As announced last week, the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of Floodplane is now available! If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, do so now. You won’t regret it. Featuring a mix of subjects and styles, the resulting collection is a snapshot of contemporary literature. To celebrate Floodplane’s inaugural edition, The Haberdasher caught up with Finn Kraemer, recipient of the Editor’s Prize in Fiction for “Mister Perris,” and Linda Serrato, whose poem “After Donating Money to the S.F. AIDs Walk” won the Editor’s Prize in Poetry, and asked each of them five questions about writing.
I am sure some of you are wondering, “Why the same five questions for both authors?” Well, we thought this would not only offer insight into the pieces you’ll be reading in the journal, but also some guidance and advice for your own writing projects. Having multiple answers to the same questions shows the diversity in our craft and reinforces the idea that there is no right way, which is the most important lesson for all of us.
We hope you enjoy Finn and Linda’s insights and that you LOVE Floodplane as much as we at The Haberdasher do. We also encourage you to submit your work to the Summer/Fall 2013 issue of Floodplane when the call for submissions goes out next month.
1. When did you realize you wanted and/or needed to write?
Finn: I first began writing to distract myself from an abiding dissatisfaction with life that I felt as a teenager. It didn’t work, but did give me a taste for the thrill that creation through writing brings me: tracing in words the intuitive linkages between parts of a work that first existed only in my mind, but then found each other on the page and stretched out into the world, almost gaining substance and color with each carefully chosen word. That thrill of describing an internal world came and went for me, but firmly cemented itself in my mind as something I wanted to pursue when I wrote the first fiction scene assigned in my first creative writing class at Chico State.
Linda: I began writing simple rhymes when I was in second grade, and I’ve continued to write since then, primarily poetry. There were a few years where I didn’t write; those were toxic years. When I don’t write I don’t feel centered, don’t feel healthy.
2. What part of writing this piece stands out to you the most, the inspiration and/or process or something else?
Finn: In rereading “Mister Perris,” two of its qualities strike me: the brevity of its sentences and the adjectives. I’ve long loved adjectives, how they can bring a focus to an object in a story, dwelling on it with a kind of sensual luxury. Even though I wrote “Mister Perris” twelve years ago, I still remember choosing its adjectives. My current writing style tends toward lingering, not only through the use of adjectives, but particularly through extending my sentences, turning them into long textured things with an alarming number of commas, so it surprises me how short the sentences I wrote in this story are, how much my sensibilities must have changed.
Linda: The process is the most fascinating part of writing for me. Many times I discover I carry a poem inside of me for a long time without even knowing it, sometimes for years. Then one day some event will bring the poem to my conscious self & out it flows.
3. What draws you to this particular genre?
Finn: I appreciate literary short stories for their contradiction, how they require both concision and depth simultaneously. Given their brevity, I think writing a short piece of fiction forces a writer to do great work, to distill dramatic elements down to the minimum, and at the same time use those minimalisms to draw settings and characters and relationships in all their realistic depth and complexity. Additionally, if you botch it, it’s a lot easier to revise than a novel.
Linda: That’s a good question. I tend to write short poems, usually not more than one page. I think I like poetry because I can write a narrative or evoke a mood or feeling in a pretty short amount of time and space. A burst of energy & thought. Maybe it’s like the old rock and roll songs, the 2 minute songs. Hah. I also like that the reader can read my poems quickly. I imagine there are a lot of readers like me; I am more likely to read a short poem.
4. What authors and/or books would you recommend? Any all-time favorites or new discoveries you’re reading right now?
Finn: I’m currently reading two collections of short stories: one literary, one science fiction. In both, I abandon reading more than half of the stories when I’m only a few pages in, something which speaks of my reading habits. I’m quite picky, and eclectic. If I don’t like it, for whatever reason, I let it go, figuring there are plenty of other tales out there I can spend my time on and enjoy at the same time. Favorite books of mine that I would recommend are:
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
- Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
Linda: I actually haven’t read that many books about writing. One book I have read & that I highly recommend is Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Aside from containing good advice about writing, it’s also a terrific memoir. Poets that I love to read: Whitman, Neruda, William Carlos Williams, Naomi Shihab Nye, Rumi, Ana Castillo, Rosario Castellanos. Oh, & Bukowski. Oh & Stanley Kunitz & Carolyn Forche. I’ll stop now.
5. Do you have any writing tips/advice for our readers, something that has helped you or that you use regularly?
Finn: In advising others about writing, I would repeat the best advice ever given me:
At length, that means: No one is going to write your stuff but you. The laws of cause and effect will never be suspended in regard to the amount of thought and elbow grease you expend and the length and quality of your final result. Writing will never get easier at some unspecified future time, after some revelation from the next book, or the next class, or fancy software, or outlining method, or after the arrival of that long-awaited fantasy of a mentor.
Even though I was already in grad school for a degree in writing when I received this advice, I found that thinking through that two-word admonition tore down my illusions and finally clearly put before me the question of whether I really would write or just play at writing and call myself a writer. In response, I wrote a novel, so it’s advice I recommend.
Linda: I’ve discovered I’m a social writer. I love writing groups. Right now, I write with a couple of wonderful writers and friends. They are a great inspiration to me. If you find the right people, a writing group can be a great experience. Other advice? Write from the gut. I’m using the word gut instead of heart because I find that when I’m writing from that place called truth, it feels as if it’s coming from my gut. Be true to your own voice. Don’t get distracted by other voices no matter how brilliant they sound. Oh yeah, read!