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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Adrienne Brodeur

Adrienne Brodeur’s memoir, “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me,” has been featured in The New York Times Book Review, Time, and other outlets, and has recently been optioned for film.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
Walking fuels my creative mind like nothing else. Whether it is on a beach with waves pounding or in a bustling city with neon lights flashing, a walk allows my mind to wander in unexpected directions.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
Every year, my husband — a man who would not describe himself as an artist and had never endeavored to create art previously — paints a watercolor of an important moment in our life together.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
As a book and short story editor, as well as the director of a literary nonprofit, the best non-material gift I’ve given has been to showcase other writers’ talents and help launch or support their careers.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
My mother’s dementia. It’s challenging to consider both who she used to be and who she is now as I make decisions for her.

“I assumed that people would read exactly the book I wrote. But now that ‘Wild Game’ is out in the world, I understand that every person reads a different book.”

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
I would be a marine biologist, studying whales. I’ve always been fascinated by what Walt Whitman described as “the world below the brine,” and I find whales — from their songs to their social behaviors — endlessly fascinating.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made? 
I assumed that people would read exactly the book I wrote. But now that “Wild Game” is out in the world, I understand that every person reads a different book, one that only they see through the unique lens of their experience and perspective.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
I was in California, visiting someone I loved who was dying from ALS. I took a walk on the beach near her home feeling utterly bereft. One moment, the morning was bright, and the next, a dense fog enveloped me, preventing me from seeing the ocean or the cliff, visible seconds before on either side of me. Whatever this atmospheric phenomenon was, for several minutes it blanketed, swathed, and concealed me as I howled and wept for my friend. Then, just as abruptly, it lifted and the sun returned.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to regrets and opportunities not taken. For if I did anything different in my life, I might not be exactly where I am, which is where I want to be: with a life partner I adore, amazing children, and a career in literature. 

How do you relax?
Snuggling on the sofa with my children before school or on weekend mornings

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
The Galapagos.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
The day I learned that I had an older brother who had died before I was born, and that we shared a birthday.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school?
That being an enthusiastic learner and curious person is more important than natural ability.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
Talking through my stuck-ness with my close friends.

What is your proudest moment?
When a neighbor from my building in New York City — someone I recognized, but didn’t really know — told me about an act of kindness by one of my children.

What would you like to experience before you die?
I would like to re-experience the magical first kiss I had with my husband on the corner of Gansevoort Street and 9th Avenue in New York. The kiss basically knocked me off balance and I floated home wondering what had just happened — and why on earth we were walking in different directions.

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