Epiphany: William Trevor began his adult life as a sculptor and later described his writing as chipping away at a block of marble. Are you a chipper or a builder? In other words do you chip away at a block of writing, or are you more methodical, building up the block brick by brick?
Kristin Dombek: When I was a child, my favorite elephant joke was: "Q: How do you make a sculpture of an elephant? A: You get a big piece of marble or some other kind of stone and carve away everything that doesn't look like an elephant." I'm still laughing at this one, cause that's how writing feels, except there's no stone, and you've never seen an elephant.
What was your first publication? A profile of a local musician who liked to climb trees, for my college newspaper, which garnered widespread ridicule and failed to make him fall in love with me.
Five books you are reading or thinking about now? Kim Gordon's memoir Girl in a Band Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle series (currently Book Three) Middlemarch by Jeffrey Eugenides Mike Senior's Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio Dawn Lundy Martin's Life in a Box is a Pretty Life.
If you had to inhabit a fictional world, what would it be (i.e., the environment of which
novel or short story)? Just please not the world of Gary Schteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. Though I fear we're almost in it anyway.
Most interesting day job you've had (from the perspective of a writer)?
Teaching freshman composition.
Essays? Novels? Short stories? Which do you prefer to write?
One sentence of advice regarding writing? I haven't really slept in about a week, to meet a deadline, and I can't think of a thing that I know better about writing than anyone else; 99% of it seems to be about building up a tolerance to failing all day long, and short of the death of loved ones or a break-up with a soulmate, it is about the deepest loneliness you can bring on yourself, until, every once in a while, there is a reminder, the shimmering connection--to language, to readers you'd otherwise never meet, to the world you have to ignore to write, that you see with new eyes having left it for a bit, and to the future.
Your titles: do you grapple with them or are they epiphanies that come to you in the night? Many of my titles have been given by editors, since I write journalism and nonfiction, but when I have the chance, I get titles by epiphanies and grappling, yes.
In a nutshell, what are you working on now? A book about narcissism, and then a memoir about myself.
What's an interview question you've never been asked that you wish had been?
Would you like to live rent-free in this nice tent surrounded by a herd of humming alpacas?