An ABR Interview with Lidia Yuknavitch
You earned your Ph.D. from University of Oregon. How important was this formal education in your development as a writer? How important was informal education? What was your most formative training experience as a writer?
Both were huge. My most formative training experience as a writer was grief though, hands down. I had to write my way back to life. I had to resuscitate a self.
Unlike some people and a lot like some other people, I delighted in reading all the literature and philosophy and history and theory I could get my hands on. It didn't ever bother me. I read high theory like novels. With Guinness. I adored the modernists--Beckett and Stein made more sense to me than my ordinary life. At this point in my literary career I feel truly lucky to have read as much as I did. But it's still true that books aren't just books to me. It's a preferred world. An alternate universe I'd rather be inside of most days.
For whom do you write? Do you have an ideal reader in mind? A specific individual? Do you write for yourself? How important is the consideration of audience to the creative process?
I would have answered this differently when I was younger. In my twenties and thirties I wrote from a playful and antagonistic place. I wanted to leave scabs. I was writing from an alienated position.
When I wrote Chronology of Water I entered an ecstatic state. When I came out of it I realized I was writing for an "us" or a "we" - people who don't get heard or counted - and so my "I" became an "i." Now I write in a kind of chorus with like-minded writers toward the bodies of readers who could use some love and acknowledgement. We were here, too. We have stories. We count. Writing Dora and the two novels I'm finishing now-same impulse. To amplify the stories that have been buried or shadowed.
Feedback is vitally important to any author, but you have to find a group that is supportive and understands your work. You work with a group of prominent writers in Portland who weren't always as prominent as they are today. Was there a catalyzing moment that helped you decide, 'yes, this is the group for me.'?
Yes. When they let me in the door, where mercifully, there were others.
What are you reading right now? What are you looking forward to in the near future?
I'm reading Monica Drake's book The Stud Book. I'm reading never-been-published new authors that make my breathing jack-knife. I'm reading a pile of swell nonfiction books for an award I'm helping to judge. And I'm reading about String Theory. I look forward to the death of genre.