Four Questions on Farsickness is an interview series with creative writers for whom place is essential to their work. Each writer answers the same four questions—and featured this week is award-winning novelist and memoirist Micah Perks.
1. Share a little about where you’re from. When you were growing up, what place—real or imagined—most fascinated you, and why?
I grew up surrounded by “forever wild” state land—we owned three hundred acres in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. A valley with a creek running through it, circled by evergreen trees. And it was a commune, so I was always with other people, but almost never with strangers. The commune smelled of cow manure, unwashed hair. We held pig roasts, ran through the woods in fifty person games—it was wonderful and chaotic. The outside world fascinated me, especially the idealized idea of a kind of middle class Dick and Jane existence. I adored the order and meticulous bliss of doll houses. A neighbor had a playhouse they let me play in sometimes—it was a replica of a suburban home with a formica table, china dishes and linoleum floor. I adored it. I loved British children’s books like Wind In The Willows and the Narnia books, in which animals lived cozy, domestic, ordered little lives.
2. What travel has been a particular inspiration to your work?
It seems every time I go away for a weekend I get a short story out of it. Weekend trips are the perfect time frame for a short story. A few years ago I spent three days in Big Sur with my daughter—it was gorgeous and formidable, and I ended up writing a long personal essay called “Alone In The Woods: Cheryl Strayed, My Daughter and Me,” partly about the trip.
I also love visiting author houses, and it’s a great inspiration for my writing. I recently wrote an essay about visiting Edith Wharton’s house, The Mount.
3. Where do you “escape to” to recharge creativity?
Clear Lake, California. It’s just a few hours north, but the place where we stay has no internet and a breathtaking view of the lake from the deck. Lakes have always made me peaceful.
4. Where would you most like to travel to next?
I’m going to Portugal this summer, and I’m really looking forward to that. A friend told me there’s an amazing tile museum in Lisbon, and I think we’ll be kayaking, too. And I’m also travelling east and will visit the homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford, Connecticut. So, adventures to look forward to!
Micah Perks is the author of a novel, We Are Gathered Here, and a memoir, Pagan Time. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Epoch, Zyzzyva, Tin House, The Toast, OZY, and The Rumpus, amongst many journals and anthologies. Her short memoir, Alone In The Woods: Cheryl Strayed, My Daughter and Me, came out from Shebooks in 2013. She has won an NEA, four Pushcart Prize nominations, and the New Guard Machigonne 2014 Fiction Prize. She received her BA and MFA from Cornell University and now lives with her family in Santa Cruz where she co-directs the creative writing program at UCSC. More info and work at micahperks.com