Paula Bomer is the author of the forthcoming collection Baby and Other Stories (Word Riot Press, December 2010). Her fiction has appeared in Open City, The New York Tyrant, The Mississippi Review, Fiction and elsewhere. She’s the co-publisher at Artistically Declined Press and the supervising editor at the literary journal Sententia.
Q (Meg Pokrass): As a reader, which writers do you feel closest to?
The writers I feel closest to most likely don’t feel close to me, but I’m OK with that. Tolstoy is my favorite writer and Graham Greene’s obsession with Catholicism moves me, but both those men are dead and so, well, they don’t feel close to me. Mary Gaitskill is my favorite living writer and after her, the amazing Alicia Erian. Erian said good things about my book and I am wildly grateful for that and so did Michael Kimball, Sam Lipsyte and Mary Miller and I am deeply thankful to them all. To have the support of colleagues is an amazing feeling.
At different points as a writer, have you had mentors? Do you mentor?
I studied with Frederic Tuten, Linsey Abrams and Mark Mirsky at City College New York for my Masters in English and Creative Writing. All of them were wonderful and Mark Mirsky and I remain close. Prior to that, in college, the Anthropologist Misia Landau was incredibly supportive and important to me. She was a brilliant teacher and knew how to nurture talent. I had many great teachers in high school as well, and elementary school. I admire teachers tremendously. I don’t actively mentor younger writers at the moment.
How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”
I rarely get stuck, but I do get undisciplined. Those things are very different– it’s the follow through that can be hard to do. As far as creative ideas, I have them constantly, as I am one of those sort of weird people who lives in my head too much.
What are your favorite web sites/lit sites? What sites have been useful to you as a writer?
I contributed under a pseudonym at HtmlGiant for a year and I had a wonderful time doing that and it was the first time since college that I wrote about books, instead writing them. But I no longer read it. I now read, primarily, The Millions, Fanzine, The Nervous Breakdown, The Big Other, Maud Newton- and well, that might be it. Sometimes the Rumpus. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
Tell us about “Baby and Other Stories”… How did these stories come about?
I wrote Baby and Other Stories quite some time ago. It’s sort of like looking at old high school pictures for me, reading this book again. That said, I stand by it, stand by the work and what it has to say. As a new mother in Brooklyn, I was in awe of the changes in my marriage that small children forced and was in awe, too, of all the other mothers and their lives that I got a glimpse into, while being a mother out on the playgrounds of Brooklyn. I’m from Indiana, where being a mother is really a different thing, having a family is really a different thing. New York City is a unique beast, and I tried to capture that, for the most part, in regard to how families, well, exist here.
Will you offer us a reading list?
a very very incomplete reading list-
War and Peace by Tolstoy
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
The Short Stories of Tolstoy
Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill (and everything else she’s written)
Madame Bovary by Flaubert
Venus Drive by Sam Lipsyte
Dear Everybody by Michael Kimball
Big World by Mary Miller
The Brutal Language of Love by Alicia Erian
The Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca
Jernigan by David Gates
Jesus Son by Denis Johnson
Sick City by Tony O’Neill
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Some Hope by Edward St.Aubyn
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
After Leaving Mr. McKenzie by Jean Rhys
The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
The Selected Stories and Nothing that Meets the Eye : The Uncollected Short Stories by Patricia Highsmith
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship,Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (and everything else by her)
Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
Zuckerman Bound by Philip Roth
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is the editor-at-large for BLIP Magazine, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at http://megpokrass.com.