Meg Pokrass writes flash fiction, poetry and makes animation--and her new book, Damn Sure Right (great title, right?) is absolutely wonderful. Her work has appeared in over 100 online and print publications from the Rumpus to the Mississippi, and she runs the incredible Fictionaut Five author series. Nominated for Dzanc's Best of The Web, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and more, she also teaches writing privately. I was honored to interview her for the blog.
You studied acting, so I want to know, does it help with writing? (Should I do it?)
You should if it sounds like fun! It can't help but stimulate creativity.
Everything I know about writing I learned by studying acting at age 8 - 25 and by reading wonderful books and plays starting very early. I was very taken by the work of Tennessee Williams, Sherwood Anderson, Wendy Wasserstein. I've never taken a formal writing class. Everything I learned as a writer came from the early training, such as working with sense-memory recall, and how to develop an awareness of character motivation. Showing through this behavior, not telling.
One learns the power of rhythm through use of inflection, learns to listen to the subtleties in dialog...
I had an interesting acting teacher who said, "Every scene... every relationship.. all moments in life involve some subtle relationship to sex, how there is sex in everything." I still can't figure this out... and I don't think I agree... HOWEVER, I do write a lot about sex.
I also write a lot about my fear of abandonment (one of my life-long issues), getting older, losing places and people. I use my neurosis, I make lemonade from my emotional lemons.
Here are 3 acting quotes which make just as much sense to me in writing:
"One of the things I like about my profession, and that I find healthy, is that one constantly has to break oneself to pieces." - Liv Ullmann
"Acting doesn't have anything to do with listening to the words. We never really listen, in general conversation, to what the other person is saying. We listen to what they mean. - Jack Lemon
"Acting is behaving truthfully in imaginary circumstances." - Sanford Meisner
Why flash fiction? Did you gravitate naturally to it or was this something you tried and found it was a perfect fit. Do you also write longer fictions, or even contemplate a novel?
Prose poetry and narrative poetry got me first. I started writing poetry in the 1980s and was encouraged by two great mentors and poets, Molly Peacock and Ellery Akers. My poetry was fairly narrative, and I had no idea that I was trying to write little stories. I found that out later. When I took a hard look at my poetry, it was flash.
I recently completed writing a novella created from flash fiction and prose poetry fragments. It is semi-autobiographical.
I have to say that when i figured out poetry was not really my form, it opened the world up. I was less inhibited and clumsy immediately. I don't know why. I felt like someone who had danced ballet realizing they were better at modern dance.. I jumped into flash with glee and haven't been able to leave it.
I still write poetry, but the weight of that form is lighter on me now.
You've been commissioned to turn the book--or some of the stories--into a script! How did that come about? What's it like for you?
My friend, screenwriter Eugene Corr, who wrote one of my favorite movies, "Desert Bloom", told me my work is quite visual, which was interesting to me -- and gave me the confidence to show my novella to a few people.
It just happened to be the right fit. The producer hired an award-winning screenwriter (I can't name the screenwriter yet) to co-write an adaptation with me. I'll be learning so much about screenwriting from working with him. My novella has not been published yet, and I am about to send it around to agents and publishers soon. I do need a good literary agent now, so that is my new goal -- finding a good fit. I never needed a literary agent before since I wrote only tiny stories.
What's obsessing you now?
Justin Torres's tiny novel "We the Animals" - I can't get over it, keep re-reading it. Oh man. A novel in 140 pages, these bombshell tiny chapters. Reading it feels like living a whole life. A life is inside there. It feels like some kind of miracle, what he did.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
(Why are you so silly on Facebook Meg?)
It is my release. I love Facebook too much, have met so many wonderful friends there. It is my city which never sleeps. I know that is odd, but I work at home and am isolated from people too much. It brings the world in and opens up all kinds of creative interchange and play. And yeah, I can be an actress again... there.
Senior Associate Editor,
"Damn Sure Right" Reviews:
Great Interview. I think Ms. Pokrass knows a lot more about herself than many of us do. That's a gift which surely helps in her writing.
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