1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
The short answer is, I don’t remember! That’s how long ago it was. It probably started with reading, which was a big activity in my house, but then no one else became a writer (I’m one of seven kids), so I probably have some kind of defective gene. I wrote stories all through school, but got serious about it in my twenties, after moving to NYC.
2) What do you love most about the writing process?
Some days, nothing. Other days, everything. Right now, I’m revising, which I find weirdly enjoyable. I write (& revise) by hand, which makes it feel almost like physical labor, so that when I finish for the day, it’s like I’ve dug a ditch or some other productive effort.
3) What do you love most about teaching writing?
There’s a lot to enjoy: watching students grow as writers & editors, reading great work, the camaraderie. Perhaps most of all I enjoy watching how, over time, writers learn that they are indeed writers rather than people who just think about writing or consider it a hobby.
4) What are you reading right now?
I just finished Stephen Wright’s 1994 novel Going Native (not Steven Wright the comedian). It’s more of a collection of stories connected by one character who appears, sometimes briefly, in each one. It’s a wild book, full of violence & deviant sex, & written in a florid style that is impossible to copy.
5) What’s your favorite writing quote?
This is not a quote about writing specifically, but I think it applies. It’s attributed to an anonymous Buddhist monk, & I used it as the epigraph for my novel Shriver: “Now that I am enlightened, I’m just as miserable as ever.” To me, it means that, no matter how much we learn, we still have a long way to go—especially if we think we’re there already!