Her stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, Ploughshares, Tin House Magazine, New Stories From the South: The Year’s Best and a lot of other places. She’s been a fellow at Breadloaf and Sewanee, and a resident at Yaddo and the Radar Lab.
Lucy agreed to answer some questions about her experiences reading work aloud, as well as some observations on her latest trip to the Associated Writers & Writing Programs Conference (AWP) in Washington D.C.
How do you feel your stories/pieces sound different when you read them out loud? Do you notice a difference in poetic speech? Do things that strike you as poetic when you write them down seem to lose meaning, or do things that seem straightforward when you write them suddenly appear poetic?
I read aloud a lot as I’m writing and revising– and that helps train me to really hear as I’m writing even when I’m not making any noise at my desk. That’s just at the deepest core of my relationship to prose. Reading aloud in front of people always shifts things again, though. I can no longer ignore my own physicality. I would like to write a piece that includes my physicality in some way. I would like to write a piece that divorces written prose from the sound it would make aloud. Then, wow, what would happen when I read? Poets know these things in ways fiction writers rarely do.
I often have the experience of seeing someone’s name around, then hearing her read, and that making me actually look into her work. That’s one type of experience. Hearing Eileen Myles read entirely changed the way I read her, really taught me how to read her. That’s what I think you’re asking about– being into a writer but getting them in a whole new way when she reads. With her it’s attitude that unifies the vicissitudes of her voice. Then there’s what I might call a David Sedaris sort of writer. I have read him on the page and been not interested at all– but I can like him very much on the radio– I like his stuff performed with his voice and am not so interested in the way it performs on the page without his vocal performance.
You recently returned from the 2011 AWP Conference, where you not only read from your own work, but also read from Kate Bernheimer’s new novel The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold and at the Monster Mags of the Midwest event. How did this last experience differ from previous experiences at AWP?
Well the conference grows every year. Ten years ago I could go and meet someone new and then bump into them again and start a conversation. Five years ago it was huge and I felt lost and overwhelmed because I couldn’t engage in it the same way. Now I go and don’t expect to meet new people except through people I already know. I just shift what I’m there for. And I’m getting a better handle on going without comparing my level of “success” to the standards on exhibit there. I’m better at not letting all the marketing make me feel bad about my own work, better at keeping my own priorities in order, my own sense of myself as a writer.