Smoking With xTx
by Roxane Gay Read the Story July 25, 2010
I loved “The Strain of Collusion” from the first time I read it and when I found out you had written the story, I was really surprised because it felt so different than the rest of your writing. As you wrote this story did it feel like something different? How did this story come about?
It did feel different when I wrote it. I wrote the initial draft of that piece longhand, so, even from the physical aspect it started out differently for me. I guess my writing tends to be a bit ‘hard’ which is usually because it stems from hard experiences or feelings and so the stories are built around that vibe. This story began from a soft place and as I tried to stay there as I wrote it.
This story stemmed from being informed that my niece had MRSA. It shocked me and I was scared and worried. The phrase, “My niece has MRSA” became stuck in my head like a mantra after I was told and it became the catalyst for the story. I wrote it into my notebook and the rest of the story went on from there.
There is a real sense of magic in the final section of the story creating this secret place in the story just like the narrator and her niece are creating a secret place within the chaos of their family. Where is your secret place to get away from the world (she asks, knowing full well that to reveal said place would make it no longer a secret)?
It’s probably cliché, but my secret place to get away from the world is my writing. It’s a mental and emotional escape where nobody can attend but me, made even more secret because I don’t share my writing with anyone in my life.
In a tangible sense, I don’t really have a secret place; I only have ‘known’ places that act as getaways/soul recharging stations. They are located in northern California and I’m not saying where! Ha!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever offered?
I don’t know what the best writing advice I’ve ever received was. I think what I benefit most from is encouragement from exceptional writers who tell me they like or love what I’m doing. That really helps build my confidence and keeps me going even when I feel I am not doing it right.
I don’t give writing advice because I feel I am still learning and how can a student give advice? But if someone were to ask me, I’d tell them to write every day, no matter what. No matter if it’s nonsense. Keep doing it. Things come. Write things you tell yourself you can’t. Stretch. Get feedback from writers you admire. Write like nobody’s going to read it. Just write.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished up a big project for a forthcoming e-book, so I am just ‘flashing’ for a while before I have to hunker down for a book project later this year. (Details tba.)
What’s the last great thing you read? Why?
The last great thing I read was a letter that came in the mail yesterday which was a follow up to a really bad letter I had read the week before. Yesterday’s letter cancelled out the bad letter. It was a really great read.
Zombie Summer! Pimp that! Why zombies? Were turtles ever under consideration? Why do you do the theme summers on your blog?
ZOMBIE SUMMER!!! Last year I did elephants. It started out as a dumb idea that I had to fill ‘dead air’ on my blog when I went on vacation, but it turned into a big thing. I received 35 submissions! I had to extend Elephant Summer into October!!! Everyone seemed to have a fun time with it, so I thought I’d do it again this year.
Unfortunately, turtles were NOT under consideration for this year’s summer, but maybe next year.
What do like most about your own writing?
Jeez. This is an interesting question and I’m not sure how to answer it. My writing is an expression and how do you say what you like most about when you cry or when you laugh or when you get really mad and yell at someone? It just feels good to let it out.
What I like about writing, in general, is being able to create a reaction or a feeling in the reader using words. It feels very powerful to know that by selecting certain words and putting them together in a certain order can have an effect on people who read those words.
Specifically, I guess I like my writing when I make a sentence or a paragraph or a story that I’m proud of; one that uses unusual language to create a new way of seeing the usual.
And that’s all I have to say about that.