So, you’ve had a dizzying last few years…
Indeed. My head is still spinning a bit. In the span of about two and a half years, I experienced just about everything on the list of “top stressors”…I got divorced from a man I had been with for 20 years, got laid off, got pregnant, got married, moved to three different rental houses, gave birth at home, lost my mom to suicide one week later, bought and started renovating a house (which of course involved moving yet again), lost my new mother-in-law to a sudden heart attack less than four months after my mom died, plus I had two books published within three months of each other (Delta Girls, a novel, and My Life with the Lincolns, my first novel for young people) and had to try to promote them while the world under my feet was undergoing such seismic shifts.
How are you doing now?
Pretty good, all things considered. The baby, who is now one, is such a joy. I have yet to find the right balance between new motherhood, writing, teaching, and everything else in my life (including sleep), but I’m working on it. With a 20 year old and 17 year old, I had gotten used to having more time to myself, and the lack of autonomy is challenging, but I feel very lucky to hang out with such a funny, adorable little person.
You’re known more for your fiction—how does it feel to be a featured poet?
It feels wonderful…poetry is my first love as a writer and remains at the heart of my writing life. Other than a novel in verse I’ve been tinkering with, I admit I haven’t written much poetry lately, but I recently revamped my poetry manuscript, Lack/Luster, and have started to send it around to publishers, so I’m continuing to engage in the world of poetry (and am always nourished by it.) Lack/Luster is a “collected works” of sorts—it has a couple of poems from my undergraduate days, as well as poems from when my older kids were little, along with more recent work. I feel like once I get it out into the world, it will create space inside of me for a fresh batch of poems to emerge. I am eager to see what form they’ll take.
Who or what are some of your non-writerly writerly inspirations?
I went to Barcelona for the first time this past summer, and developed a huge creative crush on Gaudi. I was moved to tears inside of his unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral—it didn’t seem possible that a human being could conceive such a crazy structure, much less build it. I felt transformed just standing inside the space, my mind utterly blown. It made me want to find a way to write something equally strange and organic, equally grand. I doubt I will ever accomplish this, but it feels like something wonderful to aspire to.
On a much more mundane level, I was recently eating some really good bread with really good butter, and found myself so filled with awe and gratitude for our ancestors who figured out how to make bread, how to make butter, and how they taste doubly good when you put them together. I’ve felt that way, too, when eating fresh mozzarella with fresh basil and a really ripe tomato—whoever figured out that flavor combination is a serious genius. I would love to be able to find words that fit together in such a perfect, elemental way.