5 Questions with Peter Turchi

a muse a mazeYesterday we had the pleasure to post Rebecca Solnit‘s answers to our 5 Questions, just before the event this Sunday, December 7 (at a special time of 5:00PM) at City Lights–a conversation between Solnit and author Peter Turchi. Both have new books out with Trinity University Press. Today, we feature Turchi’s answers.

Peter Turchi, like Solnit, is a prolific writer and author of many books. His newest is A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic.

Event: Sunday, December 7, 2014 @ 5PM. “On Language and Place: Rebecca Solnit in conversation with Peter Turchi.”

About the Book: In A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic, Peter Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle making and its flip side, puzzle solving. As he teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic—the creation of credible illusion—that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process. This much anticipated follow-up to Turchi’s bestselling Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer helps the reader navigate the fine line between the real and the perceived, between the everyday and the wondrous.

“Although Turchi’s knack for drawing connections can seem like a sleight of hand in itself, his writing is consistently engaging, lively, and thought provoking. The interactive element is also a delight, as there are actual puzzles scattered throughout (answers are provided in the back) to demonstrate the challenges and rewards offered by puzzles—and by good writing. And though Turchi’s volume seems most tailored to writers, readers and puzzle lovers should find much of value as well.”––Publishers Weekly

About the Author: Peter Turchi’s books turchi-peter-2014-smallinclude Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer; Suburban Journals: The Sketchbooks, Drawings, and Prints of Charles Ritchie, in collaboration with the artist; a novel, The Girls Next Door; and a collection of stories, Magician. He has also coedited, with Andrea Barrett, A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft and The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work; and, with Charles Baxter, Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life. Turchi’s stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Story, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and the Colorado Review. From 1993 to 2008 he directed the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Turchi recently taught at Arizona State University, where he was director of the creative writing program, and he’s currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Houston.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Peter Turchi: I read at City Lights about 10 years ago, and it felt a little like a pilgrimage to a shrine. When I was an undergraduate, A Coney Island of the Mind was one of our central enchantments, and Allen Ginsberg sat in on our class … we all understood that City Lights was—is—one of the true landmarks in U.S. literary history, as well as a great bookstore. It was lovely to have some old friends turn up, too.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

PT: The albums Live in Lafayette and Can’t Bury Your Past by TURCHI, my son’s blues band. I listened to the demos, the rough tracks, and the finished albums dozens and dozens of times as I worked on the book. They helped me think about process, but I also love the tunes.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

PT: I’m sure there were other books for small children, but the first two books I remember reading by myself, with pride and pleasure, were Treasure Island and The Tower Treasure (a Hardy Boys book), when I was seven.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

PT: Probably be some other kind of writer (a journalist, or maybe in public relations). If that’s cheating, I suppose there’s a chance I’d do something involving math and administration. I’ve always enjoyed math, and I seem to be able to organize things, though you’d never believe it if you saw my desk/closet/kitchen table.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no Wi-Fi).

PT: Shade. Drinking water. A good chair (I’m ridiculously finicky about chairs). A snorkel. Occasional visitors. Books, sure. It’s funny, but my wife and I were on Kauai this summer and tried to imagine how long we’d last if we had been stranded there, with no one else around, required to survive on our own wits. I might make it a week.


Peter will be at City Lights this Sunday, December 7 at 5:00PM in conversation with Rebecca Solnit. For more about Peter Turchi, go to his official site. Find his many great books at your local bookstore.


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