Susan Steinberg is the author of the short-story collections The End of Free Love (2003), Hydroplane (2006), and – most recently – Spectacle (2013). She teaches in the University of San Francisco’s MFA in Writing program and holds a BFA in painting from the University of Maryland and an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Steinberg was the 2010 United States Artist Ziporyn Fellow in Literature. She received a Pushcart Prize in 2012 for her story “Cowboys” and helped McSweeney’s win a National Magazine Award for excellence in fiction with “To Sit, Unmoving” in 2007. Steinberg has held residencies at the Blue Mountain Center, Ledig House, the MacDowell Colony, New York University, the Vermont Studio Center, the Wurlitzer Center, and Yaddo. She served as the fiction editor for Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing from 2000 until 2006.
Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?
If two nuns and a penguin approached me in a bar, I’d want to talk about other things. I’d answer their question to be nice—I’d say I write about being female—then change the subject.
Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?
I’ve written a lot of scenes in which drugs/alcohol are in the background, but not necessarily a large enough part of the lens to be the cause of my narrators’ unreliability. In other words, the drugs/alcohol are in the room or in the backstory, like a sort of haze, but the narrators are often removed from them, either by the passing of time or abstinence or because the drug use belongs to a secondary character. So perhaps drug and alcohol historians would find it interesting that the drugs/alcohol are often connected to the settings my narrators move through—after hour clubs, the backs of cars, Baltimore streets, memory—rather than to what the narrators have ingested in the “real-time” of the story.