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by Hedgebrook Guest

We asked Summer Salon teachers Sonora Jha and Donna Miscolta to interview each other for the Hedgebrook Farmhouse Table Blog. Read Sonora’s interview with Donna from last week.

Donna: What has being a journalist taught you about being a fiction writer and vice versa?

Sonora: Journalists are skeptics and they’re an anxious lot. I brought this skepticism and anxiety to my own work. I was skeptical while doing my research and my anxiety pushed me into draft after draft. Mostly, journalism has taught me to be curious. Being a fiction writer has taught me to dream a little, to trust a little, to be in the mystery of things. Together, these things have put a spark in my writing and an interesting quirk to the way I live my life.

Donna: I’ve often been confused for a coworker who also has dark hair, glasses, and Asian ancestry. Recently, a Twitter post mistook Whoopi Goldberg for Oprah Winfrey. If someone mistook you for Jhumpa Lahiri, what would your response be?

Sonora: I would tell them that I am actually Arundhati Roy.

Donna: I love your Facebook posts that feature your dog Tagore whose facial and body language you often interpret in a caption. If you were to write an entire story from Tagore’s point of view, what would be the story line?

Sonora: Tagore is actually egging me on to write exactly such a book! He wants me to tell his story of a willful woman whose home he comes to stay in so he can teach her and her friends to watch every turn of leaf in passing seasons, to smell each sunrise, to take regular naps, to love total strangers, and to know that even if you’re on a leash, never forget that you’re the one that’s leading.

Donna: At the Salon, you’ll be teaching a class called “Who They Really Are: Turning People Into Characters.” Participants are asked to bring a news story from which to create fictional characters. If you were invited to teach this class elsewhere, say, to a group of former presidential candidates, how would you handle the class if they each brought a news story about themselves?

Sonora: I’d ask them to look for the lie beneath their actions. That’s actually a great exercise for writers shaping characters. Of course, the presidents would be unwilling to do that, so I’d ask them to imagine how it may have shaped world history if they had done the opposite of what they did. Clinton would write a scene in which a mother of a young African American male warns a president that his federal crime would lead to the mass incarceration of mostly African American men; Bush would write a scene where a president tells the American public that we didn’t, in fact, find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and Obama would write a plot line of a short story in which a young Pakistani boy who fears American drones flying over his village is told that the U.S. president has decided not to send the drones after all.

Donna: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

Sonora: That moment when a student falls in love with their work and talks to me about it with a flushed face.

Study with Sonora and Donna at our Summer Salon on June 18! Register now: https://hedgebrook.org/salons-blog


About the Authors:

Donna Miscolta

Donna Miscolta is the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Her short story manuscript Hola and Goodbye was selected by Randall Kenan for the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and will be published by Carolina Wren Press in 2016. Her story “Ana’s Dance” won the 2013 Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction. Recent work has appeared in Crate, Hawaii Pacific Review, Waxwing, and Spartan. Excerpts from her unpublished novel The Education of Angie Rubio appear in The Adirondack Review and Bluestem. A two-time recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship, she has also received awards from 4Culture, the Bread Loaf/Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the City of Seattle, as well as residencies from Anderson Center, Artsmith, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Find her at donnamiscolta.com


Sonora Jha

Sonora Jha is the author of the novel Foreign and a professor of journalism and media studies at Seattle University. Her Op-Eds have been published in The New York Times, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and The Globalist and her academic work has appeared in top tier national and international journals. Sonora was previously Metro Bureau Chief at The Times of India and a journalist in Singapore before moving to the U.S. to get a Ph.D. in political communication. She is an alumna and president of the board of Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat and teaches a class in fiction at the Richard Hugo House. She has just finished her second book, a memoir.



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1 Comment

  • Rebecca Cleary
    3:07 PM - 31 March, 2016

    Lovely interview. Thanks to both of you! I look forward to the time when our paths cross, perhaps not yet this summer but hopefully soon. Please keep writing, and being?

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