Goldfish Grimm: If we could peek into your office (coffee shop, kitchen table, wherever you write), what would your writing process look like?
Rose Lemberg: Over many years of impermanence, I learned to write pretty much anywhere – in coffeeshops, museums, libraries, airports, on the sofa – anywhere I can sit or crouch down and crank open the computer. I cannot write longhand due to tendonitis, so my only requirement is some kind of word processing. My ideal setup right now is my own dining table with nothing but the computer on it, but this changes. As for my process, I always have something before I write – an image, a phrase, a mood; with longer stories, I imagine whole scenes. When I begin writing, I draw on that feeling, and let the rest unravel. I usually also have a good feel for the shape of the finished piece. Once I am done, I don’t write more until a new thing has finished cooking in my head.
GFG: Was there anything in particular that inspired “No Longer Lacking an Onion”?
RL: My experiences as an Eastern European immigrant in the US.
GFG: Your story is filled with layers being simultaneously stripped away and added. Would you talk briefly about the thematic and symbolic significance of the onion in your story?
RL: As someone who’s been very poor, I know all too well the difference between plain potatoes, and potatoes with fried onion. It is huge. Onions are so humble, and yet they transform every dish with their magic. Of course, the onion is also structurally important in this story, as you noted. Immigration is one of my central themes; I write often about loneliness and loss – the loss of self, of family, of memory, of language. This story is in a way a reversal of those themes, an unloss which keeps building up until you’re holding the whole onion. And as something is added, something else is subtracted to make room. This story is only indirectly about immigration; one cannot possibly be serious all the time, especially when onions are involved.
GFG: Summer is almost here! Is there anything you’re really looking forward to?
RL: I found gooseberries at the local farmers’ market – does this count? I haven’t seen them in the States yet. They were tiny. Gooseberries aside, I’m looking forward to writing more poetry and prose, and finishing a few academic articles. Also, we’re hoping to put out a brand new issue of Stone Telling featuring all-new-to-us poets. Finally, in July I am planning to fundraise for an anthology called An Alphabet of Embers – a collection of short surrealist pieces. It will have beautiful cover art by Galen Dara, and it will be open to general submissions! I’ll have more details soon at http://roselemberg.net
GFG: Do you have anything you’d like to plug or promote?
RL: Some of my favorite creators are doing amazing things right now. I’d like to mention Bogi Takács’s series of #diversestories and #diversepoems on twitter – Bogi posts a new recommendation every day, and collates them weekly on eir website, http://prezzey.net. I loved Amal El-Mohtar’s story “A Lonely Sea in the Sky,” in Women Destroy Science Fiction, and hope more people get to read it. Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “Women in Sandstone” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies is voicy and terrific. Emily Jiang has a beautiful book out, Summoning the Phoenix, with illustrations by April Chu. Finally, if you’d like to check out Stone Telling, we feature powerful and diverse speculative poetry, and we also now have a Patreon, where you can get pictures of cookies and editorial hippos at regular intervals.
Rose Lemberg was born in Ukraine, and lived in subarctic Russia and Israel before immigrating to the US, where she works as a professor of Nostalgic and Marginal Studies. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Daily Science Fiction, and other venues. She edits Stone Telling with Shweta Narayan. Rose has also edited two anthologies: Here, We Cross, a collection of queer and genderfluid poetry from Stone Telling (Stone Bird Press, 2012) and The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poetry (Aqueduct Press (2012). Rose can be found at roselemberg.net, her Livejournal blog, and on twitter as @roselemberg