Author Photo: Rikki Ducornet © Ulf Anderson
Ten Breaths of Inspiration for the Writing Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
The author of eight novels as well as collections of short fiction, essays, and poetry, Rikki Ducornet has twice been honored by the Lannan Foundation. She received the Bard College Arts and Letters award and, in 2008, an Academy Award in Literature. Her fourth novel, The Jade Cabinet, was a finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, The Fan-Maker’s Inquisition was named a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year, and the French translation of her novel Gazelle was honored with a Prix Guerlain.
Her most recent novel, Netsuke (May 2011) was published by Coffee House Press and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and praise from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Seattle Times.
A visual artist who exhibits internationally, Ducornet has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, Joanna Howard, and Anne Waldman, among others. Ducornet makes her home in the Pacific Northwest.
Author website www.rikkiducornet.com
The Magazine of Yoga On The Lit Mat Interview
Who or what was your greatest influence in picking up the pen?
I devoured books as a child, and surely ALICE is at the core of all of it! That gorgeous, playful writing, infinitely inventive, and Alice’s wonderful capacity to subvert dogmatists and tyrants. The book is all about the powers of the unfettered imagination and, at the same time, rational thinking. What could be better?
In what ways do you make room for the creative process in your day-to-day?
I like to work in the morning, close to dreamtime. Sleep often offers answers to questions such as: WHO is this character, anyway? Or: WHERE do I go from here? My writing is organic, and the connection between the deep stuff of the subconscious, that perpetual wellspring, and the fascinating demands of mindfulness, are easiest to tap into early. A pot of tea, some yoga, maybe a walk around the garden and I’m off.
Which one word, image, sound, feeling, or memory defines the act of writing for you?
When I was a little child, I was stung by a bee. It was my fault; I was three and had chosen to sit on top of it. Soon after I was given a large ABC, and the letter B, for BUZZ, was illustrated with a gigantic bumblebee hovering over a blossom. I loved that image, but whenever I saw it I felt stung. For me, language has always been about beauty and danger, simultaneously.
Where do you find inspiration when the well runs dry?
I turn to Gaston Bachelard, his beautiful book titled: The Poetics of Space.
Is there a tidbit of writing advice that has stayed with you over the years?
It is so important to give oneself permission to do this. Writing is all about thinking and it is about deep living. It is about autonomy and eros and fearlessness. We have the right to do this. Writing is an essential part of our journey, our path to knowledge—knowledge of ourselves and of our world. If we do it well, feathers will be ruffled and tempers tried. That’s part of the deal.
What is something you know now about writing that you didn’t know when you were just starting out?
That I can write a novel without going insane. Writing taught me how to think in ways I had not imagined and…
Whether you do yoga or another form of physical or spiritual practice,
how does it affect your work?
… meditation revealed to me that the stuff and bother that plagues daily life can be made to dissolve. That I can chose to step aside and enter into a place that is lively and fresh.
What is your most favorite guilty pleasure?
If you had to pick one book to recommend as a must-read, which would it be?
Alice in Wonderland.
What is on your nightstand now?
Keith Richards’ Life.
The pause that refreshes! You can find Corinna Barsan’s musings and discoveries on her blog at Shiny White Page.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.