Interview with Candace Webb
Ariana: What is the first book/story that made you cry?
Candace: I’m not sure if I can remember the first book that made me cry, but I definitely remember crying when Gogol’s father died in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. It’s still one of my favorite books.
Ariana: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Candace: This is going to sound strange, but when I was around 6 or 7, I was rhyming things with “itch.” When I got to “bitch,” my mother stopped walking up the stairs and turned to me. “Don’t say that word!” she said. It was amazing to me that one little word could have such a big effect.
Ariana: What’s your favorite under-appreciated story?
Candace: I’m not sure how under-appreciated it is (it’s just not mentioned often) but one of my favorite stories is Karen Russell’s “The Tornado Auction.” It’s fascinating, bizarre, and beautifully written all at once.
Ariana: What are your favorite literary journals?
Candace: I love literary journals. There are so many gems, Brevity and Smokelong Quarterly are favorites. And of course, Emerge.
Ariana: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Candace: I would have done more journaling and carried a notebook everywhere. I also would have been braver and majored in literature at university instead of studying science to be “practical.”
Ariana: If your writing were an entrée on a Mexican menu, what would it be and why?
Candace: Oh wow, tough question. I’m going to say nachos. Not too fancy but a good mixture of flavors with a bite of jalapeno now and again.
Ariana: What did you edit out of “Pigeon Lake” and why?
Candace: In an early version, I had added questions to my interpretation of the events I describe. Diane suggested I take them out, and I think she was right. The declarative sentences have more power. I also removed a short introduction about where Pigeon Lake is because it was unnecessary.
Ariana: You’re hosting a dinner party to celebrate the publication of “Pigeon Lake,” which five authors (alive or dead) do you invite and why?
Candace: There are so many authors I’d want to invite. Let’s see…I’d invite N.K. Jemisin because the way she structured The Fifth Season blew my mind. And Jhumpa Lahiri to learn how to craft beautiful sentences. I’d invite Chekhov to see where the modern short story originated. George Saunders would have to be there because I can remember exactly where I was when I first read “Sea Oak” (standing in an airport), and I love his sense of humor. I’d also invite Barbara Kingsolver because she’s a great storyteller and essayist, and I love how she writes about nature.
Ariana: Grab the nearest book, open it to page 42 and look for the second word in the first sentence. Now, write a line that starts with that word. (Please include the name of the book!)
Candace: Here is my line: Comics created an enduring yearning for sea monkeys when I was a kid.
The word “comics” is the second word of the first sentence on page 42 of the novel Station Eleven.
Ariana: If you could ask yourself a question about why you wrote “Pigeon Lake,” what would you ask and why?
Candace: I might ask, what took me so long? It’s only recently that I’ve started to write personal essays, but it’s a form I enjoy.
Candace Webb (she/her) is a recovering research scientist who writes and edits in Belmont, MA, where she lives with her partner, two daughters, and two cats. Her family is tame; the cats are not. Her work can be found in Five on the Fifth. You can find her on Instagram @cweedwrites.