Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Rose McMackin’s nonfiction piece, Juice
John: I am struck by the sense of place that comes through here, in spite of the fact that there are very few descriptions. It occurs to me that this sense of place comes from the relationship between the two characters, that the vividness with which they are described creates its own world. Is that how this piece feels to you, or do you view it in a different way?
Rose: I think some of that arises from the nature of our friendship, that she was a kind of guide for me as I entered that world. She was a couple of years older than me and had grown up locally and worked in that campground for several years before I got there. I was always watching her to figure out how to navigate this new place and so it became baked into our friendship, and into my perception of her.
What was your goal in writing this: to describe a friendship? To capture a moment in time? Or are you the kind of writer who starts off without a set destination and lets things develop in the way they want to?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the periods in my life when the person I was closest to was a friend, rather than a romantic partner. There may even have been more emotional intimacy in that friendship than I’ve ever shared with a romantic partner.
And I’m fascinated by those friendships where you’re so obsessed with each other that you’re kind of co-building this world as you’re living in it and you’re maybe a little insufferable to everyone around you and I wanted to try and convey that. I think so much of the way I understand that period in my life comes from the story we were telling each other about ourselves in real-time.
What spurs you to write?
I’ve never been very good at sitting with my feelings. When something feels emotionally intense (good or bad), I feel like I have to do something. That used to be kayaking and mountain biking—a lot of adrenaline-seeking—but now I am able to let off a lot of that pressure through writing. My mom probably gets better sleep these days.
Are campgrounds as strange and insular as they often appear from the outside?
That particular campground was kind of unique in that it was part of a larger community that existed around whitewater rafting. My mom had worked with the owners as a river guide in the 70s and 80s and stayed friends with them. For a lot of us—who were these kind of second-generation rafting kids—working there was almost a rite of passage, and a lot of us went on to work as guides. I’m still friends with a lot of those people, maybe partially because of all those hours we spent sorting trash together.
There was definitely a sense that we had everything we needed down there and that it was a world with its own rules and culture.
Being named after a John Hughes character: amusing, unbelievably cruel or something else?
You know, that particular guy really pulled it off. He was cheerful and kind of endearingly ridiculous so it never struck me as anything but entirely appropriate.