Smoking With Nance Knauer

Read the Story September 15, 2005

After re-reading your story once again, I’m speechless and breathless, Nance. Which isn’t all that good since I’ve got an interview to conduct. Okay. Breathe. How do you get every word to matter so much?

I’ve had great teachers, meaning that I learn from other writers, especially those I’ve worked with online at Zoetrope like Kathy Fish, Jeff Landon and Joseph Young. Nobody squeezes more from a few words than those three. And there are others, like Randall Brown and Myfanwy Collins and many, many more, each with a strong, distinct style and voice.

What are the risks/benefits of writing in the second-person “you”? And why did you choose that narration for this story?

Well, it can drive you(!) crazy, become a relentless finger in the chest to the reader, but in shorts I believe it can be very effective. I’ve also had good luck in driving a character forward by letting them use that direct address, allowing the narrator to say the things they can’t bear to say aloud.

A really interesting title. How did that title evolve?

It’s a real place and the landscape is fierce and wild. Setting is almost always my way into a story, and that’s certainly true for this one.

For you, what’s the hardest aspect of doing this writerly thang?

Ha, no question, it’s the writing. Just because we love it, doesn’t make it any easier!

How’s the MFA at Queens University going? You already kick major tushy. How much better can you get?!

Thanks, Randall, but you’re farther along in the process than I am, so I could turn that question around. I’d say the deadlines alone help push me past that inner critic so I can get the story written. With less poetry, less emphasis and weight on each word or phrase, I’m learning much more about structure and pacing, about what it’s like to open up a scene and slow it down. From what I’ve seen so far, Fred Leebron and Michael Kobre have created an exciting program that reminds each student to read, read, read as a writer, with a critical eye/ear, and they point out that critical analysis should embrace both the theoretical or academic along with the artistic. What a great idea!

About the Author:

Nance Knauer is a transplanted southerner who gathers wool all day and knits it together all night. Published at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, now dealing with the fame of it all.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.