Lost & Found in the Depths of Grief and Love

An Interview With the Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Kathryn Schulz
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Lost & Found in the Depths of Grief and Love

The Duality of Emotions and How to Move Forward

The black and gold star-studded cover of Kathryn Schulz’s newest book, a memoir called Lost & Found attracted me right away. I’ve always admired Kathryn’s writing, ever since I discovered her through the New Yorker, one of my favourite publications of all time. Her article, “The Really Big One” about the seismic shifts in the Pacific Northwest, which covers Oregon (where I currently live) was stellar and it won her the prestigious National Magazine Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Since then, I’ve felt a connection with her, even if she may not know it. She did, after all, live in Portland, Oregon at one point in her life and has written extensively about Oregon for the New Yorker.

Lost & Found is a recollection of profound life experiences. It grew out of her New Yorker essay titled “When Things Go Missing,” in which she explored how losing small, everyday objects meant for her in the greater scheme of life. It’s about losing her father, whom she adored greatly, and finding the love of her life around the same time period. In a recent interview for Article Club, she spoke about this duality of experiences. “It was incredibly moving,” she says. “It was truly one of the most special and memorable moments of my life, but of course, my dad wasn’t there, and experiences like that are so incredibly common.” 

The book is her most personal work yet; a way to explore larger themes of loss and discovery. Most importantly, it’s a book about feelings like love and grief and everything in between.

We are almost always facing more than one thing at once and therefore feeling more than one thing at once,” she wrote in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. She calls it “and-ness,” the idea that many of us go through a contradictory set of experiences at the same time. How one good event can precede a bad one, and vice versa, and the way that it makes us feel. It’s a common experience for many of us, and yet, we don’t always stop to consider how it affects us. 

Her keen wisdom shines through when she says, “Life is always busy being many things at once—exhausting and restorative, tedious and exciting, solemn and comic, devastating and fulfilling.” Furthermore, she adds, “The world we inhabit is full of splendour and misery. Our fellow humans are brilliant and inspiring and selfish and vicious, and we ourselves are hopelessly motley, full of mixed motives and mixed feelings.”

To Kathryn, loss is a mystery but it’s also inevitable, and it can help us find our next path. You never know what you can find if you open yourself up to be found. Thus, I was very excited when she agreed to give us a glimpse into her life, her career, and her book. I can’t wait to see what Kathryn has going on next!

Here’s what Kathryn had to say:

Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Was this the career you always knew you wanted?

I count myself incredibly lucky to be a writer because I’ve wanted to be one for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I thought I would write fiction, mostly because that was all I read when I was young and I don’t think I quite realized you could make a living writing nonfiction too. But then I turned out to be just absolutely dreadful at writing novels—I absolutely do not have the fiction gear, and hugely admire those who do—so I found my way to essays and journalism.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, with regards to careers and success? 

Just before I published my first book, I asked my agent if she had any advice for me. I don’t know what I thought she was going to tell me, but what she said was, “Be kind to everyone.” That turns out to be excellent advice in general, not just for a book tour or a career. We live in a contentious era and heaven knows you sometimes have to ruffle feathers or throw elbows to stand up for what you believe in. But for the vast majority of our everyday interactions, being kind is an excellent standard of behaviour. I try to live up to it as much as I can.  

What books are on your reading list right now?

I’m always reading new things for work, but for some reason since my daughter was born, I’ve been inclined to spend my leisure-reading time revisiting books I’ve read in the past. So far I’ve re-read To the Lighthouse, Portrait of a Lady, and The Grapes of Wrath. Next up I’ve got a hankering to return to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I haven’t read since high school. 

When you’re writing–where do you write? What is the setting?

I used to be an incredibly fussy writer—the kind who would optimally write from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. in dead silence and long uninterrupted blocks of time with zero distractions and no obligations until noon the following day. But then two things happened that reformed me. First, I fell in love with an absurdly happy and productive writer who can get her work done anytime and anywhere, including by thinking up opening lines while doing the dishes or writing in 20 minute bursts during a day jam-packed with phone calls and errands. And second, the two of us had a baby. The combination of a good example and absolute necessity pretty much put an end to all of my preferences. These days I also write when and where I can—and amazingly, find it far more peaceful and fun than I used to

How have you been staying connected to your friends/family/community during COVID-19?

With difficulty! Our baby was born this past summer, right around the time that other people like us who are vaccinated and boosted started dipping their toes back into travel, socializing, and meals out on the town. But we have this new baby, and of course, there aren’t any vaccines available for her age group yet, so we’ve continued to be very, very cautious. In some ways it’s been a gift to just be home with her these first months of her life, and we live just 20 minutes or so from the farm where my partner grew up and where her parents and younger sister still live. So we see a lot of my in-laws, which is wonderful. But it’s been tricky with more far-flung friends and family. We’ve had some delightful visits, but like everyone we’re burned out on Zoom and wish we could see those we love a little more often and easily than we do. 

Do you have exciting projects coming up? If so, please tell us.

That depends on how you feel about shipping containers, libraries, and arson. (Those are three different projects, lest anyone gets alarmed.)

What is your dream brunch date? Where and with whom?

There’s a part of my book that’s about going out to brunch with my parents and my partner the first time I took her home to meet them. That event can never be recreated, sadly, but it stands out in my mind as the most wonderful brunch of my life. The food was nothing to write home about (or write about!)—think standard-issue Cleveland diner fare—but the company and the occasion and the conversation really cannot be beat. 

For more about Kathryn, check out her website, get a copy of her book here, and tell us what you think!

Hoang Samuelson
Hoang Samuelson is a writer, editor, and lover of British dramas, including Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Great British Baking Show. When she’s not reading or baking or watching one of the shows above, she enjoys outdoor activities including running and hiking. She also works as an accountant by day. Currently, she lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and to children, ages five and eight.
Favorite book: Too many to count, but a recent one is The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Favorite brunch item: chicken and waffles! with a side of coffee

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