“Clever and surprising”: An Interview with Guest Reader Gary Fincke

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers

What kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week? Are there certain themes or styles you’re particularly drawn to?

Clever and surprising is good. Emotional resonance is essential.

You’re a triple threat: you write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Can you tell us a little about how you move between genres? Is one more comfortable for you? Is one more challenging?

None of these is “comfortable,” but I’ve been writing poetry longer than the other genres, and because I’ve taught myself through trial and error (and a lot of reading), poems have the advantage of exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly more quickly, so probably am seldom far from working on poems. I move into nonfiction most often by the accident of an incident or experience that demands my attention, so with few exceptions, it announces itself and demands my attention. Fiction is the most challenging for me. It needs more sustained time and is the genre in which I write the most drafts. It’s also the most satisfying, because I think writing a genuinely successful short story is very difficult.

You’ve won numerous awards (including the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Ohio State University/The Journal Poetry Prize), published over two dozen books, and taught writing for many years. What advice do you have for emerging writers?

It’s been said quite often, but first of all, don’t be afraid of failure. And, at least for me, persistence and self-discipline are essential. I’ll credit my father’s work ethic for seeping into me–he worked alone and at night with no boss except himself.  And he showed up and did the work every night.  Change the time of day to six a.m., and that’s a close approximation of how nearly every day has begun for mr these past several decades.

What are you working on now?

Finishing that “last essay” that I trust will complete my next collection of personal essays that blend nonfiction and poetry.

Finishing that “last story” that I trust will signal I’ve completed my next collection of short stories.

And circulating my newest collection of poetry, a manuscript that I’ve decided passes the test the essays and stories haven’t quite managed yet.

About the Reader:

Author of the just-published The Out-of-Sorts: New and Selected Stories and Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Ohio State University/The Journal Poetry Prize, Gary Fincke has published thirty-one books of poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction, most recently, Bringing Back the Bones: New and Selected Poems, A Room of Rain: Stories, and The Killer’s Dog: Stories. Within the past two years he has won three national book prizes, one in each of the genres of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. He is the co-editor of the new anthology The Best Microfiction of 2018. His stories have appeared in such periodicals as The Missouri Review, Newsday, The Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review, and CrazyHorse.  He has been twice awarded Pushcart Prizes for his work and recognized by Best American Stories and the O. Henry Prize series. He has just retired as the Charles Degenstein Professor of English and Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.    

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.