Erica Wright's latest crime novel The Granite Moth (Pegasus) was called "brisk, dark, slinky" by USA Today. Her debut, The Red Chameleon (Pegasus), was one of O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014. She is also the author of the poetry collection Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press) and the chapbook Silt (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, Spinning Jenny, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor and a senior editor at Guernica Magazine as well as an editorial board member for Alice James Books. She has taught creative writing at Marymount Manhattan College and New York University's continuing studies program. She grew up in Wartrace, TN and received her B.A. from New York University and her M.F.A. from Columbia University.
What do you do best?
Perhaps because I'm the poetry editor at Guernica Magazine, strangers often confess to me that they don't like poetry or don't understand it. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at recommending a poet or poem that will change their minds.
What makes you the best?
I work in a field of geniuses, and I'm no genius. I would go a bit crazy if I didn't write, so that's what I do. If I can make each new book better than the last, I'm satisfied.
What are your aspirations?
Like most artists I know, my aspirations relate to time. I want more of it to do what I love.
When I finished the first draft of The Red Chameleon, I felt a rush of, frankly, disbelief. I'm not a runner, but the only comparison that makes sense to me is finishing a marathon. You take it scene by scene (mile by mile), but it still seems like a tiny miracle when you type that final sentence. And of course, I was another six drafts and a full year from finding an agent—even longer from publication—but that rush was enough to keep me going.
Most Challenging Moment?
As a writer, you build up calluses against rejection, but I'll admit that after sending out my first collection of poems for more than two years, I definitely felt discouraged. It's funny because I clearly remember standing on the corner of 178th Street and Fort Washington Avenue in December of 2009 with two writer friends. We all sort of blurted out that we were feeling beat up by hearing "No" so many times, then laughed nervously. Within six months, my poetry collection was taken by Black Lawrence Press, one friend's book won a big prize, and the other friend was awarded a prestigious grant. The only advice I can offer to young writers is to get yourself a team, then root for those friends as much as you root for yourself.
"To write a poem you must have a streak of arrogance, not in real life I hope. In real life try to be nice. It will save you a hell of a lot of trouble and give you more time to write."—Richard Hugo,"Writing Off the Subject
My favorite people are the kind ones, and I'm lucky to know quite a few.
Fort Washington Park in New York City and Parnassus Books in Nashville
My MacBook Air and Yogi Stress Relief tea.
Learning French through Duolinga, hoping sunscreen pills exist someday, and researching immigration for my new novel The Blue Kingfisher.