Rarely do I venture from my home away from home at the Bloc11 Café or the Sherman Café in the Union Square section of town, but for Somerville novelist Lisa Borders I made an exception. After all– I heard a lot  about this talented writer who resides in the Paris of New England, but I never had a chance to interview her. So I journeyed to the hinterlands of Davis Square to speak to her at the famed literary haunt, the Diesel Café.

Borders told me she moved to the Boston area in 1995. She first lived in Belmont, Mass; a town that has the distinction of being voted the most  boring burg in the Commonwealth by The Boston Globe. I agree—I have  worked in Belmont at the literary landmark McLean Hospital ( Home to  Plath, Lowell and Sexton…oh yes and me) for over 30 years. I would  take Somerville over Belmont any day. And indeed, Belmont did not prove  to be fertile grounds for Borders. She told me: “It wasn’t my scene. It  was a suburban place—family orientated—not a place for a single woman.”  So Borders picked up stakes in 1998 and moved to the promised land of  the “Ville. She found an apartment in a house owned by two sisters, and  has lived there ever since. Borders loves the scene here and mentioned  such Somerville writers as Pagan Kennedy, Beck Tuch, and Ethan Gilsdorf  as folks she admires and is acquainted with.

Borders is the author of the novel “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” and the soon to be released novel “ The Fifty- First State.” She is an accomplished  writer. She received grants from the Mass. Cultural Council, the  Somerville Arts Council, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She  also has had fellowships at the Millay Colony, the Virginia Center for  the Arts, and others. Of her own writing Borders told me “ I don’t want  to be pigeon-holed as only writing for women. “My goal is to attract a wide range of readers. I strive to engage the senses and appeal to the intellect. That’s what I feel good writing should do.”

Lisa Borders

Lisa Borders

Borders told me that her books have been published by small independent  presses. Her first book was published by River City Publishing in  Alabama. Her latest “The Fifty- First State” will be released in October 2013 by Engine Books in Indiana. Borders said of Engine Books “It is a  boutique press. It publishes about 4 titles a year. The bigger presses  seem to concentrate on commercial fiction. These are novels that are  driven by plot , not language or voice. For instance page turners or  thrillers. Literary fiction–the stuff that I write seems to be accepted more frequently by small presses.”
Now I have always said that I don’t want to go to a writer’s retreat  because I have been retreating all my life, but Borders begs to differ.  She said she gets a significant amount of writing done in places like  the Millay Colony, and retreats of that ilk. She reflected: ” All the  other stuff of life–the distractions fall away. The cat isn’t jumping  on me and there is not that inopportune knock on the door. You can focus on your work.”

Borders grew up in Central New Jersey but she and her mom later moved to South Jersey. This is where “The Fifty- First State” is set. The novel  concerns a character Hallie Corsin. After her father’s death she moves  from New York City back to South Jersey to care for her estranged half  brother during his last year of high school. During the course of the  novel the pair forms a makeshift family with complications, and gets  involved in an environmental sleuthing project that involves frog  deformities.

Borders works as a cytotechnician for the health insurance and to pay  the bills. Basically she screens Pap Smears. Borders has taught at Grub  St. in Boston for many years, as well as on the college level. Borders  likes the niche she created for herself in Somerville, and looking  forward to many productive years to come.


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