Interview with Kurt Rheinheimer

4 mins read

Kurt Rheinheimer’s stories have appeared in magazines ranging from Redbook and Playgirl to Shenandoah and Glimmer Train, and have been anthologized in four volumes of New Stories From The South: The Year’s Best, from Algonquin Books, and most recently in Press 53’s Surreal South II. His collection, Little Criminals, (Eastern WashingtonUniversity Press) won the Spokane Prize for Fiction, was reviewed favorably in The New York Times Book Review and was a finalist for the Virginia Fiction Book of the Year, 2006. An essay on his life-long fixation on the Baltimore Orioles appears in the anthology Writers on Baseball. Rheinheimer lives and works as an editor in Roanoke, Va., from where he and his wife Gail have been known to hike every weekend for years on end, having walked the 550 Virginia miles of the Appalachian Trail, all in day-hikes. He is readying a story collection based on his family.

Natasha Stagg: How long, approximately, would you say you’ve been writing?

Kurt Rheinheimer: Since the eighth grade when we came back to school and got the classic assignment of what I did on my summer vacation. I took an incident with a buddy where we were unsure where the family campsite was for maybe 10 minutes and exaggerated it into “The Day My Life Was Actually Saved By A Lifesaver,” since my friend had a pack along and we ate them. The teacher gave me an F on the paper for not doing what she asked, but said she loved it. That was the perfect thing for a mildly rebellious, A-student boy; give him the F he could be proud of the rest of his life, but praise his writing. I did not concentrate on short stories until I was in my mid-20s, and have done so ever since. Which is now an unbelievably long time.

NS: Do you write every day?

KR: I do, or at least touch it every day. I know that the days that pass fastest are those you don’t write, or don’t exercise, or don’t play your guitar. I also operate under the superstition that if I let it go a day, it might never come back.

NS: What are your feelings on “writing on writing”? Ever read the advice other authors give?

KR: Not much, but that may be more laziness (I read short stories and baseball stuff and not much else) than anything else. There are certainly nuggets at least to be found. One recent one for me, though not from a writer, is “don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Which I think is valuable in the writing context as well as others: Once you sit down, get something genuinely moved ahead rather than, you know, researching markets, looking at old rejection slips with nice notes on them, or writing a grocery list.

NS: Do you have some advice to give?

KR: Not much beyond what’s above. Stick with it every day. Send it out when you think it’s ready, and send it out again when they send it back.

NS: Who is your favorite author of the moment, and what should we read by them?

KR: I never get over Lorrie Moore’s first story collection Self Help, with its bombastic, wise-guy tone, its use of second person, its overall effect on me of just sort of freeing up to just write.