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“The Story Won’t Tell Itself”: An Interview with Tim Hayes

Tim Hayes, Presenter WordSpring 2016

WordSpring 2016 Preview #1

Once again, The Haberdasher is pleased to present a series of interviews with presenters from this year’s WordSpring Creative Writing Conference. We will feature conversations on craft, process, inspiration, form, and publishing right up to the conference, April 23rd.

First up, Jeremiah Looney interviews Tim Hayes.


“The Story Won’t Tell Itself”

by Jeremiah Looney

This year will be my first time attending WordSpring, and everything I’ve heard so far sounds like it’ll be great fun. In preparation for this event, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview one of the presenters, Tim Hayes, to learn more about his experiences and his views on writing.

Hayes has worked as an editor for the Watershed Review, CSU, Chico’s literary magazine, and recently finished his Master’s program. As a writer, he enjoys finding ways to break expectations and experiment with new ways to present ideas to his audience.

Jeremiah Looney (JL): As a past editor for the Watershed Review, what is one piece of advice you would like to give to the writers who weren’t able to get their submissions published?

Tim Hayes (TH): My time as an editor for the Watershed Review opened my eyes in a lot of ways, but especially in terms of submitting pieces. The best advice I can give writers is two things: have an amazing first page (the rest should be amazing too, but hooking an editor right off the bat is the best policy), and be informed about whatever journal/publisher you are submitting. Putting some research into where you submit, matching your style and/or content with similar publishers is a key component of catching an editor’s attention. One more addendum is, embrace rejection. If your piece is rejected it is not a commentary on who you are as a writer, it is that your piece of fiction/NF/poetry/whatever did not fit what those editors were attempting to create. Keep submitting or you’ll never find where you fit in the literary landscape.

JL: It does seem like writers tend to be a bit harsh on themselves. Do you have any advice for writers who might be avoiding the submission process because of a fear of failure, or a belief that their work isn’t good enough?

TH: As far as advice for writers fearful of rejection all I can say is you must flip the script. Expect rejection, embrace rejection. As writers we are not in control of our stories once they’ve been told. It is up to everyone else now whether or not your story will “make it”. So I suppose the best advice is write with wild abandon because you are not in control. That and, this might just be my opinion but, as a writer, our work is never good enough. It simply gets to a place where we have decided to stop improving it.

JL: In your bio, it says that you like to experiment with how writing works. Is there anything that you have learned from your journey that you’d like to share with other writers?

TH: When I talk about experimenting with how writing works I am usually referring to how we are able to take fairly rigid forms and/or genres of writing and, in our own way, turn them inside out. In my own work with novels, that has taken the form of attempting to blend genres in order to bend the expectations of my readers. With my short fiction I’ve dabbled more in focusing on poetic prose and abandoning traditional narrative forms. As far as advice to share I would caution other writers that experimentation does not guarantee quality results. You can bend and break rules of form and genre all you like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be good writing. The flip side though is that we should never be afraid of failing. If I write a terrible piece then I move on and try again. So I suppose I’m saying, expect failure, lots of it, but never stop trying.

JL: Is there a quote that you wish everyone knew?

TH: I think my favorite quote is from Mark Twain and epitomizes why I push myself toward new forms:

“There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written – it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.”

It’s a concept I personally believe in. That we writers are simply attempting to decode the form the story must use. The story tells itself, we simply supply the mold.

JL: Your presentation for WordSpring is focused on Magical Realism. As a storyteller, what do you enjoy the most about that genre?

TH: Magical realism came to me some time in the last two years and remained a constant nagging bug in the back of my mind. I was attempting, it might sound petty, to rebel against what I saw as a long period of realism fictions that did little other than point out how awful the world was. My initial reasons aside, magical realism crystallized for me one day when a fellow peer pointed out to me that the genre was fascinating to them because of its ability to advocate against the established norm. If realism is intended to be a snapshot of reality then magical realism is an attempt to redefine reality. The fact that it invariably speaks to actual issues of the writer’s time only strengthened my stance that magical realism is, in some essence, a form of protest. In my own Master’s project I used magical realism to address the protection ( or lack of protection) of our forests. Giving the forest a voice was simply my way of pointing to an attitude toward our natural world that sometimes borders on cold blooded greed. I suppose what I favor, even over the advocating nature of the genre, is how personal to the writer it is. Magical realism is an extension of the writer’s view of the world. One could think of it as infusing the reality they are currently living in with the power to effect it.

JL: Do you have any authors that you’d recommend who are also working to push the limits of genre, whether through challenging the stereotypes of the genre, or through blending different genres?

TH: My two biggest are Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie, but I also enjoy Gabriel García Márquez. Franz Kafka kind of kicked me off in this direction.

JL: What can someone interested in attending your presentation expect from your presentation?

TH: What can be expected from my presentation is a broader outlook than my own work as it will be up to those attending to find what about their world seems off and/or wrong and then the real fun of finding a way to bring it into the light.

Hayes’ workshop “Real Magic” workshop is one of seventeen workshops in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, song-writing, and more that will take place Saturday, April 23rd as part of WordSpring 2016. Conference registration is open now, and spots are filling up fast, so check out for more information.

Once you’ve registered, come back to The Haberdasher over the next few weeks, and let our presenter interviews help you decide which workshop line up is for you. Or, just drop in to hear writers talk writing.



About The Haberdasher

Created by writers for writers, The Haberdasher, or le Hab, is your Peddler of Literary Art for Northern California and beyond. In addition to writing tips and literary debates, we also feature critical reviews and author interviews.


One thought on ““The Story Won’t Tell Itself”: An Interview with Tim Hayes

  1. Such a great and informative interview!

    Posted by Mercy Yepez | April 20, 2016, 3:02 am

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