BOOK TOUR INTERVIEWS: #1 Claire Watkins

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For the next couple of months I’m on book tour for my memoir, The Adderall Diaries. It occurred to me to start interviewing some of the people I meet. I’m hoping not to interview the most interesting or eccentric people. I’m going to focus instead on the people I spend the most time with, often the ones who let me stay in their house. There will be exceptions, of course.

Claire, 25, is a fiction MFA student at Ohio State University. I stayed with her when I did a reading at the college on September 30. Before I left I asked her to sit for a ten minute taped interview.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been interviewed. It’s just like talking, except for the microphone thing near me.

I’m from a small town near Las Vegas in Death Valley. It’s a weird place, unincorporated and very libertarian. Very poor. My dad died of cancer when I was like six. My mom had always worked anyway. He was the president of the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, which was a position he made up. We were on welfare and he would work at caltrans and do some mining. After my dad died my mom met my step-dad, who was a construction worker. They had an OK arrangement for a while. I played sports and was fed and shit.

I moved Los Angeles when I was 18. I was going to go to college, but I didn’t have the money. Basically. I thought you paid for college at the end. No one I knew had ever gone to college. I applied for schools and I got in. I just didn’t think how I would pay for it. I got some financial aid, but not enough, so I didn’t go and I just bummed around for a year.

After that first year I went to University of Nevada, Reno. I was homesick and missed Nevada and missed the desert and I had scholarships to go there.

I don’t think I really decided I wanted to be a writer, I was just good at it. Then it occurred to me the thing I was good at could be my major. Originally I thought I wanted to be a director and write movies. But I just didn’t have a good time in L.A. I might have liked writing for film but I didn’t know anyone or have any friends. Then I started writing short stories about my boyfriend that I missed. I never really decided it, it was just the only thing I was good at and I had a good time.

I graduated and applied for the MFA program here. I came straight out of school. I didn’t wait at all. Nobody told me that was not cool.

My mom died when I was 23. Now it’s like me my step-dad and I have two younger sisters.

I’m really close with my sisters. My middle sister has a baby and a husband. I don’t know if I’m close with my step-dad. I mean, I love him and he’s my dad. but we don’t really talk.

Right now I’m applying for fellowships and jobs and hopefully one of them will come through and someone will give me some money to finish my book. Ultimately I’d like to teach. I like teaching a lot, especially creative writing.

The students at Ohio State are so earnest, honest, diligent, cool to be around. It’s energizing. It puts me in a good mood.


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →