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Member Spotlight: Joshua Kornreich

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? What I once told one of my two sons when he became so enraged with me that he threatened to obliterate the novel I was working on, was that while I may only have two sons who mean the world to me, I do have several other children who mean the world to me as well—those children being my books and other fictions that I’ve written. What I write—it lives inside my bones, my head, my heart. It walks with me, it sits with me, it sleeps with me. It is what I made and what I will make at the same time. It is what makes me who I am, much like my sons make me who I am. Without the two boys I made with my wife, I am less than. Same goes for my fiction. I imagine that is what other writers feel about what they have written and what they will write. It is everything they are and everything they will become. And it is a medium both internal and external that every person—whether that person considers him- or herself a writer or not a writer—has an inherent right to own and make use of as they see fit. The trick is to use it wisely and use it well.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?The best remedy is to prevent it from happening altogether: for me, that means to save some sentences that I’m prepared to write for the next time I sit down to write, even on those occasions when I’m on a roll. Also, I do not consider not being able to come up with that inaugural sentence right away as writer’s block. Writing is a process both internal and external. One should only begin to write when they feel ready to write. If you’re thinking about sentences and all the different ways in which to write them, then you’re on the right path and not blocked. Speaking of blocks, when I do feel that feeling that some might call a block but really is not a block, I sometimes walk around the block, or for several blocks, with an old tennis racket in one hand and a not-so-fresh tennis ball in the other, and what I do with that racket and with that ball is that I hit the ball with the racket against the block of wall that stands in the schoolyard of our neighborhood’s public high school, and keep hitting it and hitting it until I feel that the block feeling that is inside me has left me. When I feel that the block feeling is gone for good, I walk the few blocks or so back home, and with that extra spring in my step and that extra dose of adrenaline in my gut, I begin to write.

What is your favorite time to write? When I’m taking a shower—that is my favorite time to write. No, that is not meant to be a joke. I mean, I don’t physically pick up a pen and start to write on a pad or on my palm or on the wall when I’m in my shower, but the sentence—the first sentence, the next sentence, that chain of sentences—often worm their way into my head when I am alone and bare. If my shower is a long one, that is a promising sign.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?The sentence outlives the sentence-maker—always remember that before you write a sentence. Also, embrace your flaws, your fears, your pain, and if you are writing fiction, always treat your characters with forgiveness.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? There never is—or never was, I imagine—a time when it is not, or when it was not, exciting to be a writer, so I wouldn’t say there is something in particular going on today that makes it more exciting to be a writer right now, at this moment, than it was in years past. But it is times like the one we’re in now that the idea of writing as an act against the status quo or as an act of personal survival, takes on a fresher resonance, which, as a writer, I find invigorating.

Joshua Kornreich’s Cavanaugh is out now with Sagging Meniscus Press.