Creative Writing

Where I Write: With Sophie Brown

Where I Write, a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. It is a discussion of place in writing. What our writing spaces look like can be as varied as the physical spaces that exist (or don’t!) in New York and beyond, and as varied as the mental and psychic spaces we occupy while we write. Surf the sirens, cardinals, and howling cats with first year MFA in nonfiction Sophie Brown.

Where do you write?

Not in view: mourning doves, sirens, cardinals, howling cats, my downstairs neighbour singing power ballads, the listless whistles of white-throated sparrows, large planks of wood crashing two floors down, thrown out of an apartment window across the yard.

Stand, sit or other?

Seated, in various spots, for long periods of time until pins and needles dictate position changes.

What is your writing practice?

Reading or watching things, and pulling out quotes, and making notes on my phone when I’m out and about, on the subway, by the Williamsburg waterfront, at libraries, in bars. I don’t have a daily practice, I binge-write. I love the 45:15 communal writing sessions that the Center for Fiction host every month. Sitting in cafés where the uncomfortable feeling that I’m overstaying my welcome also motivates me.

What are your favorite procrastinations?

I’m very excited about the new Russian Doll series coming out this week! Natasha Lyonne + Groundhog Day + Nan Goldin vibes = dream. My favourite distraction is cycling to a large mass of water and having a look at it. I procrastinate by making a series of hot drinks and deciding that today is actually the day I needed to tidy/bake banana bread/search for an affordable pair of roller-skates but specifically Impala.

We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?

I only brought a little pile of books with me from the UK. Ursula Le Guin, Rachel Kushner, Derek Jarman, Adrienne Maree Brown and Carmen Maria Machado. And my very good friend Anna Wood’s first book YES YES MORE MORE that came out last summer. They all keep me company.

What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic

After several weeks, how to smell again. I also volunteered for a charity called The Reader – I had just trained up as a volunteer ‘Reader Leader’ in Hackney, London, where I was living, to lead reading groups in libraries. When the pandemic hit, they reached out to other charities that served the area to see if there may be people who would be interested in receiving a phonecall once a week, where a reader would bring them a poem or a very short story and have a little chat about it with them. I had 4 people I phoned up every week for over a year, until I moved here to start my MFA. I learned different depths of listening.

What is your dream writing space?

A beach house, where in my breaks I can surf, or bob around on my back in the sea.

Sophie Brown is a first year student in the Nonfiction Concentration. She comes from Brighton in the UK, and works as a film festival programmer and film journalist.

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