November's Hot Writer: Gretchen Kalwinski
My genre: Fiction. And sometimes essays. Also, journalism. Oh, and occasionally poems, though I mostly call them flash-fiction now.
My literary influences: Let me just say how lucky I am that I’ve actually gotten to study with some of them: Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, Stuart Dybek, Goldie Goldbloom, Alice Munro, Marilynne Robinson, Diane Di Prima, Jeffrey Eugenides, Karen Russell, Junot Diaz, Sharon Solwitz, Alice Walker, Patrick Somerville, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Lynda Barry, Diane Ackerman, Michael Chabon, Dorothy Allison, and Aimee Bender.
My favorite literary quote: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” –Gustave Flaubert. (I aspire to this, but fail frequently—both at the life part and the writing part.)
My favorite book of all time: Impossible to narrow to one. As far as the classics, The Iliad and The Infero, from which I learned everything I needed to know about storytelling. Middlesex and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay for pure pleasure. And, because I love books that tell the truth about the lives of women, The Awakening and Hateship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage.
I’m currently reading: Again, I'm commitment-phobic! I keep a few going at one time, for different moods. One is Wild, by the brilliant Cheryl Strayed, who wowed me at last year’s AWP conference. Also: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.
My guilty pleasure book: Embarrassing, but I’m a sucker for spiritual/esoteric writers like Marianne Williamson, Eckert Tolle, Carolyn Myss. Reading that stuff can be like watching a sci-fi movie or getting drunk or listening to weird Sunday night radio programming. It gets me out of my pragmatic left brain, and lets my thinking become more liquid and unconscious. When that happens, ideas tend to come more easily.
I can’t write without: A candle, preferably an expensive, woodsy-smelling one. At least for the generative phase, when I need to feel like something unconscious and almost mystical is happening. It sounds very woo-woo I know, but I’m prone to procrastination, and this just works for me. I'm going to stock up on candles now that I'm in thesis mode.
Worst line I ever wrote: Here’s one, from a terrible old confessional free verse poem. “I’ll be your surgeon. I am religion. With charts and graphs, I’ll prove you’re alive.” Dramatic much, Younger Me?
Brief Bio: Gretchen Kalwinski's writing has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Stop Smiling, Time Out Chicago, Make Literary Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, and Featherproof Books, among other venues. She’s served as a panelist on WGN radio, Chicago Tonight, and the Bad at Sports podcast, and in 2009, she was awarded a Ragdale Foundation artist residency. She works as a copywriter and is finishing up her MFA in creative writing at Northwestern University. You can find her at gretchenkalwinski.com
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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