Saturday, September 25

Every Day at 4:40 AM: Mary-Kim Arnold and Matthew Derby on Writing and Marriage by Mandy Syers

This interview isnt about your books. Its more of a lifestyle piece about being authors who are wed– a little bit like the The Newlywed Game. So to start, could each of you explain the other ones writing habits?

Mary-Kim is the author of The Fish & & The Dove, a poetry collection, and Litany for the Long Moment, a book-length speculative narrative about the failed look for her Korean birth mother. Her writing has also appeared in Hyperallergic, Conjunctions, The Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Rumpus. She teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University and in The Newport MFA, a low-residency graduate program at Salve Regina University.

Is it difficult to stop at 7:00? Since I believe I d be tempted to keep composing and skip the workout.

This post was originally published on Dead Darlings, a blog site about novel writing run by alumni of GrubStreets Novel Incubator program.

Mary-Kim Arnold and Matthew Derby are married writers who reside in Pawtucket, RI.

Matt: Were probably making it seem like were zealots who wish to embrace deep space, however were in fact much more pessimistic.

Matt: When I have a deadline or when Im dealing with something that Im enthusiastic about, 7:00 oclock comes about twelve minutes too quickly, and I need to rip myself away. Having this rigid schedule is the only thing thats ever truly worked for us both in terms of our creativity and our ability to be in a household together, raising kids. In some cases that suggests having to stop in the middle of a thought, however I believe it would feel worse to sacrifice the early morning walk, since then we would feel out of sync.

Do you speak about composing on your early morning walk?.

Mary-Kim: The walk is only a half hour, but its happened one of the things that I value a lot of.

Mary-Kim: Writing and walking is the only thing were like that about. Whatever else we hate.

For me, that is a truly crucial part of the process, to be able to voice things that Im believing about. We talk about different techniques that weve come up with to handle certain problems in the writing, or something weve checked out that feels useful.

I go down, I get 2 cups of coffee, and I hand one blearily to Mary-Kim. She goes to her desk and I go to mine. We compose till 7:00 and then we take a walk.

Matt: Having to state a thing aloud can sometimes break the spell of a bad thought pattern. Just the other day I was attempting to write something from numerous point of views and I was banging my head against the wall on whose point of view was being revealed when. And Mary-Kim stated, “Is there a way to just show it from one persons viewpoint?” As quickly as she stated that, the cloud disappeared and I saw a course forward. It was such a simple option, but I was so deep in my own head that I couldnt see it.

Mary-Kim: Not for me, since I seldom can put in that much time simultaneously. I need to take a lot of breaks. Matt is more diligent.

Matt co-wrote the serialized fiction podcast Sandra for Gimlet Media and is the author of Phreaks, an Audible Original, and Super Flat Times, a narrative collection. He likewise co-wrote The Silent History, the very first major exploratory, interactive novel developed particularly for the iPad and iPhone. He is a designer at Harmonix, a computer game studio in Cambridge, MA.

Weekends too?

Mary-Kim: Were very committed to our morning walk. We have nearly a spiritual devotion to it.

Matt: Yeah, 365 days a year. Even on Christmas. Cause at this age, weve basically stopped sleeping. Prior to we started this practice, we d wake up at 4:30 and ponder about the past and the future for three hours anyhow. So by doing this were short-circuiting that loop of misery.

How did you meet, and how long have you been wed?

Matt: It was the very first day of workshop, and Mary-Kim showed up simply a minute late. She had actually been moving, and she was wearing red sweatpants.

Mary-Kim: This fall, we will have been wed twenty years, and we were together for 2 years prior to that. We were in the very same writing workshop at the Brown MFA program.

Mary-Kim: I wasnt wearing red sweatpants. Who has red sweatpants?

Matt: And weve been arguing about that for twenty years. Besides the red sweatpants, what I keep in mind was a story she turned in. It was informed in pieces, and it was really gorgeous and very impressionistic. That narrative approach was something that was brand-new to me at the time, and it truly stood out to me.

Mary-Kim: Oh, I never heard this story!

Matt: I verify. Im embarrassed that I used it, however it was a very 90s look.

And for Matt, it would have to be a big fish or a bird, because he wouldnt desire to snuggle it. He would rather keep his range however be able to admire it.

Who would win a spelling bee between the two of you?.

Mary-Kim: Oh, me. Definitely.

Matt: No, no. But you can just fall for so lots of individuals in a workshop. Of course, I never approached her or stated anything to her for many months, and my memory is fuzzy, but in some way I went from a creepy admirer to us talking on the phone.

Mary-Kim: Not that hes trashing any of the other students writing.

Matt: Thats right. I would have a very harmful fish in a 700-gallon tank that was one wall of my composing studio. Since I was a child, Ive been attracted to hazardous fish. When I remained in 8th grade my mommy consented to purchase me this moray eel for my birthday. And as the clerk was turning over the bag with the eel wriggling in it, he informed me everything would probably be fine, which I should not worry due to the fact that it rarely taken place, however that if the eel did bite anyone, they should immediately go to the emergency situation room because the teeth have neurotoxins in them. I had this eel for a week, but I needed to bring it back to the store. I couldnt take the pressure.

What animal would your partner most like to have with them as a pet while theyre writing?.

Matt: I think I just amortize the pain over a longer duration of time.

Matt: Wow. Actually? No pause there? I would have to say that is real, and really, Mary-Kim, I believe you were in spelling bees, werent you?

Matt: Hmm, well I understand the type of animal Mary-Kim would desire: something that could be immobile for long periods of time, and she might keep it on her lap and it would not require anything, but she could selectively cuddle it.

Matt: Um, this is extremely uncomfortable. I do not know. I do know that early on I misused the term “auspicious” and you really rapidly corrected me. So Im going to reluctantly give it to you.

I was on the Garfield phone with my buddy, and I read her part of this piece he d composed and I was like, “Oh my God, this is so incredible. It was about a group of individuals who were opposing a nuclear bomb center, and he composed with this stunning, lyrical precision. It set off his eyes, and I believed he was so cute.

Matt, do you deny the turtleneck or validate?.

Matt: She utilized the fragments as a type of indirection that permitted us to see this complicated and emotionally wrought relationship in between 2 individuals– but then to look away at the moment where that drama might develop into melodrama. The pieces included a contemplative silence that was really stunning to me and made the piece attain this power that I had not seen in any of the other stories in our workshop.

Mary-Kim: Matt is much more methodical and constant. I envy the way he is able to think things through more deeply and more thoughtfully, rather than throw up his hands and pound on the laptop in the last 4 minutes before its due.

Matt: Mary-Kim thrives on due dates. She tends to circle around the piece till crunch time and then at the eleventh hour she comes up with this amazing work.

I spelled it with one r and its 2. Still, I believe Im a much better speller. Dont you believe, Matt?

Lets talk about process. Could each of you explain how the other works?

Do either one of you have an animal peeve about your partners composing practices?

Matt: I dont understand if we can go on the record about the sleeping bag debate?

Midway through the pandemic Mary-Kim was telling me that she actually liked being checked out to. That night I chose to read to her, and I read this book about innovation being utilized equitably. Yeah.

Matt: Well, we like our home, however it doesnt do a lot of the things that you would expect a home to do, like keep you warm. From approximately August to June, it is so cold at 4:40 in the morning that I took to getting into a sleeping bag. I write wearing this sleeping bag like a caterpillar, and Mary-Kim constantly made enjoyable of me– till the day that she entered into the sleeping bag.

Have you ever read a book out loud together?.

Mary-Kim: Well, I got into the sleeping bag since Matt in fact had two sleeping bags. He had an upstairs sleeping bag and a downstairs sleeping bag.

Mary-Kim: No.

Matt: She commandeered the sleeping bag, and now when Im downstairs I need to use shredded napkins to keep warm.

Mary-Kim: Yes!

If your spouse could take a time maker to any location and time in the world, where would they go?

Mary-Kim: Matt has always desired to see what it was like in the time of the early mammals.

Mary-Kim: Im not going to the mammals.

Matt: Okay, alright. I understand.

Matt: And she constantly says, “Why would you want to go there? Theres no individuals there.”.

For this concern, why do not you choose someplace you both agree on.

Mary-Kim: How about New York in the seventies?

Matt: Yeah, lets go there.

What would you do there?

While youre there you can go to one reading. Who do you go see?

Matt: And go see Television and Patti Smith and hang out on St. Marks Place.

Matt: Oh, its hard to pick one individual. What about Eileen Myles?

Mary-Kim: Yeah. Eileen Myles. Thats good.

Mary-Kim: Hang out with all the weirdo artists in the Village.

What is one of the very best features of being authors that are married?

Matt is more diligent.

This interview was conducted in April of 2021. The original records has actually been edited.

Matt: A lot of our lives are invested trying to browse an awful, unsure mess that often feels frustrating. For me, what is fantastic is to see Mary-Kim equate all that into art, into this shocking, crystalline image that captures an emotion and a sensation and a specific time– and that feels so artistic and composed. Being the very first person on the planet to see that is thrilling.

Mary-Kim: Ive always, from the start, been a big fan of Matts writing. And theres a lot enjoyment in having the ability to discuss our writing with each other.

Do not you believe, Matt?

And for Matt, it would have to be a huge fish or a bird, since he would not desire to cuddle it. Mary-Kim: Matt is much more methodical and constant. Mary-Kim: Well, I got into the sleeping bag because Matt really had two sleeping bags.

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