Monday, May 21, 2012

Bryant Park Blog Q&A with Andrew Blackwell

Take a look at the environment and the state of our world's pollution at this week's Word for Word Author event, featuring authors Andrew Blackwell and Andrew Ross.  Mr. Ross draws on his fieldwork in Phoenix, Arizona in his book Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City to note structural and sociological conditions that cause environmental ills in urban centers. Mr. Blackwell similarly tours a number of the world's most polluted cities for his book Visit Sunny Chernobyl, satirically pointing out the realities of these ruined city-scapes. New York Times Dot Earth Blogger Andrew Revkin will serve as moderator for the discussion, bringing his comprehensive knowledge on the growth of society within the bounds of the earth's limitations.

Before he's in the park on Wednesday, we asked Andrew Blackwell a few questions. He gives away his favorite place to write in NYC, and admits to some mean frisbee skills, and overusing em dashes.


What was your inspiration for this book?
A visit to Kanpur, India. It’s one of that country’s most polluted cities… and yet I found I really enjoyed it.

Where do you do your best writing?
No contest: the Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library (right next to Bryant Park). Either upstairs in the Rose Main Reading Room (I prefer the southern side), or the Genealogy Room.

Did you have an “a-ha!” moment that made you want to be a writer?
I’ve always thought it would be pretty cool to be a writer. I just grew up with a lot of books around, and always enjoyed English class in school.

Which author do you wish had been your 7th grade English teacher?
Geoff Dyer.

What is your secret talent?
I can throw a frisbee surprisingly well.

What is your favorite book?
Black Hole, by Charles Burns.

Who reads your first draft?
Nobody. But I’ve got half a dozen friends and family who read the second draft.

Do you read your books after they’ve been published?
I’ll read a couple pages every now and then, to remind myself that it actually exists.

Do you prefer writing on a computer or longhand?
I take field notes longhand, but transcribe and write on the computer.

What book are you currently reading? (Old school or e-Reader?)
The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, on a Kindle. It’s the first thing I’ve read on an e-reader, and I’m totally convinced.

What word or punctuation mark are you most guilty of overusing?
The em dash. I use it instead of semicolons sometimes—and even instead of commas. Soon I’ll be using it instead of periods.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A documentary filmmaker. Which is just another way of being a writer, really.

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