Only Through Unknowing: Darcey Steinke on Fiction, Divinity, Spirituality and Beyond

What are your daily writing habits like? Do you consistently keep a notebook, or do you compose words in your head?

I hope in my books to show life as the paradox it is, both terrible and beautiful at the same time.

I get up in the morning, after I get my daughter to school, I try to write between two and five hours. I am more engaged if I have a book up and going. If I am just starting out on something, it’s harder for me to sit and work. I also try to read a few hours every day and my reading has to do with my writing, I pick nonfiction books that will help me with my theme or plot or I read books I think might be like mine in tone. After lunch I do school work, looking at student stories or reading the novels I will teach.

I do keep a journal and I try to write in it each day. It is like my head in book form and I write about art I see, or music I hear, or plays or books I am reading, also my life in general. When I look back at my journals, I have years of them now, I see mostly so much anxiety expressed on the page!

You have a writing “web project” called blindspot. What drew you to this format?

This was at the very start of the Internet craze, I was asked to work on a project with a group called “adaweb.” They were doing web projects with writers and artists. We met a few times and I laid down my idea and they talked about how to make it all work on the computer. I am sort of a Luddite, so it was really interesting for me to work with these great minds. I think at the time, we all thought there would be more art projects on the web, though that idea does not seem to have come to be really. Blindspot, I am proud to say was in the Whitney Biennial, which meant a lot to me.

You are currently working on a new book. Please tell us about the inspiration for the book, and how it compares and/or contrasts with your previous work.

The first tiny seed for my new book, Sister Golden Hair, came to me while I was teaching in Vermont five years ago. It was snowing and I was sitting at my desk and I had this vision of a bunch of crappy duplex complexes on the side of a mountain, hanging there like barnacles on a rock. I thought of my young self, but also of another young girl, maybe thirteen, and I felt her confusion, and how really hard it is to find your own weight in the world. I felt this sort of sliver in my heart, this feeling of the uncertainty of adolescences, the hope and the fear. That was what started me working on it.

It’s different from my other books as the narrator is younger and it’s more episodic than some of my early work. I feel it’s a more mature work as it has a wider cast of characters and looks at many ways to make a life. I think it is more open-handed in its ideas. It is like my other books in that it is fairly dark and it looks at the worries and the pain in life clearly. I hope in my books to show life as the paradox it is, both terrible and beautiful at the same time.

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