QUESTIONS ABOUT THE STORY:
Where did the idea come from?
Most of my ideas come to me just before dawn. I am not sure what prompted the birth of “Monologue with Birds and Burin.” I had been thinking about Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, and about tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing and balancing a broken world. Also, my wife Deborah is a professional woodcarver, and I enjoy visiting her workshop with all its tools and creative mess.
How did the story change as you developed it?
The story’s essence remained unchanged while I bolted and sifted to find the right words for what I am trying to convey.
How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
My work centers on betrayal, loss, and longing, on what the Germans call Sehnsucht, that is, the desire for an indeterminate and possibly unattainable outcome.
QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING:
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I was writing and drawing stories when I was in the third grade. Publication consisted of using a pen (instead of a pencil) and binding the results with twine. I got my first rejection letter in the fourth grade, having submitted such a manuscript to Houghton Mifflin. I have been writing, and occasionally getting published, ever since.
Who do you write for? Yourself or someone else?
I write for others. Writing is a conversation about questions we all have. Readers share with the author the burden and the joy of creating the story.
Who’s your favorite living author?
A question calculated perhaps to drive us deliciously mad? I cannot name just one author. Here’s a representative short-list: A.S. Byatt, Ursula K. LeGuin, Andrea Barrett, and Barry Unsworth, also Cole Swensen, Galway Kinnell and Seamus Heaney among the poets and Simon Schama among historians.
Favorite book read when you were a child?
The D’Aulaire’s illustrated book of Norse myth, also Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. My mother gave me her copy of The Hobbit when I was ten.