The Write Stuff: Zarina Zabrisky on Becoming Who You Are

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

zabriskyzarina_by_SAMMY.jpg
SAMMY!
Zarina Zabrisky moved to San Francisco from Moscow to escape the aftermath of a collapsing communist empire. She wrote while traveling around the world as a street artist, translator and kickboxing instructor. She is the author of the short story collections Iron and A Cute Tombstone (Epic Rites Press) and a novel We, Monsters (Numina Press).

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I am a writer.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Time. I have a lifelong fight with time. Never enough to do everything I want to.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

I have a tattoo "You must become who you are" (a quote by Nietzsche) on my wrist.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

My only definition of success is being able to write something that I am satisfied with. I'm never satisfied, so no.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Oh, when I want to feel sadder: Wings, by a Russian rock band Nautilus Pompilius:

But there is also a good song by a Ukrainian pop group VIA Gra that can be loosely translated as "Get the fuck out of here, I can do everything myself."

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

My grandmother Lina formed me as a person, writer and pretty much everything else. I write about her obsessively. She was a beauty with brains (a construction engineer), lost all her family in the siege of Leningrad and never cried. She taught me to read and write. She taught me poetry. She also made me learn English. Without her I couldn't be.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

Catherine the Great and Pushkin, both.

Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.

Desert. No one is around, just cacti and birds and tumbleweeds. It's hot. I am in a cool room, looking at the desert and writing. I have a giant bookshelf, too. Does it qualify as wilderness?

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

Writers are striptease dancers.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

What is a checking account?

What's wrong with society today?

Society can't be right by definition. I am an anarchist.

Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?

Arsenic at tea time.

What are you working on right now?

A new novel and two short story collections. None of them are set in Russia.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

Weather. I need heat.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?

A mummy of Lenin, one of the worst dictators, preserved in the mausoleum in the middle of the main square of Moscow.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Old books, my children's hair and the perfume Poison.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Sarah Ciston. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

Photo credit: SAMMY!

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