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An Interview with Sarah McCarry

Interview conducted by April Murphy

April Murphy: When you began blogging as The Rejectionist, you were anonymous – and the persona you created was pointedly bombastic and irritable. Eventually, this kind of melted away, evolving into a more reflective and sometimes-even-soft Le R, that suddenly, revealed itself to be you – owning up to your real identity and your past and your (exciting/literary) future. I’m curious, did the anonymity help you find your writing voice? Or, once you revealed your identity, did you suddenly feel the need to start writing about your life? 

Sarah McCarry: The funny thing about that is that the early persona of the blog is really what’s uncharacteristic for me as a writer, and the personal stuff is more like what I’ve been writing all along. I’ve been writing a personal zine since 1998 or 1999, and although obviously (well, hopefully) my writing has evolved a lot over the years I’ve always used the lens of my personal experience to examine whatever it is I’m thinking about. Everything I’ve published up until now has been some form of personal essay. When I moved to New York I thought, very briefly, that I wanted to work in publishing, and the blog started as a lark and a sort of escape valve as I was flailing around in that endeavor. But I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t an industry I wanted to stay in, and I really don’t like writing about publishing–or writing, for that matter–and so the blog shifted back to the kind of writing I’ve always done.

Although I’ve never thought of that early persona as particularly constructed–I mean, there’s certainly a lot of me in there. I’m a cocky bitch. It’s a big advantage, especially if you’re a woman writing on the internet about yourself, to come across as terrifying.

AJM: This reminds me of something Rachel Maddow said recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. Maddow was referring to a confrontation she’d had with Alex Castellanos where he said he liked how passionate she was when she called him out on denying the gender wage gap. In the interview she’s quoted “I wanted to say, ‘Are you saying I’m cute when I’m angry? But I didn’t, because when you’re a woman on television, you can’t even say the word angry.”  I think you could substitute ‘woman writer’ and Maddow’s remark wouldn’t ring any less true. 

One of the things that I admire about your writing is that you aren’t afraid to let people know when you’re angry – and you make no effort to conceal that you have strong opinions about how women are treated both in the publishing world, how they’re treated by writers, and how they are treated at large. I understand it’s nearly impossible to answer “What advice can you give to women writers, people who talk about women writers, and people who write women?” and you’ve been tackling these