25 Things About Kristin (as a writer)
- I started writing when I was eight years old. I received a shiny pink journal (with a lock and key!) for my birthday and immediately began to fill it with tales of adventure (along with silly gripes about my sisters and small crushes I had on various boys at school).
- I wrote my first poem shortly thereafter; it was called “The Hummingbird.”
- I had never seen a hummingbird when I wrote “The Hummingbird.”
- Sara Teasdale was one of my first inspirations. I discovered her poetry in the Bethel Park Public Library and read everything she’d ever written. (rather passionate stuff for a ten-year-old, but I was a rather passionate kid)
- Brahm Stoker’s Dracula was also one of my first inspirations (again discovered in the stacks at the Bethel Park Public Library).
- As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the Bethel Park Public Library.
- I only write on one side of a page in my journal. (I want to stop this. I know it’s a waste of paper. But, ugh, writing on both sides messes with my process and my psyche.)
- During high school, I wrote a series of plays about my older sister Traci and her friends. I parodied “Camelot.” (“Sir Lanceless” was the most successful of the series. It probably will never make it to the big stage, but it got a few laughs.)
- Favorite book during high school? The Odyssey.
- In Mrs. Holman’s ninth-grade English class, I memorized the first verse of Walt Whitman’s “O, Captain! My Captain.”
- I can still recite the first verse of “O, Captain! My Captain!” (if you ask, I will give a very passionate performance)
- I bought a used copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones in the bookstore at Indiana University in 1984 for $5.50. (That same copy is still on my bookshelf and I still refer to it.)
- I studied with some amazing poets during college, including Lynda Hull and Yusef Komunyakaa.
- I published my first poem in the Indiana University literary magazine Quarry (1987 or so). The poem—“Crumbling Steeples”—was about the death of the steel mill industry in Pittsburgh.
- I was super, super, super shy as a kid and throughout college. Talking out loud in class was such an excruciating experience, I would have rather walked barefoot across burning coals (slowly), eaten nails, or been thrown at the mercy of cannibals.
- While super, super, super shy, I blushed so easily and so often that my sixth-grade social studies teacher called me “Blushing Bair.” (Oh, geez…this made me blush even more.)
- Reading my writing out loud to groups was even worse than speaking out loud in class (all those eyes…). I once passed out in the middle of a reading.
- I outgrew my shyness during grad school when I started to teach. Now it’s hard to shut me up.
- I still blush pretty easily.
- I got an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College in Chicago. During my blissful years in the Fiction Writing Department, I discovered Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
- My graduate thesis was an early draft of Thirsty.
- I read my work out loud as I write. Over and over and over. (even when I’m working in coffee shops…much to the
dismay delight of those around me)
- I used to write exclusively by hand, transferring work to the computer only at a late stage in the writing process. Now I often write first drafts on the computer.
- I often begin first drafts as emails or letters to friends.
- If I had to be something other than a writer, I would be a ventriloquist, a roadie for Meat Loaf, or a time traveler. (First choice? Time traveler.)
Four recent novels that I’ve read more than once are:
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- The Known World by Edward P. Jones
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger