Danielle Evans Q & A
In Capital Letters: Are there any authors, poets, books, poems, stories, that you discovered or re-discovered over the last year that you would recommend to students or colleagues, and why?
I got to reread Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days, which would win my vote in a Great American Novel contest—it does fantastic things with language and structure but feels to me grounded in genuine emotion, and remains, to me, one of the best novelistic portraits of the US, past and present, because it really nails something about this country's psyche. New discoveries this year were Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, which smartly formalizes an artistic anxiety about technology, but it also just a really good book, and Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, which is informative and evocative.
ICL: Can you please tell us a little about any writing and/or creative projects that you have been working on over the past year?
My short story collection came out in February of last year. I am now finishing my novel, The Empire Has No Clothes, which is about a woman who takes a job at a charter school and is tasked with creating a progressive history textbook, which becomes increasingly difficult, especially when she realizes that her family is involved in a controversial fictional historical event, and has to choose between her political loyalties and her family loyalties. There is also a troublesome younger sister, a senate campaign, some old family secrets, and a lot of sex and drugs. I'm also in the very early stages of a too-new-to-talk-about longer project.
ICL: What was your most exciting writing-related development this year?
My story collection coming out was obviously very exciting, but I'd still have to say that the most exciting event was the morning I woke up and suddenly knew how to fix the first paragraph of my novel.
ICL: Have certain techniques and themes endured as central to your writing?
I'm actually having a lot of fun now playing with new techniques, because I'm working in a longer and somewhat more playful form. That doesn't mean everything old is gone—I still think a lot about voice, and dialogue, and dialect, and honesty and withholding, all of which played into overall form in my collection and will again in the novel—but I'm enjoying the new possibilities of a more expansive canvas.
ICL: If you weren't focused on writing, what would you be doing?
Naming nail polish colors and/or running for office and/or picketing the people running for office.
ICL: If you had to Tweet (in 140 characters or less) about one thing you learned about yourself through your art, what would you write?
Perfection is not an option. Be good enough at your best to be forgiven at your worst.