Creative Writing at The New School

"Rocky Halpern is a writer, sex educator, lifelong nomad, and second year MFA creative writing candidate with a concentration in nonfiction. He is the 2019 recipient of the Bette Howland Nonfiction Award, and currently working on a memoir about his experience coming to terms with being a gay, transgender man during a time in his life where in which he feared being a man was synonymous with being a monster. He is a lifelong theatre nerd, lover of trashy celebrity memoirs, and the color pink." 

1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?

My favorite villain would have to be the talented Mr. Tom Ripley. I guess I'm a sucker for a brooding anti-hero dripping in gay subtext and the blood of his perceived enemies.

My favorite protagonist is Alison Bechdel's unflinching and earnest characterization of her childhood/younger self in Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Bechdel was the first memoirist who helped me understand how impactful the truth could be, and that sometimes you've got to be your own hero. 

2. When did you know you were a writer?

I knew I was a writer when I was trying to do anything besides write, but still found myself surrounded by little scraps of ideas I was too insecure to follow through with. I realized I owed it to myself to try, because the itch wasn't going away. 

3. What are you currently working on?

Right now I'm working on my memoir, which is centered around three generations of men in my family and my experience coming to terms with being transgender. I have also been working on a young adult novel about a trans gay boy who loves musical theatre. I spent my entire tween and teen years searching for every single book about LGBT kids, and there just weren't that many. And there were like none about trans kids, which is probably why it took me well into adulthood to discover that about myself. I think if I had even read one book about a boy like me, it would have changed everything. So, I want to write the book that would have saved me as a kid. 

4. How has your writing process changed over the years?

When I was 13, I would write these terrible, angsty poems about drowning in blood and eating dead flowers. My mother found them and I was promptly sent to therapy. I kept writing bad poetry about dying, but would immediately tear up the poems afterwards so no one could ever find them. So, I guess my subject matter has improved, and I don't immediately throw my writing into the trash anymore (though I am still tempted to do so at times). 

5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.

“All of us invent ourselves. Some of us just have more imagination than others" -Cher

Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.

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