“Authentic connection”: An Interview with Guest Reader R. Cross

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers
story art

What themes do you find yourself frequently writing about?
Non-normative expressions of gender. The redefinition of different rites of passage in a largely secular society. Nature. Cacti. Feeling weird about having a body. Blood. Nondescript longings that drive dysfunctional behaviors. Empathic children. More blood. More cacti.

What can make or break a flash story?
For me a successful piece of flash forges an authentic connection with readers in a small amount of space; that authentic connection can be abstract and ethereal, merely evoking feelings in readers, or it can be a blatant narrative turn, twist, or development that leaves little room for interpretation. It’s kind of like meeting a stranger and connecting with them on a deeper level for the few minutes you know them in passing.

You’re currently working on an MFA in Fiction at the University of Michigan. What is your favorite thing about the program? What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard there that you can pass along?
The program has been incredibly giving. It’s hard to pick just one thing! My instructors have all been so down to earth and charitable with their time and professional honesty. That said, I feel beyond blessed to work alongside the other writers in my ‘19 fiction cohort; they’ve made my time here so far such a treat.

I’ve heard a ton of great writing advice at HZWP but really resonated with what Eileen Pollack refers to as a “zero draft” as opposed to a first draft. A zero draft is when you set off to write a story and what you ultimately come up with is not quite a story but a messy piece of writing that, when you look at it closer, you can see the makings of a first draft somewhere therein. The zero draft is a low pressure way of just getting something on the page you can later sculpt into something more substantial.

What kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week?

I’m a glutton for writing that really goes there on a prosaic, visual/sensory, and thematic level, especially when it comes to flash. Additionally, I like to feel continually surprised by what I’m reading and am delighted by narratives and/or characterization that are as convincing and fulfilling as they are not what I expected in the end.

About the Reader:

R. Cross is a writer from the Midwest. She currently lives in Ann Arbor where she attends the University is Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. Her fiction has been featured in Day One, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fugue, Meridian, and elsewhere. You can find her online at rcross.net

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, MonkeyBicyclewigleaf, and elsewhere.