Smoking With TJ Rivard

Read the Story June 15, 2004

Is it too personal to ask what the initials T. J. stand for, and do you find that gives you an edge in the slush piles?

Not at all. The initials stand for Timothy Jude. My mother is a devout Catholic, so she picked a saint’s name for my middle name, even though Timothy is also one. Maybe because I was the sixth of six boys (no girls) is why she named me after the patron saint of hopeless causes. I’ve not noticed that initials have helped me in publishing anything, given the wide array of rejections I have gotten over the years. I did have a writing teacher once tell me I had a great name for a television detective – that was before TJ Hooker.

Your story has the feel of a parable to it. Have many of your stories gone in this direction?

This is really a new trend for me. For a long time, I tried to write the mainstream Raymond Carver-esque short story, but I finally decided that I would like to try something a little different. I wouldn’t call most of the stories I have written recently parables, although I do think this one falls into the genre of fable. My most recent stories fall into the category of magic realism, I think, and I like to write in that particular tradition mostly because it’s fun. I discover more about the characters when the possibilities in their world are less constrained.

What keeps you writing?

Used to be coffee next to the typewriter. Then it was coffee and cigarettes next to the computer. And now it is pure adrenaline and a cigarette or two out on the back porch before I start.

New literary zines, especially online, are popping up every day. Do you have any favorites?

I especially like The Barcelona Review, Café Irreal, flashquake, and Gulfstream!ng is a lot of fun.

What are some of the more traditional rules of the craft of writing that you enjoy stretching and/or breaking?

I don’t normally set out to break any specific rules; I think the story would run the risk of sounding too contrived and artificial in its conception and execution; however I always start with characters in fiction, rarely plot, and they often have no regard for the conventions of storytelling at all. The result can sometimes be very lyrical and beautiful, while at other times it can be something akin to watching dust accumulate.

About the Author:

TJ Rivard has been published in Kentucky Poetry Review, The Oxford Magazine, Eureka Literary Quarterly, Cafe Irreal, and Flashquake. He has also had several residencies at the Mary Anderson Center and is currently a professor at Indiana University East.

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.