Thursday, June 8, 2017

Author Interview Interrupted: Essay Writer Sonya Huber's Q-and-A at Cleaver Magazine

Many (many) years ago, I wrote a syndicated interview column for two dozen equestrian publications. Every month I chose someone prominent in the horse show world--a champion rider, a judge, a course designer, a top trainer, a farrier expert in keeping equine athletes' feet in top shape. Because I was on the circuit too (competing, but hardly prominent!), I simply took my target out for coffee, pulled out my Sony tape recorder, asked my prepared, carefully-researched questions, then new questions that occurred to me in the course of the conversation. Back in my hotel room, I typed it up, got copies made, and mailed them out. 

Sometimes, I miss those days. I almost always chose interviewees who I was interested in talking to, someone from whom I could learn. Now, I do Q-and-A interviews here on the blog (the coffee is enjoyed separately, as most are via email) and love bringing their words--of wisdom, caution, encouragement--to my readers. Sometimes, I'm so impressed and/or inspired by what that writer had to share, I'm caught between wanting it on my blog an wanting a wider audience, so that their insights reach more writers.

That's why my most recent interview--with the memoir and essay writer Sonya Huber--first meant for my blog--is now up at the wonderful Cleaver Magazine. (Though I'm an editor there, my narrow lane is nonfiction craft essays, so like everyone else, I had to pitch this. Fortunately, Cleaver said yes.)

I wanted to interview Sonya because I so loved reading her new, curiously-titled book, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and other Essays from a Nervous System. Here's a small sample from the interview:

SH:  I needed to find larger meaning and research to understand my own experience. So I was driven by self-interest to find those universals. I’m pretty much a ranter inside my own head. Every single essay—or many of them—start in rant mode. That’s great for a paragraph, or for fuel to begin writing, but then I would come back to those paragraphs and see how dull they were to read.
On revision I knew I had to unfold those strong emotions to make them real for the reader. I have learned to do that mainly by reading essays by other writers; doing a lot of that gets the “essay mode” inside one’s head. Every time I’m at a dead end of frustration with a personal experience, the essayist voice—which is developed through that repetition and training—asks, “But what else might that mean?” and then takes the topic at hand from a 46 degree angle.


Karen BakingInATornado said...

I can totally relate with her need to journal just for herself, I'm glad she ended up turning it into a book for others. It takes so much more work but allows others to benefit from her experiences.

Melanie Garrison said...

I'm happy she ended up rotating it into a book for others. It takes so much extra work but permits others to profit from her experiences.