Peter Rock

How did you become a writer?

1.  My father read to me. Most notably Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy, but also The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.  (I now read these books to my daughters.)

2. I got attention for making things up and writing in school.

3. My mom gave me Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar for Christmas one year in high school and Brautigan--so simple, rather whimsical, attracting very attractive women--seemed like someone to emulate

4. Kept this idea of being a writer, seeing it as a kind of lifestyle, and followed my education so that I was unqualified to do anything else.

5. Worked on ranches, worked as a security guard in an art museum, read a lot, wrote many bad novels, wrote a lot of letters that were probably better than the novels.  Was delusional.

6. Does one become a writer? I like to think I've gotten better at writing, or at least more comfortable amid confusion, but I think of myself more as a person who likes to write. It's not an identity or a calling, really. It's a decision, an action. There are days when I could be called a writer and days when it wouldn't be right.

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

A few: Yasunari Kawabata, by far my favorite; Laura Ingalls Wilder, close second; Ursula Le Guin; Gertrude Chandler Warner; Elena Ferrante, recently; Alice Munro; Maggie Nelson; Hemingway; Julio Cortazar; Murakami; Octavia Butler; folktales of all sorts. Oh man, I just re-read Island of the Blue Dolphins the other day: pretty much a perfect book.

When and where do you write?

In my basement, usually between 4:30 and 7:00 in the morning; sometimes I get some other morning time. I have small children, though, and teach full-time, and am a housewife. I used to have the privilege of possessing many rules for when and under what conditions I could write, but now I just get after it whenever I can.

What are you working on now?

A long piece of narrative prose that revolves around artifacts of my past life in 1994 and involves open water swimming, the painter Charles Burchfield and his writings, floating in isolation tanks, letters to ex-girlfriends, etc; also a fragmentary novel-in-photographs, SPELLS, that has been a gallery show and hopefuly will be a book. It's a collaboration with five photographers. And secret projects that may or may not surface.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Have fun. Don't listen to the hype or worry about whether anyone will ever read what you're writing. Read a lot and give others your enthusiastic attention.

Peter Rock was born and raised in Salt Lake City. His most recent novel is Klickitat, which concerns mysterious writing, wilderness survival and the relationship between two sisters. He is also the author of the novels The Shelter Cycle, My Abandonment, The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, Carnival Wolves and This Is the Place, and a story collection, The Unsettling. Rock attended Deep Springs College, received a BA in English from Yale University, and held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. He has taught fiction at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Deep Springs College, and in the MFA program at San Francisco State University. His stories and freelance writing have both appeared and been anthologized widely, and his books published in various countries and languages. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, an Alex Award and others, he currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is a Professor in the English Department of Reed College. His novel-within-photographs, Spells, was shown at Blue Sky Gallery in 2015 and continues to travel around Oregon; a book of that project is in the works.