If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I’d cook dinner for Maya Angelou. I’d make something in the crockpot so I could focus entirely on her. I’d probably make Moroccan soup. (Before she’d arrive, I’d put a roasted head of cauliflower in the crockpot with almonds, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and some harissa chili paste. After a few hours I’d puree it with my immersion blender and let it cook a bit longer.) I’d serve it with Garlic Naan Bread from Trader Joe’s.
If she wanted to stay longer than a day, the next evening we’d cook together. We’d stand next to each other and follow a recipe from one of her cookbook’s, like California Green Chili and Cheese Pie. We’d talk about writing, her philosophy of cooking, and how the two overlap.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Do plumbers ever wake up and worry that perhaps today will be the day they forget how to plumb? I doubt it. So, while it strikes me as irrational, I occasionally fear I will forget how to write. What if what I just wrote was a fluke and I can never write something that decent again? What if I’m just fooling myself? What if I can’t write at all?
How do I combat my fears? I write!
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colum Whitehead and now have a huge crush on Cora, the main character in the book. There is so much to love about her. She is fierce and resilient. Despite being born into slavery and experiencing hell on earth, she doesn’t permit anyone or any system to define who she is.
What books are on your nightstand?
The stack is high and precarious. The ones on the top of the pile are: The Three Lives of James Madison by Noah Feldman, Ordinary Light by Tracey K. Smith, My Brilliant Friend by Ellena Ferrante, It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs, and Luxury by Phillip Schultz.
Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?
When it comes to inspiration, I have an extremely low threshold. I’ve been inspired by spoons, dirt, broken branches, you name it. I’m also inspired by bits of news that I pick up from the radio or newspaper. I’m particularly intrigued by stories in which nature and human nature collide.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
That’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is! I’m a fan of all punctuation marks but pressed, I’d say that my favorite is the comma. It does a lot of heavy lifting, combats confusion, gives us pause, and more. Yet it remains humble. I also believe in the oxford comma. Oh, and speaking of punctuation marks, I once wrote a poem about a monk and an exclamation point. I should find it and send it somewhere. It’s pretty good.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I read them all.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
The large wooden table in my living room. This former pine tree let me write most of A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven on it. I bought it years ago at Goodwill for $10. To give it a shabby chic look (even though it already looked shabby), I painted the legs white, then white washed, sanded, and polyurethaned the top.
Why do you write? The first 5 words that come to mind. Go.
It’s a form of breathing. And here’s 5 more: I’d die if I didn’t.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. -Percy Bysse Shelley
Jennifer Clark is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Heaven, a poetry collection.
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