Meet a Grubbie: Rani Neutill
GrubStreet runs on coffee, printer ink, and community. This series features just some of the Grubbies who make our community strong. In this edition, meet Rani Neutill, current student in the Memoir Incubator and a 2017 Pauline Scheer Fellow. Prior to her work as a writer, Rani was a professor of English Literature at institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in SALON and The New York Times Book Review, and she has work forthcoming in The Nervous Breakdown and Entropy Magazine. She is working on a transnational memoir about fractured identity, being biracial in both India and the United States, and her relationship with her mentally ill Bengali immigrant mother.
What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
Honestly, I don’t have a pressing desire to hang out with my literary idols. I was an academic who taught Ethnic American and Postcolonial Literature for over a decade and during that time I had dinner with a few of my idols. It always felt a tad disappointing. It made me realize that the writing should be held separately, cherished, and meeting an author can interfere in your perception of their work. What if they are cold to you? What if they have opinions that contradict yours? I just feel like I want to love the books they write and that has nothing to do with them really, who they are in real life. That said, when I emailed Ruth Ozeki to tell her I had the most amazing time teaching her novel, A Tale For the Time Being (which has become my favorite novel), she immediately emailed me back. She was up for the Booker and didn't get it. I told her she deserved it. She was humble and kind so maybe I wanna hang out with her and talk writing or just talk anything.
How do you beat a bout of writer's block?
Garrard Conley, who is teaching the Memoir Incubator, really has taught me how to develop a practice of writing. I write every morning. I wake up, have coffee, and sit at the computer until I write at least one sentence. I think part of it is having something to write. And I do. I have the memoir I am writing in the Incubator. Just having the practice and sticking by it no matter what, that helps me to even write one word every day.
Salty Dog: botanical gin, fresh grapefruit juice, a salted rim.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
"Islands in the Stream," Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I love Dolly Parton.
What's the most important thing you took away from the Memoir Incubator?
To just write. To have a practice of writing. To know that all the rejection and chaos of the literary world is secondary to the craft and practice. That has made a huge difference in how I approach my work.
Want to find out more about all the other amazing people who make the GrubStreet community what it is? Check them all out here! And while you're at it, see what classes are on offer at Grub this fall.