Interview with Elisa Albert

By Robert Drinkwater

Writer Elisa Albert will be visiting UMF on Thursday, November 14th in The Landing at 7:30pm. She will be this semesters last visiting writer. Albert has written three books: How This Night is Different, a collection of short stories published in 2006, The Book of Dahlia, published in 2008, and her most recent novel, After Birth, published in 2015, that tells a story of motherhood and alienation after pregnancy. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Gulfcoast, The Rumpus, and much more.

1. How would you describe your writing process?

Writing is a practice, and practice is by definition an ongoing thing. Process is about engagement. The external noise has to be muted at some point to allow for that. And the butt has to be in the chair a certain amount. I don’t know any shortcuts.

2. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

I suspect “writer’s block” is a pseudonym for something else. Fear or anxiety or self doubt or perfectionism or entitlement or what have you. It’s important to keep those things in their place, and not let them run the show. I’ve never really bought into the idea that I might sit down one day in front of a blank page and have no way to enter into an engagement with the process. I might not love what I find when I enter into engagement with the process, but it’s my job to work it out, is all.

3. When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, because I resonated with books and with reading, but I thought I should be practical about it and do journalism or work in publishing or something, so I tried those things, but stories and novels were always where it was at for me.

4. Has your writing been influenced by your own personal life?

Sure, somewhat like one’s bowel movements are influenced by what one eats.

5. What types of books do you usually like to read?What are you currently reading now?

I’m currently loving Virginie Despentes’ trilogy Vernon Subutex. Epic and sprawling and contemporary in the best way. I adored Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. I wish everyone would read Doris Lessing’s essays. Jennifer Block’s  recent journalistic masterpiece Everything Below The Waist is “necessary”. Rebecca Schiff’s stories are hilarious and intelligent. I guess these types of books fall under the category of no-bullshit. I guess I enjoy an absence of bullshit.

6. What inspires you to write?

Power dynamics. Birds. Weather. Relationships. Time. History. Ancestry. Music. Food. Yoga. Desire. What I find when I look into other peoples’ eyes.

The Book of Dahlia is available on Amazon

After Birth is available on Amazon

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