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An Interview With Terese Svoboda
by David F. Hoenigman

"There are writers you would be tempted to read regardless of the setting or the period or the plot or even the genre. ... Terese Svoboda is one of those writers." Bloomsbury Review

Terese Svoboda is the author of ten books of prose and poetry, most recently the memoir, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent, winner of the 2007 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. The NY Post called it "Astounding!" Forthcoming is her fifth novel, Pirate Talk or Mermelade to be published by Dzanc Books, a fifth book of poetry Weapons Grade to be published by U. of Arkansas Press, the paperback release of her third novel, Trailer Girl and Other Stories, and her sixth novel, Bohemian Girl to be published by the University of Nebraska . Her writing has been featured in the New Yorker, New York Times, the Atlantic, TLS, Slate, Bomb, Columbia, Yale Review, and the Paris Review. Her honors include an O. Henry Prize for the short story, a nonfiction Pushcart Prize, a translation NEH grant, three New York Foundation for the Arts grants in poetry and fiction, a New York State Council for the Arts and a Jerome Foundation grant in video, the John Golden Award in playwriting, a Bellagio residency, the Bobst Prize in fiction and the Iowa Prize in poetry. Her opera WET premiered at L.A.'s Disney Hall in 2005. She has taught at Davidson, Williams, William and Mary, the Universities of Hawaii and Miami, the New School, Sarah Lawrence, Fairleigh Dickinson, Bennington, Fordham University, San Francisco State, and the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia and Nairobi.

She's interviewed here by David F. Hoenigman

What projects are you currently working on? I'm writing a novel about Scylla (as in Scylla & Charybdis) and a novel about the Army polluting the Midwest with old chemical weapons. Since I'm having my fifth and sixth novels coming out in the next few years, my novel writing's been very inspired.

What drew you to the story of Scylla and Charybdis? A dream of a woman causing a boat wreck.

Is your novel about chemical pollution nonfiction? I spent a year trying to sell the story to Love Canal-weary media. So it's fiction.

To what extent does the army pollute the environment? Ha. A terrorist couldn't do it as well. as the very first example I came upon this morning's google.

When and why did you begin writing? I began taking it seriously in college when I discovered there were no exams.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? About my fifth book.

Why did it take until you fifth book? ?It was just about writing then, trying to figure out how to do it, feeling humbled before the craft. After my fifth book it became more about how to make the craft new.

What inspired you to write your first book? I earned an MFA at Columbia, and a book was a byproduct of all the writing I did for ten years after that.

Who or what has influenced your writing? A six page single spaced mimeographed reading list given to me as an undergraduate in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

What were some of your favorite books on the list? ?Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch, Hebdomeros by de Chirico, Henri Michaux's work, Jules Supervielle

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing? My uncle published a book of poetry so I knew it could be done.

Is the book still in print? I don't remember whether it was a college effort or shortly thereafter. It was barely in print.

Do you have a specific writing style? I like to think it's the voice in my head, only smarter.

Could you please give us a paragraph or two of dictation from the voice in your head at this exact moment? Please.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? poetry. It's all pleasure.

How is writing poetry different from writing novels or memoirs? Line breaks, more attention to internal rhyme. I can get away with end rhyme too, which is just silly in prose. And, of course, considerations in line and placement on the page.

If you could only be remembered for one of your books, which one would it be and why? Cannibal. Most intense.

Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp? The turning-the- page message, the only one there is.

What is the most misunderstood aspect of your work? The words.

What book are you reading now? Agora Matta by Marta Elena Savigliano, A New and Glorious Life by Michelle Herman, Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Taken by Force by Robert Lilly, and All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Kelly McMasters and Benjamin Percy are very traditional, Shya Scanlon and Neil de la Flor very untraditional.

Do you have any advice for emerging writers? Read.

About the author:
David F. Hoenigman is the author of
Burn Your Belongings.

© 2013 Word Riot

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