Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Whiting Award winner (yeah!) Kaitlyn Greenidge talks about We Love You, Charlie Freeman, sign language, more--and the novel is now in paperback!

Oh yes, I am partial to other Algonquin writers, and I especially loved Kaitlyn Greenidge's We Love You Charlie Freeman--and so does everyone else. I was so happy to run into Kaitlyn at various book events, and I wanted to host her on my blog--and here she is! Kaitlyn Greenidge received her MFA from Hunter College, where she studied with Nathan Englander and Peter Carey, and was Colson Whitehead’s writing assistant as part of the Hertog Research Fellowship. Greenidge was the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging writer. Thank you so much for being here, Kaitlyn!

Recently, you won a Whiting Award! (Huge congratulations) Does it make it harder or easier for you to write your next book? Do you feel the pressure of expectations or the relief or already having arrived in the literary stratosphere?

Ha, I don't think I'm in any stratosphere. I am overwhelmed by the attention the book has gotten, but it doesn't change that I am still struggling with the next one and that trying to work on it is usually interrupted by doing dishes, doing laundry, grading papers, prepping for class, writing for others and all the other things in life that get in the way of just focusing on working on a novel.

What was your research like for the book? What surprised you about it?

I had a good time researching. I like libraries and I love to research. I think I was surprised that research mattered for a long time and then ultimately didn't. That it was just as important to be able to imagine things as it was to verify if something was possible. I had forgotten, in my excitement to do research, that that is kind of the point of writing fiction, and not just a history book.

I loved all the part about sign language, and at a recent panel with you, the moderator mentioned that there are actually different dialects in sign language. This fascinates me so much! Can you talk about that please for the blog readers?
Sure. Sign language, like all languages, has dialects, which I found fascinating as well. There's African American Sign language, a result of segregated schools for the deaf. As I've toured with the book, I've gotten to hear about others--apparently there is a dialect specific to gay men, and regional dialects too. It's fascinating.

What's obsessing you now and why?

Goddess worship and dictionaries of symbols. Mostly because I just like both those things so much.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

These questions were great!

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