Naomi Benaron

How did you become a writer?

I have written all my life, but I did not become brave enough to commit until rather late in life. I was a geophysicist, but after taking care of my father through the last year of his life, I did not have the will to go back to it. I had met a wonderful poet who was a hospice volunteer, and she encouraged me to write. I thank her every day of my life.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

My original mentor at Pima Community College, Meg Files, set me on this path and taught me to test and push boundaries.

Books/authors I can think of (this week) include:

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chris Abani

Michael Ondaatje

Shahrnush Parsipur

Natasha Tretheway

When and where do you write?

Ideally, I like to write in my office first thing in the morning - like 4:00 AM, but I will write in any snitch of time I can grab. Right now, I am at a residency at MacDowell Colony, which is awesome. A writing studio and uninterrupted writing time. Lunch delivered to my door in a basket. Have I died and gone to heaven?

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel about three generations of Holocaust survivors: a direct survivor, her daughter, and granddaughter. It's about art and resistance. It's also about hip hop.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

That's a term I refuse to use.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Write from your heart. Keep writing. Never give up.

Naomi Benaron’s novel Running the Rift (Algonquin Books, 2012) was selected by Barbara Kingsolver as the winner of the 2010 Bellwether Prize, an award for a novel that addresses issues of social justice. Her other prizes include the Sharat Chandra Prize for Fiction for her short story collection Lover Letters from a Fat Man, the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in journals including New Letters, Poets’ Quarterly, Calyx, The MacGuffin, Spillway, and Green Mountains Review. She teaches writing through UCLA Extension and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, a project to mentor Afghan women writers living in Afghanistan and abroad.