Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
Present Imperfect is a work of nonfiction, forthcoming from Poets Wear Prada in October 2021.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
It is a collection of fourteen interconnected essays on the themes of disability, parenting, family secrets, and true crime.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Lyrical and intimate personal essays.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
This, from the wonderful essayist, Barbara Hurd:
“In this brilliantly moving book, Ona Gritz reminds us that storms—physical and emotional—and their aftermaths can lead to a searing devotion to the truths of who we are…These essays move by delicate suggestion, by the shadows a resonating image casts, by language both tough and musical, precise and evocative. Reading this collection, we feel the exhilaration of what it means to be fully alive.”
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
That’s a hard one. Given my themes and influences, I’d say it’s Heating & Cooling meets Poster Child meets The Lunchbox Chronicles meets After the Eclipse.
- Why this book? Why now?
My background is in poetry, and when I put this collection of essays together, I did so as I would a poetry book, culling through years of material to see how the various pieces intersected and informed one another. I began the project before the pandemic hit, but when I was ready to submit the manuscript to my publisher, I came upon a May 2020 article in Book Riot titled “Short Essay Collections Are My Comfort Read Right Now,” which told me just how right my timing is. While so many of us are distracted by worry and feeling too overloaded by the news to commit to longer works, short collections of mostly brief essays like mine are providing a nourishing and much needed alternative to doom scrolling and click bait.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had some really great jobs, including being a children’s and young adult librarian and leading writing workshops in hospitals, schools, and now, through Zoom, in my kitchen. But as rewarding as these jobs have been, motherhood is the one that truly deepened me as a person and as a writer.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Personal essays can be both a mirror and a balm. The more intimate the writing, the more likely readers will see something that resonates with their own concerns and experiences. I remember reading in one of Anne Lamott’s essays on parenting that we all walk around believing that everyone else is doing it better. When I came upon those words as an anxious, self-doubting, new mother, I literally cried with relief. In each of these essays, I’ve strived for candor and honesty, and my hope is that readers will find them to be good, recognizable, and sustaining company.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
I almost always have dark chocolate in reach when I’m writing, so I associate these essays with Dove Promises and Hershey’s purple-wrapped Kisses. And for music, my teenaged self dances in these pages to “Make It With You” by Bread.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit and Like Love by Michele Morano.
Learn more about Ona at her website.
Check out this YouTube video of Ona reading from the book.
Follow her on Facebook.