For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
Joshua Henkin (Matrimony), whose workshop I took last year, commented about one of my stories that it was the “most emotionally precise” work of mine he had read. I can’t say that’s a description of what my stories generally achieve, but it’s certainly a description of what I aim for. My goal in writing is always to try to make emotional experiences exist on the page in an authentic way.
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/eaten recently that will permanently change our readers' lives for the better?
I just read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and I think it’s a fantastic book for writers, and also for anyone who’s just interested in the ways lives intersect. There’s one moment in the story “Winter Concert” where the character Jane Houlton is looking at lit-up windows at night and she remarks “All the stories we’ll never know.” The book travels through those windows, allowing us to see the intimate lives of these small town residents so that we come to understand what their neighbors can only speculate about. It made me think more about all of the stories that unfold just out of public view.
I also recently had some fairly life-altering crêpes at the Crêperie Café in Philadelphia.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
Definitely Lady Gaga. I’m fascinated by the question of how much of her persona actually stems from her own interests and how much is completely engineered for maximum profit. Of course, a tell-all book would probably just obscure the issue more, which is why it would be such a great read. I’m a big fan of unreliable narrators.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
I’m in grad school now, so I’m pretty sure I qualify. I definitely am writing better now than I was when I was working more and making more money. But I think I’d probably be even more brilliant if I were living in a Mediterranean villa with all expenses paid.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
I always love it when readers pick up on strands of a story that I missed and provide me with new ways to think about my characters. I’ve had the incredible good fortune to encounter a number of readers like this. Of course, part of me still thinks the ideal interaction with a reader would be having him or her tell me everything I’ve written is flawless and each word is an incontrovertible sign of genius.
Have you ever written anything that you'd like to take back?
I’ve written many things I’d probably want to take back if they’d ever gotten out. Fortunately, they all remain safely tucked away in the deep recesses of my hard-drive.