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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Cai Emmons

author Cai Emmons smiling at the camera and an image of her book Livid

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing keeps me grounded in a chaotic world. It is a way of attempting to understand the multitude of mysteries that elude us. Mysteries of human thought, feeling, and behavior, as well as mysteries about our place in the universe. I think writing’s most important function is that it allows us access to the inner workings of other human beings, what they are thinking and feeling, thereby connecting us, sometimes unifying us, sometimes simply making us feel less alone.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I don’t really believe in writer’s block. It has been my experience that there are good writing days and less good writing days, and sometimes downright bad ones, but if you can find a way to briefly distract yourself–often by moving the body–and return to the work, you can usually shake things loose.

What is your favorite time to write? Always first thing in the morning, straight from the dream state, before the world has intervened in the form of email, news, social media, or domestic demands. I try to sustain the semi-dream state for as long as I can before those unavoidable responsibilities sink in their nasty claws.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Michael Cunningham once said that when he is stuck he tries to “imagine more deeply.” This seems so simple, and yet it has been profoundly useful to me. Who is this character really? Do I know her likes and dislikes intimately, her birth story, her favorite expressions, her sexual history, etc.? Often exploring seemingly irrelevant parts of a character’s biography can unearth juicy material to work with.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? This is a pivotal moment in history nationally, globally, and from a planetary perspective. Democracy is in danger in the US and around the world, our planet is undergoing massive degradation that makes it less habitable for human beings, and unless we are alert and responsive to these crises, the future will be dire. Being present as a witness to such a significant moment in human history makes me feel a sense of responsibility. I want my work to be accurate and truthful–no posturing. Also, because I have been diagnosed with ALS and have limited time left on the planet myself, I feel called to write about my journey towards death against the backdrop of these global problems as openly and honestly as I can. My experience is being recorded in both nonfiction essays, as well as in fiction. Writing at this time makes me feel more alive than ever!

Cai Emmons’s Livid is out now with Red Hen Press. Her novel Unleashed was also published last month with Dutton.