Monday, August 21, 2017

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews (the "5Q Interviews": five questions for all) with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are talking with Santiago Giralt, a director, playwright and novelist from Argentina.

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

My plan during the residency is to focus on writing a project that has been on my mind for over a decade. Ideas can be fugitive and some of them are very pushy. This is one of these ideas. It’s a family saga that spans three continents, two hundred years, a mixture of characters, voices, styles to tell a big story of love, family and struggle around the world and through decades. I’m very excited to have the time to dig deep in this novel and write it.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

I write a lot and I can write anywhere, anytime if I’m already feeling the story. As I also work as a film producer, a film director, a stage director and, sometimes, an actor my routine varies a lot from long chunks of lonely time to long chunks of intense social life. Social life is not good for writing and concentration as it consumes a lot of vital energy. Nonetheless, I need this time not writing and living to come back to my writing with fresh ideas and new energy. When I’m writing I usually have a routine. I read one or two hours in the morning when I wake up, every day of my life if I can, wether I’m writing a novel or making a movie. First, I’m a reader. So after that moment of reading, that finishes around 10 AM, I’m ready to sit down and write. I can write for as long as six hours with many micro-interruptions to prepare a new infusion or heat some water for mate, an Argentinean infusion that is part of my writing habits. When I’m writing the first draft I try to write around 2000 words per day, a number I took from Stephen King’s book about writing On writing. If that’s a demanding number for a productive writer like Stephen King it has to work for me as well. It needs to be steady and it needs to be fluent. Big pauses in the writing make it all very difficult. 

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

Right now I’m switching between novels from two different writers: Michel Tournier and E.M. Forster. They are very different but they both have a queer voice, in the most ambiguous sense of the word. I discovered Tournier in Madrid last boreal winter. The beautiful Cuesta de Moyano, by the door of the Fallen Angel of the Parque del Buen Retiro, is a passageway filled with books. During a residence I did there, I had to walk my way up and down this slope every day. I discovered this book that is a compilation of three novels by Michel Tournier, his three initial novels. I don’t know why but I felt an immediate connection to the book and bought it knowing nothing more than what it was around the book. And I’m now deeply in love with his writing. Regarding Forster, I sold a bunch of old books in English language in a small English book store in San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires and the price for all this 10 novels that I didn’t like were the price of one big brick with four novels by E.M. Forster, a writer I have not read yet. I really feel attracted as a reader on how writing can express the struggle of human identity and sexuality and the different ways evil forces have taken shape in the course of humankind. Tounier is a brilliantly baroque writer, close to philosophy and his writing is parabolic. Forster talks about repression in a pretty realistic way and allows the world of the subconscious only to announce the anticipation of a coming event, he’s a realist, someone who exposes beautifully psychological human change.

4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

The clues of my work are there, I don’t like to explain it. I like to tell the origin or the need for certain ideas but not the content or the magic in it. As myself, I’m a Gemini, a middle brother of four, I’m number three. I grew up in a small agricultural town in the Argentinean Pampas called Venado Tuerto -literally, One-Eyed Deer. I grew up surrounded by land, crops and cows. Cinema and books where my doors to the world and I studied film in order to get a University degree. But my passion has always been literature. I love reading and I can live many days without watching any audiovisual story but I read almost every single day of my life for at least half an hour to an hour a day and I’m sure that reading, transcendental meditation, yoga and living in nature have saved my life.

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

After I left my hometown I lived in many cities for some time: Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Madrid, Halifax. Now I live an hour north of Buenos Aires in a small city called Escobar, where I have a small house with a big piece of land and green. I don’t see cars driving by or people walking by my door, I’m surrounded by trees. I choose to spend most of the time surrounded by nature.


Thank you so much, Santiago!

Check the IWP website for events that will include Santiago Giralt throughout the residency.