Oyster River Pages: Who are the writers who have made you who you are?
Derek Lazarski: So many, but the ones I also go back to are Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler. One teaches me about imagination and the other about prose.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
DL: One good answer is power and the power dynamics that shape every interaction, whether on a large, anthropological scale or in a quiet scene with two sleepy characters. But the thing that most concerns me is empathy. You want to be a better writer and/or person? Work on your empathy and really try to imagine and understand what other peoples' experiences of the world are like. Empathy is arguably the most important thing that our culture talks the least about.
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
DL: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word? Why?
DL: Nowadays. I used to read that word all the time in my students' papers and think, where did this come from? Why are you writing like a salesman from the fifties? Say "currently" or "presently" or just "today." Nowadays doesn't even sound like a real word.
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created? (line, image, story, etc.)
DL: So hard to pick, so I'll say a six-line poem I wrote about a disposable razor I found in the hallway outside my hotel room. I saw it, went back in, sat down, and wrote the poem. It's so fun when they just come to you.
ORP: What do you want to read more of in the world?
DL: There's so much good stuff to read already. It's never-ending. A little overwhelming, actually. The human library just keeps growing. I just try to be good at finding stuff that will click with me. Ideally, something that is fun and exciting while also emotionally and ethically challenging. I think the best stuff does that, though that formula can take on many flavors.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
DL: Just write stuff that 1) you have fun writing and 2) isn't going to waste people's time. Heed the muse and listen to your readers.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
DL: 21st-century America is a trip, man.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
DL: Experience Points.
Derek Salinas Lazarski has had his work featured in Curbside Splendor, Portage Magazine, Pop Matters, and the Second Hand Stories Podcast. A portfolio of his work can be found on his website, www.dereklazarski.com. When not writing, he works as an administrator in higher education. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two cats, the latter of which helped him write this bio. Read his story "Under the Weight" from Issue 1.