“This Expansive Quality”: An Interview With Guest Reader Wendy J. Fox

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers
story art

This week’s guest reader, Wendy J. Fox, will be giving away a copy of her new book to the writer of the story she selects for publication!

Congratulations on your latest book, a novel, If the Ice Had Held, which was published this spring by Santa Fe Writers Project. Can you tell our readers a little about your book?

Thanks! If the Ice Had Held was a long time in the making, and at its center, it’s in large part about loss and distance.

I started writing this book back in 2010 when a coworker of mine unfortunately passed away. I knew him only in the way that you know people who you work with every day, and as I started writing about trying to process that, I also started looking at how work really does influence our spheres. We know that, of course, but as I tried to fashion first an essay, and then fiction, what kept interrupting what I wanted to be a poignant discussion of how we are all connected, even if it is randomly by working at the same company, was email.

Long, long sections about email — reading email, writing email, processing email. Which was boring! But I also needed to understand why email kept slipping in. In my opinion, email didn’t become popular because it’s efficient. I’ll concede it was once a very good way to send files, but I got stuck on this idea that email became popular because it is a way to communicate while still maintaining distance. Because otherwise, it’s actually very inefficient. It has neither the intimacy of hand-written words nor the give-and-take of conversation.

The scene of the coworker’s funeral remains in the book, and I (obviously) deleted almost all the sections about email, but those twin ideas of loss and distance remain.

What themes do you find yourself returning to in your writing?

I find myself returning to characters trying to reconcile unspoken grief all of the time. It’s something that I am trying to push back against right now in a project I am currently working on. It can be a challenge. I’m all for writers nurturing their obsessions and trying to uncover them, trying to surface the idea that is compelling in a way that has resonance to a reader, but I also think as a writer it’s worth asking myself if I am just returning to themes that are comfortable to me. So, again, I’m pushing against that.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

In terms of the writing process, revision is hands down my favorite. One of the most satisfying things is taking a printout of a story or chapter that has good (or maybe just okay) bones and working it into a draft that has real meat on it.

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

What I love about good flash is that it’s not just that it’s compressed–it also has this expansive quality. It’s like if you have ever ordered on of those foam mattresses from the internet and the whole thing is so tightly rolled with not even a spare millimeter in the package. And then the minute you open it, it starts to expand. A few days later, it’s larger than you. I’d love to find a story that’s like that–one that ultimately takes up more space than it seems like it’s going to.


About the Reader:

Wendy J. Fox is the author of The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories (a finalist for the Colorado Book Award), The Pull of It (named a top 2016 book by Displaced Nation) and the novel If the Ice Had Held, selected as the Santa Fe Writers Project grand prize winner and named a top 2019 spring pick by Buzzfeed. She is writing from Denver, CO and tweeting from @wendyjeanfox.

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.