By Jane Campbell
Laura Legge’s writing has appeared in a number of Canadian literary magazines including The Antigonish Review, The Malahat Review, and Grain. Her story “It’s Raining in Paris” is featured in The Journey Prize Anthology 25. Ms. Legge was kind enough to answer some questions about her writing habits, her research methods, and her short story “Syzygy,” which is featured in PRISM’s Love and Sex issue.
I think almost everyone has wondered whether or not astronauts have sex in zero gravity, but this doesn’t necessarily seem like a natural choice for the subject of a work of literary fiction. Can you talk a little bit about how you came up with the idea for “Syzygy”?
Has everyone wondered that? You hang out with the right people! Most of the stories I want to tell would not generally be classified as natural choices for literary fiction. I’m interested in making oddities seem inevitable. For this particular story I saw a photo by Graciela Iturbide of a couple in the Sonora Desert, this little triangle of light between their bodies, and started thinking about intimacy in barren places. I wanted to amplify that barrenness as much as I could. The red desert, taken to its extreme, is Mars.
Did you do any research for this story? If so, how did you know when you were ready to stop researching and start writing?
Yeah, I read a bunch of stuff for a day or so just to situate myself in that extraterrestrial space, and then I “launched” (heh heh) into the writing, and continued to research as questions came up. So generally I did the writing and the research at the same time. I wasn’t set on it being cinéma vérité, as you might be able to tell by my tenuous grasp on reality.
What did you enjoy most about writing “Syzygy”? What did you find the most difficult?
I really enjoyed writing the technical logs, because of the challenge of that kind of concision. The most difficult part was probably writing about the actual sex, so I clearly chose the right story.
What’s your writing routine like? Do you force yourself to write or do you just wait until the spirit moves you, so to speak? Do you write at a particular time or in a particular place?
I write every morning at my desk, beside a quote by Desmond Tutu and a greasy, signed headshot of wrestler “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin [Pictured]. Usually I write for about three hours, and then I’ll go back in the evening for another hour, the evening segment usually consisting of revision.
What are you reading right now?
The Bhagavad Gita! *Drops the mic*.
Do you have any advice for new writers who are trying to get their work published in literary magazines?
I have two related things to say about this. I think literary magazines like PRISM are very important, because they keep communities vibrant and keep ideas circulating, and there is a strong historical precedent set for the immense value of these types of periodicals. The most insightful piece of professional advice I’ve been given was from a wonderful mentor in Banff. She told me that what matters is your fundamental relationship to the craft of writing, how you feel and what you do when you’re alone with the page. So in my mind I have bridged the two ideas in the following way: Conceive of literary magazines as a dynamic space for questions and thoughts that will enhance your personal experience of being human, not as a kind of goal or endgame. This fundamental shift in perception will make your relationship to publishing and to your own work healthier, and more forgiving.