April Ford Guest Edits April 13-19
April will be sending a copy of her story collection The Poor Children to the author whose story she selects as part of her reading week.
From the publisher:
“Debut author April L. Ford bursts onto the literary scene with this edgy, stunning collection that deftly examines the underbelly of the human condition through a cross-section of fascinating characters—a correctional officer fixated on a juvenile offender, a Goth teenager and her werewolf boyfriend, a pyromaniac by happenstance, a set of twins haunted by an unconfirmed death.
Pushing beyond the norms of daily life and into the sometimes morally lawless worlds of her characters, Ford explores the eccentric, the perverse, the disenfranchised, and the darkly comic possibilities at play in us all.”
Tell us about your process for putting The Poor Children together as a collection.
I wrote the stories over an eight-year period, so I had lots of time to think about how to arrange them—I enjoyed that part, because it required me to step outside of my writer’s perspective and into that of reader and editor, which can be difficult when you’re embroiled in the minutiae of your work. Finally, I decided I wanted the order of the stories to suggest that there’s hope for the protagonists, even though they’re damaged or incorrigible.
When it came time for me to write the dedication line, I felt totally stuck; that was my one major bout of writer’s block throughout the whole process, and it was painful! My spouse gets credit for what now appears on the dedication page. He nailed it.
If you could choose one author to spend a day with talking craft and life, who would you pick?
Does my pick have to be among the living? I would love to spend a day with Iris Murdoch. She was so prolific and consistently amazing. I imagine a day with her would involve tea and scones, and me sitting in a corner of some quaint, sunlit English porch, watching her work. Does that sound creepy? It would be really, really hard for me to not watch her! I mean, you can’t get more intimate with a writer than when watching her disappear into her process.
I would choose Jeffrey Eugenides as my living pick for a day. I would probably ask him to read Middlesex out loud to me, and then, if he happened to be reading from a book club-friendly edition of the novel, we could answer the questions at the back over wine and cheese.
Story has to ignite the writer before it can ignite the reader. It’s those elements of fiction we study on our own time (not when we’re told we should), heaped together one way, broken apart another way, put back together this way, that way, no way, a year later way, until there exists on the page, and in the mind and in the heart, something honest and invigorating. That’s my esoteric answer. Story is also the result of focused, meticulous attention to prepositions and conjunctions, semicolons and em-dashes, double quotes, single quotes, or no quotes. It’s voice amplified by syntax, pace controlled by sentence length, characters set apart by diction. A story can be so loud it screams at you for days after you’ve finished it, or so quiet you remember it five years later, in a foul subway car at rush hour.
Choose 3-5 stories that you think an aspiring writer should read. Feel free to explain why you think these stories should be read.
Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics”
This story is a should-read because of the last line. (That’s all I’m going to say!)
Katharine Weber’s “Sleeping”
Every word is full and precise, and when you arrive at the line, “My wife,” you know, in that way that makes your stomach bottom out, exactly what Mr. Winter means.
Donald Barthelme’s “The School”
Hilarious / sad, dreamlike / photorealistic, familiar / unfamiliar, and frustrating / enlightening all at once. Any piece that can achieve so many states in fewer than five pages is worth a second, third, fourth, twentieth read.
About the Reader:
April L. Ford’s debut story collection, The Poor Children, won Grand Prize for the 2013 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Program for Fiction. Earlier that year, the collection was shortlisted for the international Scott Prize (Salt Publishing, U.K.). In 2014, her debut novel, Gentle, was a finalist for the Molly Ivors Prize for Fiction (Gorsky Press), and a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition (Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society). April is managing editor of Digital Americana Magazine. She is completing her second novel.