I FIRST MET Ruth Galm about ten years ago in San Francisco. I was sitting at the bar at Cafe Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola’s cafe/restaurant in the North Beach flatiron building he owns, right where Columbus and Kearny slope down toward the Transamerica Building and the Financial District. It was a spring day and I was into my second Espresso Nutini (I was an enthusiastic day drinker back then), and she was sitting at a table nearby, with a coffee (no booze) and a stack of papers in front of her. We started talking and it turned out she was a reader for Zoetrope: All Story, Coppola’s excellent short fiction magazine, whose offices were right above us. Both of us being writers, native Californians, and North Beach residents, our conversation quickly took on an easy and familiar tone, and out of it grew a friendship that has lasted over a decade.
She had recently moved back from New York, after getting her MFA at Columbia, and had a novel-in-progress that she let me read. A few things about her writing struck me right away. One was just pure relief that it was actually good. If you have any friends who are writers, you’ll know what an awful experience it is to read their work and find out that it’s not very good, and what a challenge it is to find enough to say about it that is both genuine and positive. (I’m pretty sure she had this experience with me a few times, but I can live with that, as there has never been any question who is the better writer.) From the very beginning, it was clear she had a knack for the sound and shape of words, and could make a sentence do exactly what she wanted it to do, even if what she wanted was to be surprised. She could create bright, burning images that lingered for weeks and months. She could render suspense and drama out of the smallest situations, and you could tell she was mining deep experience and desire to create this world on the page. I was also struck that from someone so outwardly modest and sweet could come writing so fierce and dangerous, so charged with dread and erotic heat. But that, of course, is where writers live – in that space between the inner and outer worlds, summoning the darkest forces at their disposal to give life to the gnawing, terrible mystery that can’t be silenced.
When I moved to Portland from San Francisco in 2012, much to my surprise, a few months later, she moved there too, ready to start her own new chapter. Though we didn’t see each other as much we should have, it was good to have her nearby, another familiar comrade in an unfamiliar city. However, less than a year later, she decided to move back to the Bay Area. Despite all the cultural and economic changes that had happened to our home state, despite it being less and less hospitable to those of us that had grown up there, something deep and necessary called her back there. Something unfinished, some part of her she couldn’t shake. I understood that. I have it in me too, the memory-pull of those endless brown hills and twisting cypress, the searing heat of the valley, all that golden light, crisp fog curling over ancient redwoods, the “fruit hang[ing] heavy on the vine,” to quote Kate Wolf. The blaze at the edge of the world, the very furthest tip of the American Dream, in all its blown-out, illusory, sun-beached glory.
When I read her debut novel, Into the Valley, which came out in August of 2015 on Soho Press, I finally understood fully what she had been after in going back home, and in her writing. It is a California novel to the core. The story of a young San Francisco woman in the 1960s (known to us only as B.), struck with a kind of existential malady she describes as “carsickness,” and the most effective way she finds to ease the profound discomfort of this condition is to drop everything and drive aimlessly through the Central Valley, cashing bad checks and encountering other adrift souls, as she hurtles toward a dark and uncertain fate. It is gorgeously written, lush in its language, unsettling, mysterious, and the ostensible aimlessness of the narrative has its own woozy, disorienting effect on the reader. One can’t help but sympathize with this young woman, but part of you wants to avert your eyes, knowing that the weight of her situation may be too much, and that she may be, despite all efforts, doomed.
One of the stories of this novel is a story of perseverance. The manuscript earned upwards of 60 rejections before it found its way into the hands of Mark Doten, Senior Editor at Soho Press. Mark loved the book immediately for its beautiful language and unflinching nature. Soho picked it up and Ruth, who had been writing her entire life, published her first novel at 44. Hearing this not only made me happy for my very deserving and talented friend, but her story is a reminder to myself and to the rest of us that persistence is paramount in the world of publishing. It’s often hard to believe in the face of it, but even dozens upon dozens of rejections do not equate with the actual worth (or lack of it) of the work. And all it takes is one person (the right person, of course) to believe in you to bring things to fruition.
We began this conversation at the beginning of 2016, a very slow and gradual correspondence, two old friends talking about writing. After a short break over the summer, we took it back up again, and finished up just as this monumentally terrible year is grinding to a close. In addition to our conversation, we finish the interview, as we like to do, with some questions from Mena and Nino, the children of Contributing Editor Adam Tedesco. They have never met Ruth, or read her work, but as always, they know just how to get to the heart of things.
Finally, as far as this introduction goes, I would like to take just a tiny bit of credit here for Ruth’s success. One July way back when, we were driving through the narrow, windy roads of Napa Valley, and something about the way I was laying on and off the gas pedal around the curves made her so carsick that she made me pull over so that she could drive instead. We still had a great time after that, wine-tasting, swimming, eating fresh burrata, but I wasn’t allowed to drive again for the rest of the trip. I doubt I was the only one ever to make her carsick with my driving, but I’m just gonna assume for my own sake that some little seed of inspiration was sown that day. Us writers gotta take what we can get, you know? Even if it means we’re just making it up as we go.
Auld Lang Syne, my dear. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
When we first met about ten years ago, you were working on the rough draft of a novel about a young woman and her relationship with her father. I remember a lot of great things about it, some powerful images, and your way with language, and I thought the central premise was really strong. I never saw it finished, however, and I had the feeling that the whole process was something of a struggle. What about the work that went into that novel, and what you’ve learned and done since then has informed Into the Valley? What felt the same, and what did you do differently?
Ah, the insider track of knowing me for a decade. It’s funny, I feel incredibly self-conscious about that book (which will never come out of the drawer), and also very indebted to it. Just for the record, it was about the relationship between a young woman and her “uncle” (who was not even related to her, a mother’s old boyfriend, but they lived together, which I was somehow going to make believable?). And I think it was a struggle because on some level I knew I wasn’t hitting “it” yet, whatever “it” was … I was trying to know the plot before I started, to control the whole thing, which was the opposite of what I did with Into the Valley. Actually, Into the Valley started when I sent that first book out, timidly, to a few agents, knowing it was problematic (and that I didn’t want to figure those problems out). I started messing around with images and prompts and personal obsessions in a murky and open-ended way, with no idea that I was starting a novel, just that it felt right to be doing it, and I liked that it was different, more blank maybe, than what I was doing before. It’s a cliché, but that semi-tortured attempt at a coming-of-age novel is what got me to the book I actually wanted to write. It taught me how I don’t write.
So you say “whatever ‘it’ was”, as if you don’t know, but something about Into the Valley must have struck you at some point as “it”. What do you think that is? It happened first for you, of course, and then for your readers, including I presume, Mark Doten, the editor at Soho who accepted the book. When did you realize you had “it” and what happened after that in the process of writing and completing the novel? Was your writing process different this time around from that first abandoned novel?
For fear of sounding totally obnoxious with the “it” stuff, let me say that I never actually thought in those terms as I was writing. I guess for me “it” as I look back now just means some kind of ease, some kind of new place for me, at least compared to what I had been doing before. Not that the writing or the assemblage of Into the Valley was easy, but that the territory of that creative process felt compelling to me, like I was home somehow in a strange way, and I don’t think I’d felt that before actually. And home in a weird place, where I didn’t want to give a lot of backstory about this character, and I didn’t want to name her, although I did want to name her affliction, and then understanding that I liked that weird place … And so everything was different in my writing process for Into the Valley. Basically, I really didn’t even know (or maybe admit to myself) that I was writing a novel for the first six months of messing around with it. (I called it a “longer piece”; oh protective denial!) I would just start with an image here and follow that, and then start with a writing prompt there and follow that, and decide I wanted to write about the sixties, and allow myself to do that even though I was intimidated by that well-worn era, and then oh it seems like maybe this character commits some kind of crime, I’m going to let myself try that even though I’ve never written any crime before, etc. etc. I just worked in pieces, following this woman who started emerging, and this landscape, and I guess allowing myself to not know at all where I was going and to try new things, and that turned out to be the writing process I needed. I joke about how much I would love to be someone who outlines, but the truth is I would never have gotten the novel that way. I’ve discovered my stripes for better or worse.
That is interesting that the process was so nebulous, and tentative at first. Some of that comes through in the atmosphere of the novel, and its feeling of aimlessness, and yet there are some elements that are so stark and seem so deliberate, such as the premise of the counterfeit checks, or the “carsickness.” How did the “carsickness” come about, and how did you work it into the story? As the elements of the story and the plot and the characters started to come together, was there ever a point when you hit the wall, where you lost momentum and had to find a way to get it going again, or figure out how to tie it all together? How did you get it going again?
The premise of the carsickness and the forging checks became much more deliberate once I discovered (decided?) that they went together, and then once I started revising drafts and understanding through wonderfully helpful readers that I needed to capture an obsessiveness in these two things, heighten B.’s physical experience of them. I can’t remember the exact moment the carsickness became “the carsickness.” I just remember following her days really closely in the beginning and realizing that she was full of this anxiety. And it wasn’t a kind of panic attack anxiety, it was this dull cumulative thing that just made her feel nauseated, clenched, dizzy, and this was what was driving her. But I do remember understanding that when I named it, it would now have a somewhat existential feel, and that scared me a bit. Like who the hell was I to do that? Then I decided, fuck it. I wanted her to have this named affliction, that was what the story was going to be (just like deciding not to name her fully felt right), and I think understanding those things helped me see where I was wanting the novel to go.
I think one of the biggest walls I hit was that I got two-thirds through the first draft and nothing was really building. There was no arc at all, it was just flat, a sequence of events, which could be fine, but (again through the invaluable help of readers) I realized she needed to start with more hope. And I was writing the same scene over and over. So I had to force myself to put her in more confrontation, even if it was slight and relative, but confrontation to her, where she lost something, a little bit more each time, and I couldn’t use a scene unless it built on the previous one. A lot of the scenes are probably the same events as in earlier drafts, but I just had to keep going back and reshaping them. And I struggled with the ending, because, outside of having a vague idea of the feeling I wanted at the end, I had no idea about the plot to get there. I think my tactic was just to work wherever in the book I had some give, to not feel like I had to go at it in a linear way. And so if I got stuck, I went somewhere else in the story, focused on an image or detail I wanted to get right. And I just became comfortable with throwing things away.
What is it about the American West that draws you to it as a subject? Do you feel that this book fits in that realm? Did writing it satisfy some of your hunger for it, or did it open up broader, more sprawling appetites?
I think there is something in me that is so nostalgic for being a Californian. Not necessarily a good or comforting nostalgia, but a longing and a haunting, even living here. (Especially now living in San Francisco and wondering why I am staying in this insanely unaffordable and increasingly elite place.) I don’t think I understood that nostalgia until I lived in New York City for eight years. For different reasons, I want to consider myself very much of this place, I want to be firmly from “the West.” I want a home, and I want to delve into, probably in a broad way in all my fiction so far, why my parents came here. They were from the East and Midwest, and so my brother and I, like most of my friends, are first-generation Californians. So I feel from here but also not belonging here in some ways, wanting my own kind of western and not knowing why or what that means. And of course, westerns are very problematic and no one exists in them anymore (or ever did), but I feel like there’s still this longing at least for me to belong to a kind of narrative of place, or to take it down and make it over, especially as a woman … There’s something in the nexus of all of that, of that continual story of westering and what the “American West” means, that is just shamelessly my love. I want to go back to it again and again. And I can’t presume to know whether the book fits into whatever literature about the American West is. I can only know that I am definitely in discussion with that nostalgia I described, with the landscape and cityscape, the people, the heartbreaking illusions/disappointments here when I write. So the appetites question is a good one because the book did open up more sprawling appetites that I haven’t fully understood or explored yet. I feel like I could probably fill up all of my writing days going after them.
In reviews for the book, comparisons to Didion and Highsmith come up often (I see plenty of others myself, Oates and O’Connor come to mind). This is high praise, of course, and I’d say accurate, but I know to some degree it is probably uncomfortable to be compared to your heroes and influences. To me however, when the writing does have those echoes, it seems more indirect homage than anything obvious or slavish. In time and place and subject matter, I think you’d be hard-pressed to not cross paths here and there with those who have written before you. What are your thoughts on influence and homage, how your work relates to the work of others, and what is important in both the connections and differences? Are there other influences in place we may not see, from other writers or books or films or music or what not?
I think for me what I most hope is that the book found its own territory, even though it is absolutely the sum of everything I’ve read up until now, of the sentences I’ve most admired. I think I am still uncomfortable with the idea that we want to immediately compare one thing to another, find similarities; I’m sure part of that is fear of being derivative. But at the same time I fully acknowledge that I have read certain writers very closely, that I care fervently about style and place and imagery and detail, and that there is most certainly an attempt at an homage to those elements of fiction. I also understood when I put a woman in a Mustang on the freeway in the late sixties, I was treading in Didion territory. And since I couldn’t avoid that, and yes she is part of the reason for my fascination with the Central Valley to begin with, I knew I had to keep going while making sure that B. was my own. A bit more naïve maybe, a bit more hopeful in the beginning.
And this question is a hard one. Because I’m not always exactly sure what influences me. I would say some of the books that were touchstones for this novel were The Stranger, The Sheltering Sky, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Giovanni’s Room, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, any Faulkner that was nearby, Good Morning, Midnight (I’m actually trying to write an essay right now about how much Jean Rhys has influenced me) and there were probably others around my table (or in my subconscious) that I’m not even remembering. But also I would say one of my biggest influences are contexts, you might call them. Landscapes and cityscapes. Light and lines. I started driving the valley on my own before I thought of writing this book just because I was interested in seeing that kind of land and place. Language is a huge part of what drives me, but so is say the corner of a boulevard, the run of a sidewalk; the washed out colors of where I’ve grown up. Photographs and visual art can affect me the same way. But I would say overall it comes from a very visual place in my mind (like I’m thinking that fashion also influenced me in this story, became very central to who B. was, how she presented herself to society and how society classified her, which helped me then take her apart) that is coupled with how I want to see prose on the page, and how I want to hear it in my mind.
In the novel B. seems to have reached a place of permanent groundlessness, caught between various forces — cultural, sexual, familial, existential — and one interpretation of the “carsickness” might be the lack of gravity in her life, tethering her to any real sense of self. She has no real place that she belongs, other than her own thinly rendered idea of a landscape that might at some point offer up a place that feels like home — even though she has no more than a vague sense of what that looks like. She has no answers about how to live, but she seeks them, often of course from those who might appear to have them, but are really as lost and clueless as she is. She is a young woman seemingly shoved aside in an era of massive cultural shifting — she is neither wild and liberated like the new hippies, nor is she content with the passive binds of her mother’s generation. And neither side has seemed to find any real peace or happiness anyway, so she has no real guideposts. She is a woman in a man’s world, where the tide of power is beginning to change, but slowly, and not without danger. She doesn’t even really have a name. Her only comfort, her only solid sense of self comes fleetingly from the visceral act of criminality, the pushing back against the dead weight and bankrupt promises of modern American life.
In some ways she could be seen as a passive character, though her aimlessness and groundlessness is part of what makes her so compelling. As we read, we ourselves have no real answers to give her. We can only watch to see what she will do with what she has, if anything will emerge that will affect some sort of change on her existential panic.
While this story, and these cultural circumstances are specific to a certain place and era, do you find they relate to our times now? What is it about the era that inspires you, and drew out this particular story? How do you relate personally to B.’s character, and the other characters in the novel?
First of all, that is an amazing and eloquent summation, sir.
When B. started emerging more concretely, I realized that she might vex me. We know and see more than she does and it’s frustrating and I was apprehensive about drawing a character like that. But I realized that it was in the frustration that I kept wanting to follow her. There are definitely times when you want to shake her out of this malaise or whatever it is. But that’s the point for me: the malaise isn’t individual in my mind, there’s something bigger going on … And yes she is passive at times, but she has also bounded as far out of her life as she can go, and there is something combative and muscular in that, I think. It’s that combination that stirred me. She’s an upper-middle-class white woman for whom a narrative is set and who society says should be feeling great (and there is extreme bias and prejudice and unearned privilege in these things; that is part of the point too) and she balks … But what is the other script?
And quite honestly, I began with the late 1960s because that era is personally interesting to me. And then I chose 1967 specifically because, between the music and the antiwar movement and the Black Panthers and the Summer of Love, it just seemed like a very clear end point between the mid century and the huge shifts after. And I kept thinking what it would be like to be a bit too old for that radical opening. And the fact that the women’s movement did not really exist yet, that kind of talk of “liberation” didn’t hit the mainstream in my mind until the early 70s. So I was interested in B. as a product of that nexus, and that void.
And the most powerful thing for me in writing the novel, because I was afraid at first that in choosing that era it would be too “historical,” it wouldn’t be relevant, was realizing as I went that the narratives have not really changed. There are still socially and culturally oppressive ideas of “femininity,” it is still disturbing for a woman to get in a car and drive miles and miles in no particular direction without a partner or a family. It is still difficult to make meaning in a society with rigid narratives and markers and talismans of success. So I will politely sidestep the question about how I relate personally, to leave the text on its own as much as possible, and just say the more I wrote, the more maddening, and thus fruitful, it was to realize how relevant the story is to today.
What are your thoughts on the state of literature right now? Are there trends or movements that inspire you, or discourage you? What essays/books/writers are changing the way you read and write? Now that your first novel has been published, are there things about the book business that surprise you? Is it different than you expected it to be? Are there things you would do differently next time?
Oh lord, you knew I would hate this question! Okay. The books that influence me most strongly, that evolve or push the way I write, tend to be authors who are exacting with language and form. I am always hopeful for the new current books that will blow my mind. I don’t think I’m saying anything new by saying that the indie presses are where I most find this kind of fiction. But I guess I have to admit that overall I am always left wanting more from contemporary literary fiction. I want more risk-taking, more assiduousness, at a sentence and story level. I’m reading Clarice Lispector for the first time with the New Directions collected works, and she is utterly blowing my mind. She is boundless. Lucia Berlin as well, but it’s really Lispector who has gotten under my skin recently. Why is this amazing short fiction coming from collections that were published/translated posthumously? Why do other story collections and novels tend to feel the same to me, meaning again on a sentence and story level? Why aren’t more writers going to the weirdest, most demanding places in their heads, which doesn’t have to mean crazy weird stories, just not tired tropes, the same narratives, the same stuff. Or are these kinds of manuscripts not getting an audience and a voice in the contemporary literary landscape? (And why?) Take all this as one writer’s cantankerous opinion, but I can know in two pages if I am impressed, whether it’s through how sentiment is used, or description, or the way prose looks or sounds on a page, where an idea or image reaches to, and I seek that everywhere and find it in contemporary literary fiction rarely.
And I guess I keep learning the same lesson in different ways, that publishing and writing are two different things. This is going to sound annoying, but I wouldn’t change anything about how my book came to be published. It was hard, I couldn’t get an agent and I had to submit to open calls, but then I landed at an amazing independent press that got exactly what I was trying to do and completely supported it (and got an amazing agent after I was published who is willing to support me in whatever weirdness I do next). All that feels lucky and privileged as hell. But it also feels like it has something to do with me sticking to what I needed to achieve in my own mind. So if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the only thing you can really do is write something you’re totally fucking proud of. That is the only thing you have control over. The book business machine will churn and swirl around a certain number of books. That’s just the way it seems to work. Outside of it, the most you can do is connect with the readers who get what you’re trying to do, and be grateful for every one of them. And then go back and try and write something else you’re proud of and hope someone will get that and want to publish it and want to read it. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, or always knew on some level and have had to remind myself of: the writing and the satisfying of my own creative exigencies are the only things that matter.
That’s an interesting question, why are there not more writers taking more risks with their own inner weirdness? I mean, certainly they are out there, though probably those as artful and exacting as Lispector are few and far between. Aside from the obvious answer that what sells is narrative hooks and whatever supernatural YA phenomenon is trendy at the time (I think the reading public is often underestimated, and sometimes they will just buy what they are being sold, though they would happily take on more complex and strange work), it does beg the question: What do we want from literature? I think the answers are somewhat different for each genre, but in this case the novel. What do you want from a novel? Beyond the means, the exacting language for instance, what is it you find yourself seeking that is hard to locate? I imagine this answer has changed since you first started to read, but how so?
Yes, in response to the first part of your question, it’s partly because a genius like Lispector’s is rare. But I think it’s also about the narrow lens of the publishing world. That lens is biased consciously and unconsciously to prose and form that’s “familiar,” i.e. originally constructed and canonized in a white, male world, and that’s related to the issue of what’s deemed salable. And I totally agree: I think we’re underestimating the complexities and not-hand-holding-needed and strangeness (or “disorientation” might be the better word) readers are willing to take on. Frankly, for me, reading literature is about participating in art. What I seek that is hard to locate is even hard for me to describe. Partly I guess it’s whatever will allow me to palpate a new world . . . Or a world I couldn’t have expressed. And I’ve been struggling lately with how little plot (or maybe it’s security and familiar-ness?) gets me to those worlds. I’m more and more interested in books that don’t want to explain things for me, don’t take me through every step of a cause-and-effect or present the emotions I should feel, that don’t want me to feel safe. I think now I hunger for fiction that feels somehow abstract, in a visual arts sense really . . . Again, this is all just one writer’s hankerings, but what I want from literature is a profound experience.
So… a lot has changed since we began this interview! What a year 2016 has been. Now the election has passed, and recount efforts and popular vote aside, Donald Trump appears to have won the electoral vote, and will be our next president. (It will never not be surreal and terrible saying that.) He ran on a campaign of fear, lies, ignorance, and outright bigotry, and appears to be doubling down on these with his cabinet appointments and other statements he has made to the press and on, of all things, Twitter. American politics is severely polarized, and the media has followed suit, pursuing sensationalism and partisan editorial bias before thorough, fact-based, objective journalism, which now seems like a quaintly idealistic relic of the past. Many, myself included, fear that we are witnessing the rise of neo-fascist authoritarianism in our democracy, a phenomenon we may never recover from. Every step of of hard-fought civil rights progress that we have made in the last century is under threat, not the least of which are our first amendment rights and our ability to voice dissent. What do you see the role of the writer being in this new and dangerous world? How about yours specifically? Is it our obligation to attack these things head on? Do personal, not overtly political stories still have the same power? Or to paraphrase Faulkner, is it still better to write of the universal trials of the human heart and spirit, as opposed to asking “when we will be blown up?”
Just to clarify, I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve never before related emotionally to my mother’s family fleeing Nazi Germany; intellectually, yes, but never emotionally. I’ve never felt so unsafe and rejected in my identity. But frankly, that’s what black Americans and women of color and people here without documents and Muslims and LGBTQ people and others have had to feel in this country every day. So the only thing I can credit this election with is radically waking me up. Nothing is innocuous; everything should be questioned for bias, for inequity. And I can only speak for how I’m trying to make sense of all this right now, as a human, as a woman, as a writer. Part of me wants to do nothing but focus on resistance: volunteer, donate, scream, refuse participation in almost every American capitalist, business, social, conventional structure that exists because it all feels built on racist, sexist, avaricious premises; it all feels like normalizing. But I have to strike a balance, not to let them sap my strength and soul. And where I find my meaning, outside of love, is art and literature. And I can’t write but from the personal. I think writing from who we are can be the most radical act possible. But I say that with a caveat. Maybe it’s a bit of what we talked about earlier in this interview, before the election: how are we defiantly opening up whose “personal” gets to be said? How are we pushing our points of view, our form, our language, our art past the easy, past the default, past the known? Do these things, and the personal gets incendiary, revolutionary. Transformative. I believe that. That’s what literature has done for me; that’s why I’m a writer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about inclusion lately. And to be clear, when I talk about “inclusion,” I am not talking about a desire to be inclusive with anyone who supports Trump, who is willing to cast a blind eye on his bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, endorsement of white supremacy, greed, ad infinitum; appeasement and normalization are not options. But (and others have said this much more eloquently than I; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie most recently in The New Yorker), how are we who resist him thinking about inclusion in everything, everywhere? How in small ways in the fabric of our lives are we questioning constantly and ruthlessly the “givens”? A small but profound example for me is that a few years ago a hashtag on Twitter made me examine how my default in reading was unconsciously to white writers. Lots of women, sure, but the majority just automatically white. I was ashamed to realize this; I couldn’t explain it. I had to actively move my mind to think about opening up my reading habits, and all I can say is that I’m immensely better for it. Not in an equitable way, although that is the goal, but in an artistic way. Where would my craft and reach be without those books? And so I challenge us all to think about the smallest acts of inclusion as part of resistance, as part of pushing us forward and acting radically. In fact, these shouldn’t even be seen as acts of resistance, but acts of … modernity, reality, of living now/in 2016. So to get back to your question, that’s part of how I’m seeing it right now: figuring out how to balance my outside resistance while using writing and art as keenly and searchingly as possible.
What do you write about?
The pictures that come into my mind.
What makes sense?
What’s your favorite color car?
What inspired you to write?
How much I love words.
What do you think about Vladimir Putin?
I think he just became the U.S. president-elect.
Ruth Galm’s writing has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, and Joyland. Her story “New Mexico, 1957” received special mention in Best American Short Stories 2016. Galm holds an MFA from Columbia University and has been a resident of the Ucross Foundation. She was born and raised in San José, California, spent time in New York City and Boston, and now lives in San Francisco. Into the Valley (Soho Press, August 2015) is her first novel.