How Denver native Matthew Batt turned a Salt Lake city crackhouse into his home
First-time author and Denver native Matthew Batt tells of his entry into the real world when he and his wife bought a house -- a former crack house -- in Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House Into Our Home. The tale takes readers on his journey into adulthood, which included stops for dying family membrs, bills, marriage, the oppressive shadow of school and always, the new house.
Batt will be at the Tattered Cover Colfax at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow to sign copies of his book and read from it; Westword caught up with him in advance of that appearance to ask a few questions.
Matt Batt at a book signing in Minneapolis.
Westword: Why did you decide to write this book?
Matthew Batt: I was a graduate student enrolled at the University of Utah. I was primarily writing fiction. I took a creative nonfiction class with creative and nonfiction writer Robin Hemley, and we had to present a piece to the class. I like to get stuff out of the way, so I offered to go first. I was focused on writing important essays that one thinks one should write, but I was struggling with a topic. All I had around me was stray wood and power tools, and I had to write something. When I actually had to move power tools and wood off my desk to write, I thought, "Oh, why don't I write this?" I always try to imitate other writers, but I have never read anything like this, so I wasn't constrained at all.
How does this book break away from your tendency to act and dress in the way society dictates is proper for your given role?
In terms of literary style, the book allowed me to respond to myself and see how I sound, not unlike an interview question. This book is a pure form of an essay. It is a means to try; not something you write for a college essay, but an endeavor, an attempt. I couldn't put it all down neat and clean because there's something inherently messy about a memoir. It's a work in progress. Writing can be play. It's not something with very precise tools where you can do damage, but it's like a toy store or a sandbox.
Where do you find your inspiration?
From my family. Especially from my really dear friends who are great writers, like the novelists Bruce Machart and Peter Geye. Being a good person and hopefully decent listener comes from my mom and my wife. Jenae is especially my external conscience. If I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing, I run it by her. The other thing is I have a four-, almost five-year-old son. There's nothing to make something fresh and new and weird like having a toddler's eye. It's like having another childhood.