Marilyn Nelson’s books include The Homeplace; The Fields of Praise; Carver; Fortune’s Bones; The Freedom Business; A Wreath for Emmett Till; Faster than Light, and How I Discovered Poetry. The 2012 recipient of the Robert Frost Medal, she was Poet Laureate of CT for five years. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Poet-in-Residence of The Poets Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. For more info, visit her website.
What’s the biggest inconvenience about where you live?
Getting anywhere requires a car.
If you were a professional wrestler, what would your name be?
What book (either because of its length or subject) intimidates you?
The Holy Koran.
Growing up, what was your favorite meal?
Chicken & dumplings.
What do you waste time doing?
Email, Facebook, online interviews.
Whose ideas totally conflict with yours?
What do you think will be the next popular catch phrase?
What do you do every day, without fail?
Make my bed.
If you could dis-invent one thing, what would it be?
The Twentieth Century.
What makes you laugh until tears roll down your cheeks?
What compliment do you wish someone would give you?
You light up my life.
How did you pick your writing genre?
I think it picked me.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
How do you know when a book is finished?
I can’t stand to read it again.
What impact (good or bad) do you think the media has had on your work?
The media is in the air we breathe; how can we separate it from everything else?
How would you define creativity?
Open at the top.
Why were you drawn to a career in writing rather than a job that would offer more stability?
I had a teaching career, from which I retired as a Full Professor at a major research university. Writing is my vocation, not my career.
Who do you consider a literary genius?
Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Mark Twain, A. A. Milne, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, August Wilson, Wislawa Szymborska.
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?
Sexism and racism.
What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your work?
Maintaining enough faith in my art to be able to start a new project.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
Since childhood. Constantly.
What traits do creative people have compared to people who are not creative?
Creative people are much more creative than people who are not creative.
Can you share some words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
Read everything you can, starting at the beginning. Don’t spend all your time reading your contemporaries.