Interview With Author Nahid Rachlin

# Please introduce yourself and your books!

I always dreamt of becoming a writer. After graduating from college, I went to Columbia University Writing Program on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and then went on to Stanford University writing program on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. Soon after completing the program at Stanford, I returned to NYC. Got an agent for the novel, Foreigner, I had written during my year there. WW. Norton published it. After that I published other novels, JUMPING OVER FIRE (City Lights), MARRIED TO A STRANGER (E.P.Dutton-Penguin), and a novella CROWD OF SORROWS, (Kindle Singles), a short story collections, VEILS (City Lights). My individual short stories have appeared in many magazines, including The Virginia Quarterly Review, Nimrod International, Prairie Schooner, Redbook, Shenandoah and reprinted in anthologies. One of my stories was produced by Symphony Space, “Selected Shorts,” and was aired on NPR’s around the country and three stories were nominated for Pushcart Prize. My work has received favorable reviews in major magazines and newspapers and translated into Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Dutch, German, Czech, Arabic, and Persian. She has been interviewed in NPR stations such as Fresh Air (Terry Gross), Poets and Writers magazine, Writers Chronicle. She has written reviews and essays for New York Times, Newsday, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Other grants and awards I received include the Bennet Cerf Award, PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. I have taught creative writing at Barnard College, Yale University and at a wide variety of writers conferences, including Paris Writers Conference, Geneva Writers Conference, and Yale Writers Conference. She has been judge for several fiction awards and competitions, among them, Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, sponsored by AWP, Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award sponsored by Poets & Writers, Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize, University of Maryland, English Dept, Teichmann Fiction Prize, Barnard College, English Dept. I give readings and talks at a wide variety of places, including bookstores, high schools, colleges and libraries.

# What went into you wanting to become a writer?

The unusual circumstances of my life made me want to read and find answers to my questions in books. When I was an infant my mother who already had seven children, gave me to my childless aunt to raise as her own child. Then when I was nine years old my father came to my elementary school in Tehran and forcefully took me back to live with him, my birth mother and siblings in Ahvaz, a town miles away from Tehran. I was happy being an only child to my loving aunt and it was traumatic to be forced into living with my birth family, I hardly knew. This trauma led me to reading books to find answers to my questions. In turn reading led me to writing. In writing I could give shape to incidents that were painful, seemed meaningless or random, chaotic. I found that even if I wrote about a depressing subject, the process itself, made me happy. Writing then became an ingrained habit, a need.

# What were your influences?

When I was in high school, I found a bookstore with books by European and American writers in translation. I read almost everything I found in translation—work by Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Hemingway, Balzac. Of course, I also read books by Iranian writers. I probably absorbed some of the techniques used by the writers I read. I can’t say I was influenced by a particular writer.

One of my composition teachers in high school liked the pieces I handed in for assignments. She was unusual in that she believed women should have a voice and not settle for prescribed roles in the male dominated world I grew up in. She was a big influence on me, both in her encouragement of my writing and my development as a more independent person.

# When and where do you write?

I try to write three hours in the morning. If appointments stop me from writing in the morning then I write in the afternoon. I like working at home. So I just go to my desk and start writing.

# What are you working on now?

I am putting together a short story collection, that includes a novella. Also I am working on a novel.

# Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

No, I haven’t had a writer’s block, but in general I write slowly. I usually become interested in a particular character or theme and then it takes me a few revisions before I even know what details in the story would convey what I am trying to develop.

# What’s your advice to new writers?

If you become too self-critical, you may get a writer’s block. It’s best to just put words on the page, until something clicks. Then be prepared to revise until you are satisfied with the outcome of your story or whatever you are writing. It is also important to read a lot. Reading can inspire you and also show you some techniques that you may not already have.



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