Victoria Lancelotta is the author of the short story collection Here in the World and the novels Far (Counterpoint) and Coeurs Blesses (Phébus). Booklist called her “a razor’s-edge writer with an existential streak and a fascination with the dichotomies of being.”
What story or book do you feel closest to?
That’s a brutal question! Okay, the weaselly–but true–answer is whatever I’m working on at a given time. I’m a very slow writer, and I’m miserable at multitasking, and that combination means that I wind up in a somewhat claustrophobic congress with the piece at hand. But otherwise, honestly, it’s impossible to choose–if you asked me on ten different days I’d have ten different answers. There’s too much great stuff out there, you know?
Do you have a mentor?
What I have are lots of little voices in my head that can be traced directly back to incredibly wise and astute writers I’ve known. I spent more than a few years in workshops, as I guess lots of writers of my generation have, and I was lucky to have some really sharp guidance at a time when I was ready–and needed–to hear it. So although my work habits now are incredibly–some might say neurotically–solitary, I still feel a very real connection to these folks. But–little voices notwithstanding–I think of them now as friends.
How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”
See the next question…
What are your favorite websites?
I’m a fiend for food sites-recipes, restaurant reviews, cooking magazines, menus, you name it. When I find myself stuck or struggling with a scene or a character, or just in a spot where I need to work something out in my head before I can actually get words onto the page, I get out of my chair and into the kitchen and get my hands in something I can actually accomplish–I find that focusing on something physical and tactile can often loosen whatever psychic knots are blocking the wires. So there’s an inverse relationship in my house between how well the work is going and the quality of dinner–if I’m having a hard time with a story, there’ll be stuffed game birds and coconut-caramel cake, but if things are going well, it’s cornflakes all the way.
What are you working on now?
A new collection of stories. My last two books were novels, and it’s good to get back to a short form–the pieces I’m working on now are pretty spare and stripped, and that feels right, at this point in my life.
What academic rules about writing do you tend to challenge?
I try to keep things pretty simple, for my own sanity: Write a good sentence. Repeat. Repeat again, keep repeating. Be honest, be fair, be generous–with yourself, your characters, your readers. Don’t take the easy way out, don’t be lazy, don’t be boring or trite or smug–and so forth. I don’t know if these constitute official academic rules, but I think they’re a good place to start.