Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Sequoia Nagamatsu

Art is a rich vehicle for critique. We’ve all been forced out of our everyday lives in a way that allows us to both create and consume art from a quasi-outsider perspective—maybe more objective, maybe more thoughtful about who we used to be, what the world used to be, and how we’ve all changed in the past couple of years. What do we miss? What do we never want to go back to? How were we surprised at how much we adapted to a particular aspect of lockdown? Who did we talk to? Who did we want to reach out to?

I recently spoke with author Sequoia Nagamatsu about his debut novel, How High We Go in the Dark, the role of art in an emergency, science fiction faves, and more.You can read the full interview here on The Rumpus.

While there have certainly been moments over the past year that may have temporarily diminished my faith in the human species, I think what gives me a sense of possibility are my students—young, smart people who legitimately care about the planet, are already doing so much for their communities, and are thinking intentionally about how their chosen disciplines might help provide for a better future in even small or unexpected ways.

Find out more about Sequoia Nagamatsu on sequoianagamatsu.com. Sequoia’s book How High We Go in the Dark (January 2022) is available from William Morrow.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Ian Ross Singleton

“I think each of us speak multiple languages. Not necessarily whole different tongues like Russian and English, but we speak different glosses. I like to think of those as languages.”

I recently spoke with author Ian Ross Singleton about his own changing identity throughout the writing of Two Big Differences, as well as the many ways language and translation are transmitted and embodied throughout his debut novel.You can read the full interview here on Fiction Writers Review.

 Humor really is the Odessan language. We talked about Isaac Babel, who is arguably the most quintessential Odessan writer (and you can’t make up a name like that, talking about the relationship to the Tower of Babel). So of course I had to have an epigraph from Isaac Babel, and it’s where the title comes from. The idea of “Two Big Differences”—that in itself is a joke. Odessa is so different, there’s two big differences.

Find out more about Ian Ross Singleton on singletonian.com. Ian’s book Two Big Differences (October 2021) is available from MGraphics.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Joanna Eleftheriou

An opposition to politicized forgetting is precisely the task of art. We are responsible, as artists, for documenting, witnessing, and remembering even those truths that are not in our political interest to recall…I believe we are called to recover whatever truths we have the knowledge and the desire to hunt down, those are the truths we are required (by some sacred unwritten universal law) to write down and preserve.

I recently talked with author Joanna Eleftheriou about her debut essay collection, This Way Back, how to engage in the dialectic of identity, confront the privilege of choosing an identity, and how writers prioritize discovery. You can read the full interview here on The Common Online.

We deserve to see ourselves in art. We deserve to see ourselves on TV. There is no greater anguish than the sense of not-existing that our absence in (popular) culture incurs.

Find out more about Joanna Eleftheriou on joannaeleftheriou.com. Joanna’s book This Way Back (September 2020) is available from West Virginia University Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Lara Ehrlich

I’m striving to approach my writing with renewed joy, to recognize that motherhood—in all of its messy, infuriating, exhilarating ups and downs—informs my writing like no other experience.

I recently talked with author Lara Ehrlich about her prize-winning debut story collection, Animal Wife, and the possibility, power, and resilience steeping within. You can read the full interview here on CRAFT.

That defiance against becoming the thing we are told we should become plays through the rest of the stories, in different forms. We’re told we should be mothers, and that we should devote our whole selves to motherhood. To me, the answer is not to refuse motherhood—it’s to choose for ourselves how we define motherhood. We’re told we should act like ladies. The answer is not to act like men, but to choose for ourselves what it means to be a woman. That is the true resistance.

*

Find out more about Lara Ehrlich on laraehrlich.com. Lara’s book Animal Wife (September 2020) is available from Red Hen Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Jihyun Yun

In the collection, the mouths of the three main speakers struggle to articulate a kinder world still unfathomable to them, in efforts to forge a path there. Articulation is conjuring. I believe it’s the realest magic our bodies are capable of.

I recently talked with poet Jihyun Yun about her prize-winning debut poetry collection, Some are Always Hungry; the mouth as metaphor; a few favorite Korean fairy tales; and the ways in which language connects food, women, and violence. You can read the full interview here on The Rumpus.

I do find it very troubling in itself that it’s easier to imagine the female body as food, as something hunted, as prey, but I think it’s also speaking to a truth of how language, too, can be a knife, and how it is often brandished.

*

Find out more about Jihyun Yun on jihyunyun.com. Jihyun’s book Some are Always Hungry (September 2020) is available from University of Nebraska Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Yelena Moskovich

I am constantly being interrupted by my characters, major and minor. I believe in the benevolence of interruptions. It is my way of communing with something beyond me, to let myself be thrown off my intended path, to be thrown off knowing. It’s a sort of disappointment, I’m literally being disappointed from my place of knowing. For me, in art as in life, I am very curious about the creative power of these metaphorical and literal disappointments.

I recently talked with novelist Yelena Moskovich about her newest novel, Virtuoso; conformity; rebellion; post-soviet diaspora; the textures of ideology; writing queer desire; the trauma of flight; and much more. You can read the full interview here on MQR Online.

Our cosmic song, as we have it now, is very much off-key. But there is also beauty and meaning in discord. My current contribution is mainly to listen. My next verse is one I give from my open ears.

*

You can follow Yelena Moskovich on Twitter and Instagram. Yelena’s book Virtuoso (January 2020) is available from Two Dollar Radio.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Sarah Rose Etter

The first line came to me, and it hung out in my head like a buzzing fly…It felt like a door was opening, and all I had to do was step through it and follow the path beyond.

I recently talked with novelist Sarah Rose Etter about her debut novel, The Book of X; tragic characters; volcanic landscapes; how to ground readers in surrealism; and more. You can read the full interview here in CRAFT Literary.

Explore, have fun, be an artist on the page. Don’t limit yourself to writing what you’ve been taught. Write what is in your guts. Go into the mud.

*

Find out more about Sarah Rose Etter at sarahroseetter.com. Sarah’s book The Book of X (July 2019) is available from Two Dollar Radio.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Oliver de la Paz

If you’re looking for ways to “fix” something that isn’t “broken,” then you’re really doomed to go on searching for answers that aren’t there. And really what needs adjusting are the kinds of questions we ask. There’s a parallel, of course, to how we think about neurodiversity—so much of the obsession is with “fixing” something. But shouldn’t we be in the business of listening instead?”

I recently talked with poet Oliver de la Paz, author of the outstanding poetry collection,The Boy in the Labyrinth, about mythic metaphors, the problem with story problems, empathy in the digital era, and the role of poetry in the endless exploration of ourselves. You can read the full interview here in The Common.

There’s something beautiful in the attempt to reach beyond ourselves, yes? Beautiful but also a kind of reaching into the void. You’re never sure the vehicle your tenor is riding on will get you where you need to go.

*

Find out more about Oliver de la Paz at oliverdelapaz.com. Oliver’s book The Boy in the Labyrinth (July 2019) is available from University of Akron Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Sion Dayson

The book is very much about the power of the unsaid, too. Things don’t have to be explicitly stated for you to know them to be true.

I recently talked with novelist Sion Dayson about her debut novel, As a River; writing characters full of contradictions, how to face emotionally-charged scenes, deciding when to reveal secrets & more! You can read the full interview here in The Adroit Journal.

“Writing has always worked best for me when I don’t prod too much at my creative impulses and let my curiosity guide me.”

*

Find out more about Sion Dayson at siondayson.com. Sion’s book As a River (October 2019) is available from Jaded Ibis Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Rene Denfeld

“Change isn’t a big grand gesture we make. It’s those little decisions we make all day long.”

I recently talked with novelist Rene Denfeld about her newest novel, The Butterfly Girl; everyday rebirths; the frequent misconceptions that society has about homelessness; and the ways in which our imaginations can save us. You can read the full interview here in The Rumpus.

“The greatest healing comes in proximity to others, when we invest in our own vulnerability and care, and when the love we show others can become a mirror to our own soul.”

Two years ago, I interviewed Rene about her novel, The Child Finder, and now our conversations have become a sort of a tradition. I will support Rene’s writing for as long as we live. She brings such magic, empathy, and sublime knowledge to everything she does, and our world is better for it.

*

Find out more about Rene Denfeld at renedenfeld.com. Rene’s book The Butterfly Girl (October 2019) is available from Harper Books.