Monday, May 02, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Doretta Lau

Doretta Lau's [photo credit: Ming Kai Leung] debut short story collection, How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? (Nightwood Editions, 2014), was shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award, longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and was named by The Atlantic as one of the best books of 2014. CBC selected her as a Writer to Watch. In 2013, she was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. She lives in Hong Kong, where she is an editor for a visual culture museum, and is working on a novel and a screenplay.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My story collection How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? is my first book and the entire writing and publishing process reshaped me into a new person. In order to complete it, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to be a writer. Did I want to face a blank page over and over for the rest of my life? For a few months, the answer was no. I had decided that grad school was a sunk cost was ready to move on with my life. Then I discovered in January 2012 that I really did want it. So I had to figure out how to get past the procrastination and perfectionism that was preventing me from doing the work. I had to learn to surmount the obstacles that I made for myself due to fear of failure.

My most recent short story, “Best Practices for Time Travel”, was published in Room Magazine last fall. One of the questions I am asking with my collection is what is fiction? For this piece, I am exploring just how far I can push the form without it becoming unintelligible. I wanted to see if I could write about time travel, pornography, misogyny, and racism in a compelling way.

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

I was a better poet as an undergraduate, but when I applied to grad school I decided to study fiction out of some misguided belief that it would be easier to forge a career in stories rather than poetry.

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?
It took me ten years to complete my book, though I wrote the opening story over the course of a single afternoon. I am a slow writer. I have the tendency to get excited about research and go down rabbit holes. Like Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response horror videos. [link: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/horror-asmr-will-give-you-tingles-and-chills]

My first drafts used to appear close to the final shape, but in order to get over perfectionism I had to let myself write whatever came to mind and not permit myself to judge every word and punctuation mark until the final draft. Now my early attempts usually have holes where I’m not ready to deal with a particular emotional moment and I’ll write an ugly note and skip to the next scene and go back later. After this, I spend a lot of time on editing. I am trained as a copyeditor, so when I get down to the details I will pull every sentence apart.

4 - Where does a work of fiction 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 usually think of a sentence or an image and work from there. I try to map out where I want to go and have a skeleton of the full structure, but a lot of the process is writing many bad paragraphs until the words generate a spark. I generate a lot of text and cut anything that isn’t working. It’s not the most efficient way to write, but it allows a lot of room for experimentation.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I enjoy doing readings because it gives me a chance to present my work directly to people. I like getting away from the computer, yet still engaging in the writing. Readings are a chance to meet other writers and readers.

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?
The main question for me is, as I mentioned earlier, what is fiction? How far can I push the story in the direction of an essay and still call it fiction? Right now I am also asking myself if I’m capable of writing a novel. I know I can sprint, but can I take on a marathon?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I think being a writer is about bringing a point of view to the world. If I am honest and unafraid of putting words to the page, perhaps it will resonate with someone out there who needs my stories because they want to see themselves reflected somewhere in the culture.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I think it’s essential. If my editor is good, my writing can only improve.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Once during a seminar Richard Ford told us not to write when tired. He is right—I resent writing if I do it when I feel awful.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (fiction to journalism)? What do you see as the appeal?
It’s fairly easy for me because the genres are so different. For fiction, I can make anything up, while for journalism I have to follow rules and ensure that I am approaching the story in an ethical way. I like journalism because it forces me to go out into the world and engage with people.

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?
When I was in the last stages of the collection, I woke up at five every morning to get the writing done first before doing freelance editing and journalism.

At the moment, I have go to an office, so my focus is on staying healthy enough to write before and after work. I have the kind of routine that sounds kind of lifestyle guru ridiculous: no caffeine, no alcohol, fresh green juices, flax and chia seed coconut milk puddings, Chinese soup, journaling, meditation, acupressure mat (I lay on it and catch up on podcasts like Can’t Lit), foam roller exercises, and at least ten thousand steps a day. (I am obsessed with my Fitbit.) I ate a lot of McDonald’s and drank many Diet Cherry Cokes and had countless whiskeys while finishing my first book—my body can’t take it anymore, so I had to change.

Once a day for at least five minutes I write something by hand. Sometimes it’s just a list of things I’m grateful for or things I’m angry about or just random thoughts. When I’ve done this, then I’m ready to work on a project.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I can always find the answer by reading. When I was working on the collection, I often reread the Mavis Gallant story “When We Were Nearly Young”. Also, if I’m really stuck I go for a walk.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Rice steaming in the cooker.

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?
Music, art, and film influence my work a lot—that’s the flora and fauna of my landscape. I recently finished writing an essay about the artist Cao Fei for ArtReview, so I immersed myself in her art. At the moment, I can’t stop listening to the Disasterpeace soundtrack for It Follows.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
When I was writing the first stories, I was reading Truman Capote, Anne Carson, Eileen Chang, Lydia Davis, Mavis Gallant, Langston Hughes, Denis Johnson, Miranda July, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nam Le, Sam Lipsyte, Annabel Lyon, Karen Russell, J. D. Salinger, George Saunders, W. G. Sebald, Linda Svendsen, Wells Tower, Diane Williams, and Banana Yoshimoto.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d like to write for television. Let’s just say I’ve done a lot of research in this area.

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?
At my day job, I’m an editor for a museum of visual culture. I’ve been a production editor, a university admissions clerk, a journalist, a magazine editor, a researcher, and a copywriter. I’ve also had my share of service jobs. With my skill set, there are times I think I’d make a good spy. I’m good at gathering information and finding patterns.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I’ve honed my craft. Writing is what I’m meant to do.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I keep thinking about Citizen by Claudia Rankine. The opening section is so visceral, it kills me.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that I’ve really loved, but the last three I saw were Dirty Grandpa, The Big Short (I can’t get enough of Michael Lewis’s books), and Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working a screenplay that’s adapted from the first story in my collection—the characters start receiving text messages from the future—and also finishing up a collaborative artwork with the architect Stephanie Choi that focuses on surveillance and technology.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Mark McCawley (January 1964 - April 19, 2016)



Edmonton poet, fiction writer, reviewer, editor, and micro-press publisher Mark McCawley has died.

[A 2008 photo of McCawley (in the background) from my Factory (West) Reading Series; see the post it came from here] An enthusiast for what he referred to as “transgressive, urban post-realist writing,” he founded Greensleeve Editions in 1988, a press that produced over fifty chapbook titles, including works by writers such as Janice Williamson, Daniel Jones, Neil Scotten, Ken Rivard, Richard Stevenson, Andrew Thompson, sd edwards, Faye Francis, Michael C. McPherson, Giovanni Testa, Beth Jankola, Shannon Sampert, alan demeule, James Thurgood, Carolyn Zonailo and Stephen Morrissey. According to one bio, “From 1986 to 1993, Mark taught poetry and fiction as a creative writing instructor for Continuing Education (now Metro College).” Since 1993, he’d edited and published the litzine, Urban Graffiti, a print journal that shifted to online publication in May, 2011 with issue 11. Well-known as both curmudgeon and contrarian, McCawley railed against monotony in literary writing and culture, and was a fierce and loyal supporter of a number of writers across Canada, from Amanda Earl, Stuart Ross, Liz Worth and Thea Bowering to Matthew Firth, Catherine Owen and Julie McArthur, among so many, many others, whether through Greensleeve Editions and Urban Graffiti, through numerous interviews he’d conducted, and reviews posted via his Fresh Raw Cuts. His dedication to the late Daniel Jones, for example, meant that he worked to keep Jones’ work in constant print, as Nathaniel G. Moore revealed in an article for Poetry is Dead:

Yet other work still remains in limited edition quantities. Mark McCawley, editor of Edmonton’s Greensleeve Editions and the underground literary journal Urban Graffiti, published Jones just before his death and kept the letters the late writer sent him. “I published a chapbook of Jones’, The Job After The One Before, in 1990. Ever since, I have endeavored to keep the chapbook in print, re-printing whenever necessary.”

His own fiction and poetry appeared widely in Canada in magazines and in the anthologies Burning Ambitions: The Anthology of Short-Shorts, edited by Debbie James (Toronto ON: Rush Hour Revisions, 1998) and Grunt & Groan: The New Fiction Anthology of Work and Sex, edited by Matthew Firth and Max Maccari (Toronto ON: Boheme Press, 2002). He himself was the author of nearly a dozen chapbooks of poetry and fiction, including Fragile Harvest - Fragile Lives (Greensleeve Editions, 1988), The Deadman’s Dance (Greensleeve Editions, 1989), Last Minute Instructions (Toronto: Unfinished Monument Press, 1989), Voices from earth: selected poems/ with R. Kurt (Calgary: Prairie Journal Press, 1990), Scars and Other Signatures : prose poems (Greensleeve Editions, 1991), Thorns Without the Rose: fictions & prose poems (Greensleeve Editions, 1991), Stories for People with Brief Attention Spans : fictions (Greensleeve Editions, 1992), Just Another Asshole : short stories (Greensleeve Editions, 1994), Collateral Damage (Montreal: Coracle Press, 2008) and Sick Lazy Fuck (Ottawa: Black Bile Press, 2008). As Black Bile Press editor/publisher Matthew Firth, a long-time friend of McCawley, once said of him: “His own writing is straight-shooting, pulls no punches, honest and drenched in authentic experience.”

Far more active over the past decade or so than he’d been during the early 2000s, he blogged regularly for Sensitive Skin, posted music podcasts (here and here), provided essential critical and personal support to numerous writers, regularly started arguments and kicked against the pricks. I know he had a series of ongoing, and rather serious, health issues, some of which were due to his two-decade battle with chronic pain (and a medical system that often managed to make things worse) stemming from an accident.

During my year as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta (2007-8), we hung out a couple of times, and he even participated in a reading through my Edmonton reading series, The Factory (West) Reading Series. He was gruff, grumpy and engaged, and even startled that anyone wished to speak to him about writing, having been dismissed enough times that he’d begun to expect it. During our first coffee afternoon at The Garneau Pub [see the post I wrote after we hung out here], he complained of being kicked out of the English Department at the University of Alberta during his student days. When I pointed out that, since I was picking up the tab, technically that same department was buying his coffee, he lightened, and laughed. We’d kept in touch pretty regularly since, trading emails and a variety of links, and he was kind enough to review a number of above/ground press items, as well as conduct the occasional interview for ottawater (including one he did with Christine McNair)

I shall miss his complaints, criticisms and contributions, all of which were offered with enthusiasm.

He is survived by his son, Devin McCawley

Some further Mark McCawley links worth paying attention to:



http://www.brokenpencil.com/columns/deleted-zines-7

https://devilhousepress.com/index.php?BLOGTitle=Mark+McCawley


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Matthew Henriksen, The Absence of Knowing




Bring the fatted worm to the altar
I will pin down the skin

The body open
What you imagined

An orphan cannot say her father is no man
A worm cannot say

No No Don’t do this
But the fatted baby will say

When she is older I don’t remember
What my father cut from me (“Baby”)

On the heels of his Ordinary Sun (Boston MA: Black Ocean, 2011) comes Arkansas poet Matthew Henriksen’s second poetry collection, The Absence of Knowing (Black Ocean, 2016), a book composed of incredibly sharp lyric poems. The narrator of The Absence of Knowing works through a hardscrabble series of lessons, often hard-won, attempting to claw out of the dark and into, if not necessarily light, at least a kind of comprehension, which would perhaps allow a better navigation of that dark. Near the end of the sequence “VERY SMALL BOOK,” he writes: “I ate a small flower I don’t know the name of / Not difficult to get comfortable in this world / As long as this is not the world [.]” The same poem also features a kind of lyric density in short lines reminiscent of the work of Rae Armantrout, for how much can be packed into such a small, clipped space. I’m curious about the mix of short lined lyrics and longer prose works—different poems requiring different constructions—set side-by-side, and the structural variety throughout the collection only highlights the strength of that variety. Henriksen appears comfortable moving between shorter lined lyrics and longer prose-forms, and I’m intrigued to see where the structures of his poems might go to next. The poems in The Absence of Knowing exist as a sequence of contemplations through beauty, absence, violence, philosophy and a series of connections and disconnections, as he writes in the poem “Therapy Poem”:




We agree every morning on coffee
We eat the same meals
Share a toilet

Variations of happy sounded out in time
Animals animals and sleep

We do this thing when one of us plays Nina Simone
We both listen and sooner or later we start talking about her

I beg my wife to read Clarice Lispector
I do not know how to tell her about Celan

In Joseph Bradshaw’s 2012 review of Ordinary Sun online at Jacket2, he focused on the “Whitmanesque” elements of Henriksen’s poetry, writing that “Matt Henriksen is a visionary poet in the decidedly American, Whitmanic grain.” Bradshaw writes: “The key to the visionary impulse is in our mutual sympathy: if the poet is curious about “the harmony of things with man,” then we too can be curious. The aim of the visionary impulse is to explore the endless ravishments and ravagings — harmony’s dualities — of the unacknowledged worlds within our world.” In The Absence of Knowing, Henriksen, perhaps in response, includes a four-page prose piece, “My W/hole Aesthetic” that opens with Whitman’s standalone name in quotation marks:

Rust on the balcony, leaves. The trees are made of scratch-scratch. Terror of the leaf raking over concrete. I am trying to destroy my way out of Blake. Walt says, “I,” and it is so. I am tired of talking about I, defending I. Accept it all.

Send something south and it blooms.

We wrote in a rapture of distress. Self-destruction. Not I-destruction. Went south and found an unmarked grave, now marked, two birth dates, a wedding day, awaiting the second day of death. I am god. Good, too. Good for you. For good. For ground. In a rapture of distress we unwrote ourselves and wrote a Self, receptacle of God, larks, lungs, longitudes, dung, and dogs. The barking of the howl, the day of the night, the sleep of the sun. Tomorrow we woke alone and I sat on the floor all morning, staring at a finch an hour. It came as far as the television table, perching for many minutes in silence—silences be damned, this was silence—aware of me completely and unafraid, flying away never fearing. Self-destruction leads to a lack of emitting fear, all fears admitted and culpably calculated in the lungs, where in choked breath a waking blackness comes, the pit of absolution, the absolute precision of a dream, a sleep-waking, a Hell-not-a-hell, through no false hell, for all’s a false hell but exclusion from the Earth, and Heaven then is either ripening in the soil or it is Hell as certain as a Heaven. World and underworld then, and if the world is round then through logic one may find that under the sphere is the center, the zero, the nothing and the nothing-there, nether-world, never world, darksome hole, yes, love-hole, center of the flapping cry.

Words for women, death for men.


Friday, April 29, 2016

U of Alberta writers-in-residence interviews: Thomas Wharton (2002-3)



For the sake of the fortieth anniversary of the writer-in-residence program (the longest lasting of its kind in Canada) at the University of Alberta, I have taken it upon myself to interview as many former University of Alberta writers-in-residence as possible [see the ongoing list of writers here]. See the link to the entireseries of interviews (updating weekly) here.

Thomas Wharton was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta. His first novel, Icefields (1995), won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean division. His second novel, Salamander (2001), was short-listed for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. A collection of short fiction, The Logogryph, published in 2004 by Gaspereau Press, won the Howard O’Hagan Prize at the Alberta Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Prize.

Wharton has written a YA fantasy trilogy, The Perilous Realm (2008-2013). His most recent book is the eco-fiction Every Blade of Grass, self-published in 2014. Currently he is working on a new collection of fantastical tales. His work has been published in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries.

Thomas Wharton is an associate professor in the department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, where he teaches creative writing. He lives in the countryside near Edmonton with his wife and three children.

He was writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta during the 2002-3 academic year.

Q: When you began your residency, you’d published two novels over the previous eight years. Where did you feel you were in your writing? What did the opportunity mean to you?

A: At the time I started my residency I’d written a third novel that both my agent and my publisher had a lot of doubts about. I shelved it in frustration and began another project I’d had on the go for a long time: a collection of stories about mysterious, magical books. The residency gave me the security and the renewed confidence to let go of the one project for the time being and start this new book about books.

Q: Was this your first residency?

A: No, my first residency was at Grant MacEwan University in 1999. That was a four-month residency, I believe.

Q: The bulk of writers-in-residence at the University of Alberta have been writers from outside the province. As an Edmonton-based writer, how did it feel to be acknowledged locally through the position?

A: I don’t know if I saw it as an opportunity for me as an Edmonton writer, per se – it’s actually taken a long time for me to think of myself as an Edmonton writer – I’ve lived in other places for much of my life, and now I live outside the city, so I don’t know what to call myself anymore. I just felt honoured that the committee thought my work made me worthy of the job!

Q: How did you engage with students and the community during your residency?

A: Interestingly I didn’t meet with many students during my residency. Most of the people who came to see me were people from Edmonton and surrounding communities. I had the feeling most of them were more aware of the residency and what it could do for them than most students were. I also felt that students saw the writer-in-residence as another authority, like one of their professors, and this may have been why some were reluctant to have their work read and critiqued. Although I did have one student drop by one afternoon and ask me if I would read his essay and give him some feedback because he had to hand it in ... in half an hour!

Q: What do you see as your biggest accomplishment while there? What had you been hoping to achieve?

A: I met with people who were having difficulty with their writing in one way or another – either because they were struggling to get started as writers or had stalled on a project. It was a good feeling to work through some of the issues with them and to bring in my own experience in order to help them get some perspective on their own. There were also a few challenges in working with people who simply wanted confirmation from me that their work was wonderful, and when I couldn’t affirm that, they weren’t always pleasant about it.

Q: Looking back on the experience now, how do you think it impacted upon your work?

A: It was my first major writer-in-res gig, and at that point I hadn’t done much creative writing teaching. So helping other writers really gave me an opportunity to articulate (to myself as much as to the writers who came to see me) what I have learned about good writing. I think the experience made me work harder and think more deeply about what I was doing as a writer.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Carrie Etter

Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter lived for thirteen years in southern California before moving to England in 2001. She has published three collections of poetry, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Award, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society. She also edited the anthology, Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010) and Linda Lamus's posthumous collection, A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran, 2015). She is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I suppose my first book made me feel credible as a poet. In my first two books, I fled the autobiographical; since then, I try to employ innovative techniques for handling such material.

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

I wrote my first poem outside of school at eleven. I was also writing stories--I'm not really sure which came first.

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?
My writing tends to come quickly, then I revise, revise, revise. In my books, I have lines crossed out, words changed--the process never ends.

4 - Where does a poem 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?
My first two books are collections of poems with threads of ideas running through them, while my third is much more cohesive as a project. The book I'm working on now (my fourth) is similarly driven by a main idea or rather a complex of them.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love doing readings. Poetry is a communicative act as well as a form of art, and I relish the sense that something that felt very specific to my own consciousness is being understood by others.

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'm interested in the ways texts always exceed the author's intentions. My ongoing manuscript's first section asks how our relationship to home as place and climate change can motivate us to care more for the environment.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I feel a responsibility to address social issues in my writing, but I wouldn't prescribe for other writers. 

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

I haven't had that much involvement from my editors, but I would like more--from the right editor. Is that statement inherently contradictory?

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

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
I think writing critical prose about poetry helps me articulate my ideas about it more clearly in my teaching. I tend to take a long time over reviews, though, and am considering setting them aside indefinitely for the sake of focus on the (more) creative work.

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?
I don't have a routine, but I become antsy and frustrated if too much time passes without writing. 

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I don't stall much, but find it's helpful to read as widely as possible across genres and styles.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Raw corn (I'm from Illinois)

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?
Film is an influence--its techniques for conveying ideas and emotions. I also think my viewing of film montages has been important for some of the montage-style long poems in my new manuscript.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
The list is terribly long. I'll pick three at random: Iain M. Banks, Peter Reading, and Cole Swensen.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I enjoy reading speculative fiction, especially young adult (and so without the hard science), and would love to publish a YA speculative novel. I also have a manuscript of haiku and senryu I'd like to publish someday, The Broken Kite, either as a chapbook or a full-length book.

I'm also tempted to learn paragliding.

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?

I think because of the pleasure I take in both the arts and in working with others, arts administration might have been a good alternate career. When I was finishing my PhD and living in Walthamstow, I fantasized about getting a job at the William Morris Museum.

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

I was never very good at team sports and had various stomach problems in childhood that led to lots of time away from school: perhaps that made me feel like an outsider. Many writers I know feel like outsiders. 

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I admired Margaret Atwood's short story collection, Stone Atlas, and can't remember the last great film I saw, so I'll recommend a few favourites: The Whale Rider, Spirited Away and The Wild Bunch. The first two share a theme of girls' empowerment.

20 - What are you currently working on?

The Weather in Normal is the manuscript in progress. In its current form, it has three sections: the first focuses on the effects of climate change in Illinois, my home state; the second brings together literal and figurative (in terms of family) weather in my experience growing up in Normal, Illinois; and the third is an imaginative revisiting of my family home.

I have another manuscript on the side, Grief's Alphabet, on the loss of my mother, who was my closest friend, and ideas for a book tentatively titled Transatlantica exploring the different effects of climate change on the environments of Britain and the US and the way the debates about climate change differ in my two countries.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;