Alysia Sawchyn is a features editor for The Rumpus and currently lives in the DC area. Her debut essay collection, A Fish Growing Lungs, was published by Burrow Press in June 2020 and has been longlisted for the Believer Book Awards.
1. What writer do you want to be when you grow up?
Carmen Machado. I actually think we’re about the same age? But that’s okay. Her writing, both fiction and nonfiction, is swoony–so so so good. She’s also done some writing for more slick/commercial places on subjects that I love, specifically food and perfume. After her piece in Eater came out in August of last year about her staycation w/ her polycule (and the backyard pool and the dog and the good eats) that was when I became convinced that, “Yes, she is clearly living the ideal life.”
2. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
Right now, it’s a toss-up between a structural-ish work in Diagram called “Control” and a spoof on the classic McSweeney’s piece that I titled “It’s Heirloom Tomato Season, Motherfuckers” that exists only on my desktop.
3. Who do you trust with your drafts and why?
I will exchange shorter drafts with just about anyone, but I haven’t had a big manuscript in a while, and I tend to be more protective of those. With Fish, I was lucky; I was in an MFA program and people were contractually obligated to read my work.
4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Write the book you want to write, not the book that you think will do XY or Z for you.”
5. What’s your go to recommendation to read when somebody says “I’m not sure about this whole nonfiction thing?” Why? What do you hope it shows them? What about it excites you?
I like to think that I am very good at recommending readings tailored to people’s interests, so it’s hard for me to pick one book as an immediate gotcha. However, I am currently in the process of hooking a bunch of college students on Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. I am consistently excited by nonfiction because I think it proclaims very loudly that people matter, that their experiences and thoughts and everything (well, many things) are valuable, worth preserving and sharing. I want my students to believe this about themselves and also to see their lives in relation to others.