I first met prize-winning poet and accomplished writer Vesna Goldsworthy when she taught a poetry class as part of my masters at Kingston University. I remember Vesna telling me two things. One, that no matter how many times I visited her after hours, my grade would not improve (darn!), and that I was probably best suited to prose, not poetry. Somehow, Vesna delivered these missiles with such grace that they caused no permanent psychological damage. In fact, I couldn’t wait to meet Vesna again when she recently spoke at writer’s conference Wordstock.
She is best known for her memoir Chernobyl Strawberries
and recent novel Gorsky. Both are in English, Vesna’s third language. She wrote Chernobyl Strawberries for her then young son. Vesna was suffering with life-threatening cancer and wanted to write something for her son to remember her by and knowing he spoke English far better than her native Serbian, English it was to be. The Great Gatsby inspired Gorsky is about a Russian billionaire in London. I’ll be interviewing Vesna about Gorsky in the spring so stay tuned.
But in the meantime, here is the interview Vesna agreed to do when I cornered her at Wordstock (I keep a tape recorder handy in my bag along with lip stick – doubles as rouge in a pinch- and Advil – which doesn’t need to double as anything, just needs to work). Vesna talked to me a lot about the writing process, including the challenges and joys of writing in a foreign language. Fittingly, the novel What Language Do I Dream In? sits on her bedside table.