Monday, March 21, 2022

TBR: JERKS by Sara Lippmann

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


JERKS rides the proverbial clutch between wanting and having. Ambivalent mothers, aging suburbanites, restless teens, survivalist parents, and disaffected wives—desire is a live wire, however frayed, a reminder that life, for all its sputtering stall outs, is still worth living.



Which story did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which story gave you the most trouble, and why?


“Let All the Restless Creatures Go” was probably the most enjoyable and the most challenging: enjoyable because I drafted it during a 4-day DIY writing retreat on the Jersey Shore in a raw, windy spring a bunch of years ago. Quiet and concentration are often hard to come by, but they were my sole companions during that skinny stretch of time. There is little I love more than a beach town in the off season. Granted, I went down there to work on my novel, but I wound up exploring the dunes and the bay, riding around on my sand bike, and writing this Jersey turtle story instead. I like to keep things short, but it kept growing and growing, so the challenge arose in wrangling. And in getting it right. (There was a lot to get wrong.) I think it was around 7K when it appeared in Midnight Breakfast, but with the help of Ashley Miller, my wonderful editor at Mason Jar, I shaved off some of that length for the version included here.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


My agent – who I adore, and for whom I have not made things easy! – had been waiting with infinite patience and grace for my novel which seemed to be taking half of my adult life, and didn’t feel it was prudent to start shopping an intermediary collection, especially as my voice tends to connect better with small presses, so I sent it to MJP because I love their books so much, and was absolutely thrilled when they wrote me with the good news. Ian, Ashley, Heather and Michael are incredible. The whole experience of working with them has surpassed every dream.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Get a copy of This Won’t Take But A Minute Honey by Steve Almond. It’s this tiny craft booklet that fits in your pocket. I love how he talks about – everything! read the book! -- our inner “bullshit detector.” If all of “writing is decision making,” then how do we get better at making those calls without becoming derailed by doubt? It’s a paradox. Trust your gut. Then, be merciless in your challenges. Precision, emotional honesty, all of that, calls upon the strength of that intrinsic sensor. It takes time to sharpen one’s instincts through critical perspective. Maybe it’s the one craft element we’re always working on. Fire it up. Take a good whiff around. Do you smell phony baloney? You know when you know.



My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


That it turned out to be a book! I was procrastinating on my novel by writing stories because my brain thinks in stories. The longer it took me to write the novel the more stories I wrote until I realized that they were in dialogue with one another, and what, I had a collection.

How did you find the title of your book?


The title is the title of one of the stories I wrote during this procrastination period. As soon as I began to think of it as a book title, JERKS became my guiding light.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


Jerky, of course. (Which I’ve never made -- yet.)











READ A STORY, “If You're Lucky, This Could Be You”:





DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.