Interview with Sheila Squillante


What is a current project you are working on?

I am working on two different memoir projects right now. The first is a book I’ve been working on for years about my relationship to my deceased father as seen through the lens of food. It’s been through umpteen iterations and I had to put it away for a while. But spring is (almost) here, and it’s waking up again! The other is just in the beginning stages—a memoir about my coming of age/feminism set against the backdrop of my first marriage.

What is the piece of writing advice, good or even bad, that you have received that has impacted you the most?

Write what scares you.

What are some of the greatest influences upon your writing, whether other writers or outside influences?

My father’s death at the age of 46 is easily the greatest influence on my writing. I’ve written essays, poems, chapbooks and books, all with the goal of understanding that loss in my life.

How did the inspiration for “The Greenland Shark” first arise? And further, why did you choose this format to show the comparison to your father?

The first memoir project above deals with my relationship to my father, who was an adventurous eater and traveler. Wherever I go, and whatever I eat, I always imagine him there. I ask myself what he would have eaten. I knew that he definitely would have eaten the fermented shark in Iceland, so I felt an obligation to do so as well. But I was having trouble finding a way into the essay, partly because I worried (I always worry) about sentimentality. I like “hermit crab” essays as a vehicle for avoiding sentimentality. I like the way bald facts can work as foils for emotional content and expression. They can also cleanly pierce the hide and get to the meat.

Can you recommend one book that you think everyone should read and tell us why?

I’ll recommend a book of poetry, actually: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, by Ross Gay because we need ecstatic, life-affirming, luscious, earthy words right now.