Passion Never Retires for Joan Wilking

What is the best thing that I love about my work? I’m a Gemini, the twins. For years I worked at only one thing. I was an ad agency creative director on the design side. In the late 1990’s I started to write as an avocation and fell in love with it. Eventually I left my day job, which funded me, to refocus on being both an artist and a writer fulltime. The twins in me love having the luxury to do both.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? On the East Coast, lazy summer days with all of my family in the same place, eating oysters we picked out of Cape Cod Bay. On the West Coast, climbing to the top of the Piedra Blancas with family and friends.

What is my greatest fear? That I won’t live long enough to see my art and writing receive the attention I think it deserves.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Impatience.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? The writer, Pam Houston, the potters I work with on both coasts and my three daughters.

What is my greatest extravagance? Living in two beautiful places. April through December in Ipswich, MA overlooking Plum Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. January through March in the Los Padres mountain valley in Ojai, CA.

On what occasion would I lie? When telling the truth would serve no purpose other than to hurt someone.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? My own episodic uncertainty about its quality.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? There has been no happiest. I’ve always been happy doing the work although dealing with peripheral issues surrounding it has been miserable at different times over the years.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I’d give myself another forty years with my current level of experience but in the body I lived in forty years ago.

What is my greatest achievement in work? I haven’t achieved it yet.

Where would I most like to live? In the same places I live now.

What is my most treasured possession? My good health.

What is my most marked characteristic? Creativity.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? At my desk, where I’m writing this, listening to the breeze, watching gulls wheel over the water shimmering in the bay.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? Spice Thai Kitchen in downtown Ipswich.

What books influenced my life and how? Jansen’s History of Art. My Skidmore College textbook gave me an overview of the vast world of art waiting for me. The Family of Man, edited by Edward Stiechen with a prologue by Carl Sandburg. That collection of photography moved me so deeply when I was just a girl that I can still recall many of those images. My throat tightens with emotion remembering them. It left me with a life long empathy for all aspects of the human condition. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. The best book about “how to write” I’ve ever read. It helped me break down all the elements of craft in writing, so I could use them creatively to establish my own voice. The short stories of Grace Paley and Lorrie Moore. They taught me something intangible about writing dialogue, which I hope I’ve assimilated into my work.

Who are my favorite writers? Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Carol Shields, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? I hope to die so fast there’s no time for music.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Pip in Great Expectations.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? My daughters.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? David Lean’s 1946 version of Great Expectations.

What role plays art in my life and work? Art is everything!

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? It was my friend Russ who died earlier this year.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017? Probably, no one. There are only a few months left in 2017 and I’m too busy with the solitary pursuits of writing and making sculpture.

Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2017? Lindsay Hunter, the wonderful writer who selected my book, Mycology, as the winner of the 2016 Wild Onion Novella Prize.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on? I spent a number of months this year writing one hundred and one, one sentence stories based on prompts provided by another writer. I hope to gather them all into one document and start pitching them to publishers. I’d like to see them published in an alternative form, maybe a beautiful box filled with flash cards printed with a single sentence on the front and the prompts that inspired them on the back.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017? Some of my sculpture will be exhibited here in Ipswich the weekend of September 29th. I’ll be at the Ipswich Public Library on November 4th with my book. There are links to info about my book and some of my short stories at:

My Instagram page has photos of my sculpture:

Google me to read many of my short stories and personal essays.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? When I left my day job five years ago a lot of people said, “So, you’re retiring.” I wish I’d know that phrase then. It would have been the perfect retort.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? The sculptor Gina Fernandez makes strange and wonderful things. I’d love to read her answers to these questions. The writer Kim Chinquee is a master of Flash Fiction. Her stories are finely polished small gems.

How can you contact me?


Facebook: Website:

My book is on Amazon. Here is the link to it.


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