Q & A with Our Journal Contributor Caitlyn Paley

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

My writing is matter-of-fact, bordering on blunt. The majority of my work builds to the final line, which carries the bulk of the emotional weight. This piece has a gentler ending, but most of the time I want people to feel like they just got punched in the throat. (And I do mean that in the friendliest way possible.)

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I read a lot of poetry. My favorite poets include Denise Duhamel, Rae Armantrout, Fanny Howe, Susan Howe, Claudia Emerson, Anne Carson, Tomas Transtromer, and W.S. Merwin. I also really like the short stories of Etgar Keret, and the book of short stories I recommend to friends is Tongue Party by Sarah Rose Etter.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I think I would design board games. I had a decent amount of luck devising entertaining games for friends when I was my younger, more fun self. The most memorable was called Pill Pyramid, which was not nearly as edgy as it sounds but rather involved trying to score points by hitting a pyramid constructed from samples of Claritin my generous general practitioner gave me.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

My sister moved to Austin the summer I lived in a trailer with my best friend. While I know just about everything about my sister now, I know next to nothing about her experiences in Austin or the surrounding years, and she knows just as much about my life during that time. I was in college, so I orient myself by what happened each vacation. The previous summer, I lived in an on-campus apartment with a coworker who was seemingly normal in all respects except that she Googled animal penises in her spare time. The summer before that I drove cross-country with the same best friend who would later share my affinity for double-wides. I've never asked about my sister's college summers. When I think of Austin, I think about how family members can be strangers for a brief period, how best friends can be like family, and how strange bird penises look.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

What's the most unusual thing that's happened to you in Korea recently?

A grandmother sitting next to me on a bus insisted on giving me a still-warm sweet potato. I think she had a bag full of cooked sweet potatoes for her family, and I must have looked like I could use one. I kind of want to be her when I get old. Sweet potatoes are remarkably portable and retain enough heat to be fairly creepy when you give one to a stranger on a bus.