Isn’t it hard to write about your family knowing they may not share the same perspective?
I got lucky with my family. They all like to tell stories. Ever since I started writing, I’ve called them for their blessings. If the way I’m telling a story isn’t as strong as the moment they remember, they aren’t afraid to tell me the writing stinks.
After all those years of making art, why did you become a writer?
All my life I’ve made art about my family. At shows, I found myself telling the stories rather than talking about the art. The logical next step was to write the stories.
How does your past as a swimmer influence your writing?
As a swimmer I learned that the individual meets during the season didn’t count as much as the last meet of the year, the Nationals. You work your tail off all season, and some performances you’re up, others you’re down. What matters is that you’re consistent with the hard work. I think swimming taught me to keep plowing through, and never give up when I encounter the small setbacks. If I know I’ve put in the time and done the hard work, I have the confidence to do well when it counts.
Why do you write memoir and not fiction? Why not make up the story?
Maybe I’m not that naturally creative. I look at memoir as storytelling with muscle. We glance back at where we’ve been and attempt to answer the tough questions. It can be painful, but in the process we discover a new context for feeling and image. We see patterns in our own lives, repeats from generation to generation, that help us understand who we are, how we got here, and how we’re connected to everyone else on the planet.