The next WORDHARVEST reader on the micro interview docket is another graduate of the University of Illinois MFA program, Amy Sayre. Amy's haunting story, "Whatsoever," appears in the current issue of Ninth Letter. You can check out a longer interview I did with her earlier this year about the story. She is also now a playwright. Her play, The Widows of Whitechapel, will open at The Legacy Theater in Springfield, IL on October 13.
Ninth Letter: How do you prepare for a reading? Any pre-show rituals?
Amy Sayre: Preparation includes traveling about my neighborhood on a pogo stick reciting my work. For me the gravitational pull of the pogo while speaking dramatically is challenging, so by default that makes the reading seem quite easy. Pre-show rituals, by that do you mean activities besides tarot card reading, contacting deceased ancestors via Ouija board and wine? I don't know if those count or not. Sometimes, when the previously mentioned fail, I just read my work aloud a few times to a glass of river water. These were all techniques I was taught in MFA by Professor Michael Madonick. He also suggested wigs.
9L: When deciding which material to read, do you try to anticipate or take into account how the audience might react to what you read based on the event or venue?
AS: I don't take the audience into account.I think if someone asks me to read, they understand the darkness they have just invited in their door. But, this is not always the case, a few years ago, at a reading in Pennsylvania, I was describing a character partaking in a ritual that included setting fire to a unicorn's umbilical cord. A woman in the crowd hustled over to a nearby piano and began pounding the ivories to drown me out. She was afraid my work might offend the sensibilities of a group of Catholic seminary students in attendance. The seminarians, however, gave me a standing ovation. The seminarians were from New Orleans, though I don't know if that had anything to do with their enthusiasm for my work.
9L: What's one of your favorite moments from a reading, either yours or one you've attended?
AS: Once at AWP (the best stories all begin this way, right?), Ricki Ducornet began a reading of what the audience thought was a non-fiction piece, then proceeded to break into a totally made-up language which included a set of outrageous sounds and utterances with origins wholly unknown. Slowly, the audience realizes that she is having them on, but she never broke character throughout the entire reading. I loved her work prior to the reading, but after that, I flat adored her. It was brave and brilliant, exemplifying the artist that she is.
Details, including time and location for Saturday's WORDHARVEST can be found here.