This is a profile of one of our FY15 Artist Fellowship Program (AFP) grantees, Mary Kay Zuravleff, a writer in Washington, DC.
Q: Are you from the Washington, DC area originally?
A: No. I grew up in Oklahoma City, and I moved to DC in 1982 to live on the grounds of the National Cathedral, where I was the first writer in residence at St. Albans School for Boys. I live off Connecticut Avenue in a house my husband and I started renting in 1986 and eventually bought. It never occurred to us we’d still be here this year, when we’re celebrating 2015 from zip code 20015!
Q: Where have you studied/gone to school for your art?
A: I went to Rice University in Houston, where I have a degree in mathematics and English. There was only one creative writing teacher in those days, Max Apple, and he had to be convinced that I had any writing potential. His honesty and insight–and humanity–were essential. Next I went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where I studied with John Barth.
Q: Favorite advice you’ve received from a teacher/mentor/colleague?
A: John Barth urged us to submit our work to publications and, if they rejected a story with any encouragement, send them another. His advice, which I quote all the time, was: “Strike while the iron is tepid.”
Q: Favorite neighborhood in DC?
A: Rock Creek Park. I’ve walked for miles with friends, kids, dogs, friends’ kids’ dogs, etc. I’ve traipsed around Fort DeRussy in every season, watched meteor showers from a convertible in the park, and searched the creek for treasure.
Q: Favorite food (and best place to get that in DC, if you want to share that, too)?
A: I love oatmeal. I also love Indian and Thai food, and the kind of Mexican food you can easily find in Texas and Oklahoma but not so easily here. Oatmeal, however, is my constant, and many mornings, I show up at Bread & Chocolate for their muesli and a huge mocha.
Q: Favorite game (board game, card game, video game, etc.)
Q: Favorite time of the year?
A: Spring in DC, just before the cherry trees bloom, when the tree-lined streets are lime green with new leaves, your car is covered with pollen, and the cliffs of Rock Creek Parkway between P Street and Virginia Avenue are blooming with daffodils.
Q: What book are you currently reading?
A: “How to Be Both,” by Ali Smith.
Q: What is your motto?
A: This is more mantra than motto. I heard Marie Howe read at AU some time in the 90s, and I’ve been reciting these lines to myself ever since. They are the closing lines of her poem “The Meadow”:
” . . . your plight, in waking, is to choose from the wordsthat even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.”
Q: Three artists (living or dead) whom you would want to have dinner with?
A: Ralph Ellison (he’s from Oklahoma City too, you know!), Don DeLillo, and Margaret Talbot, who is a great writer, a close friend, and a generous and smart conversationalist.
Click here to find out more about Mary Kay Zuravleff at her website.