Fawn Parker is the author of Set-Point (ARP, 2019), Jolie Laide (Palimpsest, 2021), and Dumbshow (ARP, 2021). She is co-founder of BAD NUDES Magazine and The Parker Agency.
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?
I felt when I was young that publishing a book was an impossible and necessary thing. When I got my first book contract, I felt a sense of peace, like I could finally relax and take a look around, and see where I wanted to go next.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I first wrote poetry in childhood, around 9 or 10, and posted it on those old writing forums where users would critique each other. My mom got upset because the other writers assumed I was an adult and told me I was talentless, but I loved it and felt that bad reviews were the best way to become a better writer.
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?
It is very quick for me, especially prose. I write a draft as fast as I can, and then I send it out too early and nobody likes it. My final drafts are always a whole different book. My notes always come later, when I'm trying to refine something.
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?
A poem begins with a line or an image, usually something that sounds like it would be in a poem. Often I will see something and imagine Frank O'Hara would probably have written about it, so I try to do that. Or, if I've most recently read something less observational, like I was really interested in Sharon Olds earlier this year, I found her tone stuck with me and I was having more "Sharon Olds" style ideas.
With fiction I tend to imagine a scene that feels powerful to me and then build a book around it. For example my most recent manuscript is about a senile writer who watches old interviews with himself and tries to re-learn his own personality. I imagined an older man watching himself on an iPad, repeating his lines, and that is where the book began.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Readings don't feel connected to the creative process for me. They're something I like to do because I like to see my friends and it also all feels sort of necessary. I used to like to host events and be up on stage more but now I find I am liable to act embarrassing.
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?
This is the same question I am trying to answer in my PhD applications right now and really I don't know. I am interested in women, always, and mental illness. What I like to do with fiction is offer a perspective, and I like to be realistic in a jarring way. It's what I like to read too—when something is described in a surprising new way and I think, "that is how that is."
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?
I think the role of the writer changes depending on the writer. It is a good way of recording a more creative (and honest) version of history sometimes. Reading helps us empathize too. And I think using language in new ways keeps it alive.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
It feels good in its professionality. Usually if I am working with an editor it is because I have a contract already or I'm working on an academic thesis, etc., and those things feel productive so I enjoy them. However the work itself is hard for me and I don't enjoy it the way I enjoy writing a first draft alone in my office.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
My dad who was a banker and a tax lawyer always says, "If you're not making money you're losing money." I think about my productivity that way, which is unhealthy maybe.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
What makes it easy for me is I've never considered myself a poet, so writing poetry is low stakes. However I've always done it, even when I've consciously decided to take a break from all writing. A line or a stanza will just happen in my head. With fiction I more often sit down and think, "it's time to write fiction."
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?
If I'm writing or reworking a novel with a deadline, which I'm doing now, I write a list of every scene in the book in my notebook. Then I count how many scenes I have to work on per day to finish by the deadline, and divide them up. Right now for example I'm reworking three scenes per day, every day until the end of August. I wake up early and drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee while I work, then stop around lunch time. If I'm interrupted, sometimes I'll work again at night with a glass of wine.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I read/watch interviews with writers about their work or read a book. If I am really stuck I feel depressed for a little while and eventually it resolves itself.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Patchouli reminds me of my dad, and I inherited my mom's perfume when she passed away so that reminds me of her.
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 have always been a bad reader. I used to be really proud of the fact that I never read a single book assigned to me in high school or in my bachelors degree, which really is not an impressive example of my character. I think because I read so little in my formative years my writing is mostly influenced by my real life experiences, and a little bit by things like music and TV.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Reading some of Richard Brautigan's novels was a big part of what made me feel excited about writing when I was a teenager. And Donald Barthelme. In my adult life I think a lot about Amy Hempel and Gail Scott when I am deciding what is important in a book, and what it should do.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I would like to write a long poem.
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?
Before my BA I was in school training to be an American Sign Language interpreter. That's what I wanted to do all through my teens and I imagine I will go back and get my certification one day unless I get some giant film deal or sell a million copies of a novel.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Growing up I always felt like the "dumb one" in my family of academics, so being creative was always an important part of my identity. I also was a really shy kid so writing was a way of expressing myself.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Maybe it doesn't count because I'm not finished yet but I'm reading Bubblegum by Adam Levin and it's great. A couple months ago I watched Good Time, the Safdie Brothers film.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I'm working on my masters thesis and editing a novel that'll be out with ARP Books next fall. It's a campus novel based on Shakespeare's Henriad, set in contemporary Toronto.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;