Courtney Elizabeth Mauk received her MFA from Columbia University and has published in The Literary Review, PANK, Wigleaf, and Necessary Fiction, among others. She is an assistant editor at Barrelhouse and teaches at Juilliard and The Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. She lives in Manhattan with her husband.
An excerpt from her novel Spark appears in Issue Thirty-Eight of The Collagist.
Here, Courtney Elizabeth Mauk answers questions "in the form of excerpts" -- with further excerpts from her novel. Enjoy!
1. What is writing like?
The flame appears instantly, as if it has always been there, a living creature awoken from its hiding place by my hand. Instinct pushes me to drop the match, but I hold on until the end, only a matter of seconds, when the fire meets my flesh. The burn sears through me. I close my eyes, wanting the heat to fill me, to go on forever…But the burning stops. Only the sting remains.
I strike another. This time I keep my eyes open.
2. What isn’t writing like?
Next, to a scratchy recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” three dancers perform a slow burlesque. They are identical, almost robotic: hair short and slicked back, lips painted in motionless hearts, perfect hourglass figures bound in red corsets. They kick their slender, fishnet-clad legs high over their heads, ruby slippers flashing. The men on the floor whistle and shout for recognition, but the dancers do not derivate from the choreography.
3. When you do it, why?
The night sharpens, the head of a pin on which he balances, alone. The volatility stops his heart, and then his pulse races ahead, welcoming the sweet deliciousness, the addictive bravado of desire inextricable from danger.
4. When you don’t, why?
Lying awake at night, listening to Jack breathing beside me, I have clenched my hand in the sheets. I have tightened my body, squeezed shut my eyes, strained every muscle for an answer to my questions, a point of understanding. And I have found nothing. My reactions are lacking, my wants incomplete, my soul inadequate. In those moments, I have hated my weakness.