You guest edited issue 11. What do you, as an editor, look for in a story? What about your own story “Anointed” fits this criterion?
I wish there were something specific I could say about what I looked for in these stories, but there isn’t. So while there is no one thing, there is a reaction, an emotional response. While I’m reading, I want the rest of the world to slip away and for me to exist only in that moment of the words. It’s difficult for me to look at my story in this way because I had an experience while writing it which I can’t tease apart or forget about it. Basically, I can’t look at this with the same eyes.
You write spectacular imagery. Take this line, for example: “…he brought me behind the curtain and said my hair reminded him of riding in a boat before the thunder, when the static brings it all alive, forms a halo.” Striking and unusual. How do you do it?
Thank you. I don’t really know how to answer that other than to say, I write things the way they come to me. It’s not a conscious effort.
Tell us about your non-fiction work. Essays, articles, memoir? All of the above?
I prefer essays to memoir. I prefer memoir to articles. Articles are work.
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?
First, let me say how much I enjoyed my guest editing stint at SmokeLong. I was and continue to be impressed by the heart and commitment the editors put into each issue and wish you congratulations on five great years. Here’s to many, many more years to come!
For your question: I pay attention to the business of publishing and keep it in the back of my mind, but it doesn’t really change what I do or do not write. I just keep writing and keep believing.
How do you define a setback? Rejection? Yes, I have much of it—for stories, essays, books, articles I was commissioned to write. I’ve been rejected in just about every way a writer can be, but it does not set me back. Rejection is a challenge. Rejection is an opportunity.
For growth: I keep reading. Read and read and read as much as I can—fiction, books on craft, poetry, whatever. I go to workshops in the summer when I can (Squaw Valley, Tin House). I open myself up to criticism.
And I keep putting my work out there to see what sticks and what slides down the wall into a puddle.
I’m the only one who can ever make me stop.