READING, WRITING & EXPLORING

Lynn Crawford
: thedetroiter.com's new editor of fiction answers our Four Questions

 

This 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 novel Simply 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.

WHY WRITING?

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 meet her.

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 and art.

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.

WHY DETROIT?

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 out.

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 one.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF WRITING IN DETROIT?

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.

©2003 thedetroiter.com
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