Foglifter Darlings : Foglifter Press Interview with Zak Salih

by Dec 29, 2020Interviews

As part of celebrating Foglifter’s recent Pushcart nominees, we interviewed the writers! Next up is Zak Salih, published in Volume 5 Issue 2!

 What piece of art—literary or otherwise—has uplifted you during this tumultuous year? 

 

Though I read Olivia Laing’s essay collection, Stormy Weather: Art in an Emergency, in November, I felt as if the book’s spirit had been with me since the beginning of the pandemic. These short pieces on ferocious (and ferociously political) artists like David Wojnarowicz, Maggie Nelson, Ali Smith, John Berger, and Derek Jarman read, to me, like a stirring call to arms.

 

What writing habits/rituals are close to your heart?

 

For better or worse, I find comfort in routine, so I treat writing like any other job. Every weekday morning, for two to three hours, I work exclusively on writing that doesn’t pay the bills but satisfies something inexplicable inside me. I allow myself weekends and holidays off—at least from the physical act of writing (I’m never not thinking about it). That distance is important, too.

 

Who (or what) guides your writing? 

 

In high school, I took a course in advanced composition taught by an English teacher I highly admired. The work that came out was saccharine, of course: the new family puppy, the magic of Christmas. Once, the teacher penciled in the margins, Never stop writing. I still think of those words, even after all this time, as a vote of confidence and a commandment to persevere.

 

What do you believe is the role of the poet/writer in this cultural climate? 

 

So many of the problems with this current cultural climate, I believe, stem from a profound lack of empathy for people outside of one’s immediate life and experience. I’d argue it’s the writer’s job to advocate for, and bring out in their work, the empathy that’s shamefully absent in so much political discourse. Writing, to me, is just as much an act of empathy as reading.

 

Beyond writing, how have you been finding joy or rest this year? Do you have a favorite quarantine activity? 

 

Simple things keep us sane in crisis. For me, simplicity was burning a candle while eating dinner, reading a book, watching a movie, scrolling endlessly through social media. Something about the light, the glass, the shadows. I marked the passing of time with scented wax: winter balsam, rose, linen, tobacco and vanilla, cinnamon, then back to winter balsam again.

 

What advice do you have for emerging writers?

 

With the caveat that I’m still emerging, my advice is to write, first and foremost, for oneself. There’s a danger to beholding one’s style and craft to the tastes and opinions of a readership you’ll never satisfy completely. This is especially true for queer writers. Concerns about marketability should always come last, especially if you want lasting pride in what you’ve written.

 

 


Zak Salih lives in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Chattahoochee Review, The Florida Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. His debut novel, Let’s Get Back to the Party, is forthcoming in February 2021 by Algonquin Books. www.zaksalih.com

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Wow! We had the best time at this past Sunday's reading with the San Francisco Public Library Thank you so much to our fantastic readers—@emo.ocean (Lio Min), @real_james_cagney, @charliejaneanders, and Lydia Elias—for sharing their incredible writing and starting a warm dialogue on the importance of queer spaces.We'd also like to give a huge shoutout to the amazing folks who helped make our event as accessible as possible! Thank you to our ASL interpreters Heidi Woelbling and Benny Llamas, and to our live-captioner Jen Schuck. We're so grateful for your hard work!Keep an eye out for a recording of this event on the SFPL Youtube page! We'll announce when it's ready. Until then, please go follow and support these writers and their work!Image Description: A screenshot of a Zoom room with Lio Min, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Charlie Jane Anders. They are all smiling and listening to each other. There is some closed captioning towards the bottom, that says "I'm really struck by how much vulnerability you all shared. As a writer, I'm curious how you know when you're ready to put a story to the page?" End description. ... See MoreSee Less
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Our virtual reading with the San Francisco Public Library is tomorrow! Join us at 2PM PT for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling.This fantastic event will feature James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias! RSVP here: on.sfpl.org/foglifterFoglifter is excited to collaborate with @sfpubliclibrary for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling! Join us on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT for a virtual reading with @charliejaneanders, @emo.ocean, @real_james_cagney, Lydia Elias. In mainstream society, when we hear the word "generations" we may immediately presume biological progeniture. In the Queer/trans community, however, generations can refer to chosen family, drag mothers, drag dads, ball houses, aesthetic legacies, just to name a few. In either context, generations suggest an era. Foglifter has invited four writers—Charlie Jane Anders, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Lio Min—who span generations to illustrate their "era" and the power of queer/trans literature. Live-captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided. RSVP here: on.sfpl.org/foglifterSee you then! Image Description: This is an invitation for the reading, “Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling,” presented by the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center & Foglifter Journal and Press. This free and virtual reading will take place on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT. The photos of James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias are in the middle of the graphic. The SFPL and Foglifter logos are on the bottom. This background has a colorful gradient of pastel hues and various shapes and swirls, with a square containing all of the text and photos in the middle. ... See MoreSee Less
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