Peter Orner

in San Francisco, CA

recorded in Iowa City, IA

 

Peter Orner

My name’s Peter Orner and I currently live in Iowa City, Iowa, although I hail from San Francisco and I was born in Chicago and I was raised in the north suburbs of Chicago, regretfully. Because my parents stole away my birthright and moved me to the suburbs against my will.


The Knox Writers’ House

Your infant will


Orner

Against my infant will. My day old will. I was spirited out of Michael Reese Hospital and immediately taken on the Kennedy Expressway north. My brother, who was raised in Chicago for six years of his life, still lords this fact over me.



KWH

Because he’s the real McCoy?


Orner

He’s the real deal.


Adam Soto

What suburb specifically?


Orner

Highland Park, Illinois.


Soto

They have nice beaches.


Orner

We have very nice beaches.


Soto

Dog beaches, too.


Orner

Yeah, the dog beaches. You’ve been to the dog beaches?


Soto

Yeah, they’re beautiful.


Orner

It’s a great place. You know what used to be there? One of the fanciest hotels in the Chicago area. In fact, back in the day, people from Chicago would come out to Highland Park and especially to the Marine Hotel in the summer because it was so hot and it was breezier there. But they knocked that down. My aunt was married at that hotel. I actually have a story about it, but that particular place, because I was back there the other day and I was like, Oh, wow. Because it didn’t used to be a dog beach. That’s a new thing. It used to be a swimming beach. I mean, it is still. I swam with my dog. How did we get on this? [laughs]


KWH

What brought you to Iowa City?


Orner

I'm teaching at the writers’ workshop for a semester. And I’m an alumni, so it’s nice to be back. A bit of a homecoming.


KWH

So, related to place, you’ve been a writer for a long time, and was ask people about writers that move, how their writing interacts with where they happen to be living while they’re writing. You know, the things that you write in Iowa, are they different from the things you write when you’re living in Chicago?


Orner

I’m very sensitive to place. Place is sort of my whole thing. I don’t think about what I’m doing until I know where it’s set. Even before character or anything is there, it has to be grounded in some piece of geography, whether it’s real or not, it at least has to be real in my head.

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