Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore in Praise of Unconventional Writing Practices
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 Kisner talks to Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore about her most recently published book, The Freezer Door, about queerness and activism and anthologies as a mode of intervention, and about a diagnosis that completely changed her writing process.
From the episode:
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: People talk about that conventional writing process idea where you sit down in the morning with your cup of Earl Grey, and then you pet the cat, and then you sit there for like six hours in front of the computer and don’t stop. If I’m in front of the computer for more than—I mean, honestly, I shouldn’t be in front of the computer for more than 15 minutes to not be in pain. But I sometimes do still get into that mode, so then I might be in front of the computer for an hour. But I’m always leaving and then coming back. I guess what I say now—you know, people say, what’s your advice for writing?—I just think if you write something every day, even if it is one sentence. Because that sentence might be the one. And it is really the continuity that allows for the sparks to emerge and the themes and the threads and the through lines—and also the breaks and the impasses.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the author of three novels, two memoirs, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her novels include So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, Pulling Taffy, and Sketchtasy. Her first memoir, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award. Her recent memoir, The Freezer Door, has been longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. Her most recent anthology, Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. She recently completed a new anthology, Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis, which will be published in October. Her activism has included ACT UP in the early ’90s, Fed Up Queers in the late ’90s, Gay Shame, and other unnamed groups.