A Word About Writing

An Interview with Sharma Shields and Caroline Zancan, by Celia Johnson

Sharma Shields’ debut novel, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, is about a family pulled into one man’s hunt for the elusive sasquatch. The book is populated with myths and yet it feels strikingly real. Shields’ editor, Caroline Zancan, said that, when she first received the manuscript, “I was partly reading with childlike wonder, using parts of my imagination I hadn’t used since I was a kid, but at the same time, there were forces at work that were terrifying to me even as an adult.” I spoke with Sharma and Caroline about myths, the editorial process, and unsung heroes in the publishing world.


An Interview with Bill Roorbach, by Heidi Sistare

Bill Roorbach is a lot of things: novelist, essayist, father, screenwriter, and naturalist. Most of all, he is someone who finds, writes, imagines, and tells good stories. His most recent novel, The Remedy for Love, is a love story set during an apocalyptic snowstorm. He also wrote Life Among Giants, which is in development as an HBO series; Temple Stream, winner of the Maine prize for nonfiction; and many others. I spoke with him about his blog, writing for television, and advice for new writers.


An Interview with Jynne Dilling Martin, by Tom Haushalter

“Maybe, pilgrim,” begins the first poem in Jynne Dilling Martin’s marvelous debut collection of poems, We Mammals in Hospitable Times, “if I permit you to sleep on my floor tonight, tomorrow / every house on this block will burn to the ground except mine.”

In no more than two lines has Martin offered us shelter in her midst, only to show us come morning the neighborhood is gone. And that sets the tone and the stage for a trek of epic consequences, through Martin’s kaleidoscopic lens to scan this already fallen world, clutching “armfuls of leaves…a rare glass paperweight collection, a cat who, like you, will never die.”

mammalsThe earth is screwed, scientists agree, but spin its perils into pulsing, painstaking poems like these, and you realize we—we mammals, down to the last flaring of the last polar bear’s nostril—pilgrim, we’re already over. Except Martin, who would be as if Laika, the Soviet space dog, watched overhead as all gave way to the rising tides.

Despite line after line stringing together one unforgettable image after another—“we wipe reindeer hair from our eyes, / the glaciated passages too dazzling to see quite clearly”—Martin, who has served as an Antarctica writer-in-residence, can’t just let this cosmic neighborhood smolder without answering to the sorcery with which she has begun to rebuild it in her dazzling poems. So I sat her down for a talking to.


An Interview with Sharon Erby, by Celia Johnson

In 2011, Slice published a short story called “Night Dogs” by Sharon Erby. It is a powerful piece that, in just a few pages, will transport you to rural Pennsylvania. So, of course, we were thrilled when we heard that Erby had written Parallel, a collection of linked stories, all set in Timmons Mountain, the same backdrop as “Night Dogs.” I spoke with Erby about her characters, her creative process, and where she writes, and it all comes back to the region she calls home.


An Interview with Cheryl Strayed, by Whiskey Blue

Reading WILD for the first time, I wondered, Why can’t Cheryl Strayed be everyone’s mother? There’s a wisdom – a tough, deeply loving wisdom – in every sentence of Strayed’s book, which of course is an exploration of Strayed’s loss of her own mother. In the film by director Jean-Marc Vallee, Reese Witherspoon plays a bereaved Cheryl setting off on a life-changing hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Much like in the book, the film’s protagonist confronts grief and hopelessness (not to mention danger) with a most human mix of gusto and desperation. As Strayed explains in this interview, WILD is about bearing the unbearable, which seems like an impossible task in terms of writing (not to mention surviving). Here I talk to Strayed about WILD’s transition from lived experience, to book, to the film adaptation that succeeds in paying tribute to the agony and brilliance of Strayed’s life-changing story.


An Interview with Mallory Ortberg, by Celia Johnson

Imagine your favorite character was handed a cell phone. Now she can text her crush, her best friend, her enemy… And so it goes in Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. Sherlock Holmes reaches out to Watson from a drug den. Scarlett O’Hara sends inappropriate sexts to Ashley. Some of the most famous and beloved interactions from classic literature are reimagined as sequences of texts in this hilarious collection. As Rachel Fershleiser observed, “This is the smartest, most highbrow, most sophisticated literary book that will ever make you pee yourself in public.” I spoke with Ortberg about the best and worst fictional texters, writers who make her laugh, and more.