ONE QUESTION: Giano Cromley

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Hypertext Magazine asked Giano Cromley, author of What We Build Upon The Ruins, “What question do you wish you’d been asked about your work?”

By Giano Cromley

Why do you write?
This isn’t exactly a question I wish I’d been asked. It’s actually my nightmare question — all writer’s nightmare question, or at least it should be. It’s a question that nags and peeves my brain late into the night. Sometimes it’ll come to me, unbidden, at the least suspecting moments, leaving me catatonic and feverish. It is, however, an incredibly important question. One that all writer’s must face, especially when they stare down the blinding whiteness of the empty page or the daunting pile of rejections.

Why do you write? 
Implicit in that question are a myriad of judgments. It invites the kind of blistering inquisition that can make a writer drop their pen and reach for the nearest law school application. Don’t you have anything else better to do? How are you going to make a living off of it? Do you honestly think anyone needs to hear what you have to say? Is what you’re trying to say really that important in the first place?

Why do you write?
By the time I published my first novel, I had written four others, two of which were good enough to garner representation from an agent, yet not good enough to actually get published. I’d written dozens of short stories and gotten a handful published in journals you’ve probably never heard of. My total earnings from writing would not have covered the cost of envelopes and postage. Yet for some reason, I persisted. Still persist.

Why do you write?
In my darker moods, I’d probably answer the question by saying, “I have no idea,” then reach for the nearest bottle of whiskey. But that’s only during the darkest hours.

In my more optimistic days, I think of the reactions I see in my Intro to Lit class when I’m able to show what James Baldwin is saying at the end of “Sonny’s Blues,” or when I’m able to convince a classroom of gimlet-eyed students that Bartleby is, in fact, a hero who we should admire. The looks of realization, of wonderment, of life-views being recalibrated, are enough to make me realize that writing is the most essential thing we have, the most noble endeavor we can attempt.

I like to think asking a writer why they write is a bit like asking Sisyphus why he keeps rolling that boulder up the hill. He may think for a moment, shrug, and eventually come to the conclusion, “Because it’s what I do.” At least that’s the answer I’m going with.


Giano Cromley is the author of the novel The Last Good Halloween, which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award. He is the chair of the Communications Department at Kennedy-King College, and he lives on the South Side of Chicago with his wife and two dogs. Buy What We Build Upon The Ruins HERE.

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