“Along for the ride”: An Interview With Guest Reader Ryan Ridge
Our readers always want to know what type of stories each guest editor is looking for. So, to that end: what kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week? Are there particular themes or topics or writing styles you’re drawn to?
I’m attracted to voice. If it’s an immediate and interesting voice, I’m along for the ride whether it’s a doorstop of a novel or a prose poem-length piece. I’m also drawn to the language itself. I like sentences that sound like sentences I’ve never heard. Writers like Diane Williams, Barry Hannah, Christine Schutt, and Gertrude Stein spring to mind. I like funny, too. I don’t know where we got this idea that serious literature has to be grave all the time to be taken seriously.
In addition to writing, you also teach at Weber State University. What do you think is the best writing advice that you pass along to your students?
I talk a lot about the battle of story versus backstory and in this reader’s opinion: scene beats exposition every time. No contest. The great thing about flash fiction is that you don’t have time for backstory (it’s implied). You get in and get out. Nothing but the essentials.
Writing is usually a solitary act but your next book (a collection of stories titled Second Acts) is co-authored with Mel Bosworth. I’m curious about the process of writing this book. Are half of the stories written by you and the other half by Mel? Or did you work on every story together? Can you talk a little bit about the process and how the experience was different from writing on your own?
The writing process for Second Acts was like a ping pong game. Mel would start something and I’d finish it. Then I’d start something and Mel would finish it. It went back and forth like that until we had a book. We both edited it together. The main difference between collaborative writing and solo work is that you think of things you wouldn’t ordinarily think of on your own. William S. Burroughs called this concept “the third mind.” When you have two minds at work on something it creates a third hybrid mind. Collaborative writing is sort of an extension of Burroughs’s cutup technique because you’re splicing the words of two writers into one voice. However, it isn’t as intellectual as it sounds. It’s actually a blast.
What are you working on now?
The first is a novel. It’s called COACH! and it’s about a disgraced NFL football coach turned fisherman turned philanthropist turned New Age guru to the stars. It tracks the last few years of his life, from his breakdown on the field in Dallas to his disappearance into the Himalayas, and I’m exactly halfway done with it. I was hoping to have a full draft by the end of summer, but it’s already August and I’m nowhere near the end.
The other thing I’m working on is a collaborative project called WEIRD YEAR. Again, it’s co-written with Mel, and it consists of 366 (it’s a leap year!) one-page chapters which unfold over the course of a year. We’re plugging along on it.
About the Reader:
Ryan Ridge is the author of three books, including American Homes (University of Michigan Press, 2014), which was the Michigan Library Publishing Club’s inaugural book club pick. His next book, Second Acts, a collection of stories coauthored with Mel Bosworth, will be released by Alternating Current Press in 2018. His writing has appeared in dozens of print and online journals, as well as several anthologies. In 2016, Ridge received the Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction judged by Jonathan Lethem. An assistant professor at Weber State University, he lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He edits the literary magazine Juked.
About the Interviewer:
Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicycle, wigleaf, and elsewhere.