Interview with Dylan D. Debelis

Hello! My name is Dylan D. Debelis and I am an author, minister, poet, and teacher from New York City. My writing is playful, intense, and all about what it means to come of age in a post-global America. Most of my recent work has been about my experience in my job as a burn intensive care unit chaplain where I gave spiritual care to severely disfigured women and men whose lives had been forever changed. The level of grief and healing I saw there prompted my first full-length book of poetry “The Garage? Just Torch It”. Which was released by Vine Leaves Press this past December. 

You can connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

When and why did you start writing?

I first called myself a poet in fourth grade. I wrote a poem and the teacher asked me to stand on stage and read it to the whole elementary school. I was a total ham about it, whispering some lines and screaming others, thinking I was the most profound artist in the world. And I just kept going. In middle school, I began to listen to Iron Maiden, went full-on goth, and starting writing daily in verse just to get all that angst out. I like to think I’ve found better reasons to write, but probably not.  

What inspires your writing?

People. As a minister and chaplain, I have been with people at their absolute worst and absolute best. Recently it’s been the details that have gotten to me. The sadness of a rosary wrapped around an infant in an incubator. The joy of Romanian father’s toast at a wedding as he speaks in broken English. People inspire my writing and the things they carry inspire my spirit.   

What has been your worst moment as a writer?

I have submitted to the same weekly poetry contest nearly thirty times and I have gotten rejected every time. I will keep trying though, at this point, it is a game. It keeps me driven.

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

I write on the bus a lot. Something about that movement inspires me. And anytime something really intense happens to me in the hospital or in life. Writing is the way I make sense of tough things. Fortunately for my writing, this world is filled with tough things.  

If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?

You have time. Shut up, listen, and read. Your high school girlfriend is probably not going to end up being the person you marry.

What do you believe makes for great writing?

Sonics and vulnerability. I don’t want to read something without either. Writing has always been an oral and aural tradition at heart. I want something that sings and something that speaks the truth of human experience.

How do you measure success as a writer?

How I feel after writing. Twitter followers and facebook likes are nice but the real success for me is finishing writing something new and getting that jolt of adrenaline that says “hell yes, you did something good here.”

What’s your biggest fear as a writer?

Noticing a mistake in something I have published and never being able to change it.

Describe your latest book to our readers

The Garage? Just Torch It is a romp through grief. When I was writing it in the hospital I would constantly look around and think to myself ‘what does grief look like today?’ and then I would write. Funnily enough, grief sometimes looks like joy or laughter. Sometimes it also looks like fear or tears.

The book spans subjects like Professional Wrestling, politics, and growing up without a father in the Pacific Northwest. But really, the book is about how we can make a home in our grief. It asks us the question: “okay, so life is hard, what are you going to do about it? And when there’s nothing to do about it, what then?”

I had a blast writing it and I hope any of you who pick it up have a blast reading it!

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

That grief never has the last word. One day we will all be asked what we’re going to make of our hardships and I hope that my writing can help folks have some sort of poetic roadmap for navigating that question.  

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

You have time. Shut up, listen, and read. Your high school girlfriend is probably not going to end up being the person you marry.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a non-fiction book about growing up in the rise of internet pornography and how that has affected how the men of my generation live out their masculinity.


The Garage? Just Torch It

by Dylan D. Debelis

In The Garage? Just Torch It. Debelis balances themes of belonging, love, politics, illness, family and forgiveness with stunning imagery and an intense playfulness. Paced as if the reader is moving through the belly of a burning building, each turn of the page represents the uncovering of things long hidden and the burying of things better left forgotten. This book is a rally cry for the healing power of wonder and the disarming catharsis of grief.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.