Smoking With Nance Knauer

Read the Story June 15, 2008
story art

You guest edited issue 3, then joined the SmokeLong staff for issues 4, 5, and 7. What do you, as an editor, look for in a story? What about your own story, “Johnny,” fits this criterion?

I look for short, vivid strokes that define character and setting along with understated emotion, something that lets the reader feel what the character wants without pointing to it directly. I think “Johnny” gets the emotion across, but not the life behind it.

Strong beginning! I especially love that cracks appeared in the angel’s folded hands and under the wings. How do you know when you’ve nailed an opening?

Ha! The only thing I know about beginnings is when I don’t nail it.

I like how subtle this piece is. I can’t say for sure who the angel represents, or why it’s such a source of contention between Johnny and his wife, but every time I read this story, I think I find a new clue.

That’s a good point. If readers don’t know what the character wants, or why, by the second read of a story, then I’m not doing my job. I’m still learning how to let the people in my work carry more of the weight than the symbols.

You’ve just about completed your MFA from Queens, right? Is that a low residency program?

Thanks, yes, I’m done! Queens University in Charlotte, NC, is run by Fred Leebron and Mike Kobre and is the only low residency program which includes distance workshops as part of their program. I’m one of those people who believe the MFA experience is valuable and sometimes necessary in order to evolve as a writer.

This issue marks SmokeLong‘s fifth anniversary, which has me thinking about longevity and growth. There’s no denying the literary arena is a fickle one, with journals coming and going, writers shooting onto the scene then falling into a long hiatus, editors changing houses, agents merging, and the trends! Don’t even get me started! How do you, as a writer, endure the ups and downs? Have you experienced any setbacks? What measures have you taken to grow

I am so grateful and so in awe of the folks like SmokeLong and FRiGG who continue to give us a place to display our work. Most of my ups and downs and setbacks have been confidence related. I’ve submitted very little, but that will change this fall which means lots of stumbling to come. How to endure the ups and downs? I just try and remember what an honor it is to be able to write every day. If that’s not working, I read like a maniac.

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.