Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran in 1978 and raised in the Greater Los Angeles area (South Pasadena, to be exact). Her first language was Farsi, her second (and luckily mostly forgotten) tongue, Valley Girl. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MA program. She has been awarded fellowships from Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo.
She began writing as an arts and entertainment journalist—her subjects have spanned from clubs (Paul Oakenfold!) to couture (Paul Poiret!); Maggie Gyllenhaal (Maggie’s first big feature!) to Fabio (Porochista’s first feature at 16!); New York City’s finest drinking establishments (Paper magazine bar columnist, 2000-2001, as well as New York magazine online bar critic) to rural Illinois’s most dangerous skydiving compound (2004 staff writer stint at The Chicago Reader). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, Paper, Flaunt, Nylon, Bidoun, Alef, Canteen, nerve.com and FiveChapters.com, among others.
She currently spends a third of her time in New York City and two thirds three hours away in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where she teaches Fiction at Bucknell University.
Question: What advice do you have for young writers?
Khakpour: Well I think the main bit of advice I would give them is to don’t go by the advice of other writers. Everyone’s story is so different and you’ll get so much conflicting advice. I was constantly seeking the advice of my mentors or other writers while I was writing the book, after the book came out, during the book tour – you know everything. Every step of the way I was like, “So how is this done? What do you do?” and they would all give me conflicting answers. And so I think for young writers the best thing to remember is that the world is just run by other humans who make lots of mistakes, and who are trying their best and sometimes doing their worst. And there really are no rules. You have to really have some sort of common sense and good intuition. Is it annoying to call your agent, you know, 12 times a day? Yeah probably. You probably wouldn’t do that to your friend. Is it bad form to stock, you know, this potential agent? Is it . . . Is it a bad idea to copy the architecture of another novel . . . of a bestselling novel in hopes of making your own book a best seller? Probably. So there’s a lot of common sense things that people often forget when they decide to become writers. And because there’s no real blueprint they . . . Like I did, they sort of start interviewing everyone around them about what to do and they get more confused. So the more I’ve thrown away the script, the easier it’s all been for me. I used to get very nervous before any form of press. Or I would think of a shtick to have at a reading. And then the minute I sort of tossed all that, everything started to go much more smoothly. So yeah, I say ditch the script.