Haven't kicked around here in the old halls in a good while. For that, and for those who may follow along here, my apologies. I've been focusing a lot of attention on my new online journal Revolution John lately, but I shouldn't just forget my Bent Country, all the same.
Here's the thing: I was invited by Karen McElmurrary to take part in The Virtual Blog Tour, an ongoing exercise between writers, artists, musicians, and other creatives. We each write posts answering questions about our creative process and what we have going on lately and then invite three people to do the same. It's a good way to spread the word about your own work and the work of others, as well as giving some people the chance to pick up on someone they may have overlooked along the way.
A little about Karen ---
She writes both fiction and creative nonfiction. Her memoir, Surrendered Child, won the AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction and was listed as a “notable book” by the National Book Critics Circle. She is also the author of Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (University of Georgia Press), a novel that won the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing and, most recently, The Motel of the Stars, part of the 2009 Linda Bruckheimer Series from Sarabande Books.
She has an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Virginia, an MA in Creative Writing from Hollins University, and a PhD from the University of Georgia, where she studied American Literature and Fiction Writing. Her work has received numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She is frequently visiting writer and lecturer at a variety of programs and reading series.
Yeah, she rocks.
Karen's work as always just floored me, and we come from the same hollers around eastern Kentucky, so that's always cool. Have a look at her website here, and take a look at her blog post for this tour here.
So, now for the questions.
1. What are you currently working on?
A few projects. One is in the editing stage, a novella called Brown Bottle that will be out from Artistically Declined Press late summer of next year.
The other is a collection of stories titled 1,000. This collection will include 50 photographs by Heather McCoy from which I will write stories of exactly 1,000 words as an endeavor to mix the two art forms. I'm talking with Foxhead Books about publishing this book, but it's not officially attached to a press as of yet.
In addition to these two books, I'm also editing a draft of a novel called Dysphoria, which may end up back in the trunk before it's all said and done. I wrote the first draft of this one while an undergrad and can't seem to let it go. It deals a lot with fathers and sons and mental illness and addiction and how that relationship and those two things can tear you down sometimes. It was my attempt to purge my dad as a subject in my writing. It's still close to my heart, so I'm reworking it now, more than a decade later.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I don't write with genre in mind, but have been called both an Appalachian writer and a Southern writer, so I'll look at this question in that light, I suppose.
There are it seems two schools of thought, or at least two, when it comes to Appalachian literature - you have those who write of days gone by with a sense of what I can perhaps best describe as an infused nostalgia and then those who write about contemporary Appalachia, mostly focusing on the more gritty issues. Both have their readerships and merit, to an extent, but I tend to write in the latter, though never very consciously. But at the end of it all, I'm just trying to do what any writer worth their salt is doing and that's tell a good story.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I'm sometimes terrible at answering these kinds of questions, but I'll give it a try.
I like telling stories is about the size of it. I know some writers will say they're driven to write, and I've said that in interviews before and I guess it's true, but it's honestly just that I enjoy telling stories and seeing people enjoy them. Entertaining other people is a fine way to spend your time, and anyone creating something for others could do a lot worse than remembering that one thing. Every good book or painting or song I've enjoyed seemed to me a product of the person creating it enjoying it first and then wanting to share it with me. So I do what I do to entertain people and myself.
4. How does your writing process work?
One thing I've been I guess ashamed of in the past (and I'm not sure why now that I've come to terms with it) is that I have a title idea and then the story or book or essay or whatever comes after that. I have no idea why I would be ashamed of that except that it maybe seemed shallow or something, or I thought other people would think so at least.
But a nice title will get my mind started, and things usually go from there. At that point, depending on where I'm at, I'll either 1) grab my composition book (always the black and white speckled kind) and a pencil (always a Mirado Black Warrior No.2) and jot down a few paragraphs, or 2) hit the laptop and get started. The getting started always starts with the new title. Some stories I've written in this way include "Go Get Your Honor" (which I came up with from a misheard lyric while listening to music) "Somebody Take Care of Little Walter" (which came up when my cousin once said this to our bass player when we were all in a band together because I was too drunk to sing the song we were working on) and "The Last Tour of Loretta Lynn's Homeplace" (which came to me after visiting her homeplace in Johnson County, Kentucky and thinking that her brother would love nothing better than to stop doing the tours). For books, it has been some different.
Okay, so now here are the three writers I've invited to take part in this blog tour. Click their names to visit either their websites or affiliated pages.
Ryan W. Bradley
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, painted houses, swept a mechanic’s shop, done construction in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed a children’s bookstore. He now designs book covers and works in merchandising and marketing for an audiobook publisher. Born in Alaska, he received his MFA from Pacific University and now lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.
He is the author of four chapbooks; a story collection; a novel, Code for Failure; and three poetry collections, including The Waiting Tide. He also collaborated with David Tomaloff on the poetry collection, You Are Jaguar. His novella, Winterswim is forthcoming in late 2014.
Stephen Dale Marlowe
Stephen Dale Marlowe is an author, professor, and lawyer. As Dale Marlowe, his essays and fiction have appeared in various publications, including Owl Farm, The Tippecanoe Gazette, Global Voices, The Dayton Daily News, The Miami Review, Hispanic Outlook, The National Jurist, Metazen, The Weekly, and Emic.
Steve graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2002. Since 2004, he has been a features columnist at Chapati Mystery, where he writes under the nom de guerre Farangi. A collection of stories, Digging Up The Bones, The Weight of This Life, a graphic novel (with Aaron Linderman), and Honky Fatwas, a retrospective chronicling a decade's-worth of essays for Chaptai Mystery, are each scheduled for 2015.
He is COO at Potemkin Media Omnibus, Ltd. Steve has been a member of Edison State Community College's English faculty since 2005.
Chris Offutt is the author of five books - Kentucky Straight, The Same River Twice, The Good Brother, Out of the Woods, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home.
His work has received awards from the Lannan Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Whiting Foundation. In 1996, he was named one of the twenty best young American fiction writers by Granta.
He currently teaches at the University of Mississippi and lives in Oxford.
Alright. Write hard, good people, and have fun.