SR71 Contributor Interviews: Jordan Scott

unnamedWhat is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

I came into fiction from a place of being a poet first and foremost, which has really informed the way I construct my short stories. There’s something pleasurable about accessing modes that feel more rooted in poetry—such as a sort of incantatory lyric—and braiding them through a story on a sentence level. The short story as a form also gives me ample space to layer different ideas into my writing.

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“Investigating the Nature of Reality”: An Interview with Brian Evenson

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Photo of Brian Evenson

Recently, Sonora Review‘s 2017-2018 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Patrick Cline, interviewed Brian Evenson, writer of numerous works of fiction and our 2017 Fiction Contest judge.

First off, thank you so much for judging our Spring fiction contest. We love your choice, Kate Berson’s “Luz, Milagro,” and are thrilled to publish it in Sonora Review #72. What do you admire about this story, and what led you to choose it out of the other submissions?

I found it a subtle story, and somewhat elusive–which I mean as a great compliment. It’s the kind of story that gave me just enough to move forward but also maintained a certain amount of mystery. It’s also not necessarily the kind of story I would naturally gravitate toward, and so it had to work a little harder to draw me in. I found it an exceptionally well written story: that, above all, was what convinced me to choose it.

As a semi-frequent contest judge, can you give us a sense of your process in this role, both in this case specifically and generally speaking? What do you look for in a story, and what do you pay attention to? Do you see any tendencies in your choices?

I try to go into each contest with an open mind. It’s more that I’m waiting for the story to convince me that it should be chosen than that I’m looking for something specific–which I guess means I’m looking for something well-written, original and convincing. But, honestly, the story that I chose for the last contest I judged and Berson’s story are radically different. The only thing they have in common is that the people writing them are thinking really actively about language and what it can do.

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Announcing the 2017 Contest Winners

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Congratulations to the winners of the Sonora Review 2017 Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction contests!

Poetry, chosen by Anselm Berrigan: “I Want to Die in Designer” by Benjamin Krusling

Prose, chosen by Brian Evenson: “Luz, Milagro” by Kate Berson

Nonfiction, chosen by Irina Dumitrescu: “The Pace of Death: On Illness and Borders in the Sonora” by Easton Smith

The winners will each receive $1,000 and publication in the next issue of Sonora Review. 

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Interview with Carib Guerra

Read: “La Goma” and “El Paso” and look for more on Carib Guerra’s tumblr

Natasha Stagg: How long have you been writing?

Carib Guerra: I dropped out of school in the 7th grade.  My mother allowed this with the requirement that I continue reading a great deal of books, and also writing responses to the books as well as stories and poems they inspired.  So I had a lot of free time to choose my life, but also I gained a huge respect for writing as a way of thinking through problems.  Because my friends were in school most of the day I would sit alone for hours at different spots near my house in South Austin.  I’d pick a group of objects like a patch of grass, a puddle, and a rock wall and pretend that I was a very small human living in that terrain, then I’d write stories about the adventures I had there.  Writing’s always been an exploration for me of reality as I’d rather see it.  So, yeah.  I started writing seriously when I was around twelve.

NS: Do you write every day?

CG: No.  That sounds horrible.  I imagine hours alone pacing around my stuffy dark room beating myself up for not being constantly on point.  If by writing every day, I could really be saying: going on walks, taking naps, listening to music, smoking cigarettes, editing old stuff, and staring at the wall–all while taking brief scrawly notes–then yes, I do write every day.

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

CG: I love reading people’s thoughts on their business.  It’s either really insightful or really pretentious and embarrassing.  One of my favorites is On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  He kind of does both.  I’m very interested in seeing how other people conceptualize their writing and then force themselves to do it.  Everybody has different formulas and tricks to get the stuff out.  I wish the ‘secret to things’ was more wild, like, hold one ounce of gold in your mouth while petting a shark.  Then you’ll be a real writer.

NS: Do you have some advice to give?

CG: I used to write really awful poetry, and my stories were poorly structured and predictable.  I had no sense of character or plot, and I used flowery verbiage and cliches hand over fist.  If I had realized how horrible my writing was I would have thrown it all away.  The fact that I had this stubborn bloated self-confidence in my writing drove me to continue, and eventually I reached a skill level that naturally follows practice and routine.  I’m probably still overconfident in my work, but my arrogance has proved beneficial over time so I’ll stick with it.  My advice would be: Always think that you’re better than you are, leave the judgement for retrospect, and put every stupid idea you have down on paper.  Oh, and edit mercilessly.

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

CG: Italo Calvino.  Invisible Cities is my favorite.

NS: What is a book that kind of blew your mind, that we’d be surprised by?

Steven Jesse Bernstein’s I am Secretly an Important Man.  I don’t know if that’s surprising.  I think he’s a really intimate and exciting author.  Also, Sartre’s Nausea but all the kids are reading that these days.  You should be cool and read Bernstein.

 

 

Interview with Mark Budman

Mark Budman‘s work can be found on his website, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Blip, and Pank Magazine, to name a few places.

Natasha Stagg: How long have you been writing?

Mark Budman: Since I learned the alphabet.

NS: Do you write every day?

MB: Yes, just about.

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

MB: I suspect that everyone has a style which is best for them, but once in a  while I do read what other people think about the craft.

NS: Do you have some advice to give?

MB: For what it’s worth (see the above) read other people’s fiction (not necessarily meta-fiction) and practice daily. Revise, revise, revise and don’t mince words.

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

MB: Gary Shteyngart. Read his Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story.

NS: What is a book that kind of blew your mind, that we’d be surprised by?

MB: Super Sad True Love Story. It’s hilarious how sad it is.