Creative Writing at The New School

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS and the story collection SAFE AS HOUSES, and was the 2017 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland. Her work has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Mississippi Review Story Prize, and has twice been featured on NPR's Selected Shorts. She teaches at NYU, The New School, and Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, and lives in Brooklyn, where she was the Associate Editor for One Story and Catapult. Her third book, PARAKEET, is forthcoming from FSG in Spring 2020. 

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1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?

My favorite villain is society, personified in many stories as the torch-wielding mob. I find myself not really buying most villains as evil because, like, according to who? Many characters we were taught were villains were merely dark-haired stylish single women who decided not to have children. However, society in mob form? Now that I can hate. Society represents the most mediocre, fearful way of being, and in mob form has directly threatened some of my favorite protagonists like Edward Scissorhands, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, witches throughout time, Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Addams Family, etc... Being part French, I'm naturally suspicious of anything a group believes. The hero is the maestro, the individual, the weirder the better. Communal thinking, lack of private space, and mediocrity--I can't think of anything more evil than that.

2. When did you know you were a writer?

I was four and found a family of bunnies on my grandmother's lawn and felt compelled to write about it. I learned from my brothers who were older and acquired obvious joy from scribbling into their notebooks. I can't remember a time when I didn't process the world by writing.

3. What are you currently working on?

I'm revising a novel, PARAKEET, which will be published in Spring 2020 by FSG. When I take breaks, I tinker with stories. 

4. How has your writing process changed over the years?

As time passes, certain elements of writing become easier, and others, harder. The easier I am on myself in certain ways, the harder I am on myself in others. For example, I don't beat myself up anymore if I go a stretch without writing. That has never led to anything but anxiety.

5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.

The world does its thing: with its middle distances, ink refills, breezes and Nicholas Cages, its shattering cruelties and its sometimes equally-as-shattering kindnesses, your little cousin showing you a dance step, the ten minute meditation on my Jet Blue flight last week guided by a honey-voiced woman who repeated "Inhale, exhale, hands" so many times I giggled, its sudden, sharp fallings into love: I take notes. 

Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.  

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