Carol Emshwiller Interviewed by Patrick Weekes (2001)

The first thing that Carol Emshwiller said to us when she began teaching in the final week of the 2000 Clarion West Writers Workshop was, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent." This was the first clue I had to the importance Carol places on precision and refinement. Her award-winning novels and short story collections have been lauded as both experimental and focused, free-flowing but carefully plotted. Her latest novel, Leaping Man Hill, came out in 1999, and is a sequel to Ledoyt, which came out in 1995.

Carol also spends a good deal of her time teaching. Students of the courses she teaches at New York University or the Clarion workshops have been impressed by her keen eye, her self-deprecating wit, and her deep and subtle understanding of human nature -- characteristics that have also come through in her writing. She lives in New York in the winter and California in the summer.

Patrick Weekes: First and foremost, could you tell us about yourself, anything that I didn't mention?

Carol Emshwiller: Whew, that first question seems hard. I know I shouldn't say anything that was already in the SFWA home page. Hmmm. I have three brothers and that has had a big (!) influence on my life. I always thought of myself as one of the boys, though a defective one.

PW: What was it that finally made you start writing? You said that you didn't start until after your first child was born, and you mentioned on the SFWA web page that you'd always hated writing.

CE: It was the science fiction people that Ed got to know when he started illustrating. They talked about writing as though somebody who wasn't particularly talented could actually do it. There were rules and techniques and you didn't have to be a genius and maybe even sell to SF mags. Just tell a story. I liked the SF world that Ed began to be in and I wanted to be in it, too. That's how I started.


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