Anna-Claire (A.C.) McGrath is a third-year MFA student in Fiction and Nonfiction at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been published in Spank the Carp, Dear Damsels and others, with work upcoming in iO Literary Journal. She attended the Sewanee Writers' Conference in 2019. She's a member of the Clarion Ghost Class, meaning she would have attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop last summer in 2020 but it has been postponed due to the pandemic, so hopefully eventually she'll be able to go. She recently made a website, and it would make her less silly if you visited it: http://www.annaclairemcgrath.com.
A.C.'s work appeared in Pond 58
Why do you write?
I think I write primarily as someone who loves to read. I grew up being a kid who was always reading, frequently finishing books on the way home from the bookstore in the backseat of my parents' car, and that really hasn't changed much over the years. These days there's much more distraction, but I'll turn off my phone and set a timer on my echo dot and force myself not to check technology while I sit with a book. Now I think I write because I don't know how to live in the world without it. I find if I go too long without writing, I'm anxious and squirmy. It's the only way I know how to be.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
My first master's was in theater, and I still am the resident theater nerd at all my MFA workshops. I'm not an actress by any means, but I've written plays a little. Mostly I'm just a fan. When I'm giving myself a break in the middle of a writing session, usually it's watching some musical theater video on YouTube. After all this time, I still think of the world mostly in terms of theater.
Who is your favorite author and why?
God, I don't know if I can pick one. I probably get most excited to talk about George Saunders, and this story in particular, "The Words," was inspired by something he said about choosing a voice as a way to get into a story, and my own love of "Escape to Spiderhead." I think the happiest I have maybe ever been was at the Brontë parsonage in Haworth, England, because Charlotte Brontë is someone I will never be chill about. My students all know that I can't stop talking about Zadie Smith. Elena Ferrante! Sally Rooney! Kelly Link! How much time do you have?
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
On good days, I have a very strict routine. I meditate for ten minutes using an app, and then I use the pomodoro technique. The idea is that anyone can focus on anything for twenty-five minutes. So I work for twenty-five, then take a five minute break. Then work for twenty-five more, then take another five minute break. After four sessions, you get a longer break. We had a writer Ling Ma, who wrote the amazing novel Severance, come visit our MFA and she told us she considered three pomodoros a good day, so that's what I always aim for. But right now, at the end of the semester, during this neverending pandemic, routines are harder to come by. So I write whenever I get the chance as long as I have energy for.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
Truthfully when I think of a carp, I think of the pokemon Magikarp. I am not sure if I have any idea what an actual carp looks like. I think they're lucky? Mostly I think of it when people use it as a verb, like when people carp on something, which to me just sounds like people should relax. But maybe they have a good reason to be upset! So ultimately what I'm saying is I'm not a very good judge of carps, though supportive of people who like them.