When I asked people on my Facebook page who they would like to read an interview with, Aimee Bender was one of the first names to be mentioned. Her novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is exquisite, and her newest collection of short stories – The Color Master – makes my skin tingle. My favorite part of this interview? What she has to say about platform. I think you’ll see why.
Not sure yet– a novel most likely but it’s in the beginning stages.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
A big role. I loved to reread books so I’d get into a groove with something (like the Oz series, or fairy tales, or L’Engle) and read them over and over. I think there’s a good kind of training in that.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
It used to be 2 hours in the morning, faithfully for 17 years. But I had twins last spring so everything is upended. Right now it’s 10 minutes when I can find it.
4. Who are you reading now?
Currently reading Jeff McDaniel’s new book of poems: The Chapel of Inadvertent Joy. I love him.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
I so appreciate that a) you don’t ask for just one, and b) even these 3 are not the only faves. I find that too hard.
3 of the top are:
The Windup Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, which taught me something deep about plot and how cause and effect can work in a non realistic world. He is so intuitive, and it is satisfying in a way I can barely articulate.
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson, which has so many pages turned down it’s like a little hexagonal or octagonal book or something. It took a long time to read because it’s so dense with ideas and feelings and I soaked it in.
So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell, a novel/memoir that takes so many gentle risks (pov of a dog) but in a way that feels utterly natural. And, it turns around a tiny event. Big plot moves but the real core is a tiny one that is very moving.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
What do you mean? Platform as in a public writer person?
7.What is a typical day like for you?
These days I’m taking care of babies and off teaching for the moment. But usually I teach a few days a week, write in the morn (or anytime I can find that has some regularity) and try to fit in time to read/talk to people/walk/eat some food. It’s a flexible day, often, but there’s a lot to get done in it.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
Fairly small, some windows but no nice view (too distracting– E.L. Doctorow says something great about the words being the window)– wood, some clear surfaces if possible. I have photos of trees from various places I’ve traveled and I put those up sometimes above my computer and I like looking at that. A patchwork world forest.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I wrote a novel for probably five years and finally a couple good friends/readers said it just didn’t work. And, that rang true, though it really was hard to hear. But it also was relieving. Like unclenching a jaw.
I also got some demeaning reviews here and there as I was developing as a writer (“good luck with your little stories”) and those would make me mad and I’d have to walk them off and talk them off.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
To try to enjoy what you’re doing and to twist and play with it and mess with it and create/destroy it in whatever way that brings it alive for you. Drudgery for the writer translates to drudgery for the reader. The page is a thin membrane.
Aimee Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award, and The Color Master, released this last August, a NY Times Notable book for 2013. You can find out more about Aimee Bender’s work at her website as well like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.
Farm Update – Today, we go to pick up our first two goats – myotonic (fainting) goats – and our two Great Pyrenees puppies. We’ll have all of them – and the two of us – in our Subaru hatchback, so stay tuned to our farm site – God’s Whisper Farm.com for pictures and hilarity. And for breaking news – which we hope does not involve a break-out from the Subaru – keep an eye on our Facebook page.