Interview with Liz Scheid, Author of The Shape of Blue

Photo: Liz Scheid

Photo: Liz Scheid

Brief Biography:

Liz Scheid’s first book, The Shape of Blue: Notes on Loss, Language, Motherhood & Fear won The Lit Pub’s first annual prose contest and was published in 2013. Her work has appeared in many magazines, such as; Sou’Wester, Terrain, Third Coast, The Journal, Rattle, The Collagist, The Rumpus, and others. She currently teaches at a community college in Fresno, California and also online at University of Texas at El Paso.

Geosi Gyasi: Were you surprised that your first book, The Shape of Blue, won The Lit Pub’s first annual prose contest?

Liz Scheid: Yes, I was super surprised. In fact, I was riding shot gun on my way to LA with my mom when I got the email. I think the subject said, “Lit Pub Winner!,” and I was just thinking it was a rejection. I almost didn’t even open the email, but I thought that I’d like to know who won. I had to read the email like five times to fully believe what I was reading. I made my mom pull over and we screamed and cried and screamed a lot. It was pretty amazing.

Geosi Gyasi: How did you feel winning the award?

Liz Scheid: I was really overwhelmed with feelings. I had put so much work into my writing, into this book, so this moment felt so surreal to me. I couldn’t really believe it was happening. In fact, it didn’t fully hit me until I held the first copy of the book in my hands. That’s when it hit me. I was stunned. It was a beautiful moment.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have specific theme(s) you write on?

Liz Scheid: I don’t ever set out to write about a certain theme/thing. These things sometimes arise from the work, but it’s not usually intentional. It’s an interesting thing to talk about though because my kids are often in my work, which gets me categorized and quickly pigeonholed as someone who writes about motherhood, pregnancy, etc. These things are there obviously. But most of the time, I’m exploring larger issues.  But, it’s interesting that my male friends who often write about their kids don’t get categorized as “someone who writes about fatherhood.”

Geosi Gyasi: Whom do you write for?

Liz Scheid: Everyone. Women. Men. Mostly women. Yes.

Geosi Gyasi: Why did you have to do an MFA in poetry? Why not any other genre?

Liz Scheid: I love poems. I started writing them when I was a kid. My early poems were short, and consisted of short, silly rhymes. But I was also reading and memorizing poems. It really ignited a lifelong love of language for me. I learned to listen to the subtleties in language, and I learned to appreciate all that it could do. I’d say that I became a very disciplined writer and reader by studying poetry.

Geosi Gyasi: Have your study in poetry benefited you as a writer?

Liz Scheid: Yes, massively. I just don’t think you could undo this. Or separate these things. It’s embedded in everything I do; the way I see the world, the way I talk about the world.

Geosi Gyasi: You have twice been nominated for the Pushcart award? Now, what does that mean to you?

Liz Scheid: Of course, I was honored for the nominations, but it also means I need to keep striving harder and harder. I need to always keep working and revising and reshaping. I hope to win a Pushcart someday.

Geosi Gyasi: Tell us a bit about your student days at the California State University?

Liz Scheid: I had a great experience during my MFA days. I studied and wrote and read and had lots of fun. It was an amazing space for me; I felt so vulnerable, kind of like a child in many ways. Everything I read felt new and awesome. I absorbed it all like a sponge. I remember being so blown away by so many books and so many great professors and writers.  What could be better than going to class to talk about books for hours? Truly, it feels like some sort of distant dream now, but it was an incredible experience. I have so many wonderful writer friends, who I met during my grad days, who still continue to inspire and teach me.

The Shape of Blue by Liz Scheid

The Shape of Blue by Liz Scheid

Geosi Gyasi: You divide your time between teaching, mothering and writing. How does the three merge?

Liz Scheid: Just call me Triceratops. I wear them all around with me everywhere I go.

Geosi Gyasi: Is it difficult mothering and writing?

Liz Scheid: I think this is an interesting question. It’s one that I get asked a lot. Both are equally demanding and wonderful in their own ways. But both are so engrained in my identity that the boundaries are blurred. I’m writing as I’m mothering, and I’m mothering as I’m writing.

Geosi Gyasi: What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Liz Scheid: I have an incredibly hard time sitting still. I’m impatient. I fidget. I get distracted. I like to move around a lot, so getting myself into that space where I can hyperfocus on words and images takes a great deal of energy and commitment.

Geosi Gyasi: What do you do if your writing is not going well?

Liz Scheid: If it’s only getting worse, and I don’t find anything good in the writing or anything worth exploring/pursuing, then I’ll leave it alone. By leave it alone, I mean, I’ll take a break from writing. I’ll go for a walk, bike ride, swim, or do something other than write. Many times, I just read and read when I’m in a slump. Eventually, there’s something that hits me in the gut or heart, and I’ll feel pressed to hit the keyboard. But I’m not the writer who can just write routinely everyday. It’s never worked out for me that way. I’m more of a spontaneous type of person anyway, so I find the ideas and inspiration comes to me in bursts more randomly than anything.

Geosi Gyasi: Which writers do you look up to?

Liz Scheid: I look up to a lot of writers. But the ones who come to my mind immediately are: Lia Purpura, Connie Hales, Steven Church,Yusef Komunyakaa, Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Dave Eggers,  Mary Karr, Carmen Gimenez-Smith, Chloe Caldwell.

Though, this is largely an incomplete list, however, these are ambitious writers, who are constantly taking risks in form or subject matter. I love that, and I try to read everything they write.

Geosi Gyasi: What must have influenced your poem, “Magic”?

Liz Scheid: It was a combination of so many things: my daughter’s preoccupation with dead things at the time, and the idea of childlike wonder that in so many ways is so beautiful and magical. My kids have challenged me to see in this light, and it has inspired so many different pieces of writing, much like that piece.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a special time when you write?

Liz Scheid: No, not at all. I could say that I usually write more in the mornings because this is when I have more energy and have more bursts of creativity, but then again sometimes, I write late at night. I wish it was more predictable, but it’s not.

Geosi Gyasi: I am not sure if you would be interested in answering this but how is marriage life like?

Liz Scheid: I’m incredibly lucky to have someone to share the wonderful and messy parts/moments of the world with, and of course, I’m also very fortunate to have someone who supports what I do. My husband is an incredible father, and that is such a beautiful thing. The kids and I are lucky to have him.

Geosi Gyasi: Would you want any of your children to become writers?

Liz Scheid: If that’s what they wanted to do, then absolutely, yes, I’d support them. But mostly, I want them to find what it is they love, and by love, of course, I mean, I want them to love it massively.


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