A Little Bird Told Me: Summer Updates from Elissa Washuta
Our sneak peak at Red Hen’s fall titles continues this week with responses from Elissa Washuta, whose memoir, My Body Is a Book of Rules, is available August 12th. In the interview below, Elissa opens up about her genre, the necessity of distraction, and the chapter of her memoir that just didn’t work out. Read on to learn more about Elissa’s upcoming title, and when you might find her negotiating with her cat.
1. Describe your “happy place.”
There is a public dock in my neighborhood tucked away at the end of a road. Apparently, according to a new sign that’s been put up, it’s called the “Beaver Lodge Sanctuary,” but I know it as The Spot. It’s not the kind of dock that invites diving—the area is swampy, full of lilypads, and inhabited by beavers. It’s hard to believe this is in Seattle; it’s even harder to believe that it’s a stone’s throw from a manicured, gate-protected golf course.
2. Your biggest distraction from writing
For me, all writing resides within a tangle of distraction. I do not tolerate unbroken periods of writing time. While writing, I cook, clean, Facebook, tweet, gChat, negotiate with my cat, take walks, listen to music, read books, and feed crows. To spend weeks in a residency without internet would fill me with dread.
3. Can you imagine exploring the content of your upcoming release in any other genre?
I can imagine the possibilities, but they seem crummy. The book, at one time, contained poems that I have since discarded. I was once told that it would work better as a novel—I disagree. The inherent urgency of fact is important to my work.
4. Please provide our blog readers with one summer reading recommendation
The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp: I messed up—I saw the film adaptation before I read the book, defying conventional wisdom about the order of the universe. Both are brilliant. This slim coming-of-age novel about a Dogrib Dene teenager from the Northwest Territories of Canada is funny and dark. The prose is stunning, and the weather is cold.
5. Biggest challenge while writing My Body Is a Book of Rules
I wrote a chapter about fencing that I worked on for years and, despite throwing out every word and starting over with a new form, I couldn’t get it to feel like anything but a half-asleep foot in the middle of my manuscript.
6. Is there a passage of the book you’re most excited for your audience to read? A passage you’re most nervous about your audience reading?
I’m excited for people to finally read “Sexually Based Offenses,” the chapter that concerns Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, because I’ve been talking about it for years now and people have responded to the idea with enthusiasm, but it hasn’t really been available. I don’t think there’s any part of this book that I’m not nervous about my audience reading. It’s a book about my darkest things and I didn’t try to make myself look pleasant.
Elissa Washuta, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, was born in New Jersey and now lives in Seattle. She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington in 2009 and has been the recipient of an Artist Trust GAP Award, a Potlatch Fund Native Arts Grant, a 4Culture Grant, and a Made at Hugo House Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Third Coast. She is an adviser and lecturer in American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. My Body Is a Book of Rules is her first book. It is available now for pre-order from Red Hen Press and will be released August 12th.