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Powell's Q&A

Margot Berwin

Describe your latest project.
I was in the mood for an adventure, so I created a myth about nine rare plants and the search through South America to find them. Each plant brings one of the nine things people most desire: love, power, immortality, fortune, freedom, magic, fertility, sexuality, and transcendence. I would say that I used plants as a way in, a kind of doorway, to discuss shamanism, magic, and ecstasy. All of the things I'm trying to get closer to in my life.

  1. Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
    $2.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "A fun page-turner — escapist and wonderfully entertaining." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I used to work on a cruise ship teaching aerobics classes. It was the greatest non-job in the world. Each cruise was 10 days long, but after day two the passengers were so full, they never worked out again.

How do you relax?
Lying on the couch watch surfing movies. The Endless Summer, Singlefin: Yellow, even guilty pleasures like Blue Crush and North Shore.

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
I'm a pretty small person, but I have big feet. There, I said it. They're a size nine, but my favorite shoes make them look like a seven and three-quarters.

Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
Northern Exposure. I'll admit that I own all the DVDs. For a New York City kid, it was like arriving on another planet.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
I like Jim Morrison and PJ Harvey for the fearless, primitive, and raw quality of the work. Their ability to weave a spell around an audience, making people feel like they're dancing around a fire on a beach, naked. I like Neil Young because some of his early songs are cut to the bare, perfect minimum.

Talk about your vision of the ideal life. A beachfront shack painted in bright blues and greens, filled with overgrown plants, a baby running around, a man looking after it, a computer, and a surfboard. I think that would make me pretty happy.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
I'd have to say authors. Rock bands can spend two or three days in one city. Authors are in and out in a night. Less time in one place = fewer consequences = bad behavior. But, of course, everyone knows the real answer is rock bands.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.


Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade
Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Harrod Buhner

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Margot Berwin earned her MFA from the New School in 2005. Her stories have appeared on Nerve.com, in the New York Press, and in the anthology The Future of Misbehavior. She worked in advertising for many years and lives in New York City with a killer collection of plants. spacer

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