Friday, December 16, 2011

20 Questions: Erin Block

Erin Block
I love Erin Block's words.

I don't really have an explanation for why that is--with some of my favorite writers, I can nail down what it is about their prose that strikes me. Jim Babb, for instance, writes through poetic conversation that is riddled with regional verbiage that almost always pulls me into the pages of his books. It's almost as if I'm sitting on a rock next to the river, watching his words come to life before my very eyes. I think Jim Babb is today's Mark Twain.

Erin's writing is ... deeper, more seminal. It's rife with emotion--even when she's writing about the simple task of fishing. Her words convey a life spent working to live better, not only in the amount she pulls from breathing in and breathing out, but in what she offers to this world by just being who she is. Her words are honest, and more often than not, that honesty is directed inward, as if she's taken the time to step out of her body and evaluate herself from the outside in. It's a unique manifestation of introspection that just floors me whenever I find a piece she's written about her past, her family, her intimate connection with "place."

As I said, I love Erin's words. If you spend some time combing through her prose at Mysteries Internal, I think you'll come away with the realization that not every great writer sells a million copies in paperback; that not every accomplished essayist tackles topics that can only be filtered to the masses through the New Yorker. Erin, in my opinion, is gifted. And I think it's her love of the words of others that gives her such insight and inspiration to put her own words to such good use.

Erin, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions--even the answers to these kitschy, off-the-wall inquiries offer a glimpse into your soul. I'm proud to present Erin's answers. Let's get to 'em:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
I’ve been described as a pessimist, but I like to believe (tell myself) I’m a realist. Really, I don’t believe perfect happiness exists – it’s part of our humanity, nothing is ever going to be perfect. But some things, some moments, will be beautiful.

What is your greatest fear?
Debt. I’m petrified of ever being in it again.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? 
John Adams, I think. I read his biography by David McCullough a few years ago, as well as many of his letters to Abigail, and was struck by how no matter where he was, he was always thinking about home, about being on his own land, in his own house, with his best friend. I know that feeling.

Which living person do you most admire? 
My Grandma Ida. She has an incredible thought-life – a friend once described her as having a “powerful mind” which is a perfect description. Journals and diaries line her basement walls, back from the 70’s to today. She writes religiously twice a day – a diary and journal, morning and evening. Many of my first introductions to authors were from her book recommendations. She inspires me that no matter how old you are, thoughts are always changing, beliefs are always being evaluated and evolved, and sometimes, it’s ok to not really know.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
Judgmentalism. Although, I think it’s also the trait I most like about myself. In certain situations, of course, it’s detrimental, but it’s also what keeps me from stagnating…I’m always telling myself I can do better.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? 
Laziness and ego. The latter of which I was surrounded by for years in the music world, and now….yeah. ;-) Although I think it’s necessary to a point, for any creator. You have to think what you’re doing is good enough to share with the world, or else what’s the point? But there is a balance that is not often achieved. The three people (all musicians) I’ve most admired in regards to this are David Tanenbaum, Ron Cooley, and William Kanengiser -- all of them are touring and internationally known classical guitarists, all egotistical to a point, and yet all gave me time and teaching, encouragement and genuine attention when I was just starting out. They never had to downplay anyone else, because their work spoke for itself and they let it.

What is your favorite journey? 
Every workday, going home up my mountain canyon.

On what occasion do you lie? 
I’m a horrible liar. Resultantly, am also a terrible poker player. I would lie to protect a secret – a friend’s told in confidence, or a fishing hole. But never the little white “you don’t look fat in that” stuff. I don’t play those types of games.

Which living person do you most despise? 
Stephenie Meyer for bringing Twilight into this world.

Which talent would you most like to have? 
Casting. To make it look beautiful and graceful. I absolutely love to cast. I love feeling the timbre and vibrations and rhythm in my rod through a double haul, or the lightness of a dry fly small stream cast -- when I get it right -- which isn’t as often as I’d like. Casting is so physical yet it is an art, like dancing or playing the upright bass. I have Joan Wulff’s DVD -- she’s just gorgeous to watch. I know that “talent” doesn’t mean it comes easy and isn’t hard-fought for, and that “I don’t have the talent for that” is often just an excuse to not work hard on it; thus, I cling to that Calvin Coolidge quote about persistence.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
My spirit would find a wormhole and go back in time a few hundred years, to where it would fit in. But really, I hope this life thing isn’t cyclical. When I die, I want to die.

What is your most treasured possession?
A compass, given to me by my mother, who was given it by her father. He worked for the Dutch Underground during WWII, and was in both Bergen Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps as a result. He lived through the war, escaped the camps and walked back to Holland….but he died before I was born. He was a fly fisherman.

Where would you like to live? 
Exactly where I do now.

Who are your favorite writers? 
On Erin's reading list... and one of the classics.

C.S. Lewis, Willa Cather, Ted Kooser, Gene Stratton-Porter, Jay Zimmerman, John Gierach, Charles Dickens, Kathy Scott, Ted Leeson, William Shakespeare, Sarah Orne Jewett, Madeline L‘Engle, Norman Maclean, Jim Kjelgaard, Annie Dillard, and Dr. Seuss.

Who are your heroes? 
My dad Bryan, and my mom Sue. They are amazing as individuals and amazing together.

How would you like to die? 
I’ve always wanted to freeze. To just lay down in a snowdrift and go. I believe this comes from a specific passage in a Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” book I read when I was a kid. I specifically remember her describing it as “peaceful” and I like the sound of that.

What’s on your iPod? 
Don’t own one, and never will. I like hearing what’s around me. You miss a lot with buds pumping noises into your head, plus you look like there is an alien apparatus sucking out your brains through your ears.

If you were a pet dog, what would your name be? 
Zeke. My great-grandfather Everett, a dairy farmer in Minnesota, had a dog named Zeke. I never got meet either one, but I’m infatuated with both of their names.

What was the most significant moment in your life?
On Valentine’s Day, 2009 -- snowshoeing down from Forest Lakes in Indian Peaks Wilderness, back to the trailhead at Moffat Tunnel, and realizing that I would be ok on my own.

What’s your favorite film? 
Jeremiah Johnson.

Where would you want your loved ones to spread your ashes?
On the mountainside out back of my house.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite car of all the cars you’ve owned?
I lagged way behind on the whole car owning thing (living in San Francisco and taking public transportation for years does that to a person), so I’d have to say my current car which is really the only one I’ve owned, a white Toyota All-Trac. Her name is Daisy.


  1. Erin is one of my favorite writers, period, and reading her work leaves me feeling inspired, and at the same time, a gibbering idiot. Very cool to get to know her a little better. JT

  2. Totally agree... I'm so impressed by her. And her answers are thoughtful, funny, serious... and very revealing. I loved this exercise today.

  3. Erin's answers are as fascinating as her works. Thanks for bringing us a bit closer to the creator of my favorite stopping place on the web - Mysteries Internal.

  4. An absolute must read. I never miss a word Erin shares.

  5. Best scene in JJ is the one they show in the trailer, where he stands up and screams.

    Wonderful interview. Very telling.

    Just remember one thing, the fish don't care what you look like out there waving that wand around, just get them something to eat.

  6. First of all, thank you Chris -- for challenging me, and for the very, very kind and gracious introduction.

    And thanks to you all for your generous words...they truly mean a lot!

  7. Erin, my pleasure. Keep up the great work.

  8. EMB - Do you drive Ms. Daisy?

    @Chris - Can't thank you enough for interviewing her, Chris. One of my favorite writers. (PERIOD)

  9. eerie and a little haunting, listening to Canon in C as I read this> both powerful and moving. Thank you, and thank Dr Seuss.
    Tight Lines & tighter loops~

  10. Thanks, Chris and Erin. A wonderful look into Mysteries Internal. Deep, rich, honest and enlightening -- Erin has a special way of reaching deep into our souls with her words.

    The best is the quest for the perfect cast. That is so true in both fishing and in life.

  11. Great interview!

    Erin is in a league of her own. She is the writer I want to be.

    Can't wait for her next post.


  12. Candor is the word I think of when I read Erin's posts. She's amazingly up front and genuine, no pretense, all traits that really talented writers have. Someone with the means and/or connections should step up and publish this lady.

  13. Brian, deanwo, Sanders & Mark - Thank you so much for the generous all are such a great encouragement!

  14. I knew it! We have something else in common...Jeremiah Johnson. are an amazing, talented person. I'm so glad we met this year. And the Poudre awaits!!

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  16. I was fortunate to find Erin's blog the last couple of weeks, after she visited mine; a humbling thought after reading her prose. It quickly has become a daily habit. Thanks Erin for pulling back the curtains and sharing your life and thoughts with us. I love the transparency.

  17. River Damsel and Mark, thank you both so much! I'm humbled that folks take the time to read...

  18. I sincerely hope Jerimiah Johnson never gets re-made, classic. Great 20Q.

  19. RR - God forbid Jeremiah Johnson ever gets remade!!! May it never be!

  20. I love that movie... Erin's mention of it made me add it to the Netflix cue...

  21. Not going to repeat what everyone else has said, but damn, I sure am glad I stumbled upon this...

  22. Me, too, Paul. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. The only thing I dislike about Erin, or rather, her writings, is that it makes me realize I'll never be a real writer. The first time I stumbled upon her blog I noted that I was in the presence of greatness, and I still adhere to that assessment. And it makes me feel inferior every time I read her entries, and for that, I am grateful. Thanks, Chris, for allowing Erin to provide us a glimpse inside the internal mysteries. Obviously, thanks to you too, Erin.

  24. First rate and fun to read. Go Erin!!

  25. I'm with ya, Kirk... Erin inspires. Simple as that.

  26. A very humble thanks is all I can stutter out...

    Howard and upacreek - You guys are both awesome, and I can't that either of you enough for your encouragement. :)

  27. Witham - thanks for the kind word!