Issue 27 Interviews
from its inspiration to its final arrival in the hands of the reader, writing undergoes a lengthy and complex process, and one that is too often overlooked. Each issue, Front Porch sits down with people who are engaged daily with the processes and industries of writing, be it by running community workshops, buying books at a used bookstore, organizing translations, and much more. These interviews seek to examine the many forces that shape literature, and to highlight the perceptive and passionate people to whom we owe the books on our shelves.
Front Porch: The Boss was written during a very short period of time. This makes a certain amount of sense, given its tight construction, but it’s also surprising considering the quality of the work. Could you discuss the drafting process of your book? What concerns and challenges did you face while editing?
Victoria Chang: That’s a nice thing to say, because I am never quite sure of the “quality”—it seems like there are always so many poets that are way more talented and capable than I am. I wrote this book in a minivan waiting for my oldest child to finish a language class. We had leftover classes at this place after we moved, so I had to sit and wait for her for two-ish hours each Saturday until those classes ran out. So I just wrote in a notebook in front of the same tree every Saturday for a few months. And when that language class ended, I realized I had a lot of pages.
Front Porch: The debut of your new novel coincides with the forty-first anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile, an event that has deeply informed your work. Can you talk about how that experience impacted your writing? In addition to political concerns, did you find other aspects of your writing transformed?
Antonio Skármeta: That coup changed my life. I had to leave my beloved country to live in West Berlin, without being able to speak German and a family to take care of. It also impacted my writing. I never thought that such violence could be brought upon defenseless people. Up to that point, I had trusted others with a kind of Walt Whitmanesque enthusiasm, and had written and published short stories filled with joy, energy, love, and a sense of future. Needless to say, I began to realize that life was far more dramatic than I had thought. You can see the beginning of this shift in outlook in the last chapter of my novel The Postman. And besides, the terrible and fascinating experience of exile invaded my fiction.
We often talk about workshops as if they’re the answer to all of our writing woes. But what if the answer was simply just a quiet space to write? In the following interview, I talk with poet and Writespace founder Elizabeth White-Olsen about how workshop and workspace converge to form Writespace, Houston’s newest literary organization.