"I worry about repetition quite a bit. In fact, repetition is the thing that kills any of the stories I’ve started and not finished: I bore myself because I feel like I’ve already written what I’m trying to write. So I start again. Some of my process is what I would call torqueing: taking the familiar stuff and turning it around until it doesn’t seem like something I’ve already explored and figured out. Changing a gender, changing a location, changing a relationship. Those things result in the unexpected discoveries, and that can rescue me from being bored with myself."

—Antonya Nelson, from “Until it Isn’t,” interview in American Short Fiction.

GT: My major hang-up regarding therapy is the fear that I won’t be able to confront the answers it yields. And while writing fiction forces me to at least stare down some of my BS, it’s comforting, for lack of a better word, to know my responsibilities as a writer fall short of providing answers. That said, obsessive fascinations, by their very nature, don’t exactly go away. One of the things that strikes me about your oeuvre is the deftness with which you keep coming back to some of your obsessive fascinations—family, marriage, mortality—while managing to keep the material vibrant and mysterious. I’m thinking, for example, of Andrea in “Happy Hour,” and Cara in “Winter in Yalta” (from the current issue of ASF), and even Birdie in Nobody’s Girl. Each of these women surveys their personal landscape and makes the very conscious decision to escape, to place their needs and desires above everything and everyone else in their lives—expectations, responsibilities, spouses, children. They escape in varying manners, but each of them relies on an uncanny inner fortitude, I think, regardless of whether they’ve mistakenly identified their needs and desires or not. Similarly, it takes a lot of fortitude and confidence to keep coming at material from different angles. Are you ever fearful of a misstep? Of conflating the sources of the mystery, as it were? Or do you believe that all material has the potential to be a bottomless well?

Rumpus: Did you ever feel uncomfortable writing someone else’s story?

Crouch: Wow. That question kept me up at night. What will the families think? Do I have a right to write a novel based on a real person’s experience?

In the end, I had to shut off my brain and find my writer balls. As Roxana Robinson so eloquently wrote in the New York Times last Sunday about her novel, Sparta, based on soldiers in Iraq: “We’re doing what fiction writers have always done: trying to investigate the world, explore human experience, render precisely what it means to be alive. We’re trying to give voice to everyone on the planet.”  I loved that essay. The book felt dangerous to write, and I knew that was where I needed to be. Fiction is about learning things we can’t learn through everyday life. If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, what’s the point?

—from an interview over at The Rumpus

"If any of us were as well taken care of as the sentences of Henry James, we’d never long for another, never wander away: where else would we receive such constant attention, our thoughts anticipated, our feelings understood?" —-William H. Gass, Via @AlisonPowell

Notes from a Publisher at the Close of a Contest



photo credit | Lindsey Turner, Flickr Creative Commons | Note: not actual submissions to contest. Or actual editor.

  1. 378. That’s how many book-length manuscripts were in the submission box at the deadline for the second annual Pressgang Prize.
  2. I’ve been dipping into the box since the…

"A friend of mine once dreamed a car crash that left all the broken pieces of her Pontiac coated in bright orange pollen. ‘My analyst pushed and pushed for me to make sense of the image,’ she wrote to me, ‘and finally, I blurted: "My wounds are fertile!"’ And that has become one of the touchstones and rallying cries of my life.”

—Leslie Jamison, A Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain, in VQR Online

Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain

"…every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again."

—Adam Gopnik: Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right about Guns : The New Yorker

"…every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again."

—Adam Gopnik: Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right about Guns : The New Yorker

“There is a lot of profit to be made for all of this sorrow, all of this death, and all of this destruction,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma surgery at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, who routinely deals with gunshot victims and who was interviewed for a video urging people to unload gun companies from their 401k investments.

The gun industry—led by Remington Outdoor, Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Olin—has profited, even as more Americans die by the products they manufacture and aggressively market. The value of these companies has grown significantly just as the rate of mass shootings has increased.

Peter Dreier and Jennifer Fiore in The Nation.

"The very obvious sort of experimental writing is not really more experimental than that of a conventional writer like myself. I experiment all the time but the experiments are hidden."

—William Trevor, born today in 1928, from the Paris Review.

Model yourself after Balzac, slip on an old dressing-gown, drink thirty cups of coffee a day so that you’ll be able to write the words ‘The End’ a few hours before the 14 July dance at the Villa Rimbaud.
Francois Truffaut in a letter to Jean Gruault, May 1983, on Honore Balzac, born today in 1799.

"When I start a story, I don’t know exactly what it will be like when I’m done with it. But I know that I’m going to get it. When you’re a writer you spend days in the room without knowing what you’ve got, but you’re still willing to keep reeling it in and following it. You’re willing to be true to it. It may mean you have to write thirty pages to get fifteen. The big secret to such writing is the ability to stay in the room. The writer is the person who stays in the room … all the good writing I’ve done in the last ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I wanted to leave the room. I’ve learned to stay there and keep writing. I think, “Oh, I’ll just go get some coffee.” Well, I love coffee, but I don’t really want any coffee at that moment. What’s happened is that I’ve confronted a little problem that’s got me kind of rattled. I can’t identify it. I don’t even know I’m rattled. I just don’t want to go on. A threshold’s come between me and the page, and I want to get out of there. I have a Mr. Coffee in the kitchen and, when I get to it, I find I also have a Mr. Refrigerator. There’s Mr. Kitchen Table, Mr. Newspaper, Mr. Big Long Couch, Mr. World Outside the Window, and honest to god, my career as a writer is over and I’m dead in the water. So I’ve learned to stay there … I’ve learned that the cup of coffee I fix afterwards is really good. Staying in the chair improves the quality of that beverage."

—Ron Carlson, via @marksarvas and #glimmertrain