What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Joe Waechter and right now I’m living in Minneapolis. I was born in a small town called Fletcher, North Carolina—outside of Asheville, in the mountains.
Where did you go for your undergraduate/graduate degree?
I went to undergrad at UNC Greensboro and then several years later I went to graduate school at Brown for playwriting.
What project(s) have you been working on here at SPACE?
I’ve been working on several things. I’ve been working on a play of mine called Good Old Boys that’s about a bunch of men who go deer hunting for a weekend and things start to go wrong. I’ve also been working on… I’m kind of in research stages for a screenplay that I’m working on. And I’m starting a new play that’s kind of about a lot of things and a lot of things I don’t even know its about yet, like riding around the ideas of gay adoption and the economics of adoption and kind of about economics and class in general and I’m using this like- remember that game you would play in elementary school where you would write MASH at the top of the page which stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House and it would determine your life based on all of those things- so I’m kind of using that as my structure for the play and kind of… yeah I don’t know how its going to happen but I’m going to try and make it be… really good.
Do you usually write to deal with what’s going on in your life?
Sometimes. I mean I guess they’re all that way. I mean, for me, writing is kind of a way of… through the process of writing I’m able to understand or confront things that I don’t understand or things that kind of confuse me or upset me or that I have a lot of feelings around. So by exploring those topics I’m able to make more sense of them. But that’s not always so intentional. Sometimes my writing tells me what it’s supposed to be about so it’s not like I sit down to write a play about grief. I might sit down to write about two characters going to a theme park and it could end up being about grief. So sometimes the play reveals itself.
How have you been spending your time here at SPACE?
Umm…napping…staying up late with other playwrights and drinking bourbon, walking to the lake and getting bitten by mosquitos, hauling firewood, watering flowers, eating fresh lettuce, laying around in the grass and writing. It’s been really nice. Listening to the sounds of this 200-year-old house late at night. I won’t describe the sounds in more detail because it might scare some people, but it’s really awesome.
Where’s your favorite place to write while you’re here on the farm?
I really like writing in bed. At home in my non-residency life I like to write in public. I like really loud coffee shops. I like having to force myself to… or I like the energy it takes to force myself to focus on something when there’s so much distraction. And here though I find that I’m able to write best when I separate myself off. So whether it’s going into my room and closing the door and laying in bed or completely separating myself and going to a complete other area of the farm and doing some writing there. So I’ve kind of been strangely private about writing and that’s unusual for me. Before you asked the question I hadn’t thought of it…it’s just kind of been happening. When I’ve been writing in the common rooms in the house it’s not been… I’ve realized now that I’ve unintentionally always been alone writing and that’s okay. And I haven’t put my headphones on once here.
Do you normally listen to music when you write?
Yeah. But I’ve been listening to the music of the farm… and the ducks.
What’s coming up next for you?
On Wednesday… in three days I’m flying to Norway for an artist residency on a sailboat in the Arctic Circle. It’s a group of artists of different disciplines and some scientists and an architect and we’re all living on the sailboat together doing research or making work and I’m kind of working on this project that’s based on that the Arctic doesn’t have a folklore mythology of its own because no one’s ever lived there to create one so as it’s starting to disappear, I’m hoping that maybe I’ll kind of explore a mythology or folklore for the Arctic so that it’s preserved that way in literature.
Was that your idea?
Yeah that was my idea. Well I love Scandinavia and I love cold places. I love the clarity that you experience in cold air and I’m really into a lot of Scandinavian and Icelandic folklore and working on some other projects that are kind of steeped in Norse mythology and in Icelandic folklore, I’ve realized that this area of the Arctic that I’m going to doesn’t have one because no one’s ever lived there except for like polar bears and walruses and you know…whales. And they aren’t writing…so.
Do you like to work on more than one project at a time?
It’s always different. It depends on what stage I’m at in it. So like, if I’m rewriting I’ll tend to be more open to working on lots of different things because so much of rewriting is technical for me once I’ve figured out what the rewrites are. But when I’m creating something new I can get a little obsessive and stick to one thing until it’s found its way to an end or I’ve gotten stuck, but right now I’m kind of starting a lot of different things, here, and seeing what boils up to the top.
Do you produce better work if you have more than one thing?
Yes. I often think of it as like when you go to a restaurant and the restaurant’s not busy and the waiter only has you to wait on, they never come by to say hi to you or to refill your water. But when that waiter’s really busy they do their best work and you’re getting good service. I find that when I have lots of projects happening at once and lots of deadlines and I’m having to tuck writing into the nooks and crannies of my day in order to meet those deadlines that I’m doing my best work. So I try and work on as many different kinds of writing and as many different projects as I can to kind of mimic that experience of being a really busy waiter.
If you were reincarnated as a farm animal what animal would you be and why?
I wanna say one of the animals that’s here but what’s missing here is a dog. So I guess I would want to be an awesome farm dog so I could chase all the animals around and do whatever I want.
Interviewed by Michael Calciano.