Nicholas T. Parsons graduated from New College, Oxford. His first jobs were teaching at the British Institute of Florence and as Lettore per la Letteratura inglese alla Facoltà di Lettere, Università di Pisa. In the 1970s worked for three London publishers, ending up as commissioning editor for an Australian house.
In 1981 he published his first book, Dipped in Vitriol, an anthology of, and commentary on, hatchet reviews. In 1980 he moved to Greece to set up a sales office for a UK publisher, and subsequently abandoned publishing for freelance work. He married the art historian  Ilona Sármány in the early 1980s and moved to Vienna, where he has worked as a freelance writer, editor, translator and occasional tour guide.
Nicholas T. Parsons has translated two books from German and written or compiled some seventeen others. Apart from various articles in the press and occasional contributions to The Hungarian Quarterly, he has also written chapters for “The Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Adam Clark” (Budapest, 1999) and “National Heritage – National Canon” (Ed. Mihály Szegedy-Maszák, Collegium Budapest, 2001). Works published in UK and (in some cases in US editions) include two anthologies, two works on literary topics, and ten guidebooks, including the Blue Guides to Vienna and Austria. His squib The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Austrians (written under the pseudonym of Louis James) has been in print for 16 years and a revised edition has just been launched. His latest works are: “Worth the Detour: A History of the Guidebook” (Stroud, UK, 2007) and “Vienna: A Cultural and Literary History” (Oxford, 2008).

1. What was your first (poem / piece of writing), and how bad was it?

School essay with the riveting title “A Description of a Bow and Arrow” that was entered in the school Honours Book of my English Primary School. The main point of the Honours Book was that the piece should be written out in a neat hand without the usual blots and smudges, and ideally employing a spelling familiar to other users of the English language. From this first effort (aged ten) I learned that my future as a writer definitely did not lie in the study of warfare, or indeed in the historical novel.

2. Are you currently working on anything, and why’s it taking so long?

I am always working on something, even when sitting in a Viennese coffee-house (unfortunately there are persons who seem unable to grasp this .)  Currently I am studying the writings of the Eduard Hanslick, the pope of music criticism in Vienna in the second half of the 19th century, and a much maligned man (especially by Richard Wagner.) Hanslick has been dismissed as a reactionary conservative with limited aesthetic horizons, a formalist, an establishment figure pandering to bourgeois philistinism and so on and so forth. When people as unpleasant as the Wagnerites,  or as  smug as the Modernists, go out of their way to attack someone in such violent terms, it usually means he has something interesting to say. So it is with Hanslick, and contemporary scholarship has rediscovered him, despite repeated announcements that he had been consigned to the dustbin of history. I don’t yet know what I shall write about him.

Why is it taking so long?

Well, firstly because I am lazy; and secondly because only the first six volumes (edited by Dietmar Strauss) of Hanslick’s “Sämtliche Schriften” have appeared. I think about ten are projected. It is really a question of whether Strauss dies before I do

3. Do you actually have moments of inspiration or is writing just a process of slogging day in and day out?

I think it is both. There are times when I work intensively, though that might be because of a deadline. But I can’t work intensively unless there is a concept buzzing in my head. Having said that, the concept changes and develops through the writing process. So yes, putting words on paper, even when feeling uninspired, is important, as it helps to clear the lumber. Inspiration usually arises from personality-directed preferences: certain subjects, figures or situations seem intrinsically interesting to a writer, though they may seem entirely insignificant to others. The trick is to turn this personal inspiration into something that appeals to the curiosity and intelligence of readers who wouldn’t necessarily expect to be attracted to your work. Of course few succeed in this, except to a very limited extent. A glowing recommendation of a work that comes from the author’s mother is sadly not much use on the dustjacket. The greatest writers, a Dante, a Goethe or a Shakespeare, are not simply “great” because they have been rammed down the throats of generations of unfortunate schoolchildren. They are great because, when studied and read with an open mind, they are seen to have transformed a personal inspiration into a universal insight. Easily said, incredibly difficult to do.

4. What’s the last piece of literature that made you cry?

Pride and Prejudice; it always makes me cry, sometimes with laughter.

5. What’s the worst thing about writing a book?

Nowadays, back pain!

Marisa Beahm KleinMarisa Beahm Klein has been writing poetry since elementary school when she released her first book of ‘pomes.’ Since then, she’s improved her spelling and has continued to explore the medium, tackling themes such as religion and travel through imagist pieces. Marisa grew up in Colorado and attended the University of Colorado-Boulder where she hosted weekly open-mics and competed for her school’s slam poetry team. After she earned a degree in journalism and cut her teeth as a daily news reporter, she moved to Budapest with her husband and continues to work as a journalist. Marisa will be reading selected poems her recently-published poetry collection, Opened Aperture.

1. What was your first (poem / piece of writing), and how bad was it?

“It was a poem written for an elementary school exercise, and it was pretty atrocious. Of course it contained the most rudimentary rhymes -  ‘there was a dog named bog that got lost in the fog …’ -  that only a Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein could pull off with any grace. But, given that I composed it at the age of eight, I give myself some credit.”

2. What’s the last thing you read that made your hair stand up on end?

“‘What Big Girls Are Made Of’ by Marge Piercy. This whole poetry collection evokes modern feminism in a startlingly brave, sharp way. She can tackle any subject – from sexual harassment and religion to a simple butterfly – in an accessible way that’s both poignant and wry. I am totally smitten with her.”

3. What’s the last piece of literature that made you cry?

“Technically, it wasn’t literature since it’s a spoken-word poem, but it was Andrea Gibson’s ‘Say Yes.’ This Colorado poet is one of the most talented performers I’ve ever seen live, and this is a hugely passionate poem – it provokes the inspired-with-goose bumps kind of tears.”

4. What’s the worst thing about writing a book?
“Knowing when it’s finished. I could edit my writing forever, so I have to call a moratorium on tweaking and finally call it a day.”

5. Does poetry matter anymore?

“Since I am not a nihilist, I have to say yes. Does any writer say no to this?”

Aubrey Ramage-LayAubrey Ramage-Lay is a graduate of the Eugene Lang College of the New School University. He has also attended many other excellent universities such as University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Massachusetts College of Art. Currently he is making fine art as well as writing and exploring life around the globe. He currently resides in Budapest, Hungary.

Aubrey’s first book, Walking as Saints, was published in 2009. The book is about the chains of perfection; how free will is impossible if you cannot make the wrong choices. It is about Lucifer’s struggle to break free of the perfection of God, from the inevitability of the Plan. The book also ask the question which came first, the Planner or the Plan.

1. Are you currently working on anything, and why’s it taking so long?

“I am currently writing a novel about a pair of foreigners who come to Budapest and have their identities broken down and rebuilt. It is about how travel changes you. It is taking so long because I am so lazy.”

2. Do you actually have moments of inspiration or is writing just a process of slogging day in and day out?

“I am occasionally inspired to write but mostly it is just a question of slogging, again, I am very lazy.”

3. What’s the last thing you read that made your hair stand up on end?

“No question, it was Haunting by Chuck Palahunik. Hair raising for any writer I would think.  It’s a ghost story about the creative process!”

4. What would you have been if you hadn’t become a writer?

“I am also an artist so I guess that’s what I would be doing, I have also done just about every job anyone has ever thought of. I never want to work in an office again that’s for sure though.”

5. What’s the worst thing about writing a book?

“All the typing.”

Rachel HammondRachel Hammond is an England born South African; previously an advertising assistant; currently a kindergarten teacher and always a singer.

After studying singing and song-writing through the National School of Arts in 2001, Rae taught herself guitar (with the help of an old primary school teacher). Shortly afterwards she embarked upon her travels where she discovered the London music scene and fronted a flurry of bands of varying genres from rap rock to Ryan Adams fanatic melancholies. An avid practicer of capoeira, she was lead her to love and lives here in Budapest – and this is where she lays her hat.

1. What was your first (poem / piece of writing), and how bad was it?

“My first piece was a poem-turned-song called ‘Don’t Leave’. My singing teacher helped me turn the chorus into something catchy (something I hadn’t yet mastered) and I performed it at the end of year concert. Surprisingly, I found out I was the only student that year who performed their own work instead of a cover and that resulted in a fellow student, also a debuting South African artist, approaching me to get rights to record ‘Don’t Leave’ as her first release single. I was (am) pretty chuffed, but have yet to see a copy of that CD.”

2. Are you currently working on anything, and why’s it taking so long?

“2009 unfortunately has been less than fruitful lyrically and I’ve been stuck in a cliched writer’s block.  I decided to go back to my roots, listening to every single different genre of music I can, and learn new songs.  I make them my own and cover them in a contrasting genre. Sounds complicated and it is. But it never fails. Before I know it I’ve learnt (or made up) four or five new chords, used my vocals on a new level, and practiced how to not sound like someone else. So yes, I’m working on how to be me.”

3. Do you actually have moments of inspiration or is writing just a process of slogging day in and day out?

“Moments. It’s all about the moment. Sometimes I write three entire songs one after the other in the space of an hour. Sometimes seven months can go by without even the motivation to pick up my guitar. I’ve just come through the latter and spent an hour last night writing two poems, that’ll become songs by Monday. It’s a great feeling of relief.”

4. Name a writer/poet who you’d be most psyched to see show up at your Bardroom gig and how would you return the compliment if he/she liked your set?

“KT Tunstall. I’ve no idea how I’d ever return her compliment. I’d ask to have a coffee with her to get to know her a bit better.  I’d ask her who she wrote about in her song ‘Heal Over’.”

5. Does poetry matter anymore?

“To me, yes. As I mentioned above, going back to the roots is as good as a holiday. Whether it be reading Shakespear or Dr Seuss, listening to some country or rap, or counting the syllables in a new song that just ‘doesn’t go’.  I don’t and have never used mind expanding drugs and writing a poem or lyrics is my only release and means of expression. Poems can be novels, they tell a structured story whether they’re a jingle, a middle eight or an entire album. And sometimes rhyming’s fun. Rappers, country singers and even thrash metal’s impenetrable growling rhymes.”

Stephen LadekStephen Ladek is a Budapest-based singer/songwriter originally from Colorado, USA. His music is influenced by the Indigo Girls, Pink Floyd, Nickel Creek, Rush, David Wilcox, Lyle Lovett and many others with lyrics that are generally reflections of life-as-it-should-be. Stephen was the former lead singer and guitarist for ‘The Flow.’ He has also performed as a back up guitarist and vocalist for ‘Big Orange Pop.’ Most recently Stephen performed as a member of ‘The LMNOPs’ in Washington, DC. Samples of his solo work and ‘The Flow’ can be found at: http://www.graberladek.com/songs/sladeksongs.htm.

1. Are you currently working on anything, and why’s it taking so long?

“I’ve been working on a solo album for literally ten years. After leaving the last band I played with, life took over and all the spaces that used to be filled with music were stuffed with travel, work and now… my son!”

2. Do you actually have moments of inspiration or is writing just a process of slogging day in and day out?

“I personally have moments of inspiration that provide me with a small riff, a bass line, a lyric or some other snippet that just feels right. I usually build a song by combining one or two of these snippits somehow. The music almost always comes first though. Sometimes a song takes ten minutes, sometimes years.”

3. Did you ever get laid because something you wrote?

“My wife continues to tell me that my music is a key reason she ever bothered to show up and meet me at the first party where we were set up. I’m going with yes.”

4. Name a writer who you’d be most psyched to see show up at your Bardroom gig and how would you return the compliment if he/she liked your set?

“Hands down, the Indigo Girls (Amy Ray and Emily Sailers). They’re the only group in the world whose entire collection I own. My homage to/for them? I can trace my decision to pursue song writing to their first (Grammy Award Winning) self-titled release and I like to think that Amy taught me to sing.”

5. Does music matter anymore?

“Music will always matter. We vibrate as living beings and music connects with that. The better question is do we really need a sound track to our lives? With so many of my and future generations stuck with iPod earbuds in all the time, we’re losing the authentic experience of being in the world while at the same time diminishing our ability to commercials from works of genius.”

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