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This Q&A is the first in a series spotlighting the artwork and individuals that make up the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency program (many of whom operate out of the Town Pavilion, hence the term “Pavilionaires”). In this short e-mail interview with Danny Volin, one of the program’s writers-in-residence, we discuss books, writing, and which species of ancient megafauna are the most terrifying and adorable.
What forms of writing do you typically work in, and are there any genres you’d like to experiment with that you haven’t so far?
Fiction, primarily. Usually short stories, but I’ve experimented with longer-ish stuff too. I tried my hand at playwriting in college and a few times since. Any poems I write I am immediately embarrassed by and will never show anyone.
What kinds of physical alterations have you made to your studio space so far?
When I moved in, my studio walls were a bright, bright red, all the way to the ceiling. And while that’s fine for some – or at least the previous tenant – I found it uncomfortable and claustrophobic. So I painted. (Red is hard to cover up.) Now I have two white walls and two… well, it’s like a bluish-gray. The paint store called the color “Cay.” Two white walls and two Cay-colored walls. I like it much better.
I also used a circular saw to cut a desk in half.
Aside from writing, what other jobs have you had?
I’ve been a baseball field liner, a window washer, a children’s bookstore clerk, a teacher, a terrible pizza cook, a gym towel folder, a dissertation editor, a “No-Child-Left-Behind” tutor, a document scanner, a house painter, a standardized test writer, a lawn mower.
What are you reading right now (or recently) that you’re excited about?
I’m in a book club and for our last month’s meeting we’re all submitting our favorite “scary stories.” You know, for Halloween. So far “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” “The Call of Cthuthlu,” “The Dancing Dwarf,” and “The Lottery” have all shown up in the dropbox. A few more were just uploaded, but I haven’t taken a look at them yet.
I recently finished Mrs. Caliban, by Rachel Ingalls. I would recommend it to anybody, but especially those who have ever felt a special kinship – we could even call it love – for sea monsters who have escaped from cruel government holding pens and lonely housewives who are living lives no less desperate.
Do you have to wait for inspiration to strike to start writing, or are there steps you take to get into what sports psychologists call “the zone” ?
It’s been said by others before me, but I’ll say it too: if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike you’re going to be waiting a long time. There always seems to be dishes to do, laundry to fold, a sports team to bemoan, an attractive member of the opposite sex to entertain. Better, if you would like to actually to be productive, to park yourself in a chair, turn off the internet and type.
Of course, that’s easier advice to give than to take. Most of my process in studio so far has been to arrive, plug in my computer and promptly begin staring out the window. But I do my best to do it every night.
Is it true that Morrissey wrote “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” about your studio space?
Man, he might as well have. I’m about to bring a shotgun in here to deal with this florescent nonsense.
Aside from the domesticated dog, cat and mongoose, what living creature would you choose to save from extinction and why?
Can I bring back an extinct one? Once, in the bowels of an academic library, I stumbled across a children’s book – probably for 4th-6th graders – about ancient marsupials and holy shit. Did you know that maybe 12,000 years ago in Australia there used to be giant kangaroos? The species name is just “giant kangaroo.” The motherfuckers grew like 10-12 feet tall! That’s a giant goddamn kangaroo. And it had a predator! Guess what the predator was? Give up?! It was called a MARSUPIAL LION! I mean, c’mon. That’s awesome.
Also, there used to be these elephants, maybe on Cyprus or Crete or Malta or some Mediterranean island, that were “dwarf” elephants. They were species of elephant, but only maybe four feet tall because, you know, they lived on a tiny island and if they were full-sized elephants they’d eat everything in a generation and die. Anyway, have you seen a baby elephant? Totally cute! But imagine an even tinier baby elephant that grew up and became, I don’t know, like a pony-sized elephant. Who wouldn’t want one?!
But if I have to say a living animal, I’m going to say the narwhal. They’re ocean unicorns, basically. That’s why. The world needs to always have ocean unicorns.
What is your favorite Tetris piece?
You know what? I always preferred the “b-level” Tetris. The option that all the other kids ignored, but started you off with three or four levels of messed up, scattered little blocks to clear. I thought that was fun.
“Pavilionaires” is a recurring q&a series with current (and former) Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residents. To take part, or to nominate someone, email Lucashwetzel at gmail dot com.