Pigeon Pages Interview with Kaitlyn Greenidge
Kaitlyn Greenidge received her MFA from Hunter College, where she studied with Nathan Englander and Peter Carey, and was Colson Whitehead’s writing assistant as part of the Hertog Research Fellowship. Greenidge was the recipient of the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize. She was a Bread Loaf scholar, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace artist-in-residence, and a Johnson State College visiting emerging writer. Her work has appeared in the Believer, the Feminist Wire, At Length, Fortnight Journal, Green Mountains Review, Afrobeat Journal, the Tottenville Review, and American Short Fiction. Her first novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, was a finalist for the Center for Fiction's first novel prize and a finalist for the 2017 Young Lions Award. Originally from Boston, she now lives in Brooklyn.
Do you have a bird story or favorite feathered friend?
Sadly, I do not! I haven’t had many pets and we had cats growing up.
What is your most memorable reading experience?
There are so many! Libraries are the places where I always first connected with books, so probably experiences surrounding those spaces. There was a library branch in Arlington Heights, when I was growing up—it’s not there anymore, but it had high windows above the children’s book section. Later, in grade school, every half day we would leave school and take the bus to the library in East Arlington, where the children’s books had moved. We’d spend 35 cents for the bus, two dollars for two slices of pizza and a coke at the greek pizzeria around the corner from the library and then the rest of the afternoon was just spent reading—grabbing novels off of shelves, pulling whatever books you liked to look at.
Reading was never restricted in my house—we could read whatever we liked, nothing was ever forbidden or censored. It meant I could follow wherever my interests sent me—really early on, I figured out the books everyone told you you should read to be smart or whatever were not always the most interesting books. I learned to not feel any shame around “guilty pleasure” cultural interactions—if it was interesting to me, I learned to do the deeper work of trying to figure out why.
What makes you most excited about We Love You, Charlie Freeman?
I was excited to figure out a way to talk about the breakdown of language around the subjects of race and power in the United States.
To tweet or not to tweet?
Twitter is a powerful tool that not everyone has to use. You should use it if you’ve found a way to interact with it that feels comfortable and relaxing for you. If it is causing you deep anxiety, as I know it does for many writers, then you should feel free to disregard it. People who are good at it have a very special skill that not everybody has—I don’t think writers should beat themselves up if they don’t take to it. There can be the expectation that you should naturally be good at it as a writer, but it is a completely different medium/mode of writing than writing prose or poetry or even writing emails to a friend. The writers who do it best—Roxane Gay, Ira Madison III, Kashana Cauley—are geniuses of the form. If you really want to master twitter, study their feeds like you would any other written material and figure out what you can take away. But if even the mere suggestion of that feels wrong to you, maybe accept that Twitter is not for you and put your writing-related anxieties elsewhere.
What books do you have in your bag right now? What literary journals do you love?
Moonbath by Yanick Lahens. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: A History of a Lesbian Community by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy. Company of Prophets: African American Psychics, Healers & Visionaries by Joyce Elaine Noll. Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture by Britt Russertt. And a Haitian Kreyol phrasebook.
Can you tell us your favorite rejection story?
When I was at Bread Loaf, Amy Hempel was there as well. There was a reading one night, and after there was a receiving line. I went up to shake her hand and she held out her arms, as if for a hug, so I went in for it. She was actually holding out her arms for the person behind me. I was not the intended recipient of the hug. I worked with her at Bennington many years later, but I still haven’t told her that story.
What literary journals do you love?
Apogee Journal; The Offing; and The Feminist Wire.
What shakes your tail feathers?
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
Keep writing, no matter what.
What other eggs do you have in your basket right now?
Just teaching work.