By Kate Gavino

Did you have an early experience in your writing that was affirming, that made you think, "Maybe I can do this."

When I was younger I was good enough to get taps on the head from the teacher. Oh, you’re so creative. That kind of stuff. And I believed it. Then in my teenage years, I discovered short stories: modern stories, stories in The New Yorker, things like that. I was sixteen and writing stories about divorced men in their fifties. I had no idea what I was talking about. I was trying to mimic some melancholy feeling that I had picked up. I was good for a kid. Then I went through a period where I realized that I was just full of shit, and I was just relying on a couple of tics that I had picked up somewhere.

When it really came to it, I didn’t know anything. I kind of stripped myself down and tried a lot of different approaches. I was really bad for a long time. Everything was too mannered or too loose. I was all over the place. I remember writing the story called “Old Soul,” from my first collection. I started writing, and I just had that feeling: Oh, this is writing. This is what it feels like. It was this kind of wonderful sense that everything was, as I wrote, just falling into place in front of me. Of course I never got that feeling back again. Or I had to work for it. But that to me was a breakthrough because I was feeling like this was me, this was how I write sentences. Whether it was that good or not, it just felt like this was how I did it. That to me was a pretty serious moment. For better or for worse, this was me.