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A Conversation with Evelyn Burd

Curated by Cate Valinote

CV: In relation to this issue’s theme, "Openings and Closures," the way memories peel out throughout “Chiara’s Sound” made me think a lot about the contradiction between wanting, which seems to be defined by a lack, and the often generative feelings, thoughts, ideas, and crystalline memories that wanting can produce. I’m wondering how you see the nostalgic and the unrequited. Is the unrequited an opening or a closure, a possibility or a lack?

EB: I love this question. I think so much about "wanting" and how nostalgic it can feel after the fact, but I also wonder if it mostly feels nostalgic when the want has been satisfied (in romance, whether it is satisfied by the person we were longing for during that time or by someone else). I want to think of unrequitedness as an opening, because sometimes "love is patient," or love can last longer than someone else's closure. But that's not always true and can become quite painful. Sometimes the healthiest thing is to let unrequitedness be a closure and to find another place for love in your life. But I try to think about love as coming from ourselves internally rather than love coming from another person, so in that way I think of unrequitedness as a possibility or an opening. 

CV: What is something you had to be open to in order to write this piece?

EB: I had to be open to writing about a place from my childhood where I used to go often with a family friend who has since passed. This place for me has now become a place of loss, a closure, and I haven't been back since they died. But the piece isn't about them. I was thinking about the loss and mourning we go through when we lose touch with someone who used to be so important to our lives, and the idea of mourning someone who isn't dead. Now that I think about it more, those two ideas of mourning probably came together in this piece by no coincidence. I had to be open to thinking about mourning to write this piece as it is, and possibly making connections between different kinds of grief and loss.

CV: Do you experience writer’s block (the ultimate closure)? When do you think writer’s block happens for you and for writers in general?

EB: I definitely experience writer's block. I think it happens for me often when I have too many voices in my head. That sometimes is because of a workshop, and I can't get the workshop's interpretation of my writing out, but sometimes it's because I'm anxious about something entirely unrelated. When that's the case, I have to be open to writing about the anxiety itself in a stream of conscious type way, and that's usually the only way I can really get around it. For writer's in general I'm not sure, but maybe it lines up with when we're running away from something, whether it's related directly to what we're trying to write or not.

CV: What things do you have to avoid thinking/thinking about while you write?

EB: I have to avoid thinking about what other people will think when I'm writing. It's mostly impossible, but when I'm in the flow I'm not listening to the voices of others, and sometimes when I'm revising my work I can tell where someone else's voice got back into my head because the smoothness and genuineness of my writing halts. I also think I have to let myself stop thinking about my present moment. It's kind of like reading for me, I have to visualize what the words are saying in my head. 

Cate Valinote is a writer based in New York. She is graduating with her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. Contact her:

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