Wordsmith Interview – Amanda Barusch

Name: Amanda Barusch, but I answer to Mom

Age: Old enough to know better.

Location: Usually found in the Intermountain West

Education: Yes. First year of college, my humanities my professor suggested I vary the length of my sentences. It went downhill from there to the MFA.

The Writer

How long have you been writing?
When I was ten, I won an essay contest sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. That’s when I realized I could write and I haven’t stopped since.

Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a way of life.

Do you write full-time?
Yes. If I’m not writing, I’m either thinking or dreaming about writing.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Knowing when to quit. Really. I can never tell whether the work is done or I’m done; so I’m always circling back. That, and commas.

Tell us about your work in Crack the Spine
My piece, titled “Once,” retells the myth of Apollo and Daphne from her perspective. My version differs from most in one key detail. As I lived with the story, I realized that Daphne would never have asked her father for rescue because he never understood her secret love of soaring. So, in my version she calls to mother.

What inspired “Once?”
The first line came while I was walking along a path in Spain that ran between two rows of plane trees. Their bark was smooth, their branches lifted up just like arms, and I was feeling less human than usual. As I considered the possibilities of metamorphosis I remembered Daphne.

How long did it take you to complete this piece?
Two years. So far.

Tell us about another project you have published or are currently working on.
I’m writing a short story called “Impossible Things” that retells the Nordic myth of the binding of Fenrir from the wolf’s perspective.

What inspired this work?
I stumbled across the story in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and fell in love with its list of impossible things—and the wolf.

Where/When can we find this work?
I’m not sure yet. I hope these reclaimed myths will grow into a chapbook and someone will want to publish it.

The Methods

Where do you write?
Often in bed. Sometimes in
coffee shops. I compose in pencil and/or pen in journals that I make from recycled paper. Then I transcribe to a computer and let the revisions begin.

What time of day or night makes you most productive as a writer?
There’s something about the wee hours of morning that gets my juices flowing.

What are your thoughts on writing at a computer vs. writing longhand?
I love composing longhand—the scritch, the freedom to move, and the smell of paper—I always feel stiff and rushed at a computer though they do make research and revision a zillion times easier.

What is your usual starting point for a piece?
I don’t have a starting point. Words, images, phrases, smells, and ideas come when they will and I capture as many as I can and reel them in.

What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer?
I think the best ideas come in the shower and on long walks. My advice: bathe often, wear shoes with good souls, and keep your writing tools in reach at all times.

The Madness

What is your favorite book?
Today: Ann Carson’s Autobiography of Red.

Who is your favorite author?
Most days: Carole Maso

What is your favorite word?
Perpendicular – it takes off in so many directions!

How many of your characters have you ended up killing off?
Three humans and one Mexican pony. I regret every one.

What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
Wild horses grazing in the shadow of a Wyoming thunderhead

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Mint Chocolate Chip

Cats or Dogs?

Pen or Pencil?

Additional Reading on Amanda


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