Ten Breaths of Inspiration for the Writing Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
Kirsten Kaschock has earned degrees from Yale University, the University of Iowa,
Syracuse University, and the University of Georgia. Her debut novel, Sleight (October 1, 2011, Coffee House Press), was featured in the Wall Street Journal last fall as one of the most impressive projects to emerge from an independent press. The author of two collections of poetry, Unfathoms and A Beautiful Name for a Girl, she lives in Philadelphia where she is a doctoral fellow in dance at Temple University. A Beautiful Name for a Girl was a Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection for January 2011.
Author website: kaschock.wordpress.com
The Magazine of Yoga On The Lit Mat Interview
Who or what was your greatest influence in picking up the pen?
The Japanese monk and poet Basho — in a book of haiku my Aunt gave me when I was seven — influenced me a great deal. My first poem was a haiku about a willow tree.
I still value the folded-in feeling of those first poems … to see “a heaven in a wildflower.”
My father also loved poetry and quoted poems to my siblings and me: Blake, Marvell, Lewis Carroll. He helped me love language.
In what ways do you make room for the creative process in your
I try to write early in the day but do not always manage. My writing desk is in the kitchen — in the middle of familial action — so it is not always easy. Yoga and ballet classes help me to make mental space that I can bring back to my hectic desk.
They also help me to sit mindfully. My physical posture (so easy to ignore in front of the laptop) greatly affects how words tumble forth — or fail to.
Which one word, image, sound, feeling, or memory defines the act of writing for you?
Where do you find inspiration when the well runs dry?
My three children, my insomnia, my racing mind. If I can manage to pull apart the threads of the craziness that is my daily life — there is my clarity.
It is always two sides of the same coin. The difficulties and joys of living with others while making art, the endless interconnections between mind and world that take so much of my time and sometimes seem to prevent the flow of my language: these are the things I most want my writing to carry and communicate to others. The well is never dry. The bucket just needs better balance.
Is there a tidbit of writing advice that has stayed with you over the years?
George Saunders said in a class I took that you have to know the world you are writing, even if all the details don’t make it onto the page. I think I intuitively knew (being a science fiction fan from an early age) that the world had to be real for the writer — what I took from his statement was that I needn’t divulge every bit of that world.
Mystery is a good thing as long as it isn’t a con. It can’t hide a lack but — where there is profound substance or the unsayable — mystery is entirely appropriate. Even necessary.
What is something you know now about writing that you didn’t know when you were just starting out?
I will never give it up.
Whether you do yoga or another form of physical or spiritual practice, how does it affect your work?
I have more mental stamina when I am doing regular yoga practice or ballet. I have more tools to work through issues that come up in the writing. I get less frustrated. Being outside in a less human-centric environment is also incredibly helpful — I did not grow up in a city. Taking a walk among trees is my primary spiritual practice. When I spend time there, the time I spend writing is clearer.
What is your most favorite guilty pleasure?
B movies—genre: sci-fi.
If you had to pick one book to recommend as a must-read,
which would it be?
Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game.
What is on your nightstand now?
China Miéville’s The City & the City.
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.