Oyster River Pages: Who are the writers who have made you who you are?
Grace Lanoue: At eighteen, I read “The Nose” by Gogol and writing completely changed for me. That story bled into: Kafka, Chekhov, Judy Budnitz, Etgar Keret, Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Steven Millhauser, Joy Williams, Sam Lipstye, Lucia Berlin, Denis Johnson… I haven’t really come up for air since.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
GL: 99-cent, plastic, drugstore glasses with the horizontal lines through the lens—preferably purple. But mostly by the people in my life, it’s incredible how much relationships shape us.
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
GL: Over Christmas I volunteered to read to a friend’s nephew to distract him from investigating gifts. After ten minutes, it was clear that I was enjoying the experience more than the child. These books shaped me: Rainbow Fish, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Corduroy. Worlds where magic happens and everything rhymes; it was brilliant. It reminded me that writing should be playful.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word?
GL: Fluff. As a child, it was the sandwich ingredient my parents never bought despite constant begging. As an adult, it become a common word used by English teaches to describe how writing sucked without giving useful corrections. Also, “zeitgeist”—for very different reasons.
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created?
GL: On a literary level: I’ve written a collection of stories that fixate on the idea of “home”; Home is a term, feeling, and characteristic that causes fascination and struggle for me. On a personal level: I built a wooden plate couch that is unsafe and possibly toxic, but I’m very proud of it.
ORP: What do you want to read/see more of in the world?
GL: Anthologies are epic; I’d like to see more. I enjoy reading multiple short fiction pieces by numerous authors all obsessing over one topic.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
GL: I try in the little ways: offer my time, buy a stranger’s coffee, listen to people, be encouraging, pick up litter, etc… but I often fail daily. In the literary community, I tutor and teach writing in hope that I can fuel excitement among young writers. Honestly, I could do more.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
GL: It’s a tie between Florida and Massachusetts—both are places I consider “home,” yet I’ve never felt I belong in either state. Florida is lonely, lawless and lazy. Massachusetts is cold, conservative and crass; I love both states so much it hurts.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
Grace Lanoue holds an MFA from the University of Tampa. Her fiction has been published in BridgeEight and Underpass Review. She is a native Floridian, though her stories are mostly inspired by her childhood years on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. She loves nachos, hates tacos-- this makes life complicated. Similar to her culinary dilemmas, her writing explores complex relationships, discovers meaning in the arbitrary, and works to find truth in the absurd. Read her story "Freeze" from Issue 1.