Helen Benedict is the author of seven novels and five works of nonfiction. A professor of journalism at Columbia University, Benedict spends her time between New York City and upstate New York, where her latest novel, Wolf Season, is set—though the characters’ lives encompass Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the US. Wolf Seasonwas selected as a 2018 Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association.
As the seasons changed from fall to winter, Melody Nixon spoke with Benedict about her newest book, the “effects of war on the human heart,” Benedict’s path to social justice, and the way forward with the crisis of tolerance.
Emily EverettMultiple Geographies: an Interview with Helen Benedict
Courtney Kersten’s work been featured in Brevity, The Normal School, River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, DIAGRAM, The Sonora Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. In 2018, the University of Wisconsin Press published her debut memoir, Daughter in Retrograde.
Thaïs Miller met with Kersten on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where they are both pursuing PhDs in Literature with a Creative/Critical Writing Concentration. Astrology plays a large role in Kersten’s memoir, so they decided to conduct the interview after a tarot card reading.
Whitney BrunoIntuitive Nonfiction: An Interview with Courtney Kersten
Rita Bullwinkel is the author of the story collection Belly Up (A Strange Object). Her writing has been published in Tin House, Conjunctions, BOMB, Vice, NOON, and Guernica. She is a recipient of grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, Hawthornden Castle, and The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. She is an Editor at Large for McSweeney’s, and lives in San Francisco.
Several years ago, when Rita Bullwinkel left New York City for the West Coast, Hilary Leichter went to her bon voyage party, for which Bullwinkel had purchased and reheated 100 pork buns. They did not have any pork buns on hand for this interview, but talked quite a bit over email about what fills their bellies, both literally and literarily.
Debbie WenDiscrete Brain Containers: An Interview with Rita Bullwinkel
Poet Willie Perdomo at his home in Exeter, NH Daffys and Paperwhites
Willie Perdomo is a Puerto Rican poet and storyteller. He is the author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (a 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), Smoking Lovely (winner of the 2004 PEN Open Book Award), and Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (a Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award Finalist). Perdomo is currently an English instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy. His latest collection, The Crazy Bunch, is forthcoming in 2019, and his poems Breaking Night,They Won’t Find Us in Books, and We Used to Call it Puerto Rican Rain are published in Issue No.16 of The Common.
Via email, Lisa M. Martinez recently spoke to Perdomo about what it’s like to write about his former home, New York City, where much of his inspiration still lies. Perdomo discusses his relationship with that city, communication with ghosts, and the power memory has to transport us to a “gone place.”
Whitney BrunoRule-Breaking is a Conscious Decision: an Interview with Willie Perdomo
This month, enjoy a new feature that celebrates the wonderful former interns and employees that have worked at The Common over the years. Though we miss seeing them everyday, we’re continually impressed by what they go on to accomplish. This month, we’re catching up with former Editorial Assistant JinJin Xu, an Amherst College alumna, Watson Fellow, and most recently, recipient of the Lillian Vernon Fellowship at NYU.
Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me is a poignant, lucidly written intergenerational story that will leave you aching. The novel takes a clear-eyed look at the ways adults can end up with the lives we didn’t think we would have—how we deal with the mismatch between dream and reality determines our fate.
Debbie WenBooks Can Help Us Feel Seen: an interview with Crystal Hana Kim
Kirstin Allio is the author of the short story collection Clothed, Female Figure and the novel Garner, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her latest novel, Buddhism for Western Children, will be the inaugural novel from The Iowa Review Series, a new imprint from University of Iowa Press, coming out in the fall of 2018. In this month’s interview, Kirstin Allio and The Common’s editorial assistant Isabel Meyers discuss motherhood, childhood memories, and society’s fascination with religious cults.
Isabel MeyersOn Noticing: an interview with Kirstin Allio
Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded numerous fellowships and residencies from organizations that include the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Her memoir, House in Indiana, is forthcoming in 2019 from Graywolf Press. Carmen Maria Machado will be at Amherst College on March 1st at 7:30 for a National Book Awards on Campus Conversation, which is a part of LitFest 2018.
This summer Hilary Leichter met with Machado at her home in Philadelphia, where Machado is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania.
Julia PikeThe Thing That Would Unmake You: an Interview with Carmen Maria Machado
This year, Bethany Ball’s debut novel What to Do About the Solomons took the literary world by storm, garnering a rave review from The New York Times and a short-listing for The Center For Fiction’s First Novel Prize. In What to Do About the Solomons, Ball writes a provocative, sexy, and darkly funny tale about a multigenerational family with origins in an Israeli kibbutz. She moves us between decades and continents, from lonely childhood to lonely adulthood to the home raid of an alleged money launderer. Perhaps all in a day in for this intricate family that moves simultaneously closer together and farther apart.
In this month’s interview, Dennis Norris II and Bethany Ball talk writing multigenerational families, awkward sex scenes, and more.
Sunna JuhnAwkward Sex Scenes Are My Superpower: An Interview with Bethany Ball