Sybil Baker is the author of two books of fiction, The Life Plan, a comic novel, and a linked short story collection, Talismans. Her MFA is from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She spent twelve years teaching in South Korea before returning to the States in 2007. She is an Assistant Professor of English (Creative Writing) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she serves as the Assistant Director of the Meacham Writers' Workshop. She is currently on the faculty of the first international MFA program at City University of Hong Kong and is Fiction Editor at Drunken Boat.
An excerpt from her novel Into This World appears in Issue Thirty-Five of The Collagist.
Here, she answers questions "in the form of excerpts"--with further excerpts from Into This World. Enjoy!
1. What is writing like?
Until the end of April, Mina’s life was a shiny ribbon unspooling from a center she hoped she’d never get to. She’d wake up in her studio in Ilsan, have a cigarette, and then walk around the lake before the retired Korans crowded the five-kilometer track, edging her out of the path she’d cut. She’d reduced her life to basic needs, and the morning walk was one of them. The running and cycling paths, the tiny islands, the pagodas, the wood bridges, the landscaped gardens—all brought her a kind of peace.
2. What isn’t writing like?
She would have returned to editing manuals and technical papers down the hall from Ray, listening to Norah Jones and Sarah McLachlan on Pandora, refilling cup after cup of Tension Tamer tea, going for soup and salad at Applebee’s or Panera or Chili’s with the girls on Thursday, gossiping about the latest Idol or Dancing with the Stars, sneaking in online virtual tours of homes she couldn’t afford, even now with the housing downtown, not alone. Her life had not been one of unhappiness, a life not unlike most people she knew.
3. When you do it, why?
She did not think to stop him, this stranger who wanted her—or something—so desperately as if his life depended on it.
4. When you don’t, why?
She moved up to Seoul to work in the Dongil Textile Company. She lived in the company dorms with the others workers, all female, working fourteen hours, seven days a week for 220 won a day, enough to buy a cup of coffee. She did piece work on a sewing machine in a space four feet high that blew dust and cotton and other particles in the air with no ventilation.