Claire Zulkey is seriously one of the coolest people on the internet. And the internet is a wide place filled with cool people, so that's a big deal. She's also the author of An Off Year. A graduate of Georgetown and Northwestern, she lives in Chicago and writes incredible stuff over at Zulkey. So much of what she says makes sense to me on a level of real understanding, and I appreciate reading someone who can say what I'm feeling in the words that I often don't have myself. I hope you'll hop over and read her work after this interview!
Who are you?
I’m Claire Zulkey!
Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation?
I can be found at all the usual Facebook and Twitter places but the place where I started—and can still be found—is Zulkey.com. It’s a bloggy combo of personal essay, humor and interview along with the occasional collection of stupid photos.
What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen?
I started it in 2002 as a place to store my freelance clips and to provide little “nuggets” of something new for people to read every day. I’m not quite as consistent at it as I was way back then but it’s still alive and kicking. My topics have shifted over time, too: I wish I did more silly humor but sometimes I just need to vent about stuff.
Why do you write?
It’s the only thing I can do that I like that people pay me to do. Sometimes it comes easily to me. Sometimes it helps me work through my problems.
Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you?
I don’t do a good job of keeping track of specific people. It’s hard to know the difference between inspiration and envy sometimes, too. Just off the top of my head, my writing group, which consists of Molly Backes, Kate Harding, Wendy McClure and Kelly McNees. We get together on a regular basis and actually don’t typically share writing—instead we discuss our lives, both writing-and-not, and share encouragement and sympathy and ideas. We come from many different genres: feminist polemic, first person memoir, YA, historical fiction, whatever the hell it is I do—yet we can always find ways to help each other and not step on each others’ toes or compete. Same thing with the women I read with yearly at the Book Cellar at Witty Women, which includes Wendy, Amy Guth, Jen Lancaster and Stacey Ballis. My friend Jami Attenberg never stops blowing me away for her dedication to craft and the writers’ life and her sheer prolificness. She’s a true artist, to me. And basically anyone in Chicago who manages to be creative and forge a personal life and share their time and manage to be cool people on top of that. I hope they all know who they are.
In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
OK, I want to make use of this all-expenses-paid thing, so it’s got to be someplace far away, so I travel in style. Someplace where someone can show me around. I’m thinking New Zealand or Japan, two places that I’m intrigued by but I’m unlikely to travel to anytime soon on my own buck or time.
What is your favorite place on earth?
In my present, the Caribbean, either Anguilla or Peter Island, where my only responsibilities are to try to keep up with my reading, try to drink slowly, and re-apply my sunscreen. In the past, this resort called the Greenbrier in West Virginia that my dad used to take us to on work conferences. It was a beautiful playground: my conference-friends and I would meet up and run wild during the day, swimming and bowling and riding horses and at night, dressing up and going to fancy dinner with finger bowls and people offering you different types of bread from silver bread baskets. Lots of different wings to explore, with green and pink Dorothy Draper decorating and little delightful spots like writing desks stocked with stationery. I haven’t been there since I was in college. Part of me desperately wants to go back; on the other hand, what if it’s inferior to my memory?
Anything else you'd like us to know?
Sometimes I feel sad that I’m not as full of ideas and baseless drive and desire to prove myself as I used to be, but then I remember I need to be grateful that I’m actually still here, doing stuff, and it’s a long journey.