Deesha Philyaw on Leaving a Marriage While Writing a Short Story Collection
In Conversation with Jordan Kisner on the Thresholds Podcast
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In this episode, Jordan talks to Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, about getting out of a bad marriage, learning to embrace life again, and doing it all while putting together a short story collection.
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From the episode:
Deesha Philyaw: I was done. The idea of staying another second was just intolerable to me. And during this time, I was in the process of writing the stories that would become the collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. I did not yet have a book deal, but I was working on the stories and working on getting three stories published. My agent said that once I got three stories published, she could shop the collection as a partial manuscript.
So I was working a corporate 9 to 5 and trying to squeeze in working on the short stories when I could, but this mess of a marriage was always hanging over my head. I think one of the reasons that I didn’t look back once I told him [I wanted a divorce] is that I instantly felt freer. I literally felt lighter; I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I just had more clarity. I was no longer bogged down worrying about this marriage. And it did free me up to focus more on my creative life. And so I never looked back. I never looked back.
This episode is brought to you by the House of CHANEL, creator of the iconic J12 sports watch. Always in motion, the J12 travels through time without ever losing its identity.
Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and will be the 2022-2023 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.