Amber Dermont Visits The Writers' Kitchen
The Writers' Kitchen is thrilled to welcome AMBER DERMONT to the table as our visiting artist this month. Amber's debut novel, THE STARBOARD SEA has garnered rave reviews since its February release and appeared most recently on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Join us below for the WK exclusive interview!
WK: When your hear the word "DISCIPLINE" as it applies to your writing process, what comes to mind?
DERMONT: If discipline suggests order, focused attention and self-mastery, I may be the least disciplined person I know.
My winter coat rarely makes its way back onto a hanger, my living room is landmined with abandoned ankle boots and my office could be auctioned off on Storage Wars.
I once managed to kill two eternity cacti.
But beyond being messy and a bad gardener, my singular discipline is my ability to make things hard on myself. When given a direct order from a superior, I am inclined not to execute the directive or do the exact opposite of what I’ve been told, but rather to do something no one has asked me to do. My mother once insisted I clean my room—I wrote a poem about King Tutankhamen. The night before my undergraduate thesis was due, I made a seven-course dinner for one. A colleague once requested a list of short story recommendations—I wrote a short story about her.
I know how to make things hard on myself and this helps me understand how to make things hard on my characters.
DERMONT'S WRITING CHALLENGE: Write the beginning of a story from the point of view of a first person narrator who refuses to do what he/she is told to do. What will your character do instead? What lengths will your character go to in order to avoid completing a direct order? Why/How does your character make things hard on his/herself?
Begin with one of the following phrases:
I was supposed to. . . .
My father insisted I . . . .
Don’t tell me what to do. . . .
Everyone always wants something from me. . . . .
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AMBER DERMONT received her MFA from The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies including Dave Eggers' Best American Non-Required Reading 2005, Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story and Jane Smiley's Best New American Voices 2006. A graduate of Vassar College, she received her Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston. She currently serves as an associate professor of English and creative writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.