JoAnna Novak on Doing the Work Work, and Also the Work
In Conversation with Alex Higley and Lindsay Hunter on I'm a Writer But
Welcome to I’m a Writer But, where two writers-and talk to other writers-and about their work, their lives, their other work, the stuff that takes up any free time they have, all the stuff they’re not able to get to, and the ways in which any of us get anything done. Plus: book recommendations, bad jokes, okay jokes, despair, joy, and anything else we’ve got going on that week. Hosted by Lindsay Hunter and Alex Higley.
In this episode, Alex and Lindsay talk with JoAnna Novak (Meaningful Work; New Life) about putting out both a story collection AND a poetry collection in the same year, getting two (!) MFAs, working every sort of job you can imagine, staying in the fight, and lots more.
From the episode:
JoAnna: I think some of the technical things are pretty similar. I’m a pretty baroque writer at times, and that shows up in my work regardless of genre. I feel like, on that level, we could talk about the decadence of language in any genre and it would feel pretty true. But in terms of the process of working on the books… Meaningful Work was composed, I think, over decades. (…) The collection was in progress for a long, long time. I just happened to send it out to the Sukenik prize in 2019.
New Life, on the other hand, I wrote in a really concentrated way over a couple of months, right in the middle of being pregnant. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be productive ever again after I had a baby, so I was writing in a very concerted manner. I’ve never worked on a book like that, and it was so exciting to have that kind of focus, that one would bring to a novel or maybe a longer prose project, to a book of poetry was a really cool experience.
BJoAnna Novak’s short story collection, Meaningful Work (FC2, 2021), won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest. She is the author of three books of poetry, most recently New Life (Black Lawrence Press, 2021), and a novel, I Must Have You. Her debut memoir Contradiction Days will be published by Catapult in 2023. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times, and other publications. She is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher, Tammy.