EASY Chair Jeanne Blasberg 30242.JPG

EASY Chair Jeanne Blasberg. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

AGE: 54.

OCCUPATION: Writer.

RESIDENCE: Westerly and Boston.

BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: Not an easy question! I was born in Philadelphia, but lived in multiple places in Westchester County, New York, until my high school years when we moved to Newport Beach, California. I left Newport Beach in 1983 to attend Smith College, at which point my parents moved to Dallas.

RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Working on my third novel and writing narrative nonfiction. I am workshopping sections of the novel at (virtual) writing conferences and taking online classes. I am also teaching a generative fiction class for the Westerly Writer’s Workshop. Our WWW ZOOM classes this summer are full and I am so grateful we are keeping the flame alive this way during the pandemic. I love the writing community we’ve got here in town and can’t wait until it is safe to meet in person again.

I AM COPING WITH LIFE IN THE AGE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY: Writing, gardening, training our new puppy, and appreciating the fact that our adult children are home (despite the reason why). Oh, and reading some classics — just finished "Middlemarch" by George Elliot.

MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am most proud of the family my husband and I have created. Beyond nurturing a loving and supportive environment within our home, I would say becoming a published novelist (after a decade of rejection and self-doubt) is what I am most proud of.

TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: I really love to travel, and New Zealand is next on my list. (But who knows?)

I ALWAYS CARRY: A book! I always have an audiobook going on my phone for when I am driving, grocery shopping, gardening, cooking or cleaning the house. I am able to “consume” so many more great reads this way.

WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: I remember wanting to be an “inventor.” Up until a certain age, I really loved my science classes.

MY HEROES ARE: My grandmother was elegant and gracious. She was also extremely patient. My grandmother could express her pride as well as her disappointment in ways that really moved me to do better and be better. I miss her a lot, but still try to live up to her standards. A totally different persona, another hero of mine, is Serena Williams. One of the greatest athletes I have ever seen, strong, determined, yet vulnerable and human.

FAVORITE AUTHORS: Colson Whitehead, Barbara Kingsolver, Meg Wolitzer, Marilynne Robinson, Mary Karr, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Joyce Carol Oates.

BOOKS ON MY NIGHT STAND: My TBR stack is always so high! Right now the top of the pile includes "The Vanishing Half," by Brit Bennett; "Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum; "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath; "The Ten Year Nap," by Meg Wolitzer; "The Year of Abandonment," by Elena Ferrante; and a new comedic novel that just came out, "Musical Chairs," by a great author and friend Amy Poeppel.

SONGS ON MY PLAYLIST: Loving the new Taylor Swift “Folklore." For me, summer is all about Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and our very own Will Evans.

FAVORITE MOVIE: "Pulp Fiction."

FAVORITE TV SHOW: "The Handmaid’s Tale." (And one of my favorite novels.)

FAVORITE RADIO SHOW: I like “Family Secrets” with Dani Shapiro, and “Moms Don’t have Time to Read Books” with Zibby Owens. I also love “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” when I need a laugh.

FAVORITE SONG/GENRE OF MUSIC: If the kids aren’t home, we always have the Sonos tuned to “Hits of the ‘70’s”. My mother loved John Denver and whenever one of his songs play, I get warm and happy inside.

FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD: Popcorn while I’m reading, or if I really need comfort Spaghetti Bolognese (vegan style.)

SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES I USE MOSTLY: I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (the life of an author today). But I think the platform that feels most natural to me is Instagram.

TRAITS I MOST ADMIRE: People who show up when they say they will and do what they say they’ll do!

PET PEEVES: Waste in general is a pet peeve — both environmental and time. I can’t stand excessive packaging and I really don’t like meetings that aren’t well-run.

FAVORITE QUOTATION: I am always inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I relate to this speech both as a competitive masters athlete (squash) and a maker of art. There have been so many fear-mongering critics along the way who have tried to keep me down. Even after I’ve reached my goals, there are critics who try to diminish what I’ve achieved. I am always on a quest to rise above the “cold and timid souls.” This also means being a cheerleader for others and not a critic myself.

MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: The red/orange sunsets, the spits of sand and currents of water. A hot, still August day when somebody makes the spontaneous decision to run over to Block Island or the Sag Harbor by boat for a fun lunch. When those hot afternoons result in refreshing ocean swims then blur into long evenings in the backyard around a bonfire looking at the stars.

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: My husband and our dogs.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I summited Kilimanjaro twice.

BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: “Listen.” Since George Floyd’s death this summer, I have been reading a lot on the topic of implicit bias and anti-racism. I am taking part in a 10-week DEI training with Arts Connect International as a white-identifying board member of various arts organizations. I am learning a lot and understanding more about what I can never truly understand. Practicing humility and really listening to fellow humans is the only way we are going to bring some measure of healing to our world. Listening means listening and not preparing your comeback while others are talking.

ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: Get out of your comfort zone and see the world.

IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Hmmm, I’m not a big one for autocrats, but a small thing I might like to rule against is noise pollution. I really despise overly loud engines that are loud for the sake of being loud (on land and water). I despise their presumption and flagrant disrespect.

IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Give the money to people who are really hurting and experiencing food insecurity in these terrible times.

I DRIVE A: 2012 gold Lexus SUV — did fifty-plus dorm set-ups/break-downs with that trusty boat.

I WISH I DROVE A: Bicycle — half the year we live in Boston, where I walk or bike. I consider a day I don’t have to get in a car a great day.

ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Ingredients for my green breakfast smoothie — ginger, coconut water, aloe vera juice, Carlson’s Finest fish oil.

IF I COULD INVITE ONE SPECIAL PERSON TO JOIN ME FOR DINNER AND CONVERSATION, I WOULD INVITE: Queen Elizabeth.

— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro

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