Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently?
Erin: Writing and I have been in an on-again-off-again relationship since I was young, adapting Anne of Green Gables into stage plays in speckled composition notebooks so I could float off into a river covered in flowers, like Anne, playing dead. I was a precocious little weirdo. Lydia Davis opened my eyes to the flash form and its strangeness. Her lyrical translations of Proust and Flaubert are incredible too.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Erin: No: I think wanting to be a writer is like falling in love, a series of pivots and terrifying leaps. Every time I send out a submission, stand up to read in front of a crowd, or open my laptop to a fresh word document, I’m saying yes to writing again.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?
Erin: Mary Cappello was on my committee in graduate school, and I owe the development of my creative writing voice to her. I felt comfortable as a critical theorist before her mentorship, cranking out scholarly papers on Foucault and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. She engaged with my writing with incredible ferocity and clarity, and I ended up catching the creative writing bug from her. I really owe the realignment of my career to Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, who bestowed me with dual gifts: one, that I’m best as a writer when I let go and write toward chaos, and two, that I should remember publishing and writing are two highly different things.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?
Erin: Rhode Island, where I still live, though my long stay here has been unintentional, a product of chronic illness and lower income. As a little buffet of a state, it’s a compact mishmash of everything. You could describe my compressed flash with their long sentence structures that way too. Everyone knows everyone here, like, Oh, that’s your cousin? Yeah, I went to school with him, so my writing often pushes back against loyalties that feel automatic.
When I was younger, I stayed in a French monastery called Taize a few times. Thousands of people from all over the world came to meditate in this rustic village, collectively singing one verse, over and over, though each person might sing in their native language. The rise and fall of sound were indescribable. I don’t subscribe to organized religion at all anymore, in fact, I just about rebuke it, but that journey cemented the idea of community for me, especially through the practice of energetic rhythm. Maybe I’m still doing this acoustically in my poetry.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
Erin: “Life Size,” which I published in SmokeLong Quarterly. It contains humor, anxiety, mental illness, a critique of community justice, and a steady propulsion in its lyricism. I read it aloud to myself sometimes when I get lost in the writing process, because that flash is the clearest manifestation of my voice.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Erin: Hiking, biking, meditation, going dancing, binging reality television. Playing with my pets. Grabbing an iced coffee and cruising a thrift store is an immediate balm. Thumbing through used bookstores. Oh gosh, concerts, though the pandemic has made it hard. I have a bathtub for the first time in twenty years and baths have been pretty revelatory.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?
Erin: In “i don’t find this stuff amusing anymore,” the last lines are: “all i’m saying is i wasn’t born a skeptic. all i’m saying is i was made.” The earlier section of the flash is funny and playful, even though it’s working through the ways our heroes ultimately deceive us. When I get to those last two lines, it’s a punch to the gut, so I’m proud that I arrive at the awful gravity of betrayal.
Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always comes back to you as an inspiration?
Erin: Oh, well everything. I’m that person who cries at any concert because I get overwhelmed by live music and the beautiful sensory overload. But I go back to “Purple Rain,” its sweaty, perfect release. I write toward that lyrical catharsis, serving up a heart on a platter. Prince is everything, in my opinion.
Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?
Erin: I have a few pieces coming out in SmokeLong Quarterly in September. I’m super excited to be writing for March Fadness this coming March. I’ve been doing more live readings in Providence since they’re just so much fun, so I’ll keep my website updated with that info.
Bonus Question: Any funny memory or strange occurrence you’d like to share during your creative journey?
Erin: In my last apartment, each day when I worked at my desk, this house spider would dart out from behind the bookshelf and skitter across my notebook. It would sit on a handwritten word and wave its little legs around, as if to send up communication, pause, then go back into the books. It really liked the word “autonomy.” I’ve read that spiders are meant to be signs for storytellers, so I admit, I kind of miss that strange little creature since I moved house.
Bio: Erin Vachon lives in Rhode Island and their work appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Brevity, CHEAP POP, Cream City Review, and more. They are Hybrid Editor for Longleaf Review and an alum of the Tin House Summer workshop. Erin earned their MA in English Literature and Comparative Literature from the University of Rhode Island, and you can find more of their writing at http://www.erinvachon.com or on Twitter @erinjvachon.
Good interview, David; thank you. (Oh: it should be “who influenced you . . .” in your opening question. Forgive me; I can’t keep my Retired Inner Editor quiet for nuthin’!)