Q: What’s been your experience so far writing on the theme “The Paper Chase”?
A: It’s been surprisingly challenging! For years now I’ve taught a literature class centered on fiction that explores the American Dream, and so as I’ve been working on my story I’ve been haunted, I suppose I’d say, by the rich history of writers who’ve tackled this idea — the writers whose work I’ve taught again and again, and have loved as a reader. Part of the American Dream, of course, is to be an original — to cut your own uncharted path — and so it’s funny to find myself writing with both a full awareness of the real impossibility of that as an ambition and yet also totally incapable of slipping my own American-ness long enough to just stop worrying about it and write.
Q: What’s your favorite (or least favorite) poem/novel/story/essay about the so-called American Dream?
A: My absolute favorite piece of writing is Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. I read it for the first time in the ninth grade, and I’ve read it once a year every year since.
Q: How do you approach writing a new piece — whether self-started or based on a prompt?
A: My stories generally begin with an image of a place — a vision of a specific stand of trees in a yard, for instance, or the view out a particular window — and from there characters (and eventually plot, though this is always the last piece for me) appear. I’m working in reverse this time around, and I’m enjoying the way it’s breaking through my habits.
Q: Tell us why you think people should attend the Lit Series.
A: This series is a phenomenal opportunity to engage with brand-new, fresh-to-the-world, untested literature. I love the uniqueness of that as a reading experience — and of the quick collision of so many voices in one venue, on one night. I’m so thrilled to be reading as part of the series, but I’m even more excited to hear the work the other readers will bring.