An Interview with Manuela Williams, author of Ghost in Girl Costume

Cailin (for BPL): If you could be a bird which type would you be?

Manuela Williams: I would be a hummingbird. A couple of years ago, I had a blue and purple one tattooed on my arm in honor of my grandmother. There is something so elegant about hummingbirds and I try to emulate their gracefulness as much as I can. So far, I’ve been only moderately successful. The other day, I almost fell off an elliptical at the gym. I’m still trying, though.

BPL: What time of the day are you the most productive?

M: Since we’re on the topic of birds, I would say that I’m a night owl. I work my best between 9 PM and midnight.

BPL: If the planets that NASA just discovered are habitable would you move to one?

M: I could see myself moving to another planet, but I would be slightly concerned about the potential for dangerous wildlife. I still get nightmares about Alien.

BPL: What kind of costumes do you wear?

M: I’m still searching for the perfect costume. By that, I mean I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I just received my undergraduate degree, which is such a big step, but also terrifying. I’m at a point where I’ve learned so much about myself, yet I’m also just getting started in life. I feel like I’ve tried on so many different costumes already: the traveler, the free spirit, the scholar, the rebel, the writer. Each one of those costumes has taught me something. Now it’s all about taking the best from each costume and creating something really spectacular.  

BPL: If you knew you would be stranded on a desert island what three things would you bring with you?

M: If I didn’t have to worry about the fact that I have absolutely no survival skills, I would bring a copy of Margaret Atwood’s “Bodily Harm,” shampoo, and a way to make coffee. Besides “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Bodily Harm” is one of my favorite books by Margaret Atwood. It is both witty and devastating, the two things I look for in a good book. As far as the shampoo and makeshift coffee-maker go, if my hair is not shampooed on a semi-regular basis, I go crazy. The same goes for coffee; I am hopelessly addicted to caffeine and would probably go insane after the first week of not having it.

BPL: Where can you be found writing most?

M: Up to this point, most of my writing has been done when I wasn’t really supposed to be writing. Last summer, I took a literature course and the professor would hand out packets we were supposed to read; instead of reading, I would fill the margins with lines of poems I wanted to write. Some of my best poems came out of those margin notes. Now I have a lot more time for writing, so I’ve set up a little office space for myself in my room. When my boyfriend is home, I’ll write on my own laptop, but when he leaves, I use his computer (I like his keyboard better).

BPL: What word most describes you?

M: I am a giver. When I first learned that BPL wanted to publish “Ghost in Girl Costume,” I knew that I wanted to find a way to build awareness around mental illness and give back to the community. I decided to donate any money I made from chapbook sales to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Suicide prevention is a cause that is very important to me and, thanks to the generosity of many readers, I have raised over $200 to donate.

BPL: You ask the reader “Are you in love with my dramatic line breaks” and we did love your line breaks, do you love your dramatic line breaks? How did you decide where to break your lines?

M: I have to admit, I’m completely smitten with my dramatic line breaks. As a kid, I was told multiple times to stop being so theatrical. Now days, I try to keep it in check, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. My mentor actually bought me a magnet that says, “I over-exaggerate because everything is just so awesome.” Since I can’t be as theatrical as I want in real life, I try to inject some drama into my poetry. I try to end each line with a “cliff-hanger” of sorts, something to keep the reader interested and reading. With each line, I ask myself “Is this as dramatic and interesting as it can be? If I were listening to this, would I want to hear the next line? The next?”


You can get a copy of Manuela's book here.