Monday, December 18, 2023

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

jake w drawing of himself very cute!

Today we are speaking with Jake Goldwasser, a writer, translator, and cartoonist. His work can be found in the Baffler, the New England Review, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa, where he is also pursuing an MFA in literary translation.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?

I was working in tech before I came here. I knew I needed to focus on my creative work full-time in order to be less bad at writing. I applied to Iowa four times before I got in. Originally I came here to study poetry at the Workshop, but then I stayed for a second degree in literary translation. They have both been helpful in their own ways.

2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?

Mostly picture books, mostly by midcentury Jewish writers and illustrators, like Margot Zemach, William Steig, and others. As a poet and cartoonist, I find that the picture book tradition is the richest when it comes to imagining how word and image can work with and off of each other. It's a potent and economical form. I want to write and illustrate my own, but first I need to read hundreds of them.

3. Do you have a daily writing routine?

Yes. I have a cup of coffee in the morning, put some words on the page, then spend an hour or two revising poems from previous days. Once a week I allow myself the luxury of executing this routine in the little diner that's attached to the Northside HyVee. The waitress, Tina, has a great sense of humor, and has been working there since 1998. She will give you pancakes instead of toast at no extra charge. Most days the poems are no good, but the pancakes are always delicious.

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

I have pretty much lost the ability to read for pleasure. It always loops back into the work, sadly, and it's hard to unlearn that habit. I would like to cultivate that ability again, but I guess it's an occupational hazard. Right now I'm mostly reading for class, or translating, which is the deepest kind of reading. The book I'm translating, Situaties by Eva Gerlach, is the only book I've truly read this semester, and I'm only halfway through it.

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

I'm from Westchester, New York. Maybe you know it? It's a place where people on sitcoms sometimes to move to once they've gotten married and the show is winding down. The streets of the neighborhood were in alphabetical order, and we lived on the F street (Ferndale). The house was at the dead center of one of the most prototypical suburbs in the New York Metropolitan Area. My parents used to say that our house was the single most trick-or-treated domicile in America. They might have been right. Every year on Halloween, the Japanese maple in the yard turned bright orange. We all miss that tree.







Thank you for talking with us today, Jake!