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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Write Stuff: Susie Meserve on Legacy, Fear, and The Creativity Notebook

Posted By on Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Susie Meserve's poetry chapbook, Faith, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. She has just finished writing a memoir about the year she traveled the world with a man named Ben. She blogs regularly about writing, reading, and life, and with the fine writers at

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I say, "I'm a writer, and I teach." I started telling people I was a writer fifteen years ago, on the advice of one of my teachers who told me it's important to identify that way even if you're aspiring/attempting/up-and-coming/unpublished. So I decided, I'm a writer. I have been ever since. Now I feel a little less like a fraud when I say it.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Accepting difficulty. Accepting that, sometimes, a week will be unproductive, troubled, or discouraging. Remaining dispassionate about sending out work and getting rejected and sending out again anyway. I have much too thin a skin for this business, really, but I'm working on it.

I also struggle with creating boundaries. Once I'm writing, I could do it forever -- at the cost of everything else. Since I have a four-year-old son, I usually can't write for as long as I want to, and I sometimes have trouble closing the (metaphorical) door to the office and being present elsewhere.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Oh, success. I have a lot of trouble with that word. I have not yet done a fraction of what I hope to do, I'll say that -- but I have many things that are going well in my life and that I'm grateful for.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

"Mom Arriving with Cake." I love the hint at the dynamic between the mother and her son. And I admit I like stupid physical humor:

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

My favorite ancestor is my paternal grandmother, who died when I was in college, and though her story is interesting it isn't as interesting as the one I'll tell you about my first ancestor. According to family lore, he was one of William the Conqueror's henchmen, and after they went around looting and pillaging William the Conqueror didn't give my ancestor any of the spoils. So he started calling himself "Mal Servi," like "badly served" or "mistreated." Eventually, that name became "Meserve." It's occurred to me that this is a bit of a heavy legacy for a name, but it's mine.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I perform one every day: I take off my jeans and sexily pull on my yoga pants.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Less than I would like.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

It depends on whether my kid is in angel or devil mode, and what poem is featured on Poetry Daily.

What are you working on right now?

I've just finished writing a memoir called "Walk Through the World with Me," about the year I traveled with my now-husband, Ben. I struggled with crippling anxiety my whole life before I met him, fell in love, and learned that he was the type of fearless guy who was going to put his things in storage, quit his job, and travel in South America for a year. And I decided to go with him. The story is about my great struggle to banish fear while fear presented itself everywhere: at sketchy border crossings, on harrowing bus rides, and most of all, in my imagination. My attempts didn't work, but he loved me anyway.

Since finishing the book, a lot of my writing time is going to the business side of things: writing the query and cover letter, researching and sending out to agents. It's difficult for me to write while I'm trying so hard to get published, but I'm trying to keep stimulated anyway. I'm carrying around a journal I call The Creativity Notebook, where I jot story ideas, vocabulary words, and moments of inspiration. I also just started a collaborative postcard-poem exchange with my friend, the poet Mike Dockins. Collaboration often gets me going in the in-between times.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

You'll have to read my memoir to find out.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

The cost of living. I really think the Bay Area has become unsustainably expensive for many people. I love it here, but I don't know if I'll be able to stay. Or, maybe I should say, I don't know if I'll love it in ten years when I'm still paying through the nose for an 800-square-foot apartment.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

A culinary and temples tour of Southeast Asia. With my husband and some good anxiety meds.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

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