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Transformations: An Exclusive Q&A with Benjamin Percy, Vanessa Hua, and Keetje Kuipers

Posted Mon, 3/04/2019 - 2:25pm by  |  Category: , ,

On Friday, March 15, Benjamin Percy, Vanessa Hua, and Keetje Kuipers will metamorphose on stage during 2019’s first Literary Series. In a recent email exchange, each offered up a hint of what they’re writing for the Lit Series, a piece of advice that keeps their words flowing, and which animal they would take the form of for a day. Read on for more.

Find out more about the upcoming Literary Series and buy tickets.

Benjamin Percy

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Lit Series piece?

I moved around a lot as a kid. When I was in third grade, there was a house fire in our neighborhood. A three-story building was gutted by flames, but the charred structure remained. A burned smell clung to the air for months after. Animals and weeds soon took over. And I began exploring the house—the Black House, I called it—regularly. And stealing things—scorched things—found in closets and dressers. I’ve been wanting to write a story about this for some time, and the Hugo House assignment finally gave me… the spark. I promise to make the audience squirm and chew off their fingernails.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

I’m always working on multiple projects in different mediums. So if I get stuck—and inevitably I do—on a plot point or character motivation, I simply step away. Maybe for a few days, maybe for a few weeks, I work on a comics script or an essay or a short story or a screenplay, and then I return to, say, the novel with a renewed energy and fresh perspective. Sometimes all you need is a little distance to see the fault in a thing clearly and know how to move forward.

Q: Your Lit Series takes its theme from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Tell us: If you could turn into any animal for a day, what would it be?

I sound a little like a grizzly bear, so I might as well make the transition complete.

 

Vanessa Hua

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Lit Series piece?

It’s a metaphorical rather than literal metamorphosis, about the transformations that comes through migration and exchange.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

As both a journalist and fiction writer, I’ve been rejected so many times that it stings less each time—though in truth, getting that politely worded form letter will always hurt a little. If I’m accepted, I rejoice. If I’m not, I resolve to revise but also understand that while my piece might not have piqued the interest of that editor, it might work for another. Your chances may be slim, but if you don’t apply, then you have no chance at all.

Q: Your Lit Series takes its theme from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Tell us: If you could turn into any animal for a day, what would it be?

A red tail hawk, soaring on updrafts.

 

Keetje Kuipers

Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about your Lit Series piece?

In the poems I’ve written for the Lit Series reading I light a body part on fire and go skinny dipping with Greta Garbo. Just two examples of paths toward transformation I’m attempting to elucidate.

Q: What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough?

I don’t think it works that way for me. It’s not that the writing doesn’t ever get tough, it’s that I don’t see the need to keep going when it does. There are so many other ways to keep doing the work—like reading every book I can get my hands on—without forcing myself to write. Because I don’t make myself write unless I feel the urge to write, the more difficult task for me is to remember that when I do feel the urge to write, I have to follow it—that day, that hour, that absolute minute. It’s a mandate, not a request. Sitting down later to rethink and revise is something that I can do whenever I want to, and I love doing it. Revision is a downright pleasure-fest. Working and reworking a poem like a Rubik’s cube never feels bad. But the moment of inspiration can’t be forced for me, and it can’t be shrugged off either. So I guess the advice boils down to two things: 1. Read all the damn things all the damn time. 2. When you feel like writing, find a pen. Fast.

Q: Your Lit Series takes its theme from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Tell us: If you could turn into any animal for a day, what would it be?

I’m afraid of deep water and dark water, of what I can’t see swirling beneath my feet. But, if I didn’t have feet, then I think I’d love to plunge into the silty depths of the Puget Sound. Though I’d rather not plunge alone. So something that travels in a school or a pod. Something that feels the water around it undulating with the presence of others.