The newest print edition of Rain Taxi contains my thoughts on Halina Duraj’s story collection, The Family Cannon. And over at Necessary Fiction, I review John Flynn’s Dreaming Rodin. Both of these books are from rather small presses, but don’t think that says anything about the quality of the writing. Duraj’s book is quite good, delving though years and continents to tell the story of a Polish family in America, and the best stories from Flynn’s collection call to mind the short fiction of John Fante.
You may be here thanks to a link from the wonderful Natalia Sarkissian, my partner in crime over at Numéro Cinq Magazine, who invited me to participate in this dervish known as the My Writing Process Blog Tour. If so, let me welcome you to my small little sliver of the web. If not, well, I’ll still welcome you. I’m a welcoming guy.
The #MyWritingProcess tour is intended to connect writers from all over the world. The way it works is pretty simple: I’m going to answer 4 basic questions below. Then, I’ll introduce a couple of my writing pals, who will keep the tour rolling with a similar post one week from today (March 17).
Let’s dig in.
1. What are you working on?
At the moment, I have several plates spinning. If you’ve glanced at my site already, you’ll see that I write book reviews in addition to fiction. And right now I have a small stack of books I’m in the middle of reviewing. I probably shouldn’t mention titles here (for ethical reasons), but I can say that I’ve got pieces to write for Rain Taxi, Necessary Fiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and Numéro Cinq. These will all probably arrive online or in print within the next 3-5 months. If you want to read a recent review of mine, check out my thoughts on Lydia Davis’s new collection, Can’t and Won’t.
I also have a few author interviews in the pipeline. One is with Stacey D’Erasmo, which should pop up any time now in PW. Her new novel, Wonderland, is amazingly good. Certainly check it out. Another is with Lydia Davis, a follow-up of my review for NC, which is slated for June. A third project that I’m pretty excited about is a Skype roundtable I’m hosting for the West Hartford (Connecticut) Library, where I’ll be connecting with Laura van den Berg, Ethan Rutherford, and Jessica Hollander to discuss the art of short fiction for a local audience. The event will be recorded and hosted online. I’ll be sure to post a link when it happens.
Creatively, I’m working on a series of short stories. I’d like to say I’m focusing on a manuscript, but my brain doesn’t seem to work that way. Instead, I just write one story after another. Most are extremely short (under 500 words), though some top out around 2500 words. I’m not interested in writing long narratives, for some reason. Anyway, I have a couple of stories floating out in the Submittable void right now, and I’m polishing a couple others to start sending out soon.
Oh, and did I mention that I help edit a literary journal? It’s called Atlas and Alice. You should take a look.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Not sure how to answer such a question. I mean, I truly believe there’s no such thing as originality in art. If anything, we all work with variations of established forms, don’t we?
I suppose one thing I can say is that I have very little interest in stretching a narrative for length. To me, a perfect story can last as little as a hundred words. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a long yarn. I just don’t think I could ever find the patience to write one. I find comfort in short, often ironic, darkly humorous, slightly unsettling literary fiction.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I write fiction because I love the art of storytelling. Story, regardless of length and genre, allows audience transportation. As a storyteller, I feel like a magician. That’s fantastic.
As for literary criticism, I find it incredibly important to spread the word about great books. I do my best to treat every title equally. I understand the amount of work that goes into writing, and I just don’t see the point in dragging an author through the mud. As such, all of my reviews attempt to weigh the positives and negatives in every book. A completely negative review is pointlessly cruel.
4. What is your writing process?
Most of my ideas come while I run. Though I used to run 20-30 miles a week, I’ve cut back some over the past year or so. But running really allows me to focus on narratives. Kernels percolate and I jot them down here and there in an idea notebook. Sometimes, I’ll spin a story in my head for weeks (or months) before I start to write. Occasionally, though, I’ll have to immediately get to work.
The writing itself comes in spurts. I steal away moments when I can: sitting on the couch at night, sitting at my desk in the morning before work, hanging around my classroom (I adjunct part time at a couple of local colleges) before students arrive. I juggle a few different jobs, so my schedule can be fairly sporadic. But I do try to surround myself with inspiration when I write. My desk is cluttered with books, with craft essays, and with quotes and toys. My guitar is always nearby. Sometimes I strum while thinking.
Does the strumming help? Sometimes.
Now let me introduce you to two great writers I’m proud to call friends: Sarah Seltzer and Brendan Todt. You can check their sites next Monday to hear what they have to say about writing.
Sarah Seltzer is a journalist and writer living in New York City. Her recent fiction has appeared in Joyland and Lilith Magazine. Her journalistic work has been published pretty much everywhere: The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, Jezebel, Rolling Stone, and about a million others. She’s the real deal, folks. UPDATE: Here’s the link to her entry.
Brendan Todt is a poet and fiction writer living in Iowa. He’s the Editor-in-Chief at Atlas and Alice, and his work has been published in Ninth Letter, Tin House (online), Roanoke Review, PANK, Nano Fiction, and others. Oh, and his poem “At the Particle Accelerator at Krasnoyarsk” was anthologized in the 2013 Best American Non-Required Reading. Yup, he’s pretty damn talented. UPDATE: Here’s the link to his entry.
Very, very happy to talk about Can’t and Won’t, the new story collection from Lydia Davis, in this month’s issue of Numéro Cinq. I have nothing but respect for Davis. She’s an amazing writer, and her new book, which comes out in April, is incredibly strong.
As an added bonus, after I finished my review, I contacted Davis about a possible interview. We spoke a bit via email, and she agreed to a short conversation for an upcoming issue of NC (probably to run in the summertime).
For now, you can read my review over at NC.
My review of Mauricio Segura’s Eucalyptus is over 1000 words long. Five of these words are “hypnotic,” “invasiveness,” “patterns,” “home,” and “existential.”
To see these words in context (and to see the other 995), click on through to Numéro Cinq.