Content Tagged ‘Seven Questions’

Seven Questions for Angela Ledgerwood

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we talk to Angela Ledgerwood, host of the popular literary podcast Lit Up, a weekly conversation with some of the world’s most celebrated writers. She’s chatted with Ann Patchett, Maggie Nelson, and Colson Whitehead, with episodes featuring Trevor Noah, Affinity Konar, and Jade Chang on the way. Ledgerwood is also Cosmopolitan’s Books Editor-at-Large, where she’s  interviewed some of her favorite women including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and her writing has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Marie Claire, Interview, and more.


(Photo credit Sidney Benson)

What books are open on your desk right now?

Siri Hustvedt’s upcoming book, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind and a galley of The Idiot by New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman. It’s described as a portrait of the artist as a young woman, so I’m intrigued. Human Acts by Han Kang coming out in early ‘17 is there too.

Who is your dream podcast guest, living or dead?

Siri Hustvedt. That dream is coming true later this month. I’ve been amazed by her intellect and the breadth of her knowledge about art, neuroscience, and psychology for many years. My ultimate wish would be to witness Siri, the artist Louise Bourgeois, and Charles Dickens chatting amongst themselves. I’d simply be a fly on the wall.

What emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

I’m eager to read Julie Buntin’s debut novel Marlena, about two girls who go feral and embark on a year that explodes their lives.

the-womanName a book you bought for its cover.

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir—I’ve still not read it because I think I’m afraid of what I’ll find inside. I look at it daily—one day I’ll take the plunge.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A quiet spot overlooking the ocean on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I’ve never been, but in my fantasy I’d wake early to write and drink coffee from a room overlooking the ocean. A daily swim and walk would be mandatory. As would limited internet.

What strategies do you have for encouraging writers to open up on Lit Up?

I was given excellent advice from a dispute resolution specialist about how to get people to relax in certain situations. Not that the writers I have on are in conflict with me, I hope! Building a rapport begins with eye contact and touch. Often having a casual chat about what’s going on in the world to break the ice is helpful, as is trying to find common ground early in the conversation. I never start with the most personal questions. I have to get a sense of who the person is in front of me and what they’re comfortable with before I delve more deeply.

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? Typing for work, longhand for pleasure.

Morning or night? Morning.

Coffee or tea? Both!

Beer or wine? Wine.

Mountains or sea? Sea.

Hardcover or paperback? Paperback.

Novel or short story? Novel.

Highlight or underline? Underline.

Seven Questions for Steven Church

img_4064In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we interview Steven Church, whose fiction “Exhibit #8: The Peach Pit Rodeo Half-Time Show (Temporarily Out of Order)” appeared in Ecotone Issue 5 (available to subscribers in the archive). He is the author of The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents, The Day After The Day After: My Atomic Angst, and Ultrasonic: Essays, and has published in Brevity, The Rumpus, AGNI, Colorado Review, and Creative Nonfiction, among others.

The Normal School is approaching its tenth year. As its co-founder and nonfiction editor, what has surprised you in your work there over the past decade?

Honestly, I’m often surprised it’s still alive and kicking. I mean, when we started the magazine we were ridiculously ambitious, but I’m not sure any of us could’ve imagined that, nearly ten years in, it would have the national reputation that it has, particularly in nonfiction. The best, most surprising thing, though, are the regular surprises I get as an editor. It’s just really fun to discover an essay in my “to read” pile that just blows me away; and I feel extremely lucky to get the opportunity to help shepherd the writing of others into the world.

Name a book you bought for its cover.

I don’t know if I bought it for its cover, but Nick Flynn’s first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with that title and the strikingly cool black and green first cover for the book, with the tree, really appealed to me. I still like looking at it. I’m still bummed they reissued it with a new title and cover.

img_3616Your fifth book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animals, comes out November 15. It explores the liminal space separating being human and being animal. What fascinates you about the distinction, or lack there of, between us?

I supposed one of the things that fascinates me about the distinction between human and animal is that, like genre in literature, it is both meaningless AND meaningful. It’s a boundary that shifts depending on the circumstances and our desires; and perhaps it’s a boundary that is drawn most sharply in moments of inter-species violence and savagery (also true with genre). Maybe the biggest difference between us is that humans have a more expansive morality, shaped by considerations beyond survival; and in these sublime moments of violence, that expansiveness collapses and we are faced with only one morality—the morality, or lack thereof, that a grizzly bear or a tiger lives by. The book takes the story of David Villalobos as a jumping off point for a consideration of what it means to not only court a violent interaction with an apex predator and the desire to “cross over,” but also what it means to obsess over these archetypal stories of savagery.

If you could adopt an animal you’ve encountered in literature, which one would you choose and why?

That’s a tough one, but I’d probably have to go with Frightful, the peregrine falcon from the novel, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, if only because of the nostalgic place that book holds in my heart. I loved the book as a kid and was inspired by it to live in the woods some day with my own pet falcon. It sounds silly, but I wasn’t alone. The protagonist of the novel, Sam Gribley, leaves his family home in NYC voluntarily and retreats to the woods in upstate New York to live off the land. Growing up in the 70s and the Reagan 80s, this kind of escape from the wider world seemed like a pretty good plan.

When do you feel most confident as a writer?

I mean, it’s nice to see your work in print. It feels good. But I’m not sure there’s a bigger rush of confidence or excitement than what I feel when I think I’ve nailed a great sentence. I’ve been known to fist-pump and whoop to myself when I get it right, when the words seem to do exactly as I want them to. These are often rare and fleeting moments, but I think they’re the reason I keep going.

You have a superpower: You can immediately give to every person on earth one piece of information. What is it?

I’m not sure that’s a superpower. It feels more like a curse . . . ONE piece of “information”? I’m waffling between a return to the existentialists (i.e. God is dead, radical subjectivity and freedom, etc.) or a return to 80s pop culture (i.e. primarily quotes from the movie, Red Dawn), both of which seem oddly relevant to our current political climate. So let’s go with a mash-up of the two: “God is dead, we’re all radically subjective humans responsible for making meaning and morality, and all that hate is gonna burn you up, even if does keep you warm inside. Wolverines!”

Lightning round:

Coffee or Tea? Coffee, of course. Now, please.

Morning or night? Morning.

Typing or longhand? Sadly, typing now . . . but there was a time when all first drafts were longhand.

Earthquakes or hurricanes? Earthquakes.

Music or quiet? Music.

Highlight or underline? Underline.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Dog-ear (even if I scold my kids for doing it)

Steven Church is also the Founding Editor and Nonfiction Editor of The Normal School. If you’re not reading and submitting, get with it. This fantastic literary magazine, a staple on bookshelves for almost a decade, coming out of California State University at Fresno, where Steven teaches in the MFA program. In anticipation of his new book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animal, we tracked down Steven for a Seven Questions. One with the Tiger hits shelves Nov. 8, 2016.

Seven Questions for Erik Reece

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we feature Erik Reece, whose story, “A Week on the Kentucky River: Reading Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Which Nobody Reads Anymore (But Should)“ appears in Ecotone’s tenth anniversary issue. Reece’s work also appears in Harper’s magazine, the Nation, and Orion. He is the author of two books of nonfiction and one collection of poetry. His book Utopia Drive, about the promise, failure, and enduring visions of utopian communities throughout U.S. history, is forthcoming form Farrar, Straus and Giroux in August.

Erik Reece - photo - taken by Lee Thomas

(photo by Lee Thomas)

What books are open on your desk right now?

Thomas More’s Utopia, because this year is its five-hundredth anniversary and I’m supposed to write something about that. Joseph Stroud’s excellent collected poems, Of This World. Robert Bullard’s Dumping In Dixie. A few old notebooks.

Apart from the week you spent on the Kentucky River and the boat you built, are there other ways you have attempted to bring aspects of Thoreau’s life into your own?

I raise a large garden and I know how to make raisin bread.

Where did the idea for your essay in Ecotone come from?

Honestly, I just wanted to find a way to get more people to read that book. And I think I was looking for a way to write about the poetry of wooden boats, and wooden boat-making. I was rereading A Week when I was building my boat, and I’m sure the idea for the essay took root then. Plus, I just love to read in my boat (I’m not much of a fisherman; I don’t like the hours).

But to float and loaf, Whitman-style, that’s my jam. So I wanted to communicate that satisfaction of reading an “unroofed book” in an unroofed place where the kingfishers of the text found their counterparts in the kingfishers alighting around me on the river. Each amplified the other to make both the experience of reading and the experience of floating much more intense.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. All Syrian refugees would be welcomed, and given ample water and provisions. Who knows, perhaps we would try to enact the blueprint of Plato’s Republic. But with poets. Our constitution and national anthem would be Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone.”

Name a book you bought for its cover.

Probably Edward Weston’s Book of Nudes. And not just for the cover.

alimon_brightdeadthingsWhat emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

Ada Limón’s book of poems, Bright Dead Things. It is an incredibly big-hearted collection that will—should—establish her as a major American poet. And it also have a very cool cover.

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? Longhand in the morning, typing in the afternoon—and at night if necessary.

Whitewater or flat water? Since I almost drowned on whitewater last year, flat water for a while.

Morning or night? See above.

E-reader or print? As John McEnroe would say, you can’t be serious.

Vowel or consonant? Ohio is the most beautiful word in the American language. Draw your own conclusions.

Canoe or kayak? Whichever has the most beer in it. So, canoe.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark, usually a parking ticket from the intolerant campus police where I teach.

Cake or pie? Ice cream.

Mountains or sea? If I decide, mountains; if my wife decides, sea.