I’m absolutely delighted and honored that two of my stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2014:
I’m grateful to Michael and Anna—really means a lot.
You travel a lot. Tell us about one of your favorite places in the world. Okay, so this is tough. I usually reference Paris in some form, since it’s my most favorite city, but I’ve been thinking about Up North—that’s what we refer to the great swathe of green that makes up most of the upper portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Specifically, the Traverse City area, dense green potted with the bluest lakes you’ve ever seen, each only a stone’s throw, winding roads that zip you across Lake Michigan’s gorgeous shoreline, through three story-tall sand dunes. I’m thinking, specifically, of these little beach towns in the early summer months, ever so quiet (before the tourists flood in), how at peace I feel up there, among all that green, all that natural life. It’s a wonderful place in the world that I (try to) visit often—and wish I was there now.
Thanks to Leesa and Loren for everything. A fun set of questions, for sure. And read more about my collection here.
Here’s a synopsis: A great storm and its effect on a young family; a woman with a rifle in a barren landscape; boys discovering the world of possibility in online sexuality; a couple at a scenic overlook, their relationship at the verge of dissolution. Each story in Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out is a sliver of time pulled from the life of a young man, each a fragment of feeling, each a pivotal intersection of relationships. They are stories about the desperation of trying to fit in and find a kindred, to understand the elusive essence of love in all forms, to fill a void of solitude that only seems to grow as we do. They navigate the mysteries of relationships between men and women, of family and geography, and find a recurring theme of abject longing throughout.
Some authors I really greatly admire (Amber Sparks, Ben Tanzer, Adam Schuitema, Jared Yates Sexton, Sara Lippmann, Aaron Burch, Gerry LaFemina) were kind enough to read it in advance and say some nice things about it. Really means so much.
And I’m floored to be the first book put out by WhiskeyPaper Press! WhiskeyPaper (the journal) is a tremendous publication, and Leesa Cross-Smith, who runs it, and is a helluva writer and I’m floored to be a part of WP’s universe.
They sat in silence for another quarter of an hour until he heard the clunk of a beat-up blue pickup with a busted axel as it arrived from the east. He sank down in his seat and watched as the truck pulled into the parking lot, past the stationary semis and into a parking space next to the small gas station. He watched as a birch-skinny man crawled out of the driver’s side. He was wearing black jeans, black boots, and no shirt.
I’m honored that this piece was able to find a home at the wonderful Akashic, a press I admire greatly. Thanks to all.
Why does this form of artistic expression suit you?
It gives me the chance to tell stories and to build worlds. Writing satisfies this craving in a way nothing can. I’m able to breathe life into places, into people — while trying to emote in such a way that anyone reading will feel and understand. When I’m in the zone and the writing is just pouring out of me, nothing compares.
Really, with so many fantastic artists in/around Ann Arbor, I’m absolutely honored to have been included.
The cabin took to burning and the roof collapsed in on itself within a half an hour and he watched in wonder as his horse paraded and rummaged through a stray clump of tussock. Everett scouted the area and followed a path that continued past the cabin through a narrow precipice that spilled out onto the flood plains. He leaned against a copper-colored hill of rock and vegetation at the trailhead and took the map out again, tracing his finger from where he presumed he was currently stationed. He would head south from the flood plains and then cross the Rio Grande at its most narrow and then he’d be in Mesilla.
I’ve been a fan of Westerns nearly my whole life, and went through a monstrous Western writing phase a few years back. “Recompensate, He Said” was a story I loved for a long while, but never thought would see the light of day—not many places dig Westerns, in addition to it being on the long side—so I was beyond excited when BULL—a journal I’ve long admired—accepted it for publication. Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, and let me tell ya, this has me wanting to revisit this genre again…
I’m honored to be able to support the arts in this way. Music and performance have always been a big part of my life, particularly inspiring for my writing, and it’s great to be able to give back, to share my love and my work with others. I’m humbled, too, to have been included among this wonderfully talented cohort. I’ll be using these performances as inspiration for a new novel, one I am absolutely excited about and can’t wait to get into. More to come, I’m sure.
Midwestern Gothic Issue 15 (Fall 2014) has arrived amid a flurry of suddenly-changing leaves and pumpkin-flavored everything.
I legit can’t believe we’re already at Issue 15. Yes, I know, I say that every time, but I suppose I won’t ever stop being flabbergasted. I still adore what we do: I adore reading submissions, talking to contributors, and even doing the nitty-gritty bits. And that’s wonderful, that we’re still able to put out quality issues each quarter, that we still have such wonderful stories and poetry coming at us…that people still want to their pieces to be at home in the pages of Midwestern Gothic. It makes it all worthwhile.
Hardcopies and eBooks available…because that’s how we roll.
So, I don’t usually jump on these bandwagons—even though I love learning how writers work and think—but I figured it was time to do my part. A hearty thanks to Brent Rydin for nominating me. He’s an absolutely tremendous writer and runs a new-but-already-killer journal called Wyvern Lit—and he’s just a really great guy in general (and in person, too!). You can find his writing process blog tour post here.
Away we go:
1. What are you working on? Finishing a secret project, and also different secret project—neither of which I can talk about—but I’m also entrenched in research for a new novel that takes place on a fictional island in Lake Superior. Been drawing made-up maps, creating fake local histories…it’s a blast.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? Because it’s from me? That’s sort of a loaded question, I guess, and maybe it’s a cop-out, but I’ve had my own experiences in life, my own interests, so obviously, whatever I write will differ completely from anyone else, yeah? The non-smarmy answer, I suppose, is that I have a serious love of place and space—specifically the reverence of space, how we react to and treat certain places, how we interact with the environment and how the environment interacts with us. I’m also interested in this same way with the space between people—our interactions, what forms our relationships and how we act. So I approach most everything I do—not everything, of course—with this in mind, I think. And I’m always looking for stories and books and projects and art that also deals with space in this way, our interaction with it—films dripping with moody atmospheres, for example.
3. Why do you write what you do? Kind of already answered that above. BUT…I have an attraction to place, to space. I find it utterly mesmerizing. Part of this is due to my love of regionalist literature—how writing can differ so much depending on where you’re from; how the mythologies and stories from these places create uniqueness that a lot of folks aren’t aware of. What each person can bring to the table, hat’s made them who they are, how they see things, and the work they produce because of these factors, is part of the reason Midwestern Gothic exists—an exploration of the Midwest and the writers and writing that takes place here and who we are and the things we think and talk about. So all of that is jumbled up in my head and when I write, it’s almost always in my mind, these things. Can’t escape it.
4. How does your writing process work? Depends. For short stories I get an idea, can’t get it out of my head, and I just write. I don’t really outline shorter works, I work it out in my head as I go and then revise revise revise until I’m happy with it. For longer stuff, like the new book, I spend time researching—weeks, months, whatever it takes—until I feel totally immersed in that world. This new book, the map-making, the faux-histories, all of that helps me get in character, so to speak, and then when I feel ready, when it all clicks into place, I start going. When I was working on my novel Sea of Trees, I researched the forest, Aokigahara, general culture and suicide in Japan for months, outlined the book, and then put it all together. As for physically, how does it work, I have to write on a computer, I take notes as I go, I brainstorm beforehand and outline, too, but when I’m actually writing I need to be at a coffee shop or library. I can do almost no work at home, no matter how great the space is. I have to be out among people, which I find fantastically inspiring. Sucks, sometimes, when I want to go write but I’m stuck somewhere, so I’ll take notes and do what I can, but to get into the total writer mode I have to be out.
And thar she blows. Oh, and I cordially nominate the following talented folks:
Schuler Benson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Kudzu Review, Hobart, The Idle Class, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Sundress Publications Best of the Net Award, a storySouth Million Writers Award, and three Pushcart Prizes, and he placed second in The Fallen Sky Review’s 2013 Speculative Fiction Launch Contest. He completed his undergraduate studies at University of Arkansas and is currently enrolled in the MA program at Coastal Carolina University. The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide is his first book. You can find him on Twitter at @schulerbenson and on Facebook at /schulerbenson.
Lee L. Krecklow is a fiction writer living outside of Milwaukee. His work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Cheap Pop, Pantheon Magazine and The Madison Review. Find him at www.leelkrecklow.com.
Elizabeth Schmuhl is a writer, dance maker, and mover whose work appears or is forthcoming in [PANK], theNewerYork, Birkensnake, Paper Darts and elsewhere. Find her online at www.elizabethschmuhl.com.
First: that might be the greatest nickname of any city, so well done, San Francisco.
Second: I loved this city far more than I thought I would. It’s interesting, I hadn’t really ever given SF much of a thought…it’s just that big city with the bridge on the west coast, you know? But boy howdy did it charm me. Great food, tremendous coffee, wine (obviously), and just really chill, happy people.
Anyway, here’s some weird/awesome stuff that happened. Better than the usual photos you see, I think.
1. I made a pilgrimage to the Full House house. The only one on the street with a gate…to keep the riff-raff like me out.
2. A woman was vacuuming the leaves on the sidewalk. I don’t get it, I don’t want to get it, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
3. A fish-headed man…grilling fish. Again, I don’t know what the inspiration was, but I sorta love this.
4. One of the oldest California state flags still in existence. The bear looks like a wart hog, but that’s okay. We get it, we get it.