rebelle Society whose work has also been published in COG Magazine, Entropy, Enclave, The Opiate, Ultraviolet Tribe, What Rough Beast, and Elephant Journal, among others.

Her official website is http://www.aliseversella.com/

Francesca Lia Block (born December 3, 1962) is an American writer of adult and young-adult literature. She is known for the Weetzie Bat series, which she began while a student at Berkeley.

Her official website is https://www.francescaliablock.com/

Andy N is the author of four full length poetry collections - the most recent being the Streets were all we could see. He is also the host / creator of 'Spoken Label' - a author / writer chat series as well as Podcast series such as Reading in Bed, Comics Unity, Wrestle-Up and the Koll, Andy N and Amanda show. He also ambient music under the name of Ocean in a Bottle. His official blog is onewriterandhispc.blogspot.com Occasionally he does sleep.