Welcome back to our special Q&A series with Old Iron Press authors. We are thrilled to present Playing Authors contributor, Traci Cumbay.
Traci Cumbay lives in Indianapolis with her son and their dog. She bakes and hikes a lot and continues to pine for Samuel Beckett.
At OIP, we love the fact that everyone has their own set of “classics” (i.e., books, songs, recipes, comics, food, objects, movies, shows, etc. that shaped you). What were some of your favorite childhood classics?
My parents handed down some records for me to play on my Fisher-Price turntable, and I was obsessed with Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. The happy, dancy songs were aspirational, but I was a melancholy kid, so I had deep feelings about the heartbreak songs. Also? Mom’s pig in a pokes: Wonder bread and American cheese wrapped around hot dogs and baked. Pig-in-a-poke night was the best of life.
What inspired your piece for Playing Authors?
Waiting for Godot is my favorite piece of literature. I keep extra copies on hand so I can give them to anyone who comes into my life not having read it. I don’t know a lot of Beckett, but I’ve read that play probably 87 times. It’s full of extraordinary dark humor and hard truths, man. I actually started writing an essay about why it was the world’s best self-help book and thought I should learn about Beckett. One of the first things I read in his biography, Damned to Fame, was that he insisted his whole life he remembered being in the womb. That he would fabricate something objectively impossible and make it part of his story just floored me. This guy was living a different kind of life. I’m a rule-follower. It had never occurred to me to fuck with people like that, and it made him love me more. I’m also very interested in memory and what a ruse it is to trust ours or anyone else’s. And then I had license to live my dream of making out with Samuel Beckett . . .
Favorite word / font / letter?
I do everything in Avenir. When I read someone else’s work, I put it into Avenir first. It’s like, if it’s not in Avenir, it’s not even real.
Where would your adventure be set: underwater or in space?
Underwater. Space is too vast and scary. Water, though? Magical. When you’re underwater, you’re alone with yourself in a meditative, incredibly soothing way.
Snacks while you work? If yes, what’s your go-to?
Unfortunately, I snack during everything. Everything. Lately I’ve been making sourdough discard crackers and am thus in control of my snacks in a thrilling new way.
You are hosting a party. Who’s coming? Where and when? What’s being served? (Fictional characters and locales are welcome.)
I actually should be planning my son’s high school graduation open house and am stressed out by the particulars. I’m an introvert; I’d rather hang out with every person I love one on one, in rapid succession. Like the snack version of social activity.
What mashups do you wish existed?
Fleabag would make anything better, I think. I crave a Fleabag-Godot mashup. Fleabag-Deadpool. Fleabag-Little House on the Prairie.
What are some things you enjoy doing off-screen?
Seeing standup and live music, walking with my friends, yoga, meditating, baking, making food for people I love, trying to force cuddles on my dog.
Any recommendations for the OIP community? What have you been enjoying lately? Or something you’ve been working on that you’d like to share?
I read a lot of good books last year, but the one that blew my ever-loving mind was When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamín Labatut. I’ve been shouting that one from the rooftops and am excited to have one more way to spread the word. It’s a strange, dense, wondrous experience that melds science and history and possibility. That sounds obtuse, I know, so lemme try again: It changed the way I look at life. And was a really fun read. I also recently happened upon John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme Live in Seattle, and it hasn’t let go of me. If you can, fire it up and lie on the floor in front of the speakers with someone you adore.
Thank you so much, Traci! We love what you make, and we’re so excited to publish your work.
Make sure to check out Traci on the Radio Free Book Club podcast. And this fall, you can find Traci Cumbay’s work in Old Iron Press’s inaugural anthology, Playing Authors!
Continue to follow along all summer with Gutenborg, our favorite one-wheel wonderer, as we roadtrip to meet Old Iron Press authors near and far. Look for Playing Authors, coming out fall 2023.