A couple of days ago Etruscan's Julianne Popovec asked me some quick questions for the Press's website and catalog and here is the product of all that.
(Photo: The Golden Beast has a thought. Actually he was listening to some pigeon wings at the time.)
Q: What kinds of things inspire your writing?
A: The truth is, I feel much less awake and alive when I'm not making something, so I'd venture to say that the not-writing makes me want to write.
Here’s another way to put it: Every time I read something I love, I can’t help but feel I want to do that. Not copy it per se, but do my version of it. I’m not talking about competition as far as I can tell, but something more animal than that. Maybe it’s what birds do.
Q: What is your writing environment like?
A: I used to have a house with a study and a desk, and I used to work only at the desk. But in the last ten years I've written just about everywhere, from the busy coffee place down the street, to planes, to the train, to the subway. I seem to do my best work when I'm not trying to do my best work.
Q: Tell us about a poem, story, or essay you've written that has special meaning to you.
A: That's tough. Every time I write something, it has some kind of necessity about it--at that time. I'm trying to figure something out. Then you finish the piece, and you realize there's so much more that needs to be said, and you repeat the whole damn process all over again.
Q: Who are some of the authors you like to read
A: Flannery O'Connor, Joy Williams, Mary Gaitskill, Elizabeth McCracken, Denis Johnson, Nick Flynn, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Salvatore Scibona, Jane Bowles, John Edgar Wideman, Diane Williams, Sigrid Nunez, Anne Carson, Noelle Kocot, Lydia Davis, Junot Diaz, Lorrie Moore, ZZ Packer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Mark Doty, and that's only a beginning.
Q: What things do you like to do to get away from pen and paper?
A: Going to the beach. But even more than that, I like the heading toward the beach, anticipating being there. I love the water, but I was never one of those people who could spend a whole day in a chair in the sun. Once I'm there, I'm already thinking about when I'm going to go back home.
Other things? Music: always my first love. Saying stupid things to my dog. Spending an afternoon with a friend. Exploring neighborhoods, not necessarily faraway neighborhoods. Even better if they're close by--and under-appreciated.
Q: What do you hope readers find in your writing?
A: I hope they find something musical in it, not just in its phrasing, but in its spirit. I want there to be some essence beyond the spoken, the literal--whatever you want to call it. I want it to have a hidden life. And I want it to be felt like music.
Q: Anything else you'd like readers to know.
A: Find something you love and tell other people about it. Pass it around.