24. Let Me Explain You: an Interview with Author Annie Liontas

annie_liontas

Annie Liontas’ debut novel, LET ME EXPLAIN YOU, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2015. Her story “Two Planes in Love” was selected as runner-up in BOMB Magazine’s 2013 Fiction Prize Contest. Since 2003, Annie has been dedicated to urban education, working with teachers and youth in Newark and Philadelphia. Currently she co-hosts the TireFire Reading Series. She lives with her wife in Philadelphia across the street from the best pizza joint [22:38].

 

Visit Annie’s website

Follow Annie on Twitter: @aliontas

Highlights

On writing her novel…

“I worked on it for about three years, but it was during my MFA so in people years, that would have been like five [years].”

“I think all writers… are looking to get blessed or christened. And like, no one really does that.”

On her MFA program…

“Syracuse is wonderful, in that they help support you. You don’t get in there for the contacts. And, you know, nothing is guaranteed. But it was really the relationships that I developed that led to this fortuitous thing.”

On the editing process…

“I found everyone at Scribner to be really in support of the work and not wanting to water it down or change it. It felt like they took the book on because they believed in it and everything they did would only make it better and I should stop being so precious…for me that was such a pleasant experience.”

On the Philadelphia Literary Scene…

“If you’re a writer and you don’t want to be in Brooklyn, then you should probably move to Philly.”

Who’s Who

Syracuse MFA program

Christine Schutt — author of Prosperous Friends

Ellen Litman — author of The Last Chicken in America

Arthur Flowers — Annie’s Syracuse mentor & “Hoodoo visionary from Tennessee”

Sarah Rose Etter — Tire Fire Reading Series co-host

Tire Fire Reading Series Guests: Colin Barrett, Kelly Link, Roxanne Gay, Diane Cook

Bocas Lit Fest — held in Trinidad & Tobago

Closing Quote

“No death for you; you are involved.” –Welden Kees

 

“If there’s a book you really want to read but hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” –Toni Morrison

 

23. The Turner House: a Conversation with Debut Novelist Angela Flournoy

Angela_Flournoy

ANGELA FLOURNOY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a Dean’s Fellowship, and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University, and has worked for the District of Columbia Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit. The Turner House is her first novel [23.33].

 

Highlights

On writing about Detroit…

“For me, I think of Detroit as a place of warmth. My experiences are obviously colored by the fact that it’s like a reunion when I got there…I don’t necessarily think of Detroit as a city of blight.”

“I had people immediately saying: this book needs to be grittier. It’s so light. It’s so happy. It’s so funny. This book needs to be darker. You know, basically like–kill some dogs in this book.”

On the paranormal…

“I think people incorporate all sorts of beliefs in the paranormal or supernatural. But for some reason in the fictional world, if you mention a ghost and you give it some sort of seriousness, all of a sudden it puts you in some kind of other sort of category. I don’t necessarily think it pulls your book out of the realm of realism.”

On first pitching her novel to agent Ellen Levine…

“I was going to meet with her even if I had nothing. So I wrote the first scene…and told her: ‘Oh, I have 100 pages of this thing.'”

On her experience at Iowa…

“A writing program is not the best proving ground for everyone, but for me, it helped me be able to explain to myself why I [make the decisions I make in my writing].”

“One of the things I learned in Iowa…is that you cannot hang your hat on criticism.”

Who’s Who

Marilynne Robinson, Edward Carey, & Paul Harding — Authors and Angela’s teachers at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop

Ellen Levine — Literary Agent with Trident Media

Ayana Mathis — Author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Closing Quote

Mouths don’t empty themselves unless the ears are sympathetic and knowing. — Zora Neale Hurston, from Mules and Men