Smile Politely

Five Good Questions with Amelia Gray

A note from the Editor:

As we dive head-first into Pygmalion Week here at Smile Politely, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with some of the dynamic and talented authors who will be speaking at Pygmalion Lit Fest at the end of the week. In the coming days, you can look forward to our “Five Good Questions” series of interviews, wherein SP’s Arts and Culture writers get their talk on with James Greer, Kyle Minor, Elizabeth Ellen, Lindsay Hunter, and many more.

For more information on the featured speakers, check out the Pyg Lit page and keep coming back for more insights on the brains behind the words.

Today, as the kick-off to the “Five Good Questions” interviews, we are happy to spotlight Amelia Gray. Ms. Gray is the author of three novels, so far: AM/PM, Museum of the Weird, and THREATS. She has also published several stories and essays, and has quite the entertaining Tumblr page, which includes some video clips like the one below.

Smile Politely’s own Laura Adamczyk spoke with Ms. Gray and picked her brain somewhat about her work.

Smile Politely: Last year you had a short piece, “The Swan as a Metaphor for Love,” published in Joyland. Despite the journal being a “hub for short fiction,” this read, to me, almost as a very voice-heavy piece of nonfiction. The information conveyed therein could be factually accurate, but the voice disrupts and destabilizes that feeling. Where do you place this piece with regards to genre? Do genre distinctions matter to you?

Amelia Gray: Ah ha! When I wrote that piece, I was neck-deep in another nonfiction project and was eager to write with authority something that read as true but wasfabricated. I had started this mindless swan-related research in my usual way—what do swans eat, scientific names for things, facts about swan lives—and then I thought it would be a lark if I just made up all the things about swans and wrote with authority, daring someone to call me out on it. Everyone’s listening to a lot of Radiolab lately, know what I mean? I feel a need to combat the personal essay with hard mistruths.  Nothing matters to me but language.

SP: During your live readings, you exhibit a good deal of energy, a quality of performance. Do you have any rules or guidelines for yourself with regards to readings?

Gray: I’m trying to have a good time and I’m curious to see if I can express what I’m feeling in that moment combined with what I was feeling when I wrote the piece. I like to read things that are brand-new because I’m so close to that emotion still, whatever it is. I have to read something from AM/PM next week for some students, and I’m dreading it a little; returning to this thing I wrote five years ago, which I’m a little chagrined by, remembering the time in which I wrote it, and living the time again, going back.

SP: Along those lines, who are your favorite readers? Are there any particular readings where you can recall the author really bringing it?

Gray: I like Lindsay Hunter, Robert Lopez, Scott McClanahan, Matt Hart, Mike Young, Gabe Durham, Ken Baumann, Adam Robinson, Rauan Klassnik. Listening to any of these people reminds me why people do readings.

SP: What’s the last thing you read that blew your mind?

Gray: This by Gary Lutz.

SP: If people could only read one short story/poem/article/chapter/whatever of your work, what would you want them to read and why?

Gray: The novel I’m working on now is best. Chapter 52 of THREATS is good. For a second there I got where I was trying to go.


Amelia Gray will be at Pygmalion Lit Fest at Mike ‘N Molly’s on Saturday, September 28th at 3 p.m.

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