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Interview with Faye Rapoport DesPres, author of 'Message from a Blue Jay'

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Faye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the new memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Her essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in Ascent, International Gymnast Magazine, Platte Valley Review, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, TheWhistling Fire, the Writer’s Chronicle, and other journals and magazines. Faye was born in New York City and has lived in England, Israel, and Colorado. She currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, and their cats. Visit her website at www.fayerapoportdespres.com.

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About the book

From an astonishing blue jay to a lone humpback whale, from the back roads of her hometown to the streets of Jerusalem and the Tower of London, debut author Faye Rapoport DesPres examines a modern life marked by a passion for the natural world, unexpected love, and shocking loss, and her search for a place she can finally call home in this beautifully crafted memoir-in-essays.

Three weeks before DesPres’s fortieth birthday, nothing about her life fit the usual mold. She is single, living in a rented house in Boulder, Colorado, fitting dance classes and nature hikes between workdays at a software start-up that soon won’t exist. While contemplating a sky still hazy from summer wildfires, she decides to take stock of her nomadic life and find the real reasons she never “settled down.” The choices she makes from that moment on lead her to retrace her steps-in the States and abroad-as she attempts to understand her life. But instead of going back, she finds herself moving forward to new love, horrible loss, and finally, in a way that she never expected, to a place she can almost call home.

Readers who love the memoirs and personal essays of rising contemporary writers such as Cheryl Strayed, Joy Castro, and Kim Dana Kupperman will appreciate Faye’s observational eye, her passion for the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it, and her search for the surprising truths behind the events of our daily lives.

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Q: What’s inside the mind of a Creative Nonfiction author?

A: Every CNF author is different, but I think most have a desire to find meaning in true stories. In addition to simple reportage, they want to apply literary craft to work that is both creative and true.

Q: Why do you write?

A: I write because it feels as if it’s one of my purposes for being here. In addition to helping people and animals in any small way I can, writing fulfils me. It’s hard work, but you reap the reward of a job well done if you stick with it and do your best.

Q: How picky are you with language?

A: Very. My work goes through many drafts, and by the final draft I am looking at every word to try to determine if it’s there for a reason, if it’s the best word for that point in the sentence, and if it is doing what I need it to do. Even after publication, I often notice small things I would have liked to change or improve – but I think many writers feel that way.

Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

A: No…I feel as if I’m being manipulated from within.

Q: What is your worst time as a writer?

A: The toughest times include when I’m stuck with a piece and can’t seem to find a way to improve it or move it forward, which usually means I should put it away for a while. It’s amazing how a short (or long) time away can help you return to a piece with new eyes and new ideas. It’s also tough to face rejection from editors, of course, both at literary journals and at publishing houses. But that’s part of the game; you deal with it and find any way you can to get stronger and better because of it.

Q: Your best?

A: The best moments are when I suddenly happen on just the right word, sentence, or ending for a piece – especially endings. I literally get a shiver down my spine when I finally think it’s right. That’s worth all of the hard work to get there.

Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

A: I can’t think of anything.

Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

A: The day my book was accepted for publication was a wonderful day. It ended up receiving three acceptances, and each one was special and rewarding.

Q: Is writing an obsession to you?

A: I don’t think I’m obsessed in the way some writers are. I don’t have to write every single day or go crazy. It bothers me when I don’t write, and I feel better when I do. I do think about writing a lot, and about getting better at it. But I don’t think I’m obsessed.

Q: Are the essays you create connected with you in some way?

A: Yes, they are all personal essays that are connected with my life and experiences in some way.

Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

A: There is some truth to that. Reality is hard. For many people, the world is a tough place and life, in general, isn’t easy. It has highs and lows, and can include very difficult experiences to overcome. Writing helps you work that out, deal with it, find meaning, explore joyous things as well as difficult things. Writing fiction, which I do also occasionally, can also help you transform reality into something you feel you can control in some way. In the end, you can’t control life, but you can become a good writer.

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