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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Write Stuff: Siamak Vossoughi on Keeping Close Track of Your Own Advice to Yourself

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 8:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

click to enlarge WALTER KITUNDU
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Siamak Vossoughi is a writer living in San Francisco. He was born in Tehran and grew up in London, Orange County, and Seattle. He writes short stories and is also working on his second novel. Some of his writing has appeared in Faultline, Fourteen Hills, Prick of the Spindle, The Rumpus, Washington Square, Black Heart Magazine, River and Sound Review, The Brooklyn Voice, and sPARKLE & bLINK. He is the recipient of the 2013 Very Short Fiction Prize from Glimmer Train. Along with writing, he works as a substitute teacher at a K-8 school in San Francisco.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

About half the time I tell them I work at a school and half the time I tell them I am a writer. I feel better when I say the second one.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

My biggest struggle is finding time to write as much as I would like.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

First of all, I would say 'That's nice of you to say.' Then I would say a lot of things: Don't have a television; Pay attention to kids; Try to remember that everybody used to be a kid; Be a walker of city streets; Try to emulate the writers you love more than the most famous writers (because you're going to do some emulating); The biggest thing I would tell somebody is, keep close track of your own advice to yourself. There is a part of you inside that knows exactly what you need to do. It can feel very small at first. Grow it each day.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

I consider myself successful in that I wake up in the morning glad about having the chance to write.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's bicycle kick usually does it. I like how the commentator has to laugh at what an amazing goal it is:

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

I don't know very far back. My favorites would have to be both grandmothers. They lived in Iran so each of them was a connection to a whole world for me.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

When I was 10 years old, I admired Magic Johnson. I wanted to be an NBA basketball player or a poet. I told my teacher that I thought a poet was a more realistic option.

Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.

I don't know how well I would do with a week in the wilderness. I would probably start thinking about Into the Wild. That poor guy.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I guess if I was asked I would perform a striptease. It's good for a man to go outside of his comfort zone sometimes. Seems to me that you'd want some Isley Brothers music playing.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

About $1500.

What's wrong with society today?

I'll stick with Martin Luther King: "We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society."

Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?

No.

What is your fondest memory?

That's a tough one. I write a lot from memories so whatever I'm writing about at the time feels fondest.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Not that many, to be honest with you.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

I would like to see the poorer countries of the world be, in Eduardo Galeano's words, "a voice, and not an echo." I would also like to see Eduardo Galeano win a goddamn Nobel Prize.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

Art to me has a lot to do with slowing down to appreciate and understand life. It is necessary because life moves so fast.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a novel and short stories.

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

The writing I admire is honest. It is plain. It has something to say. And it is not afraid to be hopeful.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

The cost of housing.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

A night on the town means the person with whom you can have a night on the town no matter what you do.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

Write a short bio. Eat burritos for a week.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Now you're talking. Fresh-cut grass. A basketball gym. Old paperback books. Gheymeh polo. Sabzi polo mahi. Subway stations. Ground coffee.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

Trip to Iran.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview was conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

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