Alex Benedict is the author of Veteran’s Monologue and founder of Virtual Coffeebreath, a new writing group for UNC students to share and workshop personal projects. A sophomore English major, Alex recently transferred to UNC from Miami University in Ohio.
AE: Veteran’s Monologue is such a unique piece. Could you discuss the writing process behind it?
AB: So, I was in a bookshop in Ohio, and I was just looking through the classics at this store called The Book Shelf when this guy walks in. He asks the cashier what the definition of insanity was, just right off the bat as he came in, and the cashier said the definition was repeating the same thing over and over again with different stimulus. I was kind of listening into the conversation and reading through some books. I ended up buying a William Carlos Williams compilation, and when I was over by the register, he started talking to me. I actually don’t remember his name anymore, but we talked for 10 minutes or so, and most of the story’s snippets are what I tried to recall from the conversation. It’s based completely off of that experience.
AE: Do you usually base your writing on an experience?
AB: Most of my writing is based on experience, yes. I think of writing as organizing an experience and sorting through it, sort of how when we’re dreaming at night time we’re sorting through our day’s experience. I know that’s the definition for dreaming, anyway, and I think of writing as actively dreaming, just sorting through those experiences and reorganizing them.
AE: What do you usually like to write?
AB: Mostly poetry. I guess Veteran’s Monologue was more of a prose poem than a fiction piece, if anything. Getting more into the writing process, I took notes after our conversation on a receipt that I bought the book with, which is mainly how I take most of my notes — on receipts. Then I rewrote it for a poetry course at Miami, so that’s where I started to write it. I was at the library until 1 o’clock in the morning, and I wrote it jumbled across one of the whiteboards in the basement there.
AE: Did you have any particular message in mind for the audience to take away from Veteran’s Monologue?
AB: I usually just try to display it, not necessarily objectively because nothing is objective when I’m writing. But, if anything, I probably just wanted people to get away this idea to be a bit uncomfortable. I know I was uncomfortable in that situation, but once I started talking to him, it wasn’t that uncomfortable, really.
AE: Did you have any particular thought process when you were creating Virtual Coffeebreath? Was there anything you found missing in the creative writing community at UNC that sparked you to create it?
AB: I just want there to be a space for people’s personal projects where other UNC students can hear them and engage with them. I didn’t really see any kind of space for that here yet, and so I just thought, “You know, it’s only an hour or so out of my week, I can do it.” The motivator also being that two years ago, I started moderating for an online Reddit community, r/OCPoetry. It’s like a workshop community for amateur poets, and the steadiness of it is what I like. I would post every week and people would comment, and I just found having that online community to be super helpful for me, and eventually I started moderating there two years ago, which I still do. Not that numbers are really anything, but the community is now at like, 85,000 people. So, I get to post writing prompts and give feedback to whoever needs it online. I want to give that to UNC students.