Winner of the Etchings Press 2022 Book Prize for a Chapbook of Prose
“There is a beauty in how Johnson weaves these scientific chapters together. It does not go over your head, nor does it bore. She balances science with life and shocking events that make us feel human as we think, ‘What would we do?’ Her tellings of how nature works combine with her descriptions of how we see those natural wonders like stars. This quick read will stay in your mind and heart for a very long time because of how well the book flows.”
An Interview with Laura Story Johnson
What was your inspiration for Triple Point?
During the early months of the 2020 pandemic, while on lockdown on a farm in Iowa, a friend and I started a virtual collaboration. Over a video call, I would read things I had written or was working on while he sketched. As an artist, he was experiencing the seismic shifting of creative spaces firsthand. My creative space has always been a quiet one, but the quiet that accompanied that time was – at least initially – uneasy. Our collaboration was my attempt to write into that unease, to plant my feet firmly in that space, to pivot – and Triple Point is what emerged. Many of the pages were workshopped as I sat alone on the side of an abandoned country road, focusing on early summer wildflowers making their way through cracks in the dirt. I hope that experience surfaces between the lines of this book.
When did you first decide that you wanted to be a writer?
For me, writing is something I have always engaged in and with. But engaging in and with writing is somehow different from being “a writer”. I’ve had this conversation with many writer friends and family members – how do we define what makes someone “a writer”. If a tree falls in the forest. Is it publication? Readership? Having an MFA? I believe it takes a certain admirable confidence to claim that title, because saying I am “a writer” is about claiming time – time that for many of us who engage in and with writing is mostly unpaid and often feels undervalued or even selfish. As a woman and a mother, it is time that I must carve out from other invisible labor. As a white, cisgender woman with a feminist, supportive partner in the United States, it is time that is so much easier for me to feel entitled to than for others who don’t share my privileges. To be acknowledged as “a writer” is to have the value of writing acknowledged, and that is something I have always wanted – for myself and for anyone who feels that writing is part of the person they are. When I turned 40, I put “writer” on my website. Claiming that title and, therefore, claiming time to write was a gift to myself, to the person I am.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Read, read, read. Reading is listening to the world. We have to listen to engage in and with writing. Regardless of whether you have published or studied or anyone has ever read a word you’ve written, if writing is a part of the person you are, acknowledge that you are a writer and claim that time (see above).
What does your planning process look like?
My planning process changes depending on the type of writing I’m doing. With creative nonfiction, I don’t plan and the writing is the process. With fiction, I do extensive research, which informs a meticulous planning process.
How do you feel about the advancing technology of literature like our easy access to e-books, online posts, and interactive websites, for example?
While I personally will always prefer hard copy (pen to paper for journaling, writing letters on an Olivetti typewriter, turning the paper pages of a book at the end of each day), I find the vast majority of the reading I’m doing currently is electronic – namely because so many literary journals and magazines are now available online. I know that I have been exposed to so many more and diverse voices because of the advancing technology of literature and I deeply value that.
How do you express perspective without the preconceived notion that you will offend someone?
When writing creative nonfiction, I do consider that people will recognize themselves in my work. At some level this influences what parts of the experience make their way into the final piece, but I also try not to allow any preconceived notions to put parameters on the process, if that makes sense. Writing, like art, plays an important role in pushing boundaries and shifting perspectives and sometimes that necessitates risking that writing may offend.
What was something surprising you learned while writing your piece?
This piece involved a lot of research alongside crafting my personal experiences into the framework and I was delighted and surprised to find a book on skiing at the triple point by David Lind and Scott P. Sanders. The words from that book, as paraphrased in my piece, are at the heart of why I engage in and with writing – to increase an understanding of the how and the why in co-existence with an experience of awe.