Describe your latest book.
I’ll Tell You in Person
is sort of an anti-coming-of-adulthood voice-driven essay collection. The essays were written over the course of 2013–2016 as I was approaching 30. Some recurring themes are identity, intimacy, failure, and impulsivity. It’s not a book that will change your life, but my hope is that it’s entertaining and specific enough that readers can find their own stories inside mine, or, what Joan Didion
calls, their home screens. It is my most tame work to date.
What was your favorite book as a child?
When I couldn’t read, I liked that book The Napping House
by Audrey Wood and the Angelina Ballerina
books, particularly the one when she gets the flu and can’t perform in The Nutcracker
. It’s devastating. When I learned to read, I became obsessed with a short novel called Sharing Susan
by Eve Bunting. The young Susan learns there was a hospital mix-up and her parents aren’t her parents. I was riveted.
When did you know you were a writer?
When my brother told me I talked about being a writer a lot, at age 20. I hadn’t noticed. Then I took some writing classes in NYC and realized I was developing a voice and my classmates were responding to it in a significant way. There was never another direction I felt compelled to take my life after that.
What does your writing workspace look like?
My workspace looks like a boring desk with papers and a stapler and checks and coasters on it. I usually have a few different kinds of headphones there, a few books, a mug. Nothing crazy. I like staying boring so I can have fun in my work — that’s a horrible paraphrasing of the famous Flaubert
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
When I was a part-time cashier at Powell’s in 2013, sometimes I’d ring up my own book and I never knew if I should say something or not. Sometimes coworkers next to me would ring it up and tell the person I was the one who wrote it. That was surreal and cool, an experience many authors never get to have.
Also while living in Portland, I showed up at People’s Yoga one day and signed in for class. I noticed a woman in a blue T-shirt. I saw this woman again a week later when I taught a workshop at the IPRC
. "How do I know you?" I asked her. "Yoga," she said. “I’d just finished Legs Get Led Astray
, then saw your name on the sign-in sheet.”
Her name is Fran and she’s been my closest friend ever since. I'll Tell You in Person
is dedicated to her.
Tell us something you're embarrassed to admit.
You can read my books for dozens of embarrassing things. Maybe that I often forget to zip my fly. Like a few times a week.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
. Start with Diary of an Emotional Idiot
and then move to Alice Fantastic
Besides your personal library, do you have any beloved collections?
No. Unless you count BB creams and moisturizers. I’m working on having a collection of underwear. Sometimes I have an accidental peanut butter collection.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
Sometimes I work for a local catering company. Recently they asked me to do a gig, so I showed up expecting a wedding or cocktail party (which is what I normally work) and the event was a poetry reading, one that I’d read about and wanted to attend. It was fun to be there and listen to the reading while serving food, as though I was living a double life and getting paid to be somewhere I wanted to be anyway. I enjoyed being there as a server and not a writer.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
When I was on a book tour in 2012 with five other writers, we were in Oxford, Mississippi, and went to the William Faulkner
house. I remember close to nothing about it, aside from the whiskey paraphernalia and the (Powell’s) T-shirt I was wearing that said, "Read Fast, Die Young." I loved that shirt so much.
What scares you the most as a writer?
Checking my bank account. Never writing anything again. Being pigeonholed. Hurting people.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
I just finished the novel Marlena
by Julie Buntin (forthcoming April 2017) and am in love with this line:
"I made it out, just like I wanted, and I have never once stopped looking back."
Share a sentence of your own that you're particularly proud of.
"The sun on my chest, I spin in my socks, bruised, exhausted, and fluttering back to earth." – Women
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
I dislike when my students use "?!" in their work. I always tell them it’s fine for email or texting but never for literary works. Same thing when they use quotation marks on top of italics. But! I just read Amy Schumer
’s book and she uses both "?!" and quotations on top of italics. Her book was obviously closely edited, so maybe those aren’t faux pas, but in my book they are.
My editor got me hypervigilant about how often I was using the word “thing,” so now it drives me nuts in other people’s work.
Do you have any phobias?
Electrical outlets and dogs.
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
I don’t believe any pleasure is guilty. But if I had to choose, I’d say putting butter AND half and half into my coffee — not every day, but sometimes. That and getting pedicures and blowouts.
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
"Try to be soft when you want to be hard." – Thich Nhat Hanh
Write a question of your own, then answer it.
"What are you gonna do today?" (It’s Sunday.)
Absolutely fucking nothing.
Some indie books I’ve been enjoying:
by Sara Sutterlin
I'm Ruining My Own Life
by Gwen Werner
Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked
by Aaron Burch (honorary man)
by Chelsea Martin
by Elizabeth Ellen
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of the novella Women
and the essay collection Legs Get Led Astray
. Her work has appeared in The Sun
, The Rumpus
, and Men’s Health
, among others. She teaches personal essay and memoir writing in New York City and lives in Hudson. I'll Tell You in Person
is her new essay collection.