This is one stop on Zarina’s virtual book tour.
Keep up with the rest of the tour here!
I have a tattoo on my wrist: You must become who you are. It is a quote from Nietzsche.
Zarina Zabrisky is the author of two short story collections IRON and A CUTE TOMBSTONE (Epic Rites Press) and a novel WE, MONSTERS (Numina Press). Zabrisky’s work appeared in over thirty literary magazines and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong and Nepal. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a recipient of 2013 Acker Award. Read more about the author at zarinazabrisky.com. You can purchase A CUTE TOMBSTONE here.
Read more by and about Zarina:
Story: “The Twilight of Liberty”
Video: Zarina reading “Pig Legs.”
Short Story Collection: Iron
Novel: We, Monsters
Interview:The Nervous Breakdown
How Zarina Zabrisky Became a Writer
This is the next installment in the How to Become a Writer interview series, which will post here at Ph.D. in Creative Writing every other Sunday (or so) until I run out of writers to interview, or until they stop saying yes. Each writer answers the same 5 questions. Thanks to Zarina for saying yes!
1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I wrote my first poem at six. My first novel at eleven. There was no “why.” But if I have to rationalize, I would love to quote Josef Brodsky: “I’ll just say that I believe – not empirically, alas, but only theoretically – that, for someone who has read a lot of Dickens, to shoot his like in the name of some idea is more problematic than for someone who has read no Dickens.” So, I figure, if I write anything anywhere close to Dickens… at least, I can try.
2. How did you go about becoming a writer?
It is not becoming a writer for me. It is being a writer.
I was in Queretaro at a writing workshop last summer. I wrote a poem there:
There is a knitting shop
On the corner
And three old women are knitting,
Their faces are still, bronze,
Their eyes fixed on the wall,
Not on the knitting.
Their fingers know
How to weave.
Their hands remember everything.
Their patterns come from their hearts
Or, maybe, from the spirits that live on that big invisible mountain.
They don’t knit,
They became the knitting.
Same for me:
I don’t write–
I became the writing,
And my fingers dance blindly
Across the page.
As for becoming oneself, I am still working on it… I have a tattoo on my wrist: You must become who you are. It is a quote from Nietzsche.
3. Who helped you along the way, and how?
My father liked my writing before he passed away. He didn’t do or say anything that stuck in my memory but I remember his face softening and the expression of pride or happiness in his usually sad or withdrawn eyes. Then I became a closet writer and no one had an opportunity to help me–they did not know I needed help. I didn’t know that myself.
I found a whole new dimension of helping each other in the creative process through literary collaboration with my writing and life partner, Simon Rogghe. Through listening to each other, and hearing, we write and discover. Being heard is the most important–and almost impossible–type of help that a writer can use, I think. Together, we have gone on many adventures: performing our poetry to music and even dancing it and taking it around the country–from Pittsburgh and Cleveland to Seattle and Portland; writing poetry duets on an imaginary journey in Mexico and creating visual concepts for it. This went so well that the book of collaborative poetry is forthcoming from amazing Numina Press, in November 2014. The book is called Green Lions and in it I will debut with my illustrations–the visual concepts found together with Simon.
I was also very lucky to have my publishers, Epic Rites Press (Canada), Numina Press (SF) and Nostrovia Press (mobile and everywhere) work with me and support my books. The independent publishers are passionate, powerful and insanely talented people, of a rare kind.
4. Can you tell me about a writer or artist whose biography inspires you?
So many… From Salinger who managed to run away from it all to just write, to Vaslav Nijinsky, a legendary ballet dance, whose diary was the book that impressed me the most, perhaps. Nijinsky is the dancer who became the dance. The diary was written in Switzerland in a short spurt, and in a matter of weeks schizophrenia won over one of the most unusual and creative minds of the last century. But before he sank into decades of mental non-being, Nijinsky pulled up the curtain of the theater which only can be called Universe. There is no bullshit in that book. He even says that it should be read the way he wrote it: in his rushed cursive, in French and Russian. I did that: went to the NYC Performing Arts Library and ordered the microflims. Read them in the dark room for hours… Also, Jim Morrison. William Blake. I am inspired by people who stayed true to their core and vision despite of any circumstances.
5. What would you say in a short letter to an aspiring writer?
“You must become who you are.” Also, write and read. In particular, read Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading. The only good book on writing I have found. The book cuts into the bone marrow of language, brain work and the intangible realm called poetry. No frills and no politically correct New Agey nonsense. He can be blunt and rude, but if you read his ABC you might end up with better writing.