1. What’s your favorite song to dance to?
I have many favorite songs to dance to. Most of them are from the 1970s. Especially funk & soul songs. “Running Away,” from Roy Ayers is one of the first that comes to mind. It is a joyful song that never fails to electrify a room. Ayers is best known for “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” He is the intersection of funk, soul & jazz. “Running Away,” was a huge hit in the disco era, but he was making dance music before they ever coined disco as a name for a genre of dance music.
A Tribe Called Quest among many others sampled “Running Away.” Another favorite is “September,” by Earth Wind & Fire. There’s also “Boogie Nights,” by Heat Wave. The grooves from that era are so undeniable that they even get me moving no matter what kind of mood I am in. A hip hop song that gets me grooving is “Paid in Full,” by Eric B & Rakim.
2. Describe your personal hell.
My personal hell is having too many books and not enough time to read them all. It’s a first world problem, but there is never enough time to get caught up. Actually having too many books is not a personal hell, but I wish there was more time to enjoy them all.
3. What’s something that always makes you laugh?
I always laugh at the sarcasm of my wife and daughter. They both have a cutting wit that can stop you dead in your tracks. I have learned to just laugh about it because they are both so good at it and they are constantly calling me out. Another thing that makes me laugh is the curiosity of my five-year-old son. He just asked me the other day, “Dad, what’s the Illuminati?” he was smiling as he said it. Somehow he saw it on YouTube. He spends a fair amount of time on the iPad and he really gets around somehow. All I could do was laugh.
Another time I got on the iPad right after him, and he had a $300 Lego spaceship in our Amazon Shopping cart. He hadn’t clicked it all the way through to finalize the sale and I was able to intercept it before he did, but the fact that he had got that far with almost purchasing it cracked me up. He’s a clever dude and never fails to make me laugh.
4. You’re sucked into a bad movie and you have to choose a point in history to live out the rest of your years. What time do you choose and why?
I choose the early 1970s because this was the beginning of America awakening to broader consciousness. I like 2019 even better, but the early 1970s was a period where the seeds of our current moment began to disseminate.
5. What’s a gif that you can relate to?
My daughter is always showing me a million of these. Most of the ones she shows are hilarious. Regarding my book though, here’s one that I like a lot because it shows the city’s transformation.
6. You’re hit by lightning. What happens?
I get magnetized and become one with the electromagnetic spectrum. At that point I vaporize and become a part of the sky.
7. It’s snowing outside, how do you feel?
I love the snow. It makes me wanna either cuddle up with a good book and read for hours on end or eat a warm bowl of corn chowder soup. I don’t like driving in the snow because I was once a passenger in a van that crashed on black ice near the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona. The van ended up sliding across the ice, into a meadow and then taking out four Ponderosa pine trees. Fortunately no one was injured, but it was a wild ride and one of the scariest moments of my life. That being said, If I am not driving and already warm and safe somewhere, I love the snow.
8.What’s a cat picture you can get behind?
Our cat Aiko is photogenic and my wife’s assistant. She is adorable and always steals any picture she is in. My wife and daughter sometimes feed the local stray cats and there are now about 4 or 5 cats from around our block that can be frequently found in our backyard. My daughter has drawn a few of them and my wife painted a portrait of Aiko.
9. Where did you write most of your book? Why?
I wrote some of my book in our upstairs attic while my wife and kids were asleep. I also wrote a lot of it at various coffeehouses with my good friend F. Douglas Brown writing his. We are both teachers and dads with extra busy lives and those few hours we can meet up at a coffee spot to write are gold.
10. What are your struggles and strengths as a writer?
The struggle of course is about finding enough time. I love to read and research. I could read for years and years. Sometimes you get to a point where you want to research more but the deadline looms and you have to go for what you know. A strength I have is retaining information and I have the ability to learn a lot about a topic very quickly. The struggle is to condense it all down and get it into an accessible form.
11. Tell us a little about your writing process. What works, what doesn’t, what doesn’t but you still try anyway?
I write at least 5 haiku everyday. I also try to read for 15-20 minutes before I write just to get the juices flowing. I now have to write in chunks because of my family and teaching schedule. I used to write several days a week at night from about 10 PM to 2 or 3 AM, but now I write in the afternoons, in between classes, while my kids are at various lessons and any other time I can squeeze in.
What always works for me is reading up on a topic and really doing my research before i write about something. I also like to get out in the city and spend time in reconnaissance studying a neighborhood, community space or whatever I am writing about. The field work is huge and the more of it I do, the better the piece usually is.
Equally a scholar and performer, Mike Sonksen, also …known as, Mike the Poet, is a 3rd-generation L.A. native acclaimed for poetry performances, published articles and mentoring teen writers. Following his graduation from U.C.L.A. in 1997, he has published over 500 essays and poems. Mike has an Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in English and History and his prose and poetry have been included in programs with the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Made in LA,” series, Grand Park, the Music Center and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. Mike has taught at Cal State L.A., Southwest College and Woodbury University. In June of 2018 one of his KCET essays was awarded by the LA Press Club.