Rachel B. Glaser is a poet, short story author, novelist, screenwriter, professor, and, perhaps, one day a playwright. Hashtag iswriting. Glaser has released two books of poetry (HAIRDO in 2017 via The Song Cave and Moods in 2013 via Factory Hollow Press). In between her poetry collections, she released the novel Paulina & Fran (2015, Harper Perennial), and prior to her poetry collections, she released the book of stories, Pee on Water (2010, Publishing Genius). Glaser’s poems are what first grabbed my attention. Surrealist, conversational, electric, and with a voice unlike any other. From there, I began to read Glaser’s stories, which contain a similar and notable energy yet thrown deeper into off-kilter and often sideways worlds. With 94 different projects in the works (give or take), I spoke with the prolific writer about favorite geographical locations, poetry writing clubs, gathering inspiration from other mediums, and much more.
Let's begin with an icebreaker. If you could blink and be in a new location at this instant, where would it be? Your answer can be as large as a city or as small as a closet.
There’s this great pier in Key West and at the end are those telescope-type things. Last time I was there with my husband and sister-in-law, we looked through and saw an older man swimming naked! We knew he was naked because every ten strokes we could see his butt rise out of the water like a dolphin. We also thought he had one arm, but then saw his other arm was holding his swimsuit. I’d like to be in Key West right now, on the chill, eastern side, right as the sky is getting colorful and people are walking around aimlessly for food.
By the time this interview runs, the calendar year will be 1/2 of the way chewed through. Time is perhaps pointless, but how has the first third of the year treated you?
It’s been a good chunk of months. I teach at a low residency MFA program that meets twice a year in a hotel in the mountains of New Hampshire. The June residency was definitely a highlight. I finally finished a copy of a Miyoko Ito painting that was supposed to be a birthday present for my husband (last year). My first story collection Pee On Water just came out in Italy, which is exciting, even though they translated the title to I Piss On The Water.
Your pieces are, at times, absurd, hilarious, sincere, touching, and (a word I rarely use when describing poetry) badass. Would you classify your poems as uplifting/encouraging for the reader?
Yes! (And thanks!) I think MOODS is slightly more aloof, but also more playful? I think HAIRDO reads (in parts) like a late-night chat at a sleepover, Taxicab Confessions, or a moment of bonding between customer and customer service hotline worker. I think there is a friendliness to whatever is being discussed, even when it gets a bit dark. It’s like a Pixar movie in that way.
Your two collections of poetry often dip into the surreal while still maintaining an autobiographical nature. Has surrealism always been a component of your work?
I think it has—yes. Early influences were Dalí and Vonnegut. But I find my latest works in progress have less surrealism.
I also think poetry in itself is pretty surreal, even when it’s being realist. The break in the lines, the shock of what comes next…
What came first for you, poetry or prose?
I’ve sort of always done both. There was one poem in particular, inspired by Pearl Jam and written at sleep-away camp, that got me more invested. In high school and college it alternated, depending on which class I had which semester. The skills and experiences in one have definitely helped the other. These days I do both regularly, but poetry feels like more of a side gig. I work on it less and stress less about it. It's more pure (and more simple).
Your release history is as follows: collection of short stories, poetry, novel, poetry. Are you perpetually working on all types of writing at the same time, or do you spend stretches really honing in on one or the other?
For years I’ve been in a group that emails each other new poetry drafts every Monday. So I’m always working slowly and steadily on poetry. The fiction (and occasionally screenplays) are a lot more concentrated. There's a Paulina & Fran screenplay that I'll work very intently on for a month and then set it aside and forget about it. There's a novel I've been taking notes on for years, and I have about 6 chapters written, but my progress is very sporadic.
Your husband is also a poet/writer. Do you two workshop / critique each other's work or is it a rather independent process?
Yes! I am married to the poet/writer/artist John Maradik. We are each other's first readers, and give big and small edits on all writing. John and I met in a fiction class, so editing each other's work been part of our relationship from before we had a relationship. Recently, he's been putting together his first book of poems and witnessing that process has been very satisfying.
You released books in 2013, 2015, 2017. Given that timeline, can we expect your next collection right around the corner? Perhaps a better question is: what are you currently working on?
For the last two years I’ve been writing a collaborative YA novel about a Swiss Boarding school, and when I’m not working on that, I'm working on my solo novel, which is called 33. Hopefully the YA novel will be published in 2021, and I'm hoping 33 will get published in 2022 or 2023. I’m also very slowly working on my third collection of poems—RUINS.
Outside of your own work, who/what have you been reading recently?
I recently read every play Annie Baker has ever published and it was the best reading experience I'd had in years. You must check out her work! Start with The Vermont Plays or John. I've also been loving Radmilla Lazić's poetry collection A Wake For The Living, Patrick DeWitt’s novel French Exit, Mark Leidner’s story collection Under the Sea, and James Tate’s new book of poetry The Government Lake (which just came out on July 2nd)!
If you can, provide a photo of your workspace (or describe with words). What are some essentials (music, tea, midnight wine, cigarette, etc.) while you create?
I like to write in total or near silence, with a glass of water nearby, and sometimes the music of Mozart and Saint-Saëns.
For this ongoing author interview series, I'm asking for everyone to present a writing prompt. It can be as abstract or as concrete as you choose.
Chat with cleverbot.com for 20 minutes and use some of its lines and some of your lines in a one page poem / story / play.
In closing, do you have any advice for writers trying to grow in their craft and/or get published? Or rather, what's something you would have like to have known when you first started taking your writing seriously?
Keep a small notebook to write ideas in, to write about writing in, and to just have on hand when you feel inclined to get some words down. Print out your work and edit by hand. Be a kind reader to yourself! Underline parts you like and write down positive thoughts in the margins. I find it's important to record when you are feeling good about a piece, because in the editing that follows, that feeling wears thin. Try every medium, even ones unrelated to writing. Completing any artistic project (no matter how small) has the potential to take your work in a new direction. Read everyday!