Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Grand Rapids Literary Review Interview

A couple years back I was interviewed by the now defunct Grand Rapids Literary Review. Some of my answers would be a bit different now I think. Nevertheless, below is the fruit of that encounter.

GRLR: Tell us about “making a life as a writer.”

EDL: Well, like everyone else, I started out believing I was a writer just because I thought about it a lot, scribbled a few bad poems, and had some fancy critical opinions. But it really hasn’t been until the last few years that I have become an enormous funnel through which my personal life, my reading, my teaching, and everything else flows in, and writing flows out. When a story or poem or essay is published, I become an “author” – and possibly in the future will make a “living” as a writer. However, that’s only a bonus.

GRLR: Do you have any books out right now? IF so, how do you feel about them? If not, are there plans for a book in the future?

EDL: I have completed work on four books, and one of them is being seriously considered at a publishing house right now. It is called Afoot in Connecticut, and is a non-fiction narrative about hiking in my adopted state. It is also probably my favorite of the completed work, though I’m working on two more right now that I might eventually like better, a historical novel and a travel book about wine-tasting.

GRLR: How do you balance teaching with your own writing?

EDL: That’s a constant problem. Teaching is in some ways the perfect career for a writer, because of the constant input it provides. However, I usually teach extra classes, up to twice the normal professorial load per year. This obviously cuts into writing time. I still manage to have a strong level of output (according to my other writer friends), but only because I am somehow able to steal segments of writing time throughout my day. I think that doing this is a matter of commitment to the practice and craft of writing, but I have been told that it is actually “insane.”

GRLR: What would you tell to others who want to devote their lives to literature?

EDL: I think that everyone’s life should be involved with literature, with telling and listening to stories, with the wonderful dialogue of writers and thinkers that goes on around us, but then again I’m a teacher. To really devote oneself, though, in the way that people are “devoted” to Elvis, is something I recommend only for the few. You must read, read, and read some more. But devotion is not only input. You must create conversation by sending your thoughts out into the world.

GRLR: What has been the most satisfying moment of your writing career?

EDL: That’s an easy one. A student in Saskatchewan emailed me and told me that she was doing an essay on one of my poems, and if I could please send her a little about myself to use in her introduction. I had received feedback before, but this was different. Someone was not only responding to my poem, but talking about it. Suddenly I realized that my work was “out there” and had become part of the great story.

GRLR: If you were on Death Row, and could have one last meal, what would it be?

EDL: This question made my tastebuds argue with each other. I thought about a basket of my teenage favorite, buffalo wings, since the indigestion wouldn’t matter, would it? But there was a large tastebud contingent that argued for a more high-end meal, with a glass of Rothschild wine and some sort of roast duck. I suppose that death brings out the carnivore in me. In a vegetarian world, I would go for some homemade macaroni and cheese and roast leeks.


Ryan Rasmussen said...

Are you saying your critical opinions are fancier now? :-)

Eric D. Lehman said...

That's right, Ryan. I've evolved a higher sensibility. :)