Next Big Thing Blog Chain: The "Self"-Interview

by nicolecallihan

I was recently invited by writer Sarah Dohrmann for The Next Big Thing blog chain “self-interview.” Here’s Sarah’s post. And here’s mine (questions stolen from Sarah whose friend Quintan Ana Wikswo revised them from the original, which makes me wonder, how can I befriend this very pithy Quintan?):

I know you’ve had this mysterious manuscript going for a little while now, and I’m curious: Can you tell us the name of your book?

Let the sun in; or just Let the sun; or maybe valentine; or terrarium. What do you think? If you help me name it, I just might dedicate it to you.

I just got accidentally dropped on my head by the underpaid and terribly exploited assistant of this hotshot Upper East Side literary agent. Great – now I have a concussion. I can only remember one sentence at a time before my mind goes blank. Tell me about your book in one sentence. 

I’m really sorry about your concussion; does it allow for semicolons?; these are poems; they are about waffle houses and my mother and a lot of people I used to love and some people I still love very much, and there are ducks and hoho’s and Bingo games, but also an abiding belief in miracles and poems; this must be hurting your head; can I get you a glass of water?; have you read this poem?; gosh, it’s good.
From what I understand, this book has experienced a series of evolutions in its development. How would you describe its path from original idea to what it has now become?

I started the poems in this book fifteen years ago. In ways, I feel very far from them but also extremely protective of them. I want to brush their teeth and read them stories and pull their jammers over their heads. I want to tuck them into bed. I want to come in hours later and put my hand on their chest to make sure they’re still breathing.
That sounds like a really compelling journey, both for the writer and the reader. Let’s say I’m wandering the shelves of the most delightful indie bookstore in New York. On what shelf do I find your book?

On the shelf with the poems.
The elephant in the room for many writers is this whole admittedly lucrative and seductive – if a little bit embarrassing – adventure called “optioned for film” or “movie rights” or “dear god, don’t let hollywood steal my soul.” Do you think you’re writing the kind of book that would want to take on a second life in Hollywood? If so, who would play your characters?

I think Olivia Newton John would play my mother, and Lauren Hutton would play me, and people would be like, weird, is the mother older than the daughter, but then we’d point to the birds and everyone would forget.
A lot of writers in New York are talking about the tremendous new variety of ways for adventurous writing to make its way out into the world of readers. E-books, art collaborations, traditional corporate publishing, limited editioned series – what do you think about that? Do you think you could find a home in any of them in particular? 
I generally can find a home anywhere. I walk into a hotel; I unpack; I call it home until I leave.
Are you a compulsive drafter who labors over a body of work until it’s absolutely perfect, or are you one of those types who loads up on pills and booze and self-indulgence and just pops out a fat-sassy manuscript into the toilet after a nice three-day Monday?

Uhm, I’m not really into pills. 
I guess since I’ve been working on this for fifteen years it might seem like I’m a slooooooooooow writer, but I don’t really think that’s true. While I have spent hours deciding on a semicolon, I have also been known to crank stuff out. I do, though, have an almost ten-month old and an already four year-old so sometimes I, uhm, need to make dinner or help real actual children (and not old poem children) into their pajamas.
If your book decided to run away from home and go ride the rails, who would you hope would be the other pee-soaked bums in its boxcar? 
I’d hope for John Berger. And Jean Valentine. And James Tate. And Ruth & Hillery & Bianca Stone. And Terence Degnan, & Ada & Jen & Derek Joe. Ash & Al & Ijjy. & Dawny & Steph & KD & MW. I think I might need to get a bigger boxcar. I could go on and on.
You could do what all the other nice girls are doing: knitting, running for senate, saving up for expensive fertility treatments, stockpiling weapons for the feminist revolution, and so forth. Why are you sweating tears of blood over a manuscript? 

It’s really my only way of understanding the world. When I’m talking I get too distracted by the windows. Writing makes me see through the glass.
Is your book the kind of book that would have to car-jack a reader in order for someone to want to read it, or would your book be the kind of book that people will follow down the street like cash is falling out of its back pocket? I think that’s the conversation we mostly have about books and readers, right? If your book is one of the nameless faceless hoards on the F train, what is its little secret glorious glimpse of self that will steal away the heart of its seatmate? 

I would love for my book to ride on the f-train. If it did, it would crawl into the lap of whomever was reading it and bury its pretty little head in the crook of that reader’s neck, and it would say, thank you for holding me so carefully and being so gentle with my spine; and if the reader was tired, say because he had worked a very long day, my book would sing the reader lullabies until they both woke up at the last stop. There, at Coney Island, the reader could tuck my book into a bag, or maybe even into a pocket very close to his heart, and then the reader could walk along the boardwalk taking in the sun and wondering if there had ever been a more beautiful day.


Next up on The Next Big Thing:

Cricket Desmarais is a poet, writer, yoga instructor and creative coach living on the South coast of Connecticut with her family and naughty black cat.  A creative and commercial freelancer with an MFA from NYU, she is most enthusiastic about the completion of a poetry manuscript, a historic novel set in the Florida Keys and Cuba, and a blog about upping your sparkle ante.  She eagerly seeks an agent, and better will power when it comes to chocolate cake.  Visit her at and look for the upcoming launch of