What do you get when you mix together sugar, spice, poetry and prose, a passion for creating, and whimsy?
Elise Winn, that’s what.
Elise is a talented multi-tasker, teaching college courses, putting on literary programming events, baking, writing, and dreaming. She is everything I would aspire to be. I hope you enjoy her interview!
- Name: Elise Winn Pollard
- Current City: Woodland, CA
- What did you want to be when you grew up? A vet or a marine biologist. At some point it hit me that something to do with writing or art might be a better match than something that would require many years of studying math and science (and keeping it together when animals die).
- What are you now? I’m a writer, teacher, and co-director of a literary event series, Stories on Stage Davis (http://www.storiesonstagedavis.com).
- How did you get to this point? So many people encouraged me to follow what I loved—my parents; every magical professor I worked with in college; my mentors at the University of California, Davis; my husband. I’m from a small town near Lake of the Ozarks (soon to be Ozark famous, I’m sure, though my experience of the Lake
involved less money laundering and a lot more frozen custard—Randy’s turtles forever!), and when I moved to Springfield for college, I was surrounded by people making art and doing what they loved. I don’t know that I would’ve tried to build my life around words otherwise.
- Are you paid doing what you love? If not, what would you like to be paid to do? For now, yes—I’m a lecturer at UC Davis, where I teach creative writing to undergrads. I never know from year to year if there will be courses available to teach, but I’m enjoying it while I can. The introvert in me would also love to be paid to pet my cats, bake cookies, and write.
- Current project(s): Figuring out what in the world to include in my first-ever creative nonfiction workshop syllabus, planning Stories on Stage Davis’ fifth season, and writing a novel. I’m so grateful to be able to focus on the novel for a solid chunk of time this fall—first as an artist-in- residence at I-Park in Connecticut, then at the Anderson Center in Minnesota.
- What are you reading/listening to/watching/making: There are so many books I’m reading right now, stacks that correspond to either the writing or teaching sides of my brain—of course, these often overlap, so picture a Venn diagram: Jesse Ball’s Notes on My Dunce Cap; George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, the Translucent issue of Fairy Tale Review, Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter, and Jenny Zhang’s collection Sour Heart.
- How do you express yourself creatively? Usually through writing and baking, switching from one to the other—my first week in Connecticut, I made a cherry pie. For the past few months, though, I’ve been trying to draw and paint more, to ignore
the voice that says I’m not as “good” at those things, so why do them? I participated in the #100DayProject for the first time, painting a swatch each day to make a “story swatchbook,” inspired by Courtney Cerruti’s Colors of 2017 project.
- Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? This question totally unearthed a memory of my going to the library reference section to look up celebrity addresses. The first fan letter I wrote was to author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, whose Alice series I loved. I think I got a signed brochure in return. Somewhere I also have “signed” photos from Richard Gere and Kermit the Frog, along with a letter from Gillian Anderson’s make-up artist on The X-Files, who wrote back to tell me the exact shade of lipstick Dana Scully wore on the show. (It looked
terrible on me.)
- Drink of choice? A pot of tea.
- Who inspires you, and why? In other words, who would I send fan letters to now? I’d need lots of stamps. A very abridged list of people who are inspiring me to keep learning and making through their art: Lynda Barry—after reading Barry’s What It Is for maybe the fourth time, I committed to hand-writing/painting a daily agenda for my summer fiction workshop, and that practice ended up transforming my own writing process. George Saunders—this is a Saunders fan newsletter, right? He inspires me not only with his fiction, but also by the way he talks about how to be a better writer in the world, a better human in the world. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is from George: Stay mystified. Also: Lucy Corin and Kate Bernheimer and Kevin Brockmeier and… I could on seemingly forever.
- Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…): A wirebound mix-media sketchbook.
- Something you have learned this year? With more practice, I think I could weave a pretty good pie lattice.
- How can people find you? I check in from time to time at elisewinn.com & bakeclubworkshop.com. Also: @bakeclubworkshop on Facebook and Instagram.
- What can people do to make the world a better place? Take to heart these words from poet CAConrad’s (Soma)tic Manifesto: “It is absolutely necessary, right now, at this very moment, to embrace our creativity. No matter who you are, having a daily creative practice can expand your ability to better form the important questions we need to be asking ourselves about how to best change the destructive direction we are all headed. If you used to paint, paint again. If you used to write poems, start writing again. The potential magic of this world requires our participation.”
Thank you so much, Elise!