Pigeon Pages Interview with Laura Sims
Do you have a bird story or favorite feathered friend?
I’ve been getting more and more interested in birds lately…My husband says it’s very middle-aged of me, but I don’t care. I especially love little birds, the ones with “tit” and “finch” in their names, and I can’t resist a tiny owl—who can?—like the pygmy owls of the Southwest. They are cute, mysterious, cold, and alluring!
What is your most memorable reading experience?
Reading Sophie’s Choice by a river in rural Japan in the autumn of 1995. I had just graduated from college and moved to Japan with the JET Program, to be an assistant English teacher in middle schools. They’d placed me in a small town about four hours outside of Tokyo and the job was…less than demanding, so in my downtime I decided to read a lot of “big books” I hadn’t read in college. I remember that moment of being by the river, eating nashi (a Japanese apple-pear), and reading that gorgeous, devastating novel while realizing I was truly alone, doing exactly what I wanted to do: I was a grown-up. Or an idealized version of one, with little work and few responsibilities. I read so deeply during those first months in Japan. Despite my generally terrible memory, the books I read then have stayed imprinted on my mind: Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Mill on the Floss, The Makioka Sisters, Anna Karenina, Invisible Man, and Sophie’s Choice, of course. That pink house! I fell deeply in love with Brooklyn—the fantasy version of Brooklyn, anyway—while reading that book.
What makes you most excited about Looker?
That it’s been a polarizing book for readers. I didn’t intend for it to be, and I don’t enjoy reading venomous online reviews about a certain plot point, or the ending, or how it isn’t a thriller, etc., but I’m glad it’s produced strong reactions in both directions.
To tweet or not to tweet?
Ugh. Social media. I love/hate it, as I’m sure most of us do. Twitter is my least favorite of the three—I just don’t have the knack for it. I use it as a storage area for book-related tweets, and that’s about it. I prefer Instagram, since it’s image-based and feels somehow less polluted and more “fun” than the other two. I’ve loved connecting with readers on Instagram—and am indebted to many in the #bookstagram community for spreading the word about my book.
What books do you have in your bag right now?
I *would* have Ben Dolnick’s The Ghost Notebooks because I’m about five pages away from finishing it—so frustrating!! But I’m on a quick trip so I didn’t want to bring it because then I’d have to pack it and another book, and there is limited space in my bag…so I’ll have to finish it when I get home tomorrow. It’s so good—such an engrossing, unconventional ghost/love story. I’m feeling my way toward writing a “haunted house” novel, so I’ve been reading what’s out there in contemporary fiction in that vein. Highly recommend You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann as well. Which brings me, at last, to what’s in my bag: Fair Play by Tove Jansson and Self-Portrait in Green by Marie Ndiaye. Two slim books, good for those of us who still travel with actual book-objects instead of Kindles.
Can you tell us your favorite rejection story?
I’m racking my brains to think of one that’s funny or clever in some way… but I’m coming up blank. Like most writers, I’ve endured a lot of rejection, mountains of it. I started sending my poems out to literary journals long before I should have, like as a freshman or sophomore in college, and I kept a very organized binder with printouts of all the journal addresses, a spreadsheet that served as a submissions record, and a folder at the back for the rejection slips I received. When I’d collected enough, I would make them into collages (which I would then hole-punch for the binder); that somehow took the sting out of them.
What literary journals do you love?
I love FENCE, BOMB, and POETRY. I only read journals with one-word titles.
What shakes your tail feathers?
Right now what’s shaking my tail feathers is being on a train for three hours by myself and sleeping in a hotel room later tonight by myself (after a reading). This is a mom-version of a “writer’s retreat” or a “spa day.” It’s kind of sad, but glorious.
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
Welcome rejection, or at least learn to live with it, because it is never-ending in the writer’s life. That sounds depressing, I know, but really if you can accept that rejection is simply part of the writing life, you can dilute the power it has over you. You don’t have to love getting rejected, but you can at least learn to digest it as quickly as possible and—this is the most important thing—move forward.
What other eggs do you have in your basket right now?
I have two main eggs in my basket right now: my second novel-in-progress and my Master of Library & Info Science degree-in-progress. It’s taken me a ridiculously long time to finish this degree, but my priority is the novel. That’s my other piece of advice for young writers: prioritize the writing (as much as you can).
Laura Sims is the author of Looker, a debut novel. She has published four books of poetry, most recently Staying Alive, and is the editor of Fare Forward: Letters from David Markson. She lives outside of New York City with her family.