month novelist, essayist, poet Lynn Crawford takes on the role of Fiction
Editor for thedetroiter.com, overseeing
our ongoing publication of fiction by authors with Michigan ties.
Crawford is the author of three published books including the recent
Separate People. She also contributed the fictional prose sestina
"Eco Lady" to thedetroiter.com in July, before taking on her
new responsibilities. Carla
Harryman's Baby is the first piece to be published under Crawford's
tenure. Below, Crawford answers
thedetroiter.com's famous Four Questions.
I've always been a passionate reader. I read to understand the way
the world worked and the way people worked and the way society worked.
At a certain point, I started reading certain kinds of writing that
made me want to figure those things out by writing and not just by reading.
I teach a lot of writing classes and workshops around town, and the
biggest thing I do is I force the students to read
because I really
believe that reading is a beautiful thing, and so many people don't
know how to do it. It's almost a lost art and I really feel like my
writing is a tribute to reading.
Ironically, one of the first writers I ever read
who made me want to write was Carla Harryman. I was in my early thirties,
I was a social worker, and I was taking a class at the Detroit Institute
of Arts on Saturday afternoons taught by (Detroit poet and educator)
Chris Tysh. She had us read, among other writers, Carla Harryman. I
read her book "Under the Bridge," and that was the first time
I ever felt like writing. I moved to New York (to attend NYU) and made
the move from reading to writing by reading Carla. And that was when
she was still living in San Francisco. I never really dreamed I would
In New York I gradually shifted out of social
work and into writing. I felt like I didn't want to analyze people.
I thought, I can do this with a piece of literature: I can analyze it,
I can break it down, I can tell you where it's going. But I'm not comfortable
doing that with people, so I shifted out of social work and into fiction
My first book is a book of prose poetry; the
second one is an experimental novella and the third (Simply Separate
People) is a novel about human interaction, landscape and terrain.
They're all very different and when I write, I feel like I'm exploring.
I feel very much like I'm making something, like I'm putting things
together, constructing little units.
I came back to Detroit to get
married, and after I moved back I had two kids. I finished my first
book here, and then my second. My third came out a few years ago and
I have two more (coming out). When I moved back I also started writing
art reviews. After seeing the art in New York, I was very impressed
with the art here, and I felt like it would be great if it got more
national and international coverage.
After I'd write (an art review) I'd have all
this leftover energy. So I started writing (short fictional works) based
on art I've seen in Detroit, and I have a book of these pieces coming
So I moved back for family - but I also feel
like there's such a glut of talent and money and resources in a place
like New York. I feel like if more of us stayed in Detroit then we could
create a really great art/writing scene here - and in fact there is
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF WRITING
There's a great community of poets here, you know - Chris Tysh,
Mick Vranich, Bill Harris - really brilliant poets who have had a huge
influence on me and, I think, on a lot of writers. I've come across
a lot of interesting writers here and there, aside from that group of
poets, but it feels like it's sort of disparate.
I can tell you a number of great writers from
here, but I don't know that there's necessarily a community. They're
all kind of doing their thing. But my hope is that maybe they could
be part of a community. And that's one of the reasons I'm interested
in editing this fiction section: Hopefully we can get a sense over time,
after we publish ten or twelve people, that there is something that
binds those people together.
But I believe there is a lot of very good writing going on here, and
I hope thedetroiter.com can be one of the publications that draws attention
to it, in addition to publications like the Writer's Voice,
and Dispatch and others.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT
THE FUTURE OF DETROIT?
I think that the fact that there are a lot of young interesting people
staying here now bodes very well for the future. The fact that there
are a lot of young talented artists here, and that there are reasons
for them to stay here, is very exciting.
I think a lot of the older people here feel like
they've given so much to this city and gotten so little back. A lot
of people have devoted their lives to Detroit. People here will be involved
in art only because it means a lot to them - not because they're going
to make a billion dollars and buy a house in the Hamptons. But at the
same time people have to get something at some point or it'll be tragic.
There's a lot of talent here and you've got to
hope that eventually it will be rewarded.