Today on Writer's Block we feature Kate Hargreaves, who recently published her book of poetry, Leak, with BookThug. Read about which books are her favourites, how she prioritizes her writing, and her undying love for all-natural peanut butter, in our interview below.
What book do you always recommend?
Lately I have been recommending Miranda July's short fiction collection No one Belongs Here More Than You. Her deadpan way of depicting surreal moments is sometimes hilarious, sometimes quite moving and often both at the same time. I find myself recommending it to people who tell me they don't read short fiction as it was one of the books that encouraged me to start reading more short fiction when I was in school.
What do you enjoy reading?
I'm a little bit all over the place. When I'm trying to write poetry I read a lot of poetry, but also find myself jumping into other texts for inspiration, including old medical books and the like. Anything I can mine for ideas or images. I've been reading a lot more fiction than usual lately, which might be as a result of working for a press that is known for its acclaimed short story collections. I also enjoy reading gender theory, and disability theory, as a bit of a hearkening back to my grad school days, but now I get to read it for fun and don't have to write a paper about it after I'm done.
Do you have a book you have gone back and read several times?
I sometimes feel like this is a cliche answer, but I've probably read The Bell Jar more often than I've read any other book. I love Plath, her fiction and her poetry, but I came to her fiction first when I was a teenager, and re-reading it I enjoy noticing what I didn't catch back then. The Picture of Dorian Gray might be a close second on the re-reading front.
Show us your workspace.
In all my previous apartments and at my parents' house when I still lived with them I always had a desk and I never used it for anything besides painting (which I haven't done since I was about 18). I can't write creatively at a desk. I couldn't even write academic papers at a desk. So when I moved into my current apartment, I gave away my desk. My "workspace" if you could call it that, is also the space where I relax, eat (I also don't use my dining table), watch movies, and sometimes fall asleep. Usually, if I'm writing it is on my iPad with its little keyboard because I can't read my own handwriting, a notepad in case I jotted notes down while I was away from a computer, a handful of poetry books in case I get stuck and need to step back, a candle probably because I like my apartment to smell like baked goods despite my inability to bake or eat most baked goods, and likely an empty mug or two from tea and an empty plate that probably had some rice cakes and peanut butter on it or something.
Have you ever experienced writer's block? What do you do about it?
Oh god, yes. Pretty much all the time lately. The most intimidating thing for me is to sit down and have a blank page or a blank screen in front of me and to try to put something on it. When I do put something down, I often end up backspacing what I've written and starting over several times. What to do about it is something I'm working on. I write more often when I am forced to write. Under pressure I will produce, but with no deadline looming over me, I won't create anything. I'm attempting to force myself to write something, anything, every day—a line, a paragraph, a couple words—and this seems to be working out so far. Sometimes it ends up only being one line, but other days I end up writing a couple pages, so it's a good low-pressure motivator.
What's the toughest part about being a writer?
Convincing yourself that it is a reasonable and responsible thing to block out time in your day to write. Believing that writing can be done before the house is cleaned, or the groceries are bought, or before you go to the gym, and not just as a last priority after all the other work is done, including the 9 to 5 kind. As someone who doesn't write for a living, the hardest part is identifying that writing is not just being self-indulgent and that it is a viable and important part of my schedule that can't just take a back seat to all the other adult responsibilities on my plate.
What are you working on now?
When I can put my brain to writing, I have a couple ideas I am playing with. I've created a character who found her way into the first real piece of short fiction I've ever written, so I will see where that goes. I think she may crop up elsewhere or have a couple more stories in her. I'm also working on some poems that deal with the way we talk about bodies in a fitness context. As an amateur athlete, I spend a lot of time with people squawking things about supersets and quad burn and glute squeezes at me, and I noticed how strangely different aspects of fitness culture treat bodies in their discourse. This one is in the pretty early stages and may not play out the way I imagine, but I'm turning those ideas over in my head and jotting a few things down in the hopes something comes out of it.
What advice would you give to other writers? (Be creative!)
This is the wall in the bedroom area of my apartment. I stole the quote from a cheesy TV show because it said something to me about refusing to be walked over by other people, and I needed to remind myself of that at the time. Doing what you need to do for you sometimes is not selfish, it is necessary, and anyone who expects you to feel guilty about that isn't worth the time. Now the advice lives on the wall by my bed, alongside some snapshots as a reminder of the people who build me up instead of stepping on me, friends, family, teammates and my roller derby idol, because, why the hell not? No apologies.
Tell us about yourself...
Where do you live?
Do you have a day job? What is it?
Yes. I work for the independent press Biblioasis in the strangely juxtaposed roles of book designer and office administrator/bookkeeper. I switch back and forth between designing book covers for most of Biblioasis' titles and processing invoices and running account reports.
What type of dwelling do you live in?
I live in a studio apartment in a duplex.
Do you have any pets?
No, sadly. But I'm hoping to rescue a whippet in the next couple years or maybe adopt a cat if I can find a good spot for a litter box in my apartment.
What's your favourite food or place to eat out?
My favourite food is all-natural peanut butter. It comes up in my book, a lot. More than I realized. When I needed a food to reference, clearly that was the food always on my mind, possibly because I can go through a jar of it in a couple of days. My favourite place to eat would be this amazing Ethiopian restaurant in Windsor called World Marathon. Their vegetarian platter on injera is delicious enough that I would probably eat it every day if I could.
What's your favourite musician/band?
I have a really hard time committing to favourites as I change my mind a lot, so here's a bunch of music I like to listen to: David Bowie, Placebo, Bright Eyes, Against Me!, CHVRCHES.
Favourite travel destination?
Liverpool, England. My parents and pretty much my entire family are from there and I used to go visit once a year. The last time I went was a couple of years ago, and I miss it quite a bit.
Do you have a blog...etc.?
I have a Twitter account that I actively use under my roller derby name @PainEyre