Faye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the new memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay. Her essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in Ascent, International Gymnast Magazine, Platte Valley Review, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, TheWhistling Fire, the Writer’s Chronicle, and other journals and magazines. Visit her website at www.fayerapoportdespres.com.
Thanks for this interview, Faye. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I was born in New York City, the daughter of a father who was a Holocaust survivor and a mother whose parents came to the United States before the start of World War II. My parents eventually bought a summer home in rural upstate, New York, and when I was six they moved the family there – so I grew up in a rural, outdoorsy environment surrounded by farms. After I left home at 17 to attend Brandeis University, my life became more nomadic. Over the years I lived in England, Israel, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and I experienced many things along the way. I earned a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts (MFA) in 2010, and Message from a Blue Jay, my first book, chronicles some of my mid-life experiences and travels, with a focus on finding meaning in small and large things and learning from both people and the natural world.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes, I have been a freelance writer and editor for many years. At first I focused on journalism, but I’ve also written everything from marketing and public relations materials, and I’ve edited dissertations and creative manuscripts.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was a restless child who had trouble sitting down and reading. However, I did have favorites – I used to love Young Adult mystery novels, and believe it or not I fell in love with Shakespeare at a pretty early age. In my twenties I began reading the Russian classics, and I was very inspired by them.
Message from a Blue Jay combines what were originally individual personal essays – some of which were published as standalone pieces in literary journals – into a cohesive narrative that covers the decade of my forties. I was inspired by the personal essays and memoirs I read as a student of creative nonfiction in my MFA program. I wanted to do that, and do it well.
Did your book require a lot of research?
I researched facts about the flora and fauna I mention in the book, and some of the places I visited. I also double-checked with some of the people I mention in the book to see if I was remembering an incident the same way he or she did. I wanted to be sure that although the book is creative, it is as accurate and factual as one can be when writing about memories or incidents that involve other people.
Who is your target audience?
I think Message from a Blue Jay would be of interest to anyone who enjoys memoirs, personal essays, and thinking about/examining life. I don’t think its appeal is limited to women, or middle-aged women. At least I hope not. As Michael Steinberg, the founding editor of Fourth Genre, says on the back cover of the book, it is “a story that all readers…will understand and identify with.”
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
I think that will be different for each reader. The reader will certainly learn some things about me and my life, but hopefully will also learn or think about life in general.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
I definitely experience before writing.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the memoir or essay collection to the published book, how long did it take?
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Stick with it – through the easy and the hard, the acceptance and the rejection, through the days where you feel stuck and the days when the words flow. Stick with it.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I am working on new personal essays and some side projects that might or might not come to fruition. Everything is practice, so it’s all good.
Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!