Title: How Did You Get This Number?
Author: Sloane Crosley
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (June 15, 2010)
Category: personal essays
Review source: publisher
How Did You Get This Number? is an often laugh-out-loud, witty and observant collection of essays.
Amy Steele [AS]: How did you start writing personal essays?
Sloane Crosley [SC]: I fell backwards into it, writing on occasion for The Village Voice when they’d let me. Then I started writing for other venues and then, really, for myself. That’s when I truly got comfortable enough to write what I wanted to write.
AS: What do you like best about this writing format?
SC: It forces you to find the artistic frame around every experience, no matter how common or how extraordinary.
AS: When did you decide to be writer?
SC: Have I? I think I just have the best relationship with the medium. I love it, I’m frustrated with it, I can express what I want to express best through it. But if I had to choose, I think I’d be a rock star with stellar stage banter.
AS: I would like to do this kind of writing but have no idea where to begin. How do you write/ what kind of schedule do you have?
SC: I don’t have a very rigid schedule. I think the beauty of writing essays is that there’s generally an end in sight. In How Did You Get This Number, the essays are longer and darker – and hopefully often funnier – than they were in I Was Told There’d Be Cake. So unless you have a book deadline for a whole string of them, you can always start one when you have time, get half way through, realize it’s not turning out how you’d like and toss it. That’s not a great feeling but it’s also not the same thing as scratching 200 pages of a novel.
AS: How many drafts do you write before the final version?
SC: It varies per essay but between two and five.
AS: When you write, how conscious are you about the amount of humor and amount of seriousness in each piece? In “Light Pollution,” you are able to point out some of the ridiculous aspects of Alaska while simultaneously having deference to its majestic nature.
SC: I think I write like my grandmother used to cook. When you’d ask her how much sugar or salt should be added to a dish, she’d often say “you know when your heart tells you.” That said, if she really took a wrong turn, she’d consult a recipe book. So I like to do whatever comes naturally, adding humor or pathos when it feels right. But if the rhythm is off when I edit or if it’s just not working, I will insert or remove jokes.
AS: In “If you Sprinkle,” you talk about silly pre-teen games like Girl Talk and then also the unrealistic influences for one’s early twenties. How does the media affect one’s expectations?
SC: Perhaps it’s that expectations and desires for how to be a woman or even just how to be a grownup seep in while we’re not looking. It becomes difficult to pinpoint how we came to want the things we do.
AS: You say you’d never be “asked back” to Paris in the essay “Le Paris!” Why do you feel that you don’t belong there?
SC: I manage to break their rules without even trying. Which is a shame.Because I have a profound affection for their macaroons.
AS: How do you remember things so well?
SC: I think most people have very good memories. It’s how they choose to use them. And it is a muscle that can be worked. Once you know you want to put down an experience in writing, you try to find every entry point back into that experience. If it’s worth writing about, you probably won’t get stumped.
AS: What is your worst New York apartment or roommate situation?
SC: I had a roommate I write about in the essay called “Take A Stab At It.” She borrowed my things without asking to a ridiculous degree and yet labeled her food. Mostly we just were very different people who didn’t get along. But she never sacrificed a chicken in my bedroom or anything like that. So I suppose I’ve had it pretty good.
AS: What is the greatest challenge in traveling alone especially when you went to Portugal?
SC: Creating your own schedule. It can be tough to have a traveling companion with a traveling style and set of priorities that differ from your own. But if you go it alone, you perversely miss that.
AS: How does working in publishing affect your writing and vice-versa?
SC: I am lucky in that I work with writers who are infinitely more talented and famous and usually both —so it can be intimidating. But it’s also very motivating to work with your heroes and get paid to do it.
AS: What do you like best about writing?
SC: You can read it more easily than you can read a block of cheese.
Friday, June 18
8818 Sunset Blvd.
Saturday, June 19
Saturday, June 19
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera, CA
Monday, June 21
1005 W. Burnside
Tuesday, June 22
900 Madison Street
(sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Co)
Wednesday, June 23
Thursday, June 24
Tattered Cover – Colfax Store
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Friday, June 25
279 Harvard Street
Monday, June 28
New York City
50 Prince Street
Monday, July 21
New York City
“Writers on Writing” event with Larry Doyle, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Simon Rich
Thursday, July 22
Philadelphia Free Library