Wednesday, August 23, 2017

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Allison LaSorda

Allison LaSorda’s writing has appeared in Brick: A Literary Journal, Hazlitt, PRISM international, and The Fiddlehead, among others. Her first book, Stray, was published by icehouse poetry / Goose Lane Editions in 2017.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Writing can be an isolating experience, and one that is abstracted and interior, so it can be disorienting to bring the product of that experience to others. Poems languish on my desktop and rarely feel finished. I find it tough to let go. I’m not sure about my life changing, but having my work published in book form, on real, pulpy pages, makes me feel as though I have completed something concrete.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I don’t recall making the decision. An impulse to tackle something small, to ask questions, or to play with language was probably what first drew me to attempting poetry. Now, though, writing poetry and fiction both feel necessary to me.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
When it comes, the writing comes quickly. There tend to be large gaps between productive periods. First drafts are very similar to the shape of final drafts, though of course they’re clumsy and in need of chiselling.

4 - Where does a poem or work of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I tend to start small. Shorter pieces accumulate, and maybe they echo each other in their tone or topic or obsessions. It’d be interesting to start with a larger thematic project in mind, but I expect it would be challenging for me.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I feel neutral about public readings. I’m grateful for any audience that gives poems a chance, but in general, I prefer to watch rather than be watched. While reading I might have the opportunity to notice the awkwardness of a phrase, or a repetition that went unnoticed, so in that sense it is helpful to my editing process.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I don’t consciously apply theory to my writing. If I think about it, I venture to say I am trying to clarify what is difficult to articulate, and to anatomize what a particular instinct or choice or system is presenting as simple. I’m concerned with humour and absurdity. I’m trying to ask why certain questions are important to me, and why poetry is the way to open them up. What settles in my mind right now are questions of memory, gender, logic, attachment / detachment, and more that I probably haven’t identified quite yet.  

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Man. I worry about being idealistic. Writers can forge the potential for new ways of seeing, can look inward and outward at the same time, and can be mindful of context, uncertainty, and empathy. But there isn’t one way to be a writer any more than there is one way to write.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I find it absolutely essential.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I like this Jack London quotation: Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
It’s been natural in some ways and tough in others. The appeal, for me, is to bring the energy of fiction and poetry, of far-reaching and tinkering, and mix them into each other.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I don’t have much of a routine. On a free day, and a good writing day, I hustle out of the house in the morning and write in a café until I get restless. Otherwise, I tend to write at night. I feel that fatigue helps me escape being too cautious.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
If I can’t write, I’ll edit. If I can’t edit, I’ll read. Reading boosts my brain.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Burning leaves.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I’m influenced by, or at least preoccupied by, everything and everyone most of the time.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
In a sense each book I read is important, whether it drives me up the wall or it gives me renewed energy. At the moment, I’m lucky to read books-in-progress by my talented friends, and otherwise I’m absorbing the work of whip-smart writers like Patricia Lockwood, Danez Smith, Kevin Connolly, Karen Solie, and Ottessa Moshfegh.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Oh, that’s a list. At the top are: Surf. Write a novel. Stick a handstand.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I’d choose to be a professional mountain climber or a midwife. I think if I hadn’t pursued writing in a real way I’d be a veterinary technician.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I think writing is, in practical ways, a very low maintenance art form. I just need a computer. I love to read and consume, but there was an urge to engage and participate. What made me write was the feeling that writing is an end in itself.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I’m late to the party, always. Book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Film: Hell or High Water.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Stories. And what maybe could be a novella.

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