It’s the beginning of a new week, and we’re getting it started with this chat with Mary Akers, author of the short story collection Women Up On Blocks. Mary talks about being a writer, and reveals her passion for DIY, below.
P53: What is your favorite color, and what does that color mean to you?
MA: Green is my favorite color. It always has been, even as a little girl when pink or purple were most often the favorites of my peers. I remember at least one adult trying to tell me that green couldn’t be my favorite color—that little girls liked pink. I also remember thinking, “Are adults really that stupid? My favorite color is my favorite color. Duh.” Yes, I was stubborn, even then. Green is so beautiful to me. The soft, lime, baby-green of new leaves in spring, the deep green of a pine forest that keeps its color all winter, even the fuzzy algae green in a stagnant summer pond just totally speaks to me. Ironically, I don’t wear green much because it doesn’t flatter me at all (my skin has sort of a greenish tinge and the extra green just pushes me over the edge into Nausea-Glam). But I adore it on others.
P53: When did you first really feel like a writer?
MA: I’m a writer?? Just kidding. But also not. Because it’s hard for me (most days) to feel like a (capital W) Writer, whatever that entails. I’m also a breather, and a sleeper, and an eater, but nobody makes much of those activities. And writing ranks right up there with breathing, eating, and sleeping on my list of Things To Do Today. Anyway, I’m being glib, but I guess my point is that we all write, even if it’s only a grocery list, right? So anyone can “be a writer,” especially in this day and age. I guess a more accurate question might be, “When did I first start to think like a writer?” Because I totally do. Writing is how I process the world. It allows me to pull back from things that confuse me,that I don’t understand, or even that hurt me…and take a calm, collected look at the whole evolution of the thing. It allows me to get in the heads of people I don’t like. It allows me to take an upsetting event and write a different outcome into existence. It allows me the snappy repartee that I’m never capable of in the living moment. Anyway, I probably started to think like a writer as soon as I learned to write. I always understood that stories were not the real world…but I also understood that they created their own world that felt as real to me as the real world. And I wanted to climb into that wardrobe.
P53: What’s so great about short stories?
MA: They are life, distilled. They contain the heart of a novel, compressed into this small, beautiful thing. If a novel is a whole messy pile of carbon life forms, a short story is the diamond that comes from all that carbon being heated and compressed.
P53: You’re stranded on a desert island with only one book; what is it?
MA: STRANDED: How to Survive on a Desert Island. I mean, I’m just assuming there is such a book (there’s a how-to book for everything), and that’s the one I’d take.
P53: When people find out you’re a writer, what is the thing they most often ask you?
MA: “Have I read anything you’ve written?” My internal response is usually some variation on the following: A) How would I know what you’ve read? B) Go ahead and start rattling off titles—I’ll stop you when you get to mine. C) No, you probably haven’t read one of my books…yet. But D) You will!
Three Facts About Mary:
1. I once ate a grub as research for a survival story.
2. I co-founded a marine ecology school in Dominica, West Indies.
3. I’m a total do-it-yourselfer who is happiest when growing a garden, cutting my kids’ hair, laying stones for a walkway, etc. The first thing I think, when I see or eat something that tickles my fancy is…”I bet I could make that.”