I'm the author of LAWNBOY and FAMOUS BUILDER, both published by Graywolf Press. My work appears in STORY QUARTERLY, GULF COAST, HOTEL AMERIKA, FIVE POINTS, PLOUGHSHARES, SUBTROPICS, BREVITY, PRAIRIE SCHOONER, SEATTLE REVIEW, and elsewhere. I've taught in the MFA Programs at Cornell, Rutgers-Newark, and Sarah Lawrence. I currently teach at NYU, in the low residency MFA Program at Fairfield University, and at the Juniper Institute Summer Workshop. A novel and a collection of short prose pieces are forthcoming.
The irreverent answer: I'm mentally ill when I'm not doing it.
The reverent answer, which I wrote for LIMP WRIST, as part of that website's "Why Do I Write Series"...
I was walking down the street one night last fall when I had a thought about an actress who lives on the block behind us. Not so much a thought exactly, but a sense of her physicality, an arm or her face: a face from one of her roles. It occurred to me I hadn’t seen her in a while; had she left the neighborhood? And just as I’d had that thought, I was looking into her face, her actual face, not three feet away, moving toward me. I didn’t say, hey, I'd just had a thought of you. I didn't want to break the code of privacy that makes New York possible for us. But my brain might have been jolted alive with current. The fact that she was famous matters little to me. I’d have felt wrenched awake if the same thing had happened with the mailman. Whatever you want to call it—intuition, premonition, awareness—is also beside the point. I went into the supermarket, both humbled and awake to myself, as if I’d been sent a reminder that said, we don’t know the half of it when it comes to understanding consciousness.
Which felt more like a promise, finally, than a warning.
I walked back to the apartment. I opened the mailbox in the vestibule. Inside the single envelope in the mailbox was a letter from my gym telling me I owed an additional penalty for a charge I’d taken care of months back, even after I’d been assured that I’d never have to worry about it ever again.
My face burned. You can guess which incident shadowed the other.
I write because my life would be taken over by second incidents if I didn’t have the means to make order of the randomness—the revelation on the sidewalk next to the annoying, the absurd. I’d be flotsam, done to, a feather on a current of air. Nothing makes me feel more solid, or present, than when I’m sitting at my laptop, even when it’s slow, and the sentences strain against the contours of my speaking voice. At least I am making something. At least I am listening--or trying to. Looking at moments, the dimensions inside moments. Thinking. It’s as necessary to me as food or sex. It’s prayer. And I couldn’t imagine the day without that act of attention being a part of it.
THE COLLECTED STORIES OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR; STOP-TIME, Frank Conroy; TWO SERIOUS LADIES, Jane Bowles; JACOB'S ROOM, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, MRS. DALLOWAY, Virginia Woolf; MADAME BOVARY; A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, Richard Hughes; WINESBURG, OHIO, Sherwood Anderson; JESUS'S SON, Denis Johnson; GRACE PALEY: THE COLLECTED STORIES; AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE, Lucy Grealy; FIRE TO FIRE, Mark Doty; AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION, Elizabeth McCracken; GLASS, IRONY, AND GOD, Anne Carson; MAPS TO ANYWHERE, TRUTH SERUM, Bernard Cooper; THE END, Salvatore Scibona; IT WAS LIKE MY TRYING TO HAVE A TENDER-HEARTED NATURE, Diane Williams; HONORED GUEST, THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, BREAKING AND ENTERING, Joy Williams; THE THIN PLACE, VERSAILLES, HELL, Kathryn Davis; MS. HEMPEL CHRONICLES, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum; DRINKING COFFEE ELSEWHERE, ZZ Packer; BIRDS OF AMERICA, Lorrie Moore; THE BRIEF AND WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, Junot Diaz; VERONICA, DON'T CRY, Mary Gaitskill; THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LYDIA DAVIS; BIG MACHINE, Victor LaValle; JAMESLAND, Michelle Huneven; THE KINGDOM OF ORDINARY TIME, Marie Howe; THE BOAT, Nam Le; THE TICKING IS THE BOMB, Nick Flynn (and how is it possible to stop?)
So thrilled to see you are on FN, just read Lawnboy last summer and loved it. Happy writing.
We're glad to have you with us.
Hi Katrina! I was just looking at your page, reading your lovely stories. Hope all is well!
Thanks for the kind comment. I'm a great fan of your "In the Hamptons"--and think about it all the time. ("Slick and Phony's!" The CVS parking lot. And that drenched girl in the classroom.) Hope you're well.
that's a helluva wall you got here.
welcome to FN, and to the Mississippi Review, and etc--