Interview with Robin Bourjaily

What are you working on next?
Launching _Throwing Like a Girl_ has allowed me to turn my attention to working on a revisionist fairytale that I started a couple of years ago. I have three other projects in mind--a memoir, a piece of personal writing that may turn into something public, and my second novel. But like knitting projects, I try to limit myself to only working on one major piece at a time (alongside keeping my blog going), so I'm working on the fairytale because it's the greatest departure from my realistic fiction and memoir material.
Who are your favorite authors?
Aside from my son (Philip Kiely, author of Zephyr's Crossing, I have more favorite works than favorite authors. Of these, there are many. I love Claire Dederer's Poser, for example, Scott Russell Sanders' Secrets of the Universe, and Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. I adore the poetry of John Fox, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, and Billy Collins. As I sit here thinking at Barnes & Noble, the titles of books of William Shakespeare and Barbara Kingsolver and Ernest Hemingway and Anne Tyler and John Irving and Margaret Atwood and Zora Neale Hurston and so many more than I've read and enjoyed are crowding each other out in my thoughts. Books that I've read often feel like old friends and I appreciate so very many.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My treadmill. I know it's waiting along with whatever installment of guilty-pleasure TV I'm watching at the moment.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
That makes me laugh! I write "by appointment," a couple times a week if I'm lucky. I would love to write more, but my various other occupations include running a yoga studio, freelance editing, and keeping my children fed, watered, and delivered to their appointed rounds. I like to relax at the movies, on a bar stool with a friend, reading in my bathtub, and writing.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't remember the very first story I ever wrote, but when I was in ten and in boarding school in Devon, England, I wrote a play called "Frilly Frock vs. Jeans" and my teacher let me produce it using the people in my class as actors. We had this amazing performance space and I directed and played the narrator. I remember that my cue for the stage hand to draw the curtain was clumping on stage in clogs. One of the teachers couldn't hear over the noise and asked, "Can we have less clumping?" Other than that, the play was a success.
How do you approach cover design?
The cover for _Throwing Like a Girl_ was a collaborative effort with the very talented designer LeaAnn Henry. I met LeaAnn in 1988 when she came to work at the Alumni Association at the University of Iowa where I was the research assistant on the magazine. We became friends and she taught me volumes about layout and design. She has handily moved into the digital age and I knew she'd be just the right person to design my cover. I sent her an outline of the novel and she sent me some options. Together we narrowed them down to the cover that I love.
Describe your desk
My desk is actually extraordinarily cool. It was custom-made in the 1950s for my father, and it's officially typing height, 26", made of recovered beams with an inset rubber desktop. It has no drawers or storage features. Unfortunately, it is generally covered with piles. When I sit at my desk I get distracted by all of the matters there to attend to. So most of the time that I'm writing I'm elsewhere in our house or at a coffee shop where nothing is ergonomic but somehow I'm happy writing.
What's the story behind your latest book?
_Throwing Like a Girl_ started as a dream. I woke with the entirety of the first scene playing like a movie before my eyes. While everyone slept, I crept to my desk and started to write. The story spilled out, and it grew. At twenty pages, it still felt like a story, but it also felt like a part of something larger. I had made a file of all of the pieces I clipped as I wrote, and I was fairly sure there was a story in those pieces too. It would be a cross-country move and several years later before I finally settled down and wrote the second story. And I could see that they were connected, but I wasn't sure how. As it started to become clear to me, I realized I had a puzzle--I had a beginning and an ending, but I needed to figure out how to get the characters from one to the other. I had also introduced several other characters and I felt they each had stories too. I love novels formed of interconnected short stories, so I decided to write one. And while it's tempting to see the author in every character, none of the characters is me, but each of the women is a character who was able to help me tease apart realities I saw around me, either in my own life or in the lives of people I knew.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I adore following a line of words and discovering what I think and how I feel and what I'm observing. I love, too, organizing and shaping words, pruning and finding just the right phrase or punctuation mark to make meaning. I like the way writing allows me to take time to live a reflective life and at the same time allows creative expression. Writing is simply a great joy in my life.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up the daughter of a writer in and around the writerly world of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. My father taught me some important lessons about writing. My favorite is "write what you don't know." This dovetails for me with Rilke's "live the questions," the philosophy that feeds and waters my blog, Sometimes it is only through slowing down--dreaming, meditating, writing--that we can find out what we think and express ourselves from our most authentic and creative spaces.
Published 2015-02-24.
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Books by This Author

Throwing Like a Girl
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 62,390. Language: English. Published: February 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
(4.00 from 1 review)
Throwing Like a Girl is an ensemble novel—an arc of intertwined stories about longtime friends. The book opens with Ellen accosted in an alley. The aftermath forces her to admit that she’s got unanswered questions. As she struggles to figure out her life during six event-filled days at her best friend side, Ellen and her friends forge new opportunities for creative living in spite of the laundry