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Friday Feature: Interview with James E. Guin

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with James E. Guin, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

A flash fiction piece called “The Sun Fallen” about our early ancestors. An ancient aliens type of story, it was in the E-zine Free Flash Fiction on September 25, 2012. Free Flash Fiction was free to the public and free for the writers-no payment. I was nearing forty. The E-zine closed sometime in 2013. Even though a couple of my writer friends said that I was wasting my time and my writing by not receiving payment, it felt great. I sold my first piece in May of 2013 and made my first professional sale to Daily Science Fiction in December of 2013.

What inspired your pieces in the Jenny?

“Anila, the Wind, and the Sea” began as a contest entry for Enchanted Spark: Photo Flare Contest. The contest involved writing a piece inspired by three photos. Photo one was a statue of a dancing girl, photo two was a windmill, and photo three was seashells on a beach.

What got you into writing?

Between 2007 and 2010, I majored in English Education at Kennesaw State University. I was required to take a class that taught middle and high school students how to write creative nonfiction. Until that point in my life I had written only research papers. After reading my essays about my assorted jobs and bizarre life experiences, the teacher encouraged me to “get published.” Four years later, I did.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I prefer speculative fiction. My life is filled with facts and reality, so why not “speculate” from time to time.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

My favorite authors and influences are: Kevin J. Anderson, The Bible, Ray Bradbury, Kate Chopin, Bob Dylan, Bret Easton Ellis, Jed Guin, June Guin, Joe Haldeman, Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert, Lui Cixin, Cormac McCarthy, Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, Charles Portis, John Steinbeck, Peter Watts…

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

Winning second place in the Jenny Magazine Speculative Contest: Spring 2015, of course.

How has your writing developed over time?

I am a little better than when I started a few years ago. This fall or spring, I plan on taking writing classes at a nearby university.

Are you currently working on anything?

Over the past few months I have been working on a story that started out as a flash fiction piece then transformed into a book, and now I am condensing it into a short story 16,000 to 17,000 words. A few years ago when I first started writing my wife had an idea for a book, and I have spent more time with it this year than when she initially presented it to me.

What’s your writing process?

Through out the day, sounds and sights spark story ideas. Someone opens the car door to a black, dented up, 1994 Toyota Corolla, a sentence pops into my head, and then a paragraph, 1,000 words to 5,000 words, etc. Next I read, edit, research, read, edit… Ideally I let it sit for a month or two and then back to read, edit, research, read, edit… At some point, I send it to a market for publication, and the rest of my time is spent receiving rejection emails.

What are you currently reading?

Hyperion by Dan Simmons and L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of The Future Volume 31. I’m waiting for Death’s End to come out later this year. It is from Lui Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy: The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Not yet, but I would love to someday.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

Although I have held many jobs, I am a musician by trade. I would have never been able to attend college without music and the majority of my income over the past twenty years has involved music-teaching, performing, arranging. 

Thus far, my approach to writing has been through my understanding of music. I start with an idea, which in music could be called a theme. The idea is developed through the media of words, sentences, paragraphs, and into pages. Obviously, the musical theme consists of notes, timbre, and rhythm. The theme is developed in many ways such as changing the rhythms, adding or shifting harmonies above or below the theme, adding notes to the theme, introducing new themes, and so many other techniques. Character development is essential to writing just as style and voice are crucial to the successful musician. For me the process is similar to composing music.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

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Friday Feature: Interview with Daniel Davis

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Daniel Davis, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

It was a short story called “Dry Spell,” published in Eastown Fiction in August, 2009. Same week as my birthday, actually. It was my second accepted story, a coming of age piece set during the Dust Bowl. I was 23, living on my own for the first time, and getting ready to start grad school. So I was pretty stoked. I remember the editors worked with me on it; there was a character who seemed integral to the plot when I wrote it, but ended up getting weeded out altogether, and the story was far stronger for it. Taught me the value of collaboration from the get-go.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

“Flyover State” came from a favorite childhood memory: the smell of cornfields on an August night. I assume cornfields. Could be something else entirely. I just remember smelling it at the county fair every summer. Now, combine that with meth, because my county had a serious meth problem at one point in time, and it’s been steadily making a comeback. Along with heroin, because nothing’s ever simple.

What got you into writing?

Other writers. I’ve always told stories, either to myself or others; can’t remember a time I didn’t. I come from a reading family, so it was just natural for me to surround myself with books. Around 5th grade, I read a Goosebumps book about a boy who took pride in writing stories. I thought, “Hey, I do that already; maybe if I do it more, people might like me!” As all writers know, the results of that deduction were hit-and-miss.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I’m all over the board genre-wise. Most of my writing I classify as “blue collar fiction,” with an emphasis on the darker side of things. But I’ve written (and continue to write) horror, science fiction, and westerns, plus weird stuff that’s hard to classify. I do poetry on occasion, and usually it’s either dark or humorous (or, in glorious moments of absolute perfection, humorously dark). And by humorous, I mean by my standards. Which are pretty low.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

I’m heavily influenced by where I’m from: rural East-Central Illinois, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The glacier stopped along here, however long ago that was, and just a few miles south of town, the flat land gives way to hills and forests. It’s a blue collar region, but my town is also a college town, which sort of makes it the best of both worlds.

As for writers: Stephen King pretty much got it going for me. I started around age 11 or 12, and I’m still a huge fan. Along the way, I picked up Raymond Carver, the undisputed King of Short Fiction. In college, a friend and I went to see No Country for Old Men, which subsequently introduced me to Cormac McCarthy. I can still remember the first story I wrote after reading McCarthy; somehow I managed to get it published eventually, but it’s a straight-up McCarthy imitation. I weeded a lot of that out (I hope), but he’s still the biggest influence on me.

Movies, too. The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, David Cronenberg. You get the gist. Mel Brooks, because you gotta throw a curveball. (Baseball is a recent love of mine, too, and I’ve found myself writing about it frequently. Americana at its finest.) Also a lot of singer/songwriters I turned onto in high school and still devour: Mellencamp, Springsteen, Kristofferson, Tom Waits. The good ones.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

I had a weird little flash piece that doesn’t have much in the way of plot, and revolves more around imagery. Really unlike most of my stuff. I sent it to a journal, and the editor responded a day later saying he didn’t think it was right for him. A few hours after that, I received another email from him, stating he hadn’t been able to get the story out of his head, and figured that meant he should accept it, after all, if I was willing. I, um, was.

How has your writing developed over time?

I started out wanting to be a horror writer; blame the King and R.L. Stine. I still write horror fairly regularly, but it’s much more literary (I have a hard time getting some of it published, because it’s not horror enough for genre journals, and too genre for literary mags). But I’ve incorporated the dark vibe of horror into literary fiction. Honestly, I still feel I’m trying to find my voice. And I hope I never find it; I hope my writing stays explorative until I can’t write anymore.

Are you currently working on anything?

Not particularly. I have a couple of novel ideas, but they aren’t fleshed out enough. I spit out a short story now and then, however, and a poem or song on the side. I’ve got a collection out to a couple publishers, and another about ready to throw into the ether. Keep writing, whatever it is. That’s the goal.

What’s your writing process?

I mainly write at night, maybe because I have a full-time job, though I’ve always been more comfortable after dark. I write in spurts; if I’m writing a short story, I’ll finish it in one or two sittings usually, then come back to it in a couple weeks and work it over. I have to step away; it helps me see the flaws. When I fall in love, I fall in love hard, and blindly.

What are you currently reading?

Insomnia by Stephen King. This interview made me nostalgic, and I haven’t read this one for a few years. Usually, I’ve got a random book, fiction or nonfiction, that I’m in the middle of. I have dozens of books stacked on my bookshelves that I haven’t read yet. I’m afraid to count them. I may have a problem.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Outside of all those group papers in college (that I did most of the writing on)? Nah. My writing is…mine. I compare it to cooking: I love food other people cook, and I’ll look at others’ recipes to get an idea of what to cook. But the meal I eventually make is my own. Whatever I do, I want it to be mine. I understand and enjoy collaborations that work well, and don’t rule out ever doing it, but at this point in what you can call my career, it’s almost anathema to what I do. If I put my name on it, I want it to be mine. 100%. “Good, bad, or indifferent,” as John Mellencamp sings.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

As a kid, I drew a little comic I called The Human Condition that was basically a The Far Side rip-off. The world doesn’t miss it, trust me, except maybe as evidence that I was a twisted little child.

I wrote a lot of songs in high school and college. I play guitar and keyboard (and a little banjo and mandolin, once upon a time), and have had a couple of people cover my songs online. It was a fascinating experience, having someone else reinterpret my work.

I’m the Nonfiction Editor for The Prompt Literary Magazine, a journal started by some grad school friends of mine. The cover of the first issue is a picture I took of a pigeon in my apartment hallway. I went uncredited, but I can still claim to be a published photographer, as well. Let’s all hope this is merely a footnote in my artistic endeavors.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Ace Boggess

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Ace Boggess, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

1991. I was 19. I had a short poem published in a little Canadian horror magazine called Lost. It was photocopied, black and white, saddle-stapled. I doubt anyone saw it, but it was all excitement for me.

What inspired your pieces in the Jenny?

With “Where Does the Night Lead?” the question itself was the inspiration. For more than a decade now I’ve been writing these poems based on questions I mine from any possible source. Answering them as verse takes me on journeys that I can’t anticipate.

The inspiration for “Montana” was a bit different. I wanted to write about a mythical paradise, and I chose Montana (a state to which I’ve not traveled) because, well, a couple of things in the poem are true. Or, at least, I’ve heard them said aloud. It seemed to me some folks already view Montana as a mythical paradise. Why not?

What got you into writing?

Severe social anxiety and a love for books.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I’ve always thought of myself as a novelist. I’ve written many novel-length manuscripts over the years (the first of which, A Song Without a Melody, is forthcoming in October from Hyperborea Publishing). Still, it has been a struggle to find homes for them. My poems, however, are vagabonds sleeping on whatever couches they can.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

With poetry, the big ones would be Lehman, Zagajewski, Strand, and probably throw in a little Neruda. I’ve been obsessed with all four at one point or another. But there have been so many. I read any poetry collection or journal I can get my hands on. For prose, I like to think that if Hesse, Camus, Burroughs, and Jim Morrison all sat around a campfire telling stories, THAT would be the novel I’d want to write.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

Hopefully still to come. So far though, I’d have to say the acceptance of my second poetry book, The Prisoners. It came on the same day I made it out of the penitentiary, so that’s a pretty significant day for me.

How has your writing developed over time?

I’d like to think it has become more precise. “Precise” — that’s a good word. I’ll go with that.

Are you currently working on anything?

I’m always working on something. Poetry, mostly. A few short stories here and there. What I’m most focused on are the two books I have forthcoming: the novel I mentioned before and my third poetry book, tentatively titled Ultra-Deep Field, that Brick Road Poetry Press will release in the near future. Plus, I’m still trying to find publishers for my other novel and poetry manuscripts. There are many, and I keep shopping them around.

What’s your writing process?

It’s not particularly interesting. I make coffee. I smoke a cigarette. Then I read until I’m ready to write. As soon as I put the book down, I pick up the pen.

What are you currently reading?

For poetry, Rita Mae Reese’s The Alphabet Conspiracy; for a novel, Stephanie Dickinson’s Love Highway; and some volume of Best American Short Stories (2012, I think).

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Yes, I wrote two short stories with writer Jennifer Lynn Hall, which you can find in Heavy Feather Review and Canadian journal All Rights Reserved.  That was a long time ago. It was a lot of fun, but there were a bunch of drugs involved. I don’t know that I’d be able to do that again.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

My first year in college, I wrote lyrics for a metal band. I loved that. I’d do that again in a second. But that was the start of the ’90s. Oh, well.

Ace Boggess’ poetry can be found in Issue 8 and Issue 10 of Jenny Magazine.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Dylan Sanders

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Dylan Sanders, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was on a blog called Poet’s Haven in February 2015. The piece was called “Mark of the Young,” which was a poem I had been rewriting since college about a friend who died in a drunk driving accident.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

I wrote “I Kill Myself Days at a Time” because I’m tired of seeing poetry about the beauty or the artistic side of depression. I wanted to make something blunt that really expressed how I felt as a person who goes through the daily thought process of “What if I killed myself right now?”

What got you into writing?

I’ve been into writing since I was young because I read all the time — like Lord of the Rings for class in 8th grade all the time. I guess this is one of those stereotypical things where the reading nurtured the writing, and I had the right people supporting me when I would show them my work.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

As fun as I find poetry, I think my true love will always be in fiction. And I prefer works that are quick to get to the point, quick to tell jokes, but aren’t afraid to take a step back and analyze themselves seriously every once in awhile.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

I have a lot of musical influences, but in terms of writers, two of my favorites would have to be Craig Clevenger and Hemingway.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

The proudest moment would have to be when I heard that my chapbook, Skull Kids, was selected for publishing by Bronze Man Books.

How has your writing developed over time?

It developed the same way most do, I guess. It started out super angsty and “real” like most college-age Bukowski wannabe garbage. Then I started to open up and get more comfortable experimenting with the abstract and bizarre until I found my niche.

Are you currently working on anything?

I’m sitting on a pile of close to 100 poems that need a good home; it gets expensive feeding all of them so if you know someone who wants to adopt let me know. Also I enjoy starting novels and never getting past the halfway point.

What’s your writing process?

Super unhealthy amounts of alcohol. I’m kind of kidding, but my process definitely involves shutting myself off from the rest of the world, putting on some appropriate music and making sure the damn Chrome browser is closed.

What are you currently reading?

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Yes. It was a lot of me writing stuff for her to give feedback on and her not having the time to reciprocate any work. Very one sided and short lived.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I used to draw a lot, and I’ve really been interested in learning how to use Fruityloops or something to make some music.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Stephanie Couey

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Stephanie Couey, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was a couple of poems I’d written as an undergrad for class, in a small Idaho journal called the Whistle Pig.  I think I was 22.  It felt encouraging.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

Living in Idaho.

What got you into writing?

Reading a lot as a child I think, and then needing to put my own stories and feelings into words.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

Anything.  I like writing hybrid essays which incorporate looser elements of poetry and language play with more typical essay-like exploration of a topic.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

My influences are largely my peers.  I have an amazing group of writers in Colorado.  I am also hugely influenced by femininity, by my own body, by life experience, by raw emotion.  My favorite writers are Elena Ferrante, Junot Diaz, Mary Gaitskill, Lisa Robertson, many many others, and my friends.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

Getting “The Trough” published in Anamesa Journal in 2016.

How has your writing developed over time?

It’s gotten more strange, more loose, but also more concise.

Are you currently working on anything?

I’m revising my masters thesis right now to send out to first book contests in poetry.

What’s your writing process?

Daily ramblings which either do or don’t go anywhere.  Often I write in the morning, or throughout the day on my phone or in a notebook.

What are you currently reading?

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.

Stephanie Couey’s story “The Country Estate” can be found in Issue 8 of Jenny Magazine.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Feature Friday: Interview with Beesan Odeh

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Beesan Odeh, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

My first publication was actually this past fall 2015, a poem in Jenny Magazine titled “The World’s a Stage.” I only recently started submitting work, so it was exciting to see the piece online and have the opportunity to read it at the premiere. The poem is about Elvis Presley. I’ve been a fanatic for over 10 years now. Strange, I know. His life can be divided into three major parts: the 50s rebel, 60s movie star, and 70s Vegas shows, and that’s reflected in Acts I, II, and III of the poem.

What inspired your pieces in the Jenny?

This time, my poem “Wild ‘n Running” was chosen for Jenny (Issue 10). I love Elvis, and I love oldies, rock n’ roll, rockabilly; the greasers, the rebels, James Dean. They all often influence many of the things I do and write. Definitely this poem.

What got you into writing?

I’ve always loved books and stories, but I didn’t start writing until the 7th grade, right after watching and reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. The story in film and Tolkien’s writing were life changing.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I enjoy writing fiction the most. I’ve been playing with short stories for a while, but I just took a youth novel class, which presents its own challenges, and I loved working in a larger format, too. I stuck with contemporary realism for the longest time, but I’m experimenting with speculative fiction again. Poetry is always fun, too.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

J.R.R. Tolkien was my first influence and he’s one of my biggest. The Lord of the Rings was one of those life changing stories for me. I wanted to create those characters. I wanted to tell a story like Tolkien did. Completely different, S. E. Hinton is another one of my favorites, especially The Outsiders. Robert Cormier is up there, too. And I actually take a lot from mangaka Masashi Kishimoto when it comes to certain themes and character development. Bits and pieces from all over.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

I recently had two poems published in Jenny, but I was also awarded the Robert and Virginia Hare Award for fiction. I’m thrilled and honored to have my writing recognized by the English Department at Youngstown State University.

How has your writing developed over time?

I’ve learned different techniques and have had much practice over the years, but the most important thing is that I’ve found my voice.

Are you currently working on anything?

I took a youth novel class this semester, so I’m going to keep working on that project. I have ideas for a few short stories, if I get the chance to work on them. And I’m always writing poetry.

What’s your writing process?

There’s not much structure to my process. I keep notes all over the house and on my phone; random ideas or bits of dialogue. But when it comes to writing the actual piece, I have to be in the mood. There’s nothing worse than trying to write when I’m just not vibing with it.

What are you currently reading?

Nothing at the moment, but I do want to read S. E. Hinton’s Rumble Fish again. I noticed it on my shelf the other day. I stumbled upon The Song of Achilles, so that’s on my list for this summer, too. I’ll read whatever catches my eye.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

Nothing too serious. It was a small project here and there, mostly for fun. I’m a little iffy about working with others sometimes. It depends on the project and the person. I’m not against it, though.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

I have not, but graphic novels sound so good to me. I’ve always been hesitant, but a few people around me have been dabbling in the art, and a friend of mine mentioned collaborating. It’s something I’d love to try. You never know what you’ll end up with.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

Friday Feature: Interview with Mark Long

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Mark Long, a past contributor of Jenny Magazine.

Describe your first publication. Where was it, when, and what was the piece about? How old were you at the time and how did it feel?

The first story I published was called “[truh luhv]” and was in the English department’s student literary journal where I was in grad school. That semester I’d been in my first creative writing class and quickly figured out there were three groups of students in it: desperate housewives with a tragic story they just had to let out (typically a divorce or dead pet); slumming lit crit students taking the class as an elective (and to prove to everyone none of this was that hard); and the actual creative writing majors. So we’d read each other’s stories — anonymously — and at least a couple of times during each class one of the desperate housewives would have to say, “I can tell a woman wrote this … because it really, really spoke to me.” That got pretty tiresome and reductive so I wrote a male-female relationship story — “[truh luhv]” — and when done I flipped the gender of the two main characters without changing anything else. When we discussed it in class, sure enough, one of the housewives said the story had to have been written by a woman because it really, really spoke to her. So for about five seconds I felt pretty great, having vindicated my own sense of self-righteousness and superiority.

Then one of the creative writing majors in the class — a woman I had a crush on but didn’t want anything to do with me — said, while giving me the stink eye, “Well, I don’t think a woman wrote this, but maybe a gay man.” That got a big laugh from all the lit crit students, especially as she was their goddess. Ebullience was replaced by a sinking feeling that all my efforts had only proven that I was a big jackass. Nothing much has changed.

What inspired your piece in the Jenny?

Last summer I rode my motorcycle out to the West Texas town where I was born, although I hadn’t been out there in years and years, and figured there should be some sort of essay to be gotten out of it, whatever that might end up being.

What got you into writing?

Everyone in my family was a big reader, so from the beginning books were always important. At night when I was a little kid, my dad would read his old brown back Hardy Boys books to me — using different voices for each of the characters — and I remember feeling so absolutely desperate to learn how to read so I didn’t need an intermediary between me and the book. From there, it was a short jump to thinking that being able to write — creating something out of only your own mind, out of thin air, out of nothing — was like knowing how to do the best magic trick in the world.

What do you like writing the most? Is there a certain style you prefer?

I like the fact that writing forces me to make sense — or at least to try to make sense — of both myself and the world I live in. When I was in college I thought I’d write fiction, but since then I’ve gravitated toward creative nonfiction.

What are your influences? Who are your favorite writers?

When it comes to short fiction, I can read Ray Carver, Richard Ford, and Larry Brown (his novella 92 Days is the best ever in detailing the recursive agony of writing and rejection and sacrifice) every day. Jane Smiley, Charles Bukowski, and Daniel Woodrell (especially his country noir series) have novels I never get tired of rereading. Plus, Pete Gent’s North Dallas Forty. That was his only good book, but it’s both a great read and seminal in being the first to deconstruct the myth of professional football players. And there’s always Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood. As for nonfiction, lately I’ve been going back to reread essays by Orwell and Montaigne. Reading them is like having a conversation with a best friend.

What’s your proudest moment as an author?

It was years ago when I had the story “Recipe” picked up by RE:AL. It was on the list of publications read every year by the Best American Short Story editors, so I felt like I’d won a golden lottery ticket. Plus, the story was about baking a quiche, a red Ford Mustang convertible, and the dying apple tree in my grandparents’ back yard, a pretty potent combination.

How has your writing developed over time?

When I was younger, I thought I was super funny, insightful, and delightfully cynical, and so I wrote a lot of stories and essays using a point of view modeled on the narrator’s voice in Ray Carver’s “Cathedral.” But, I was trying too hard to prove how “smart” I was, and all these pieces came across as being incredibly mean spirited. These days I’m shooting for a flatter affect language-wise as I think my point of view still comes across plenty clear.

Are you currently working on anything?

Right now the spring semester is almost over, and I’ll have a jump of at least two months without teaching — maybe even the whole summer — so I want to knock out a lot more creative nonfiction pieces. In particular, I’ve been working sporadically on an essay about being a smartass growing up in Texas, inspired by Richard Ford’s “In the Face,” that I want to finally finish.

What’s your writing process?

During the semesters I’m teaching — which is almost all year round — it’s hard to schedule time to write as, on a daily basis, I’m usually preparing to teach, teaching, or recovering from teaching. So I try to be as deliberate as possible about writing as much as I can during the breaks between semesters and in the summer, especially if I’m not teaching both summer sessions.

When I’m writing a creative nonfiction piece, I’ll have a general subject or a memory or experience I’ll begin with, but never any real idea of where it’s headed. Then I’ll write at least five thousand words, basically everything I have to say until I have nothing left to say. At this point I’m not worrying about structure or language or any kind of formal elements. It’s more like directed freewriting than anything else to just get as much down on the page as I can. By the end I’ll usually have a better idea of what the essay seems to be about. (Or sometimes I still don’t know what it’s about, so I’ll just put the whole thing aside and move on to the next subject I’m interested in writing about.)

I’ll print the whole thing out and make a list/outline of all the sections in it  to see how to reorder the content I’m keeping and identify what parts need to be dropped out entirely. By then I know which sections need to be punched up content-wise and which ones need to be shortened, and what final content needs to be produced to go here and there. Finally, I’ll go through sentence by sentence tightening up the wording absolutely as much as I can.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m alternating between Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night and Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes by Daniel Everett. The next book I want to read is Barbarian Days by William Finnegan as my goal is to convert enough of my work to being online so I can move to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua and learn how to surf.

Have you ever co-written something with another author? If so, what was that experience like?

I’ve done a lot of editorial work — especially during my stint as a book publisher — but nothing in terms of a shared writing credit as opposed to reworking another author’s text for its publication under their name alone.

Have you ever worked with a medium other than writing? Or collaborated with someone in another medium with your writing?

Writing and words are the thing. Plus, I’m an only child and writing is a pretty solitary experience, and I like the fact with writing I get to run the show without having to deal with anyone else.

Mark Long’s story “Dark Matter” can be found in Issue 9 of Jenny Magazine.


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