“I Did Not Want Her Name to Be Synonymous with Madness.” Heather Clark on Writing Sylvia Plath
In Conversation with Courtney Balestier on the WMFA Podcast
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
In this episode, Courtney Balestier talks to Heather Clark about adding context to the shorthand of Sylvia Plath with her new biography, Red Comet, the years-long work of such a massive project—including permissions, archives, and organizing research—and charting Plath’s growth as a person and a creative.
From the episode:
Heather Clark: I really wanted to try to rewrite that script. I did not want her name to be synonymous with madness and tragedy. I wanted her name to be synonymous with an amazingly prolific, ambitious, talented writer.
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Heather Clark is the author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist now out in paperback from Knopf. She and Courtney discuss how biography is like archeology, the “hysterical woman writer” stereotype, and the “profound and bottomless optimism” needed to undertake a large writing project.