Photo courtesy of Emily Wells. This is OPEN BOOK, a monthly column in which we ask debut authors about their reading and writing habits. Last month, we spoke with Amelia Possanza , whose book Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in Archives tracks lesbian romance narratives across history. For this installment, we spoke with Emily Wells about her memoir A Matter of Appearance . The book provides a moving account of the author's struggle with chronic illness and examines hysteria in 19th century France and the physical and psychological demands of ballet. Wells took the time to answer our questionnaire, getting candid about everything from writing in the bathtub to “associative” bookshelf organization. Where do you like to write? In bed. Generating insight is easiest for me in repose. If I'm in the “reading and note-taking” phase of writing, the bath works, too. When do you like to write? As a worker, my life is structured, at every turn, by the conditions of my working life, so the true answer is: whenever I can steal back some of my time. Because I teach, this is usually the weekend or over the summer. Perhaps a more fun answer: after seeing a great outfit. I love to see the way people describe themselves with clothes, or to imagine the consciousness who would put together a particular ensemble. What's the first thing you did after you turned in a draft of your book? I got really high and read some books which had nothing whatsoever to do with my book. Tell us about three to five books you read while writing your own, and why? I started the book as a novel in a fiction MFA, and initially read countless critical texts I thought would inform the work: everything by Hélène Cixous, Freud's Studies in Hysteria , and Felicia McCarren's Dance Pathologies , which is a phenomenal academic text which examines dance's relationship to symptomatology and the history of hysteria. When I came around to writing in the first person and sold the book as a memoir, I wrote a great deal about […]
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