10 Questions for Vincent Granata

Amal Zaman

When I was eight years old, my mom invented a game called “getting lost.” She was worried, she later told me, that I was starting to feel less loved. At four and a half I’d drawn a chalk mural to welcome my new triplet siblings, but Mom feared that I’d grown to feel lost in their shuffle.
      We sat together in her minivan the first time we played the game. “Okay, Vince,” she said. “Tell me where to turn.”
      I pointed left and she swung out of the driveway. At the end of our street she paused to adjust her glasses...

--from "Why I Get Lost" which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written

In the third grade, my friend Sam and I wrote sprawling Choose Your Own Adventure stories that our teacher, somehow, appeared to read with great interest. I’m grateful that Mrs. Totman was a patient reader. She made it clear that she had read every page and made sure my young love for words never felt unrequited.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write?

Right now I’m a deep admirer of Bernard Cooper. I recently read The Bill From My Father, and am enamored with his style and reflective voice. When it comes to piercing emotional clarity, and the ability to use tangible objects to carry real weight, I’ll always lean on Joan Didion and Jamaica Kincaid.
            Richard McCann, a professor in the graduate program at American University I’m enrolled in, has had the most tangible effect on my work. His guidance has been invaluable in helping me try to make sense of trauma in my writing.

What professions have you worked in?

I’ve gone door to door soliciting business for a friend’s painting company, written grants for a child advocacy nonprofit, and spent six years coaching and teaching at a high school outside of Boston. Currently, while in grad school, I’ve worked as a personal assistant to the poet, Henry Morgenthau III. Henry, who just celebrated his 100th birthday, published an astonishing collection, A Sunday in Purgatory, last fall. Working with Henry and learning about how he reflects on his long life, has been a perspective-changing experience for me. I feel lucky to consider him a friend.

What did you want to be when you were young?

Astronaut, then zookeeper, then NBA player. At times, doctor or teacher, jobs that my parents had. For a long period, I fantasized about becoming a beekeeper. Even when I was young, there was something captivating about moving freely among swarms of bees, like there would be something deeply empowering about mastering a fear that so many have. I also love honey.

What compelled you to write this piece for this specific forum?

This story, how a terrible illness overthrew my brother’s brain and decimated my family, is the only story I can tell right now. As I’ve pieced together this experience in writing, I’ve tried to create some order in the form of narrative. This goal might be illusory, but I’m still writing towards it.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?

Home. Not necessarily the literal location, but the experience of what that place was for my family and me.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?

Because I’m in a graduate program, my classmates and professors have been getting first looks at my writing. I’ve come to rely heavily on their feedback and try to maximize them as a resource to help me in revision.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?

I’m wildly jealous of people who can sing. I love music, and though several members of my family have musical talent, I’m functionally tone deaf.

What are you working on currently?

For the last six months, I’ve been working on a memoir manuscript that tells the story of my family’s struggles with severe mental illness. This project also examines how we perceive and treat the mentally ill in this country.

What are you reading right now?

Ron Powers, No One Cares About Crazy People.

Vince Granata taught high school English in Newton, MA, for five years before moving to Washington, DC. He is an MFA candidate at American University and is currently working on a memoir.