Originally delivered at the 2021 Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s electrifying talk “Writing On Your Own Terms” explores what it means to write against the canonical imperative, to write against the world as it is, to instead write on your own terms, toward community, and specifically toward the community of people who might truly appreciate and understand your work.
Sycamore is the author and editor of many books and anthologies. Most recently she is the editor of Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing Up with the AIDS Crisis (forthcoming in October 2021) and the author of the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award finalist, The Freezer Door. Wayne Koestenbaum’s assessment of The Freezer Door seems particularly relevant to the theme of writing on one’s own terms: “Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore puts sex and gender, suffering and gentrification, encounter and solitude, at the center of a book that defies borders and uses language to dive directly into mystery. I admire Sycamore’s gossamer refusal ever to land anywhere definitive; the sentences travel further and further into trauma’s backyard, where complex ideas find a habitat among the simplest formulations. Sycamore, by breathing into the prose, treats the act of book-building as a practice strange and organic as sleeping, walking, bathing, eating. The Freezer Door delves into the philosophy of the sexual meetingplace with a virtually unprecedented aplomb.”
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore first appeared on the show for a deep dive into her last novel Sketchtasy. So if you are hungry for more Sycamore after this talk, as I’m confident you will be, this is a great place to go next. If you appreciate the show, consider becoming a supporter of Between the Covers. Check out the benefits and rewards of doing so at the Between the Covers Patreon page.