Q & A with author Sara Jaffe on her new coming-of-age novel DRYLAND

Sara Jaffe is a fiction writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her first novel, *Dryland*, was published by Tin House Books in September 2015. Her short fiction and criticism have appeared in publications  including *Fence*, *BOMB*, *NOON*, *Paul Revere’s Horse*, *matchbook*, and the *Los Angeles Review of Books*. She coedited *The Art of Touring* (Yeti, 2009), an anthology of writing and visual art by musicians drawing on her experience as guitarist for post-punk band Erase Errata.

She is also co-founding editor of New Herring Press, a publisher of prose and polemics.

From the Publisher's Weekly starred review for DRYLAND: 

"Jaffe’s exceptional debut, a heartfelt coming-of-age story set in Portland, Ore., in 1992, exquisitely captures the nostalgia and heartbreak of youth. Teenage Julie Winter tries to make meaningful connections as she navigates the tricky world of high school cliques, while living in the shadow of her older brother, Jordan, a former Olympic hopeful now living in Germany. She and her friend Erika hang out together, dissecting every nuance of their peers’ actions. Julie surreptitiously checks the swimming magazines at the local news store to see whether her noncommunicative brother has reentered the sport that once dominated the Winter family when he was an up-and-coming star. A radical shift occurs when the popular Alexis, cocaptain of the swim team, invites Julie to try out. Erika joins as well, and Julie feels both overwhelmed and at home in the water, coping with her brother’s legacy yet wanting to make her own mark. A new relationship with one of her brother’s fellow swimmers, Ben, now a freelance landscaper who also works as a magazine rep at her local store, provides her with some unexpected clues about Jordan’s life. Using spare, precise prose, and with a fresh, strong voice, Jaffe explores Julie’s budding sexuality, her unexpected attraction to Alexis, her awareness of the limitations of friendship, and the angst young women face as they begin to confront adulthood. (Sept.)"

Q: How did you come into writing? When and why did you start?

Sara Jaffe: I've been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in second grade we all "published" collections of short stories and I think that's what really did it for me. Lots of stories about animals, and Montana(?) and hair in "punky colors." Also, my dad is a writer, mostly unpublished, and his dad was a songwriter/lyricist.

I loved having that sense of familial connection.

Do you have any particular influences when you write? Either works of fiction or events in your life?

Of course! A list of recent influences/inspirations: Harry Mathews, Claudia Rankine, Arthur Russell, seeing Australian band the Cannanes live, teaching, *Valparaiso Round the Horn* by Madeline Fitch, KCRW's *Bookworm* podcast, parks, films by Lynn Shelton, Buddy Holly, performance artist Keyon Gaskin, HBO doc on Stephen Sondheim, riot grrrl nostalgia, visual art by Ellen Lesperance, coffee(!), my 7-month-old son.

Are there any particular themes, character types, or traits that you feel drawn to explore in your pieces?

Often some form of ambivalence--personal, cultural, or political. I'm really interested in exploring ambivalence as a productive space in-and-of-itself, rather than needing to choose a side.

What was your experience like in publishing Dryland?

In Spring of 2014, I started sending out the manuscript to some agents and some independent presses, thinking a bigger independent press like Tin House would be ideal--and TH was the first to get back to me! I felt very lucky. My editor, Masie Cochran, was so excellent to work with.

Pretty much every suggestion she made about the text was totally spot-on.

Read the NYTimes review of DRYLAND here!