HippoCamp 2016 Recap: Second Annual Creative Nonfiction Conference

 On August 12-14, Hippocampus Magazine brought to the Lancaster County Convention Center: 3 keynote speakers, 42 presenters, 216 attendees (representing 28 states and 4 countries), and infinite stories and conversations shared over plentiful meals, cocktails, or snacks of milk and cookies. Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, this group engaged in panel discussions, author readings, and breakout sessions. Some elected to participate in a workshop or a pitch session with industry agents and editors. This second annual event managed to top the inaugural gathering in number of attendees as well as the increased number of offerings.

karr at podium

Photo credit: Lisa VanMark

I would be mistaken to go any further without telling you that Mary Karr, award winning memoirist, was the featured keynote on Saturday evening. Poet and nonfiction writer, Mary Karr is a professor of literature at Syracuse University, but her stories are rooted in her tumultuous childhood in the desolate oil-refinery town of Leechfield, Texas. Her memoirs include The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit, and in fall of 2015, Karr released The Art of Memoir, the nonfiction title on which her talk was based. Karr was utterly disarming in her easy, intimate address, a tangible extension of the familiar persona from her work, yet somehow impossibly more vivid and endearing. In person, she embodies her poetic, spiritually reflective voice, whose sensitivity sometimes feels jolting in contrast with her frank, unapologetic diction—reminding us that authenticity means more than consistency.

Karr jokingly proposed that memoir is not a genre of “guys who wear deck shoes and use ‘summer’ as a verb,” but one that is “about being a human and feeling the beauty and difficulty of it.” She remembered her reading of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as an experience that made her feel less lonely, and it is that human connection that inspires the rigor with which she pursues her both her craft and her teaching career. She describes her writing process in a way that sounds nearly as traumatic as her childhood:

“Writing memoir is knocking oneself out with your own fist… It’s like pounding on a corpse and breathing into its mouth and getting it to rise up…. I cry every day. If I haven’t cried, then I haven’t had a good day. It means I’m not paying attention.”

Most memorably, Karr encouraged her audience: “Don’t write how you suffered. Write how you survived.” It is with this brave spirit that Karr stares down her life events as she writes six hours a day or 10,000 words, whichever comes first, a discipline she collegially advised her audience to undertake. In that same generous spirit, Karr tweeted later that night: “At hippocamp nonfiction conf, I finally met my posse—so many brave people telling stories—singing all the way home.”

In addition to Karr’s Saturday keynote, Ashley C. Ford provided an opening keynote on Friday afternoon, and Dave Cameron wrapped up on Sunday with a final keynote address. Ford, a writer, editor and speaker, is currently co-editing with Roxane Gay an anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. In her keynote, entitled “Don’t be a hero,” she addressed the importance of truth in memoir and not revising history to fit an ulterior motive of our narratives. Cameron delivered an apt topic for the conclusion of a writing conference, challenging attendees to implement writing goals and optimize writing production. Each writer needs to develop an urgency in writing that commits to putting hours in the books and words on the page. An award-winning speaker on the topic of sustainable work productivity, Cameron spoke from his 12 years experience at Ithaca College as a content marketing strategist. Elements of these two topics were resurfaced in other HippoCamp 2016 breakout sessions, along with discussions of voice, point of view, humor, writing community engagement, publishing, book proposals, and self-promotion.

A developing writer, I was personally challenged by Friday night’s Debut Author Reading, in which first-time published authors read excerpts from their work and responded to the audience. Their stories allowed each listener to peer into the dark folds of their past as they shone a thin beam of light with their craft. These excerpts revealed abuse, shame, defeat, tenuous human connection, systemic generational tragedies, but also the beauty, tenacity, and triumph of survival and voice. Creative nonfiction is authentic experience in artistic expression, and the thick empathy in the room reminded me why we showed up to HippoCamp 2016.

Lancaster’s own Donna Talarico, creative mastermind of Hippocampus Magazine and host of the annual Hippocamp conference, announced that Hippocampus will be expanding into the medium of print, from its original online publication of memoir, essays, flash nonfiction, and articles. Its first print title Selected Memories will feature selected stories that were originally printed in its online forum. The Hippocampus press division is now soliciting for publication: memoirs, essay collections, literary journalism, travel writing and craft and creativity books. You can learn more about the press at the Hippocampus website.

Blog post by Robin White. 

Review: Haint by Teri Ellen Cross Davis

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Reviewed by Samantha Sweigert

There are a handful of books I’ve read in my life that possess the supernatural ability to neatly fold up their pages to a point and draw a deep line in the sand, marking clear “befores” and even clearer “afters.” The books that leave whispers all over your body when your light turns out the rest of the day. The ones that, after closing, you say a prayer over. Teri Ellen Cross Davis’ Haint, published this year by Gival Press, is one of those books.

Beginning to end, Cross Davis beckons her readers to shine a light and to witness the slow magic of a soul’s journey through life’s knowings and unknowings. With searing, seductive, tumultuous voice, the poet seamlessly moves us from the sweet candy wrappers and urgency of childhood in “Ode to Now n’ Laters” to the soft wisdom that comes from unmet expectations and unrelenting loss in poems like “Work Calendar” and the devastating “Knell.”

A total of fifty-six poems broken into three sections, Haint speaks its truth through poems that both reaffirm the human experience and demand a different viewpoint. Full disclosure—as a young, white (and therefore privileged) woman, there are poems in this collection which harken to experiences I never had and/or will never have. For example, “Brown Sugar,” one of my favorites for its finesse and structure, carefully navigates the universal concerns of adolescence while speaking to the deeper struggle of coming of age as a minority in America, dealing with the relentless comparisons of skin and hair. The deep beauty of this collection comes in the artistic sophistication in the author’s ability to allow the reader a small, clear window into a journey both familiar and unfamiliar.

Having experienced Haint at a time in my life when adulthood seems to be coalescing, I found myself particularly drawn to the overt celebrations and meditations on what it means to grow and mature as a woman—the power of our bodies, our movements, our inhales and exhales, our desires and our losses. “The small of my back (your hand here)” recognizes the elegance and solemn ritual in passionate love, while “He Can Get The Panties” prompts us to challenge the image of women as demure and revel in all it means to desire and be desired. At the same time, the stories told in this collection wring out the shadows of my hopes, dreams, and doubts of someday-motherhood as the author relates the devastation of uncertainty, trial and failure, the sadness of loss.  

One of the more interesting aspects of Teri Ellen Cross Davis’ compilation is the way it intertwines personal narratives with the stories of others, creating a mosaic that moves through life, illustrating the relationships between one persona and another. Poems like “Fifteen” and “Dear Diary”—the former seeming to narrate the author’s burgeoning recognition of lust, with the latter inspired by the deaths of two infants in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, born of two young girls who could have been the author, or me, or you. These voices ask that we reflect, that we take a few moments after inhaling every word to admit that we may not have the answers.

This is all to say that Haint stays close. It hovers above our bed frames at night. It’s a reminder that, like the title suggests, we all have our ghosts. At some point, we will all look in the mirror and remember our scars, our quiet corners in the hospital waiting-room, our simple and momentous triumphs in finding what was once lost. Like these lines from the opening poem, “Fade To Black,” this entire collection reminds us that our lives are the unfinished business of attempting to truly see ourselves:

…finally

the close-up—a mirror, and I am discovering

how slow love is, even slower acceptance

but traveling down the road I was born to know.

Come hear Teri Ellen Cross Davis read her work at The Turning Wheel (formerly Fear No Lit), a monthly reading series held at DogStar Books. The event will take place Thursday, August 11 at 7 pm, at 401 West Lemon Street, Lancaster PA.

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Teri Ellen Cross Davis is a Cave Canem fellow and has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read in: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC; and the following journals: Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, Natural Bridge, Torch, Poet Lore and The North American Review. Recently she has appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show (WAMU 88.5) and the Hay Festival Kells in Ireland. Her first collection, Haint is published by Gival Press. She lives in Silver Spring, MD. More can be read about Teri at www.poetsandparents.com.

 

Continue Lingering: A Review of Hayes Davis’ Debut Poetry Collection

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Reviewed by Christian Stock

The magic of opening a new poetry collection from an author that you’re unfamiliar with is that you never know when the meteor is going to hit. It might be the first page, it might be half-way through, or you might be three pages from the back cover when a poem just smacks you across the face. As a reader it pulls the excitement from your eyes, and as a writer you realize that you’ve got so much more work to do.

Hayes Davis’ collection Let Our Eyes Linger is full of meteors. His poetry manages to be simultaneously approachable and deep, crafting vivid characters out of American folklore at one moment and enlightening readers about the bitter and sweet tribulations of fatherhood. A deft storyteller who knows how to position an ending, Davis’ last lines consistently satiate the appetite for a poem to feel whole.

Broken into four different thematic sections Hayes’ collection first shows off his ability to touch on his experiences and make them real for the reader. “Etiquette” invites us into the mind of a young Davis as he sits in anguish at the dinner table because his stutter prevents him from asking to be excused. His struggle with verbal communication as a youth is at odds with the eloquence he embodies on the page. He paints a picture of a youth who knows of his voice, his ability to see, but cannot yet wield it.

The second section of the text exposes the racial prejudices that Davis grew up battling against. He reveals hesitations about buying a watermelon in public and dressing to ‘fit the part’ that society expects of a young black man in “Capitol Hill, SC.” He speaks his truth without pretentiousness, stating subtly, matter-of-factly, ‘the averted eyes, clenched mouths usually exchanged pleasantries with my khakis, sweater, top coat.’

Let Our Eyes Linger uses its third section to present the untold story of Slave Jim from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Davis seamlessly transitions from his own experiences to those of Slave Jim lending him a voice through a series of seven poems to flesh out the runaway’s story line. Hayes only inserts himself once in this whole section, ‘inviting’ Slave Jim into his classroom to comment on their discussion in Jim Observes a Class. Even here Davis remains a nameless ‘teacher’ letting Slave Jim have the final say in his tale.

Without revealing too much, section four doesn’t pull any punches. Davis demonstrates repeatedly through poems like “Knot,” “New English Teacher,” “Presence,” “How to Test a Marriage,” “Make it Work for You” that the unfound voice from the boy in section one has unquestionably gained its edge, and that edge is sharp, cutting to reveal deeper truth. For instance, the meditative voice in “How to Test a Marriage” remembers thinking that the biggest challenge of marriage is simply finding someone you love, and the new-found scorn of this old naivete. Ultimately, Davis speaks with wry wisdom and a commitment to witness, revealing the peaks and valleys of fatherhood, romance, and navigating through life (even at the end of your wits) with poise.
Next week Hayes Davis is bringing his voice to The Turning Wheel (formerly Fear No Lit), a monthly reading held at DogStar Books. The event will take place Thursday, August 11 at 7 pm, at 401 West Lemon Street, Lancaster PA.

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Hayes Davis holds a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, where he won an Academy of American Poets Prize; he is a member of Cave Canem’s first cohort of fellows, a former Bread Loaf working scholar, and a former Geraldine Miles Poet-Scholar at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.  He has also attended writers retreats at Manhattanville College and Soul Mountain, and appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, 88.5 in Washington, D.C. and at the Hay Festival Kells in Ireland. His first volume, Let Our Eyes Linger was published by Poetry Mutual Press. His work has appeared in New England Review, Poet Lore, Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Delaware Poetry Review, Kinfolks, and several anthologies. He teaches high-school English in Washington, DC, and lives in Silver Spring with his wife, poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, and their children. Read more about Hayes Davis at www.poetsandparents.com.

 

From Despair, Light: An Interview With Vince Pantalone

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Keep Moving Forward is the story of Nick Pantalone and his fight with cancer. The book is available on Amazon and proceeds go to The Four Diamonds Fund, a foundation that assists families dealing with childhood cancers. Vince Pantalone was Nick’s father and the book’s narrator. He has spent the last thirty-five years teaching and coaching in Central Pennsylvania.

 

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on Keep Moving Forward. The book’s origins are rooted in heartache, but as I look over the reviews on Amazon, I’m taken back by the kind words and statements of thanks. That must be rewarding.

Vince Pantalone:  It is rewarding that those who read the book get a glimpse into the special kind of person Nick was.  Our family always knew that Nick had a uniqueness to him, but when he began his battle with cancer, this inner force of strength emerged from within him.  His blogs illustrate this inner force.

 

CS: The book has a unique structure—your son Nick kept a blog during his cancer treatments, a three-year journey of incredible ups and downs—and you took the blog and added your own voice as you looked back on his fight. It’s a structure that provides a real depth of both voice and perspective. Did this format come to you at the project’s beginning? Or did it dawn on you as you were going back through the blog posts?

VP:  Actually, it was my family who suggested we publish Nick’s blogs in hopes that others with similar battles would find hope.  I added my perspective to “fill in the gaps” between Nick’s blogs, to let the reader know what had transpired between the journal entries. Read More…

American Culture Outside of American Literature

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An interview with Beth Julian

 

Beth Julian grew up in Harrisburg, PA and attended Central Dauphin East High school. She attended Lebanon Valley College, graduating in 2009 with a degree in English & French.  She received her Masters in American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg in 2011. She is the Director of the Center for Writing & Tutoring Resources at Lebanon Valley College.

 

Saint-Ybars  is put out by Les Editions Tintamarre, which is part of Centenary College of Louisiana. Les Editions Tintamarre publish novels that are deeply a part of American culture yet not a part of American literature because they are not in English. Saint-Ybars is the first book that Les Editions Tintamarre has published in English.  Check them out here: http://www.centenary.edu/editions/aboutus.html  —

 

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on your translation of Alfred Mercier’s Saint-Ybars. I knew nothing about him or his work until I did a quick Google search. I enjoy hearing a book’s origin story—but I’m sure the route of a translator is different than most. What led you to this author?

Beth Julian:  Thank you! I found this author through sheer panic, in a way. During my first year as a graduate student at Penn State, I arrived at the point where I had to decide what to write my thesis about. I really didn’t have a clue: I narrowed it down to American literature, which didn’t help me much. I was talking to a classmate (who is now a colleague of mine at LVC), and I told her that I wish I could find a way to tie in my two undergraduate majors of English and French. I loved French literature, and I did some translating in undergraduate coursework, but I didn’t think there was a way to bridge the two interests. My classmate said, “You should look into Creole literature—there’s a whole genre of literature that’s practically unknown to Americans.”  So I did some Google searching and came across Les Editions Tintamarre and Centenary College of Louisiana. I took a chance and e-mailed Dr. Dana Kress, who teaches French at the college and also runs the publishing company. We exchanged a few e-mails, and before you know it, I had my thesis project. It really is a strange story—Dr. Kress really went out on a limb and trusted a student to translate one of his favorite works that he always wanted to see published in English. There was no guarantee that it would be publishable, but after revisions and a couple years, both of us ended up extremely happy with the end product. And Mercier’s lack of fame was both positive and negative: the work was unique and hidden for decades from the American audience, but finding articles and sources proved to be very difficult. I spent a lot of hours digging through databases, looking at microfilm, and trying to break down dense 19th-century articles written in French!

Read More…

The Emerging Writers Festival: A discussion with Erik Anderson

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Recently, Curtis Smith asked Erik Anderson about his involvement with the Emerging Writers Festival at Franklin and Marshall College – and we are happy to feature that discussion here. But first, a quick bio of both Smith and Anderson:

Curtis Smith’s stories and essays have appeared in over one hundred literary journals. His work has been named to the Best American Short Stories Distinguished Stories List,The Best American Mystery Stories Distinguished Stories List, and the Notable Writing list of The Best American Spiritual Writing. His most recent books are Beasts and Men (stories, press 53) and Communion (essays, Dock Street Press). His next book, an examination of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, will be put out by Ig Publishing this month.

Erik Anderson teaches creative writing at Franklin and Marshall College, where he directs the annual Emerging Writers Festival (http://www.fandm.edu/english/emerging-writers-festival). He is the author of The Poetics of Trespass (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2010), as well as two forthcoming books: Estranger (Rescue Press, 2016) and Flutter Point (Zone 3 Press, 2017).

Curtis Smith: Can you tell us about the history of the Emerging Writers Festival? What have been some of the highlights of years past?

Erik Anderson: The festival (or EWF, as we call it) started in 2002 with a group of students and faculty who wanted to bring several younger writers to campus to learn from and interact with them, formally and informally. From the start, it has been a collaborative effort, and it has always had a DIY spirit, part of which has to do with the successive student cohorts who have planned the festival over the years, each time putting their own unique stamps on it. Initially, there wasn’t any sense that the festival would continue after that first year, at least not during the planning phase, but then it turned out to be an enormous success, and fifteen years later we’re still following, with some variations, the same general formula. And while I have too many highlights to name, one from last spring sums up, to my mind, what’s great about that formula. At our opening dinner, one of our seniors, having agreed to emcee the event, stood up in front of the Provost of the College, our five emerging writers, the English Department faculty, and two dozen other students, and ushered in the new festival with humor, grace, and some pride in the organizing work he and the other students had done. That senior was, and is, a fine writer, but in that moment he was also an integral part of something more: a community of writers he had, in fact, helped to create.

 

CS: There seem to be a lot of cultural offerings in Lancaster these days. How do you see the Festival in terms of what it offers not just to the Franklin and Marshall campus but to the city as a whole?

EA: This touches on another highlight, actually. Every year, at nearly every event, there are faces from the community I don’t recognize. Sometimes it’s just a single person. Other times it’s several. Last year, for instance, an F&M alumna brought a group of her high school students to campus for a day. We were thrilled to have them here. And their presence proved that what I’ve said above about the festival’s ability to build community applies to Lancaster as well. Yes, the festival is a resource for the campus, but for three days every spring – and this, too, is part of what makes the formula work – it also integrates the national literary community with the local one. The College is the site of that integration, but it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the sole beneficiary. So consider this an open invitation. Our events are well worth the trip, at least in part because they’re all free.

 

CS: Who are the writers coming this year? Besides reading their work, what other offerings can we expect?

EA: I’m always struck by how stellar each year’s lineup is, and this year is certainly no exception: Robin Coste Lewis, Kerry Howley, Julia Pierpont, Suzanne Scanlon, and Phillip B. Williams. Beyond the readings (Wednesday 4/6 and Thursday 4/7 at 7:30pm, in F&M’s Green Room Theatre), there will be craft talks, receptions, a panel, and even a BBQ. The craft talks (visit our website for scheduling details) are semi-formal workshop sessions with individual writers held throughout the day on Thursday 4/7 and Friday 4/8; these sessions tend to be interactive and always involve some element of creative writing instruction, often including exercises done on the spot. The receptions, held after the readings, are an opportunity to meet and mix with our emerging writers. Because the writers’ books will be for sale at the readings, the receptions are also a great opportunity to get your copies signed. Finally, on Friday afternoon, at 12:30pm, there will be a wide-ranging panel discussion with all five writers, followed at 1:30pm by our annual Bye-Bye BBQ (both at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House).

 

CS: As Festival organizer, I’m sure you have your own behind-the-scenes set of worries and rewards. Can you share some of them with us?

EA: My worries are always the same. Will I forget to do something I’m supposed to? Will someone else? Is our collective checklist missing some vital item? Somehow everything gets done that needs to, however, and even those small things that slip through the cracks don’t often matter as much as they sometimes seem to. That’s because the festival is so rewarding, personally and professionally. I’m always a little sad when it’s over.

 

CS: What advice would you have for local folks who’ve never been to an event such as this but who’re interested in checking it out?

EA: There’s a line in one Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets that goes, “Whatever is going to happen is already happening,” and, according to Alice Notley, one of the things the line means is that if you aren’t doing something now, you aren’t ever going to do it. So my advice is to follow your interests: if one of our writers or events piques your curiosity, attend! And when you’re here, don’t be a stranger. Say hello. Introduce yourself. We’ll be glad to meet you.

Interview with Christopher D. DiCicco

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Author of So My Mother, She Lives in the Clouds

Late last year, author Christopher D. DiCicco came out with his first collection, published by Hypertrophic Press. This small press, spending as much time pairing the beautiful writing it accepts alongside equally staggering imagery, found DiCicco’s work after requesting he submit a piece or two to their lit mag.

I have the good fortune to know Chris personally, though I’m quick to say that even if I didn’t know him, I’m quite sure I’d know him through his work, which is unapologetic in the liberties it takes as much as it is embracing and unforgettable in the feeling it brings about in the reader. Soon after the release of his collection, I asked Chris a few questions about it, the process of his work, and where he sees himself going in the future.

Matthew Kabik: While this is both a generic but difficult question, I’m curious what you think your style is–what atmosphere or emotion do you find you’re most typically going for? 

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DiCicco reading recently at the Spiral Bookcase (photo by Anna Pelger)

Chris DiCicco: To describe my style is to paint a picture of a serious man sketching a sad child coloring a dragon. Though, without a doubt, the man will later eat a marshmallow and seem much less serious. What I mean is my style is a touch sad fantasy and a meta-brushstroke or two; probably most so when I’m using the first-person removed technique, but that’s not all the time, though I like it best.  I like stories within stories, shadow stories casting their shade on the other more obvious elements. I like to develop my narrator through the story she/he tells. And I like a poetic minimalism where the lines are careful enough to show only so much, making the reader slow down. But man, you’re right, it’s a tough question. There’s so many layers to style, and I’m not always sure where they begin. I guess, at some level, my style is offbeat. I like realism, how honest it is, and how hard it can be to explain real everyday things, like a kiss or a traumatic death. Those things happen, and sometimes it feels impossible to say why they did. In the same vein, something fantastic can happen in a story with just as little explanation–and I like that–it’s part of my style. Boys become dogs, dead fathers wake up, and, just like real life, I’m not going to say why or explain. That’s part of my style I suppose, part of the tradition I subscribe to at least. Okay, next question.

MK: When writing these stories, did you find that they built off of each other? Do you think that they are all part of a single theme, or are they more separate than that?

CD: I used to have this fear that my collection was completely disjointed and random, and then I read it and developed a new fear—that my collection was only about one thing. And I’m still not completely sure which one is more true, but I’m almost satisfied that the stories in the collection have at their heart a single theme of coping with loss, disappointment, and the impossible. What’s kind of cool, I think, is that some of the stories are quite different from each other, but still the same. That’s either cool or awful, one or the other.

MK:What did you enjoy most in the process of getting the collection together?

CD:Honestly it’s been such a huge part of my life, these stories, writing them, revising them, pushing them out to journals, pulling them together for the collection. It’s just so much, the process. It’s not like one day I finished the last story and was like, well that’s it, time to put this thing together. It didn’t start with awesome Hypertrophic Press. It started on a road trip with my family, driving through Montana, with a story called “Leap of Hay” that never made it into the collection. So what did I enjoy most? That’s like explaining what I love most about my wife–there’s so much to her. There is so much to this. Years of small gestures. Months of edits. Days of dreaming in story ideas, sharing them with good friends who happen to be writers. Any writer worth a spit knows the process is you, you doggedly biting at words and spitting them out for some reason you stopped trying to understand. Okay, what did I enjoy most, let me try. I enjoyed learning who I am.

MK: What’s your favorite story in the collection, and why?

CD: Can’t really say I have one, but I’m happy with quite a few of them. I don’t know, actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel all of them are special. You see, it’s terrible, but I can appreciate a story for a single good line. That’s it. One line. One good turn of a phrase. My favoritism is askew, completely. “Life Where You Want It” and “In Your Father’s Backyard” and “Bloodhounds” and “Why the Wolves Take the Calves First” and “The Greater Migration” and “Pennsylvania is No Concern”  and “My Son” I like those stories. But the others too. Those were the ones that first came to mind. The thing is, to me, all my stories have favorite moments, places where the writing clicked. And who am I to say one moment is better than the next? I have favorite lines, favorite words, favorite paragraphs, favorite dialogue, it’s terrible how much I fav the heck out of hell.

MK: What will you do differently for your next collection?

CD: I wish I knew. I mean, I tried my hand at writing a short poetry collection this past summer, and I played around with creating a bunch of hybrid stories. But in the end, I don’t think I’ll do a lot differently with the next collection, except hopefully write even better stories. Maybe I’ll experiment with form. Maybe I won’t. I do think there’s a good chance I’ll write even shorter pieces. That’s something I wouldn’t mind pulling off.

MK: What are you hoping readers will gain by reading?

CD: I’m a very selfish writer. I don’t hope the reader will gain anything. When I sit down and write, there’s very little concern for the reader. They will interpret it how they will. I have an idea of how the story should work, of what the technique should produce, but ultimately, the reader will make it their own, and thus, the writing itself. And yeah we could argue literary criticism until the cows come home, but in the end, when I write, I feel for my characters, for the story, but that’s it. I’m very happy to hear readers feel something from my stories, but, all in all, that’s not how I write. I probably ought to care, but it’s hard enough pretending to be concerned about good writing, let alone what the reader will gain from it. How about, I hope my readers gain long lives and peace and tranquil nights and a reflective nature that allows them to become more empathic to the world around them.

MK: You also have a background in poetry–how has that affected your writing (both in how you approach it, and what you produce)?

CD: I suppose it’s a challenge as much as a benefit, and even then, that’s only if you consider poetic prose a good thing. But, either way, I suppose it pushes me to test the boundaries of form. That can prove tiresome, though. There’s a lot of people who question that kind of stuff. They need exact reasons for why I might do something that vears from the standard. And the thing is, when you have to explain your work all the time, then that’s exactly what it feels like—work. Typically I love talking craft, but sometimes it feels like the other person just wants to prove that what you’re doing is dumb. And I don’t know, if that’s what they want, then they’ll probably find their reason. This question is depressing me.  Probably because they’re right sometimes too. It doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t stop me from writing the way I sometimes do. Poetry cares about the rhythm of a line. I really enjoy writing a good line, but often it depends upon the lines before it. I end up reading my pieces aloud during the creation process–and then again at the finish. That’s how I revise. I don’t just read one line over again, I read it in context to what comes before and after. Each line gets revised in context to the whole. For each line, I start back at the beginning and read up to the next line I’m revising. I like to hear it. Aloud. It can be a long process, but luckily I write short pieces. What the hell did you ask me?

MK: What are you working on right now?

CD: A Yard’s Love Stout. You? Right now I’m just toying with one or two stories, and occasionally I come back to this poetry chapbook I wrote this past summer. It’s a pretty personal thing this chapbook. Whereas my stories meander around the things on my mind, the poetry I’ve been working on kind of jumps right into it without hesitating. It’s more or less a direct look at some things from my past that I’m able to process now. I’m kind of excited, though, to get back to writing stories. I have some ideas buzzing around, and I want to see what happens. All I know is that I don’t want to try anything hybrid anymore. That’s out of my system for the moment.

 

Purchase So My Mother, She Lives in the Clouds through Amazon, visit Hypertrophic Press, and visit Chris D. Dicicco’s author page

 

 

 

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