Roger Sedarat will be sharing his ‘Foot Faults: Tennis Poems’ at Watchung Booksellers!
Q: What was your first writing piece like when you were a child/teen/or adult? What was the result?
A: On family road trips across America in my immigrant father’s big Buick, I’d write little stories and poems in the backseat, then share them with my family. Then I had one of those amazingly encouraging elementary school teachers in second grade. Mrs. Stanford always praised my writing, so on my own I made her a collection of poems, a riff on Shel Silverstein’s classic that I called, Where the Sidewalk Begins. I hole punched the pages and bound them with yarn, presenting it as a gift to her. I still remember one line from a poem dedicated to her: “Mrs. Stanford is nice/ It’s good to know she has no lice.”
Q:How/when did you formally decide that you were going to be a writer?
A: I sang in bands in college, and I really loved writing lyrics. I’ve always written poems too, but I never thought it would become a formal kind of thing. When the big record deal never came through for Café Flesh and I was working for minimum wage, I decided to study English in graduate school. I guess as I started publishing creative writing in pursuit of an academic PhD I got to thinking of teaching writing as a profession, to subsidize my own creative work.
Q: Explain the feeling when you found out that a publisher was interested in publishing your first book
A: Well, after placing lots of poems in journals I thought I’d have good luck in getting a book out there. It took me ten years of writing, revising, and sending out a manuscript to ultimately win the big prize for my first collection (which brought publication and then a tenured job at a college). When I got the call, I felt like I’d won the lottery.
Q: What is your advice to students/aspiring individuals in pursuing a career similar to yours?
A: It’s sounds so clichéd, but preserve and enjoy the process. Hanging your hopes on publication/prizes, much less a job teaching creative writing these days (it’s gotten impossibly tough just over the last decade) most likely means you risk losing what it’s really all about. As great as a “career” has become in some ways for me, getting paid for what I do, nothing substitutes for the real wonder and joy I find through my own artistic projects. Bringing this back to tennis, this year I got really tight and frustrated in a heated match, hating on myself and trying to will a victory. This awesome tennis coach Brianna (whose short instructional videos are featured on our website tennisbetweenthelines.com), walked by my court and asked, “Are you having fun?” Just like that, I stopped taking it all so seriously. We call it “playing” for a reason. That’s what I’d most tell aspiring student writers: Make sure to have fun out there.