Monday, June 26, 2023

TBR: A Brief Natural History of Women by Sarah Freligh

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?


A Brief Natural History of Women balances anthropology and imagination in its exploration of women through their lovers, friends, family, grief, work, and everything in between. A post-Roe book that recalls the bad old days pre-Roe.


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


I really, really loved writing “A Brief Natural History of the Girls in the Office,” a story that I’d fooled around with for a long time before I hit on food and the collective “we” as a way to condense the lives of these women into a few paragraphs while still paying homage to their fierce sense of community.


“A Brief Natural History of the Automobile,” hands down, gave me fits. I started writing it in 1998, on a gigantic PC, and finished it in 2021 on my Mac Air. That’s how long it took for it to present itself to me.



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


It was mostly highs, honestly. I submitted it a few contests where it was a finalist or a runner-up. I sent it to Allison Blevins at Harbor Editions at her request and she accepted it a few days later. I was thrilled --- I loved working with Harbor on my chapbook, We, published in January 2021.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


“Don’t get into too many habits,” advice courtesy of a Famous Writer during a keynote address at a long-ago writers’ conference. Many participants were shocked because this is the exact opposite of what we’re told to do. But think about it: Rigidity, inflexibility are often the very things that keep us from writing. A good fifteen minutes daily is better than a bad three-hour, once-a-week binge.


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


That it became my safe place during the pandemic.



How did you find the title of your book?


I felt like I was writing all these weird little pieces that had little or no thematic unity and then I wrote “A Brief Natural History of the Girls in the Office,” and I understood the about-ness of the book and knew what my title needed to be.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?


I do not recommend “Melinda’s tuna noodle casserole crusted with Saltines” that she inflicted on the girls in the office. Blech.








READ A STORY FROM THIS BOOK, “A Brief Natural History of the Girls in the Office”:





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