5 Questions for Hub City's Next Writer-in-Residence
What excites you most about Spartanburg and the Writers House program?
Everyone keeps telling me what a special place Spartanburg is, and I’m looking forward to finding out for myself. Hub City – the press, bookshop and writers project – is so exciting as an example of how a literary arts organization can also function as a community center with a huge reach. In the most practical sense, I’m thrilled to have a break from making Bay Area rent on a freelancer writer’s pay, and to make the most of the enormous gift of time to finish this book.
We’re a very place-centered organization. Can you speak to how the idea of place intersects with your writing?
As I work through this memoir, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is to grow up as a Millennial in the Midwest along the Mississippi, in a white suburb of one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. with a long history of industry in decline. I’ve been examining how these factors influenced my understanding of music and culture, whether it’s Elvis or Dylan or Dr. Dre. The second half of the book is set in Bloomington, Indiana, another in-between place, a crossroads that resists the currents of its surroundings, where there’s not much landscape and people do all kinds of crazy things to make meaning. I’ve lived in the Midwest, New England, the Rocky Mountains, and the West Coast, but I’m always writing from un-slick, vulnerable places that nonetheless carry huge influence over music and culture.
You work as an editor and also as a music critic. What’s the first thing you do when you move somewhere new to get involved in local music?
As a longtime writer for (rapidly disappearing) alt-weekly newspapers, I look to them first to find out what’s going on in terms of underground culture – but also politics and a community’s prevailing concerns. I also like to peruse public bulletin boards and those fliers that folks leave by coffee shop cash registers – though I guess Facebook has mostly replaced all of that. The biggest part of getting to know local music – and a local community – is just showing up to events and spaces, listening, and discovering what they’re about. Recommendations welcome!
Tell us a little bit about your writing and what you’ll be working on while you’re in Spartanburg.
I’m working on a manuscript of creative nonfiction that combines memoir and pop music criticism, tentatively titled Dad Rock, which deals with grief, addiction, and the power dynamics of being a young woman in music media. By mixing the immediacy of songs with the tangles of memoir, I hope to expand modes of cultural criticism and to deepen the popular form of the confessional essay. As Writer-in-Residence, I plan to complete a first draft of that book and write freelance articles.
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Where might we see you on a Saturday afternoon this fall?
I love to read and draw and make playlists, but that’s often part of my writing process. On free Saturdays in Spartanburg – if I’m not at the bookshop – I’m looking forward to doing yoga, running (slowly!), hiking, learning a few recipes, and checking out local museums, shows and culture.