An Interview with Heather Lang
By Jennifer Battisti
Witness off-duty Elvis, Miss Atomic at home, and words as trapeze artists. Explore ghosts in the ecotone, hasty breakups, and why reproduction has so many o’s. Discover the saltshaker that’s buried in the microwave, a sci-fi spacesuit’s metallic silver and that desert bone. Edited and introduced by Heather Lang and funded by the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, “Legs of Tumbleweeds, Wings of Lace” features remarkable literature by some of today’s most talented Nevada writers including Las Vegas Woman magazine contributing writer Jennifer Battisti.
Jennifer Battisti: Last year, you curated and edited “Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace: An Anthology of Literature by Nevada Women.” What was your initial vision for this project?Heather Lang: Shortly after moving to Nevada, I noticed that writers in the Vegas Valley seemed particularly committed to giving back to their communities: hosting readings, serving as editors, working as teachers, and championing fellow poets and writers in a number of other ways. After a couple of years, I realized that this wasn’t an observation of happenstance. I wasn’t simply bumping into the right people at the right time. Vegas Valley writers are truly committed to giving back and I wanted to celebrate these community-minded artists. Moreover, after learning more about gender disparities in the publishing world—through conversations with fellow literary magazine editors and by studying the information gathered by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts—I felt compelled to celebrate literature by Nevada women.
JB: Did your vision evolve through the process of receiving the submissions?
HL: My vision did evolve. Originally, I intended for the anthology to more obviously denote the celebration of Nevada women who give back to their communities. However, I quickly learned that it was nearly impossible to find a Nevadan woman writer who does not give back to her community. This brimming generosity was a wonderful discovery!
Therefore, in both the titling and promotion of the book, I decided to shift the focus from an anthology of literature by Nevada women who give back to their readerly and writerly communities to, more simply put, an anthology of literature by Nevada women. My original intention was to celebrate the writing of these do-gooders because so much of their valuable time and energy goes toward helping others. This is time taken away from their own craft. Therefore, why not keep the spotlight on their art and make sure this was their moment to shine? The women included in this anthology are exceptionally talented; it was an honor to curate their work.
JB: When you created this anthology, you had only lived in Las Vegas for a couple of years. Having spent much of your life in Wisconsin, which scarcely resembles the Nevada landscape, has your own writing been influenced by Nevada’s geography and the city of Las Vegas?
HL: Yes, absolutely. For as long as I’ve considered myself a writer and a poet, I’ve been drawn to images and to the stories they suggest versus more straightforward narratives. For example, what story might a capsized grocery cart tell, or what do we do with a failing owl decoy, one that’s surrounded by birdsong?
Las Vegas offers an incredible opportunity because there are so many iconic images—from neon signs to Cirque du Soleil acrobats, for example—that immediately pop from the page when referenced. However, the juxtaposition of this city’s more infamous glamour against the breathtaking Mojave Desert has created more poetic opportunities than I ever could have imagined. Part of why this pairing works so well, I believe, is that despite being from seemingly different words, both are larger than life, just in their own unique ways.Heather Lang is a poet, writer, and literary critic. She serves as World Literature Editor for The Literary Review and teaches composition and literature with Nevada State College.