Writer, Juggler, Mom: An Interview with Leyna Krow

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When I read a book, I can tell you whether or not I’ll like the writer, especially if it’s short stories. The sense of humor, the timing, the depth of the characters: they all reflect on the writer herself.

I’m not talking about “likeability,” a term that seems to imply characters must be nice. Screw nice. I want “interesting.”

Well, there’s no one more interesting than Leyna Krow. No one. In the whole universe. Read her book, and you’ll know it. Read this interview, and you’ll know it times two.

The basics: Leyna is the author of I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking, a collection of short stories published by Featherproof Books.

The details:

Are you a llama or a lion? Why?
I’m a llama in the streets and a lion in the sheets. No, wait. flip that around so it goes the other way.
 
What was the last book you read? Was it Goodnight Moon? (It was, wasn’t it.)
Yeah, it totally was. We are in the Goodnight Moon time of life, for sure. I kind of love that book though for its weird details. Like, in one page you can clearly see a picture on the bunny’s bedroom wall that depicts a big bunny fishing for a smaller bunny in a river using a carrot. That’s like a little kid having a picture of a human fishing for another human using a sandwich on his wall. Amazing. The last grown-up book I read was Borne by Jeff Vandermeer, which I very much enjoyed for its unrelenting strangeness. Also, coincidentally, it is a good parable for what it’s like to be a parent, even though the “child” character is an amorphous squid-like creature that eats people.
 
If you were in a beauty pageant, what would you do for the talent portion? (And yes, in this scenario, you HAVE to enter the beauty pageant.)
I’m a pretty good juggler actually, so I’d go with that.
 
You were recently on tour, reading from your book of short stories, I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking. What was the best thing about being on a book tour? The worst?
The best thing about being on tour was traveling with the folks I was on tour with – Spokane poets Tim Greenup, Ben Cartwright, and Ellen Welcker. They are hilarious people and I had a really great time with them. The worst part was that a lot of the tour took place in August while a fair amount of Washington and Montana were on fire and I felt like we were kind of living in a smoke cloud for much of our travels. 
 
What’s your favorite story in the collection?
That’s actually a really hard question – I feel like what I enjoy about the book is still evolving, even though it’s been out for over a year now. Currently, the title story is my favorite. It think it’s one of the funniest pieces in the collection and also one of the saddest and so I guess I’m just really into big highs and lows right now.
 
Have you ever published anything that you’re embarrassed about now? 
Absolutely. Before I went to grad school, I worked for about five years as a journalist for a variety of community newspapers. I was really bad at it – both the writing and reporting elements. In my short time in that vocation, I managed to offend breast cancer survivors and Holocaust survivors. One of the papers was a free weekly that got delivered to people’s homes and the vast majority of phone calls we got to the office was were requests that we stop service. I once had a man on a unicycle ask me “shouldn’t you be taking notes while I’m talking?” And I was embarrassed because the answer was, yes, I really should have been. Anyway, please don’t Google me and read my old news articles. They are really not good.
Do you like to read your work in public? (You’re an excellent reader, by the way.)
Thanks! I do like to read my work. Writing can be such a lonesome exercise – it’s rewarding to get to share it publicly and to see and hear people’s reactions.
 
Do you like poetry? Do you have a favorite poem?
I do like poetry! But I’m very lazy about reading poetry – mostly what I is read is what other people put in front of my face. As a result, I firmly believe Spokane, WA is home to the best poets in the world. All my favorite poets are my friends. They’re the people I read & love. The folks I went on book tour with are all amazing and I never got tired of hearing their work. Maya Zeller, Laura Read, and Aileen Keown Vaux are three other Spokane poets I really love. And, also my friends.
 
Do you have any writing rituals? What is your optimum set-up for working on fiction?
I’m not really a ritual sort of person. I kind of just write whenever I can. I guess my optimum set-up is just getting to be home alone for at least an hour.
 
If you could go back in time and tell younger Leyna one thing, one killer piece of advice that would change her life for the better, what would you say?
I’d tell her to work hard and be patient. That’s good advice for current Leyna too I think. All Leynas would do well to work hard and be patient.
 
Are you excited for the new Bill and Ted movie?
Nah. The world doesn’t need that.
Oh yeah, and how do you balance writing and motherhood?
Daycare. I stayed home with the kiddo until she was nine months old and then I went back to work. During those first nine months, I hardly wrote anything. Because full-time parenting of very young children is exhausting (as you know). But now even though I’m working I’m still finding usually at least a few hours a week to write.
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