Stephanie Grant 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?
It was great to re-read Marie Howe—who was part of our visiting writer’s series. Her book, What The Living Do has tremendous clarity of vision. The clarity that comes from loss, I think. I re-read William Maxwell, an enduring love, whose prose is crystal clear and full of feeling. Both, So Long, See You Tomorrow, and They Came Like Swallows. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that structure contains emotion. Not content, but structure. I’ve gotten to the point–almost–that I don’t care about content, only structure! I read As I Lay Dying for the very first time (please don’t tell anyone) and was utterly blown away. The book is THE STRUCTURE of grief. It should be given to people in mourning, except, of course, it’s impossible to read and think when in mourning (or so has been my experience). It occurs to me that all the books I’ve mentioned are about grief. Who knew?
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?
I’m writing a novel that is a satire of contemporary marriage set at the beginning of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It’s called Home Equity. I’ve got a good first draft on my hands (completed this fall, when I had a course release), and I’m very excited about the next revision. “A good first draft” means I don’t want to slit my wrists when I read it, and I can see where I need to go next.
ICL: What was your most exciting writing-related development this year?
I would say that I’ve learned to step back a little when I’m having trouble with something. If a scene or a piece of writing is not successful, instead of trying immediately to “fix” it, I’m looking at that scene as a kind of “soft spot” in the manuscript. I push ahead–leaving the problem piece in place–and wait until further writing reveals some solution. It’s a little bit like having faith that I’ll figure it out. Rather than my former stern Puritanism that REQUIRED me to figure it out RIGHT NOW, before continuing. The result is that I hold my pencil (so to speak) a little less tightly. I’m having more fun.
Also: I wrote from a male point of view for the first time. It was thrilling.
ICL: Have certain techniques and themes endured as central to your writing?
Techniques, who knows. What is technique, after all? Themes, probably: the body, the body, the body. The spirit, the spirit, the spirit.
ICL: If you weren't focused on writing, what would you be doing?
I’m not sure what the question means. What would I be doing, practically? Cleaning my house. It’s the Wreck of the Hesperus. What would I be doing artistically? Wishing I had talent in some other area. This November I had to paint a shack that is on my property in Durham, North Carolina where I live. I spent several days in painter’s clothes. People kept asking me if I was a painter, which felt very glamorous. I wanted to say yes, yes! Being a visual artist has always seemed A LOT more fun than being a writer. A form of play.
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 it?
Reading is solace. Writing is solace. And for the same reason: entering the interior of another is solace.