Larissa Pham and the Gift of Being Seen

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At the Believer, Larissa Pham discusses her new book, Pop Song, with Adalena Kavanagh, and shares her hope that it resonates with Asian women who do not often see themselves in writing. ” I don’t know if I can center my Asianness in my writing any more than it already is,” Pham says, “which is to say, it’s part of every fiber that gets woven. It’s weird to think that my book will be coming out in a climate where, due to an awful, really awful incident of violence, people are looking at Asian women and thinking, yeah, we should probably care. I am wondering how my identity might play into how my book is received, particularly the sections that deal with this particular racialized trauma. My hope is that other Asian women might encounter it and it will contain some bit of truth that feels, if not completely relatable, if not completely comforting, something like a lighthouse spotting another lighthouse from far away.”

An Ode to the Female Slacker with Jean Kyoung Frazier

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At the Rumpus, Jean Kyoung Frazier discusses her novel, Pizza Girl, which centers around a pregnant pizza delivery girl who redefines the genre of slacker fiction. “I think when people shit on characters like [slackers] it’s because they don’t want to be reminded of those questions,” she says, “or that there’s something about watching a lost, fuck-up character who makes them uncomfortable, reminds them of the ugliness, the difficulty of life. If that character is also woman, well, there are going to be even more issues since beauty and perfection are so inherent to how we view and judge women. It feels really important to, even if it’s difficult, talk about characters that don’t live up to societal expectations, because ultimately, the way you make people feel ugly is by not having nuanced and widespread portraits of them in popular, mainstream media.”

Lauren Groff Finds Joy in Bending Time

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At the New Yorker, Lauren Groff discusses her new novella, What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?, and how allowing herself to play with time breathed new life into the story. “Time is the subject and material of fiction,” Groff says, “and playing with time—pleating it, bending it, cutting it—is one of the great joys of writing. In any event, I tend to speed up when I want temporal texture and a change in momentum.”

Image credit: Ryan Hyde

Natalie Diaz Seeks the Physical Power of Poetry

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To mark the end of National Poetry Month, Natalie Diaz spoke to Michael Martin at NPR about how her involvement with the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program has influenced her work as a poet. “We have a word called cavanam (ph), which was lost for a long time, but one of my elders remembered it,” Diaz says. “And it’s a way that we heal and press and touch the body. And so that small, tiny word, cavanam – bringing it back into our lexicon and into our spoken conversations, it also led us toward touching one another differently. So I think that’s something that the language work has given me, is the understanding that poetry is physical, that language is physical, and it has a power of touch as we carry ourselves to one another.”

Nikki Giovanni Discovers Something New With Every Poem

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At the Artemis Speaks Podcast, Nikki Giovanni is in discussion with host Jeri Rogers on why she always aspired to write and the joy she gets out of creating new worlds. “My dream was not to publish or to even be a writer,” Giovanni says. “My dream was to discover something no one else had thought of. I guess that’s why I’m a poet. We put things together in ways no one else does.”

Image credit: Elsa Dorfman

Finding Your Writerly Voice with Alexander Chee

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At Creators Hub, Alexander Chee offers advice on how to listen to your writerly voice and how this voice manifests and changes with each work. “A writer’s voice is always created in relationship to the persona adopted for the piece of writing,” Chee writes. “Some writers are stylists, and each sentence insists on the attention of the reader for not just content but also style; some writers vanish into their characters, and each sentence is never going to ask you to do more than read it with the attention on the performance of the voice. And so I think of these directions as roles of a kind — what I call the Poet or the Ghost. Anne Carson, for example, has an arresting style that is utterly unlike that of others, across different kinds of writing. We go to her for that. Kazuo Ishiguro, on the other hand, is different novel to novel. Those of us who love these writers wouldn’t have them do their work any other way.”

Image credit: Larry D. Moore

Shifting from Criticism to Fiction with Lauren Oyler

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At the Creative Independent, Lauren Oyler discusses how writing literary criticism helped her define the intentional, dynamic style she wanted in her own fiction. “I think writing criticism helped me be very intentional with everything that I was putting in,” Oyler says. “Everything I put in is there for a reason, even if the reason is just ‘this is funny.’ I’m not making sure every sentence is a perfect diamond because I don’t think that that’s possible. I wanted the book to feel alive and energetic, like something that sometimes has made rather than produced in a factory.”

Kavita Das and the Empathetic Copy Editor

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At Poets & Writers, Kavita Das examines the copy editor’s role in today’s literary and political landscape, noting how one’s approach must change with the times. “The copy editors with whom I spoke note curiosity and humility as important traits for those in their profession,” Das writes, “especially when it comes to engendering trust with authors. When they aren’t familiar with language embedded in cultural identity or are unsure of an author’s intent, they approach it by querying the author rather than making assumptions or hastily applying standards. This requires copy editors to approach their work not only with their technical skills, but also with a sense of self-awareness and empathy.”

Image credit: Nic McPhee

Min Jin Lee and the Stories That Paved Her Path

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At the New York Times, Min Jin Lee looks back on the literature she grew up with, which included books by Theodore Dreiser, Nella Larsen, Thomas Hardy, and Frederick Douglass, and it they allowed her to see her own path to becoming a writer. “All those shelves of books had built my mind,” Lee writes, “teaching me how to shape a narrative about my people, from what they had lost and found. In life, even in my life, there was a coming-of-age, tragedy and meaning.”

Image credit: Fuzheado

Rachel Kushner Immerses Herself in the Unknown World

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At the Paris Review, Rachel Kushner shares the process behind her new collection of essays, The Hard Crowd, which she wrote through a direct, hands-on approach. “If one were to divide writers into two crude categories, I believe that some face inward and some face outward,” Kushner says. “To know themselves, some writers look inward. Others, in order to have a sense of themselves as bounded entities, need to be immersed in the unknown world. I believe this is a basic orientation that you’re probably born with—which way you face. I face outward. Even when I was very young, I gravitated toward worlds of knowledge and people, subcultures, that had to be learned directly, through experience, as if this process of immersion in the unknown would help me to understand myself.”