Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer: Jon Pineda

Jon Pineda photo

What is your go-to pen(cil)? It’s usually anything that leaves a mark, but lately, for some reason, it’s been the BIC Velocity (1.6).  The ink has to be thick and smear in spots along the pages, otherwise, I don’t feel like I’m writing.

Most beautiful word in all the world: Two immediately come to mind: Yes and No.  (Of course, they tend to be overused.)

Alter ego: A sentient coffee mug.

What’s for dinner? A big batch of lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) and a chilled slab of bibingka.

What’re you reading? Just finished re-reading Nicholas Montemarano’s new novel The Senator’s Children, which is just so stunning and smart, and Joseph Legaspi’s new poetry collection Threshold, which is so alive with truth.  I adore both of these writers.  I’m also reading Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary and going back, for the tenth time or so, to The Lover by Marguerite Duras.

 Who is your most-recent writer crush? Maryse Meijer.  I loved her story collection Heartbreaker.

Song lyrics stuck in your head, go: “What, oh, have we done to run this country into such a sight…” Milk Carton Kids, “The Ash & Clay”

You’re a new edition to the Crayola box. Congratulations. What is your new name? Pineapple Green

What are you putting off? Finishing the last of a huge front porch renovation project.  I need to paint the columns, but it’s getting too cold to do so now.

What was the last gift you gave someone? A donation to a charity.

What were you like as a college or graduate student? As a college student, I wrote lots of songs and played in a band.  I was fortunate that my band made money from gigs, and that helped me pay bills here and there.  I also worked at different restaurants, just for the free meals, because I didn’t have a meal plan.  Somewhere in all of that running around I found, among other things, the stillness inside poems.  And I was fortunate that I’ve had many generous teachers.  One is the poet Laurie Kutchins.  As a graduate student, all I wanted to do was write everything and read everything.  I didn’t know if I would ever publish a book of my own, but I was determined to move in that direction, to give that part of me a chance.  The world, though, kept saying, No.  And I’m so grateful for that sustained rejection.  My hope is that every book I’ve written says, Yes.

Here’s your free ticket. Where are we going? 1982.  To the hallway of my childhood home.  I wrote a poem about it (“First Concert”) in Little Anodynes.


Jon Pineda’s new novel Let’s No One Get Hurt is forthcoming in March 2018 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and recently received a “starred review” from Booklist.  His debut novel Apology won the 2013 Milkweed National Fiction Prize, and his memoir Sleep in Me was a 2010 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and was named a “Best Books of 2010” by Library Journal.  He is also the author of three poetry collections: Little Anodynes, winner of the 2016 Library of Virginia Literary Award, The Translator’s Diary, winner of the 2007 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Poetry & Prose, and Birthmark, winner of the 2003 Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry Open Competition.  He teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte and is on faculty at the University of Mary Washington.


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