Member Spotlight: Janet Fitch

What’s the first book you remember reading?
A Little Golden Book version of Black Beauty

Name one person who has helped form or shape your creative identity. How so?
I’d have to start with my mother. She had boundless curiosity about people, about life. When I was very small, even five or six, we’d be out somewhere, standing in line at the bank or in a coffee shop, and she’d point to someone and say, “Tell me about that person. What is his name, where does he live, what does he do for a living? What does his house look like, does he have kids?” We’d sort of “write” that person’s story together. It was the best of all starts for a writer.

What book do you think everyone should be reading right now?
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

What is the worst advice you’ve received as a writer? And what is the best?
The worst: Outline the whole book in scenes on index cards, then just write the scenes.
The best: Write the sentence as well as the story.

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead) and why?
Writers generally give the best of themselves to the page, and the people around them get what’s left—neurosis, egotism, combativeness, introversion. Most writers you don’t really want to have dinner with, you just want to read. But known charmers—Colette, Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell—I’d probably go that way. Alfred North Whitehead was an incredible conversationalist—that would be a real treat.

If you could be one fictional character, who would you be and why?
Mostly, fictional characters have tremendously difficult lives. Mine included. I like to read about Anna Karenina, but wouldn’t want to be her. Maybe Wart in The Sword and the Stone. Or Merlin.

What does the freedom to write mean to you? In what ways has this affected you personally?
It means I can confront the most powerful individuals and organizations in my writing without resorting to code. I don’t wait for a knock on my door, a jail cell, firings based on my opinion, the fear of violence. I’m able to speak on the most public of forums, my only fear being internet trolls and personal harassment.

Tell us one way you feel a person can be a good literary citizen.
A good literary citizen supports independent bookstores, pays for journals and newspapers, and realizes information requires a paycheck to some writer, that the culture of “free” is simply the transfer of money out of the pockets of creative people and into the coffers of enormous corporations. Citizenship requires one speak out when necessary, and to support writers at risk economically or politically.

Brief Bio
Janet Fitch is a novelist and the author of White Oleander, Paint It Black, and most recently, The Revolution of Marina M.  Her first poems in print appeared in the PEN Center USA and The Rattling Wall publication Only Light Can Do That, following the 2017 presidential election.