ISSUE 1 VOL 1 PROFILE: Micah Toub
Thank You All For Coming
HLR: Where do you write?
Mostly at home and in cafes. I have a compact computer that I can take with me anywhere, which has been handy when a story suddenly strikes. I find once that happens, I can literally write anywhere. Lately, I’ve realized the great benefit of stepping away from my computer during a problem moment and taking a walk around the block. This is when the solution will often suddenly appear, or a sentence will come into my mind, and I’ll type it on my iPhone or on a notepad by hand. For the last month, I’ve taken this even further and have been “writing” a story solely in mind. I have two characters and I’m trying out various scenarios and seeing where they go, and inspired by music that I’m listening to and the people I see. Once it feels ready, I’ll sit down and start typing.
HLR: Where do you publish?
Generally, I’ve published journalism, personal essays, and columns in magazines and newspapers, as well as a memoir with W.W. Norton and Doubleday Canada. As for fiction, I’ve been writing stories my whole life but hadn’t submitted any of it until last Fall, when I had a short story published in Rusty Toque, the online literary magazine out of Western University. After more than a decade of writing professionally, I’ve realized that the best experience is when I write for editors that I like, who get my writing, and who improve my writing. So although I would of course like my writing to be exposed to as many readers as possible, my mandate now is to work with the editors who bring out my best, no matter what publication they are at.
HLR: How does travel affect your writing?
I’ve always found travel opens up my imagination. Not that I necessarily bring the actual experiences abroad into the writing literally, but that travelling is so full of surprises and challenges that it forces me to stretch who I think I am, and thus, what I can write about. One time I spent some time in California on a self-organized writing retreat, and accomplished hardly any actual writing. What I did do during that time was a lot of concentrated reading, though, which years later still bears fruit. I’m able to absorb more of a book when I’m in that unstable travel state.
HLR: What are you reading these days?
Coincidentally, I’m in a period of re-reading a couple of those books that I read in California. One is John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats, which takes place in Monterey, across the bay from Santa Cruz where I first read it. The book reads like a hilarious television comedy series. Also, John Fante’s West of Rome. And, at least once a week, I’ve been picking up and reading one or two paragraphs from Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva. I discovered her while in Rio. Her non-narrative prose is always the perfect antidote to shake up the mind pre-writing, to remember that anything is possible with language.
HLR: How does the Internet and your presence on the Internet affect your thinking and writing?
On the one hand, the internet is the most distracting and time-wasting thing for me as a writer. I have no doubt that I read fewer books and write less because of it. At the same time, I’ve found the disjointedness of the internet — where you can read a tweet about a tragic plane crash right before a joke by Will Ferrell — has informed thinking I’ve been doing recently about the irreconcilable combination of joy and suffering in our lives, and that the two are often happening at exactly the same time. Consciously considering this has been rich territory for writing, too.
Micah Toub is the author of Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks, a memoir published by W.W. Norton and Doubleday Canada. A National Magazine Award–winning journalist, he writes a monthly spirituality column for The Grid in Toronto. His short story “It’s Not True I Didn’t Notice” recently appeared in The Rusty Toque, and a personal essay about the troubles with his ears is included in Mess: The Hospital Anthology, published in 2014 by Tightrope Books. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Micah currently resides with his wife in Toronto.