I was interviewed a while ago for one of my favorite literary magazines, Minerva Rising (firstname.lastname@example.org). The interviewer asked why I write, what I like about writing and what I want my writing to do in the world. Here are parts of that interview, with a bit more.
MINERVA: I know you have been submitting once a month for eight or so years to your local newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, and its REFLECTIONS column. What have been your favorites so fat?
SUE: I think I like the ones about my grandchildren. At first blush, these almost-three-year-old twins seem so different. Bugs, ants and spider webs fascinate Taylor, who can squat for hours watching them scurry, hide, gather smaller bugs. He loves to play in the dirt with his toy dump trucks, diggers and train cars and dig….and dig…..and dig. Taylor ‘s more likely to say, “Susu, let’s read another book.”
His twin Walker loves pushing his feet and balancing on his new Kazam bike, throwing tennis balls and “baskaballs”, running. He is a get-up-and-go physical guy. Walker says, “Come on. Let’s go to the park and play. That’s a good idea.”
And yet, when I write about them, I feel their common essence, how they both wonder, how they look into my eyes to connect, maybe taking cues to learn what it means to be human, to read my face when I read WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE to them.
MINERVA: Why do you like that?
SUE: I like feeling how much alike we all are, through what might appear to be different surfaces. I like knowing in some ways, even though they don’t look alike, or have the same personalities or preferences, that Taylor is just like Walker and that they are just like me. When I sit to write their stories, I see the human condition in all of us unfolding in them. When they say, “Susu, the wild things scare me.” I sense my capacity for fear too. I can relate. What I love about writing into how I experience them is that I get to see how fundamentally the same we all are as human beings. We all have passion. We all feel joy and pain and fear. We all would rather not experience loss or sadness, not in the sandbox, not in the office.
One more thing: Writing about my grandchildren helps me pay attention to how they pay attention. And I need to learn how to pay better attention. They are great teachers, if I can only notice. When I get out the pen, I am a better noticer. That’s why writing about them is my favorite.
MINERVA: What would you most want to happen as a result of your writing?
SUE: It’s the same thing really. I love it when readers say they can relate to what I write. I am the oldest of seven children in a French-Canadian Roman Catholic family who moved to Maine and then lived in an upper middle class whitish yuppyish small town. I wore kelly green skirts and Pappagalo flats to Sunday Mass. My story seems wildly opposite from the details of an only child of Russian-speaking Latvian immigrants who came to the U.S. to an ethnic neighborhood in Manhattan, who wearsdark browns and blacks to Shul on Saturday. But all kinds and ages of people write to me and say, “Yes. I know what you are saying. I can feel the same sense of shame all over again when I hear the echoes of those adults from my past say to me, just like adults said to you “what’s the matter with you? Are you crazy?”
I want the result of my writing to have readers say, “I know this feeling.”
I think when we relate as human beings on the level of our vulnerability or joy on our mutual human stage with all its various dramas, and then we all grow into trusting each other and life’s process a bit more. We all feel a bit more okayness, a bigger sense of, “Phew, I am not alone.”
I love it when readers–no matter how different we seem –write to me and say, “Just like you, I feel afraid. Just like you, I feel sad. Just like you, I love to be feel happy. I feel what you feel. I know what you are saying. Thank you.” That’s why I write. To connect with what is true in all of us.