Monday, August 29, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Sarah Mintz

Sarah Mintz holds an MA from the University of Regina. Her debut short story collection was released in May of 2021 with Radiant Press. She has had work published with Book*hug Press, JackPine Press, APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL, Sea & Cedar, Agnes and True, and the University of Regina’s [space] Journal. She currently lives in Coleman Alberta with a man she met on the internet.

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’ve told this story before, but I’ve never written it down. By now, it’s probably been twisted into something that has no relationship to reality, but we’ll never know.

            When I was in grade one, the teacher announced that there would be a “Blue Day.” Everyone should wear or bring a blue item and get some kind of prize or award. My mother and I dyed the eggs on my fried egg sandwich blue. Every piece of clothing I wore was blue. I had blue bobbles in my hair.

            On Blue Day, each child was awarded one star, which was stuck to a piece of loose leaf taped to the wall, for wearing or having blue on or around them. I was never promised more than one star, but my eggs were blue! No one else had blue eggs.

In sum, I really liked that guy in Anna Karenina who wrote a book that no one cared about. My books are my blue eggs; I’m a try-hard Koznyshev.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I’ve always written things down and regarded them privately as brilliant, and then after having hoarded the scraps of written things for days, months, or years, burnt them in a fury of embarrassment, because they are not brilliant.

In 2017-ish, I enrolled at the University of Regina for a Masters of English Literature and Creative Writing, in an attempt to fulfill some promise I hoped I had. My teachers were brilliant. The works I was exposed to were brilliant. I was humbled. And also, I learned some stuff about poetry and writing stories.

            So I suppose, I came to writing through diaries, love notes, and lies to my penpals, and I came to structure (form: poetry, fiction) through school.

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?

I think my writing projects come from a bunch of places. Sometimes I free-write to generate ideas. From that, I occasionally get a phrase or idea that I can rework. Sometimes I just like the sound of a phrase and I want to make it into a thing that’s as good as that initial phrase. For example, I misheard someone who was telling me a story last week. He was talking about his friend Lorenzo and I thought he said Enzo. “Enzo?” I asked.

“Lorenzo,” he said.

“Nobody liked Enzo Lorenzo.” I thought. And I’d like to make a story that amuses me as much as that line, “Nobody liked Enzo Lorenzo.” In the movie version Enzo Lorenzo would be played by John Turturro.

            Also, other times, I will encounter something bizarre or forgotten and think that this ridiculousness cannot be lost! Or like, I have to make the thing known in the very way that I see it; it has to amuse others the way it amuses me. Maybe this is the goal. Anyway, it’s pretty hard.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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 am always writing towards the end. Usually it comes very soon, and I suspect that’s because I’m impatient. But sometimes so much happens between the start and the end that it’s been thousands of words or hundreds of pages before a proper end shows itself. And then, after I have the start and the end and the way from one to the other, I have to go back and rearrange everything.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I used to go to poetry readings in my early 20s, but I had a terribly romantic-tragic idea of what a poet was supposed to be then, and those years are best left forgotten, or else, told in some rollicking self-abasing memoir.

            This new phase of writing and trying to participate has taken place largely during COVID, so, on Zoom, with many heads and glitches. A real-life meeting seems cool though. Where do all the poets hang out these days?

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 have theoretical musings! But not concerns.

In Ladies & Gentlemen...Mr. Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen answered an interviewer who asked, “What do you care about, really?”

He said, “When I get up in the morning my real concern is to discover whether or not I’m in a state of grace. And if I make that investigation and I discover that I’m not in a state of grace, I try to go to bed… A state of grace is that kind of balance, with which you ride the chaos that you find around you. It’s not a matter of resolving the chaos because there’s something arrogant and warlike about putting the world in order, but having that kind of… like an escaped ski, down over a hill, just going through the contours.”

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I suppose, I think art is a corrupting force. Like junk food. Art is something that hijacks our emotional capability, like sugar is something that hijacks our sense of the sweetness of fruit. Art is emotional MSG. 

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

I thought it would be awful! I hate to be criticized, as do most babies. However, in practice, I’ve found working with an editor incredibly necessary and valuable. It’s very difficult to write with just your imagined or ideal audience in mind. An editor helps you see your blind spots.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

My mother always said that life was about eating and watching TV. I disagreed with the hedonist for a long time, but now I’m coming around.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to short stories to the novella)? What do you see as the appeal?

Not easy. My prose is often dense and flowery. I yell, “If this was a poem, you’d decipher it!” into the abyss.
            The appeal with writing short things is that you can take them in all at once! It’s easier and faster (not *always* but often) to tell if something is working in a shorter piece. It’s a real gamble to write 100,000 words and then go back to edit it and be like, “Oh, it’s bad. It makes no sense.” But you gotta do it. Don’t wimp out. Maybe you’ll write the next Miss MacIntosh, My Darling!

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?

Who has time to write! What with the three jobs and eating and such! I will put a note on my to-do list for weeks, “read, write.” But it usually comes after chores and errands. Or else, I have neglected the housework and sit in the dust and dirty clothes with a broken laptop and type quick! to catch up with the last three weeks of thoughts. It’s not that many thoughts. I can usually get them out in a day of doing nothing else.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I read hard things. I try to get through my long list of classics. Usually, I will be inspired by people much smarter than me. If I’m discouraged by people much smarter than me, then I read the comment section anywhere.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

A rootless fool! I have no home. My parents were military and we lived all over. Though sometimes when I walk in a dry pine-needly forest, I think of Nova Scotia, where I live for a while.

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 think McFadden’s got something there. But also, science is pretty cool. I like knowing stuff.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I like weirdos. Daniil Kharms, Donald Barthelme, Lydia Davis (sometimes), Max Apple, Stanley Elkin, I think Faulkner was pretty weird sometimes too. Ooh, Sherwood Anderson. I guess I like to imagine that they’re my people. Or like, “If they can get away with that, I can get away with this.”

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I’d like to write something that resonates.

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?

There was a great article in GQ a few years back about a hermit who used to steal snacks from nearby cottages.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

Yes, that is the question.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Presumed Intimacy: Para-Social relationships in Media, Society, and Celebrity Culture by Chris Rojeck:

“By the illusion of cybernetic togetherness, through the media and the para-social union of watchers that it supports, plus the event diet concocted by the media, cannot overcome the inner reality of cybernetic solitude. The latter is at the emotional heart of market-based forms of organization. In the end, under the market form, we live and die, alone together.” haha
Also a good one from Presumed Intimacy:
“Social outcomes are the result of tacit, complex judgements in which an underlying pattern is deciphered out of a temporally qualified succession of appearances.”
The last great film I watched was Ikiru. The finest film about bureaucracy ever made?

20 - What are you currently working on?

I recently finished a novella about parasocial relationships, for which I received a surprise grant from the Canadian Council for the Arts. Now, I have to find a publisher to impress the government!

A mentorship with CSARN!

I sell flowers in the mountains!

I sell junk on the internet!

In May, we will go see the wild horses in Sundre.

I’d like to start a small press! I “learned” HTML for this: (get in touch if you wanna help! if you wanna submit! if! if! if!)

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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