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When I decided to take the plunge last year, at the age of 27, from relative literary isolation into the comparative security of graduate school, I had mixed feelings. I had always struggled with academic institutions, sleepwalking through high school, saved by a natural aptitude for writing, and attending three colleges before completing my bachelor’s degree. I was familiar with the myriad criticisms of MFA programs, too, from their promotion of a “house style” to their failure to provide graduates with tangible benefits or skills.

And yet I wasn’t sure what else to do.

Know any writers? Facebook and Twitter much? If so, you know that last week VIDA announced its 2012 Count. For three years, VIDA’s pie charts have shown in stark relief the gender bias at several top-tier literary publications. Yet for many of the writers and publishers engaged in heated discussions about The Count at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston, the “real story” was in VIDA’s three-year comparisons, which looked at publications’ numbers since the first Count in 2010.

Your new novel, The Upcoupling— a contemporary take on Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata— is set in a suburban town in New Jersey called “Stellar Plains.” One day a cold wind blows and one by one the women, young and old, begin to say no to their men. Again and again in your writing you seem to return to the suburbs-and sex.

Both seem to me to be very vivid and durable territory for fiction. They each provide potential landscapes for all kinds of strong and paradoxical feelings.  I remember being in my bedroom late at night when I was little, and looking out my window into the window of the house next door, which wasn’t very far away; all the houses on our street were lined up and almost identical.  I saw the mother from next door through that window, and though I didn’t see anything unusual-no nakedness or fighting or anything-I had a jolting sense of proximity, and of how it was possible to have an entirely different life from someone else, and have an entirely different consciousness, even though you all lived in the same place.  As for the place itself-I think it sometimes depressed me, but I didn’t know it at the time.  There was so much turnpike, so many stores that held no interest: Dress Barn; the supermarket called Bohack’s.  Yet saying these names now after all this time, I find that they are weirdly electric to me, and still draw me in.