10 Under 10: Writers to Watch

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 7)  Anna Punt (Age 4) 

“The Nice Green Dress”

Where were you born?

San Francisco, California.

Where do you live now?

Wherever I want, whenever I want, however I want.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

I read Boris Kneut’s Peek-a-YOU: Be Bold Because I’m Watching. That book really spoke to me. That book really spoke to me because he was watching. We all watch each other. We always need to be bold. I internalized that. Now I’m bold. Now I’m watching you.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

I’ve already written four books. Books don’t take long to write—they take long to live. Life’s full of moans—but writing? You moan about writing, about “process,” and you’re a nothing. You’re not writer’s-blocked, you’re the block itself, and you’re a dummy and you deserve what you get. I read a Paris Review interview once. It was with Vladimir Nabokov. They asked him, “What do you think of William Faulkner?” And he said: “Corn-cobby.” That’s it. Corn-cobby. And that’s you, if you’re a dummy: you’re corn-cobby.

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

I’ll write for some good stuff—for some croissants, some good pastries. But I won’t write for my bread. Wallace Stevens was an insurance salesman. William Carlos Williams was a doctor. I’m interested in markets—numbers, statistics, risk. I’m going to be a trader. I’m going to own the trading floor.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

You do. You, the writer, make a piece of fiction work—or you don’t. What’s style or grace if you don’t have fire? And what’s fire if you don’t have air, oxygen? I’m breathing life into fire. I breathe flames.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

I saw this dress once, it was a princess dress and this one girl kept crying for it, because her parents wouldn’t let her have it. I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to sit her down and say to her, “If you want something it’s because you need something, and if you need something it’s because something’s wrong with you—because there’s a hole where your belly should be, just like there’s a hole in your head. Here, give me your hand: I just spat in your hand. I’m reading your fortune, and your hand is your future mansion and that’s where your pool’s going to go.” So that’s what I did in “The Nice Green Dress”—through the character Eliza, I say to that girl all the things I didn’t get a chance to say to her in real life.

What are you working on now?

A collection of short stories. Angela Carter once said, “My stories are like taking a razor blade to your foreskin.” Well, so are mine.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

Whoever grabs you by the shoulders and says into your eyes: “This is your life. I have it here in my hand. I shouldn’t have it here in my hand, because it’s your life not mine. Take it back.” Whoever tells stories that are necessary and good and true.

 

8) Delilah Boulos (Age 9)

“Nanomanage My Heart”

Where were you born?

Los Angeles, California.

Where do you live now?

I relocated to Austin, Texas. The scene is a bit younger here. It’s more affordable.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

Little, Big by John Crowley.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Six years.

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

I thought about becoming an attorney. Then I realized that attorneys are just like writers, but they’ve learned to monetize their hyper-associative tendencies. I’ve never been one to give myself over to making money. I don’t even believe in money.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

It should nanomanage your mind. Not in the way the police do, but in the way love does.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

The piece relives the incredible newness of the recent political outbursts in Europe—in this case it’s the indignados in Spain. It also foreshadows their crushing defeat. It’s a fragment from my forthcoming novel. 

What are you working on now?

The novel I just mentioned. I sold it under the title Fear of Heaven. It deals with the breakdown of the eurozone. It begins in Greece just as George Papandreou resigns: the event that announced, with a fury, our post-democratic condition. Then I cover the fighting between communists and anarchists in Greece. Then, of course, I deal with Occupy.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore, but right now I’m really into Franco “Bifo” Berardi and, against my gut instincts, I can’t put down Peter Sloterdijk’s Bubbles. 

 

9) Greg Peck (Age 7)

“I Want to Know Why”

Where were you born?

Louisville, Kentucky.

Where do you live now?

Seven years later, and I’m still in Kentucky.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

Can I say Sherwood Anderson’s “I Want to Know Why”—Dad?

How long did it take you to write your first book?

I did struggle with distraction at first. Then I read that Jonathan Franzen glues shut the Internet port on his laptop. After emulating him, it took me only six weeks.

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

It shouldn’t appear to be working at all.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

In my novel, Louisville is the protagonist. As a city, Louisville is perpetually in the throes of an identity crisis. That’s something I think we can all identify with these days.

What are you working on now?

I’m taking some time off from writing. Maybe I’ll start school in the fall.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

Most of my favorite writers are dead. That is to say, they’re well over ten. James Agee’s A Death in the Family was huge for me. So was J R by William Gaddis. He makes you believe anything is possible.

 

10) Damien Little (Age 5)

“Soho Jocasta”

Where were you born?

Soho

Where do you live now?

Soho, but now mom’s boyfriend Jake moved in.

What was the first piece of fiction you read that had an impact on you?

I’ve always loved Hamlet. Of course, the writing is so rich and Shakespeare never fails one, but I think it’s the themes of the play that really rang true for me. Hamlet is simply trying to mourn the loss of his father, but the whole process is upset by the unnerving, unnatural, and unacceptable appearance of a new man sleeping in mommy’s bedroom. It brought me a certain measure of peace to realize that someone else had been in this position. When things get bad, I find myself repeating, “Something is rotten in the lofts of Soho.”

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Well, even though Jake is not my real dad, he’s allowed to send me to my room. So, whenever he sent me to my room, that’s when I worked on it. I’d estimate about three weeks. 

Did you ever consider not becoming a writer?

For me, this writing process has been about working through my issues. I was so honored to be picked for “10 Under 10,” since really, I was just writing for myself. But of course, everyone beneath 14th street has some, and often more than one kind, of genius, so I still feel I could become a musician, a painter, or a glassblower. The world is my oyster.

What, in your opinion, makes a piece of fiction work?

Angst.

What was the inspiration for the piece included in the “10 Under 10” series?

Jake.

What are you working on now?

I’m waiting for another bout of angst.

Who are your favorite writers over ten?

I love Sorrows of a Young Werther, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, any Bukowski.