Contributor Q & A's

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Sam Pink

 1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

‘The Totino’s Party Pizza of Lit.’ 

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

My favorite contemporary author is Biddlecrum Snarshnish.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I would just keep working the job I have now and be depressed until I die.  The real answer is ‘Can’t nobody tell me not to write, so fuck it.’     

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Texas. 

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

The question I wish you would’ve asked is ‘What is your fucking problem, shithead.’  And the answer is, quite simply, I don’t know!

 

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Jennifer Bowen Hicks

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

Intense, impatient, seeking, moody, playful, intrigued with rhythm, uncommitted to narrative.  Though this particular essay might be an outlier—more coy and penis-centric than most of what I write.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors? 

Annie Dillard, Marilyn Robinson, Eduardo Galeano, Mary Ruefle, Brian Doyle, Robert Vivian, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Tracy Kidder. The book I most recently read that made me feel like hollering to the masses was Vacationland by Sarah Stonich. It’s an elegant, organic, beautiful, compassionate novel.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Right now I teach writing in prison and it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’d continue to do that. If that’s cheating, I’d learn how to knit and make oversized sweaters; they would have uneven arms and unlovely patterns because I’m not a detail person. Or maybe I’d try my hand at bright, ill-pieced quilts that people would feel embarrassed to drape across their beds. I’m not bragging, just feigning grace at inevitable failure.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Matt Nelson, one of my dearest childhood friends, is a Jr. High principal somewhere in your fair city. Many years ago, in my early teens, we both lived in Lubbock and hung out at Davis Park and laughed a lot. His phone number and my address were one number off. Sometimes he’d come to my house, knock on my door, and when I answered, he’d say, “Oh, sorry; I think I knocked on the wrong phone number.” I often tell people if I were to move back to Texas, Austin is the placed I’d go; it’s the most-beloved city I’ve never visited. 

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

What’s the best part about writing?

Inhabiting the far reaches of my own and others’ minds and hearts; it gives me hope. 

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor John Proctor

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

I would prefer not to. (That is actually my review.)

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

In terms of nonfiction, I really enjoy Amy Leach, Matthew Goodman, Patrick Madden, Elena Passarello, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Ander Monson, John McPhee, and quite a few others who are no less important to me because my mind isn't recalling them right now.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I would take to the task of pursuing my own death with greater vigor. Sorry if that sounds daft or pretentious but, as Zadie Smith paraphrased Seneca in her essay "Some Notes on Attunement," "Life feels longer the more you engage with it." I honestly can't imagine a life in which I just do things without meditating on them later, writing them down, reading about other people doing things, juxtaposing them with previous experiences, contextualizing them historically. That, to me, is my job, my calling, and my life.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Heat, music, SXSW, Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The usual stuff.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

"Are you married?" Yes I am, actually, to a redheaded digital artist who is at least as talented at her craft as I am at mine. Sometimes I think my single-minded fixation on my work leads her to think I'm not also single-mindedly devoted to her, so I'm glad you asked this question. The life I've built with her and our two daughters is why I am so determined to document and make art out of our shared world. One of the great ironies of my life is that I now have less time to write than ever, and yet I write more now than I ever have. To egregiously oversimplify, this is probably because I now have so much more to write about.

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Ursula Villarreal-Moura

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

I think if I were to describe my style it would be a fatalism that drowns the reader then pulls her back up for a gulp of precious air. Until I answered this question, it never occurred to me that that's subconsciously my aim. I mean, that's almost precisely my worldview, although it's starting to shift. Almost everything imaginable makes me uncomfortable, but I keep interacting with the world, because beautiful things can and do happen. 

Themes I consistently write about include loss, speaking or avoiding Spanish, stuffed animals, and abandonment. Those are some of my most loaded subjects--they help me drown and resurface in multiple ways. 

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

My list is long: Karl Taro Greenfeld, Mary Miller, Elizabeth Ellen, Leesa Cross-Smtih, and Rumaan Alam. Karl Taro Greenfeld writes excellent fiction and nonfiction. His writing is often surprising but never in a gimmicky way. Mary Miller and Elizabeth Ellen write vulnerable women characters that make me flinch in good, uncomfortable ways. I'm really excited about the upcoming release of Leesa Cross-Smith's book. I read absolutely everything she and Rumaan Alam write. What I love about Leesa Cross-Smith's writing is that it's so uplifting. It's almost the polar opposite of mine. If she drowns her reader, it's for twenty seconds or one minute. Rumaan Alam's short stories and essays are funny, astute, and brilliant. Two of his stories, published in Meridian and Necessary Fiction, I think about almost weekly. I want to be a literary agent so that I can represent him.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I've always wanted to work at a museum. MoMA, are you listening? One of my best professors in college was my art history professor. I was already having a love affair with art by the time I took his courses, though. It's so cliché to admit this, but the first time I saw Guernica in person at the Prado, I felt like I was having a spiritual experience. The irony is that my husband and I had had a framed print of it on our wall, so I didn't expect to feel any different standing it front of it, but I did. Being in the presence of art is like conversing with the universe. 

I'd love to write museum guides, lead tours, or even narrate audio guides.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

When I think of Austin, I can't help but flashback to my internship at American Short Fiction. It was a magical time for me. I also think of the times I spent reading and drinking coffee at Houndstooth or book browsing at BookPeople. Because I catalog discomfort, I think about I-35 and people driving 95 mph between San Antonio and Austin. Most people who know me are aware of my dislike for driving and cars.  

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

If writing really is creating for an audience of one, who is your audience? 

My seventeen-year-old self. She was hard to impress but had wild dreams. Sometimes I feel I'm earning her respect and living up to her expectations.  

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Vincent Scarpa

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

That'd be like me describing what my eyes look like without looking into a mirror! But I'll try. As far as point of view: I think a lot of my characters are really fucking lonely, and their lives revolve around an absence or separation of some kind. If the story is working, it's trying to examine the way in which these characters lead their lives around that absence. I'm definitely more interested in the person who is left than I am the person who leaves. I guess I'm also interested in ideas of symmetry and disappearance. Mental illness, too, which I think is rarely written well, if at all. As far as style: I'm very much a sentence-by-sentence guy. I'm really obsessed with the rhythm and meter of sentences, with long sentences, with concise and blunt sentences, with punchlines. I labor over each sentence as I'm drafting. If it stays on the page, it usually stays in the story. 

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I could make a very, very long list, but instead I'll give you my trifecta: Joy Williams, Maggie Nelson, Amy Hempel.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Well first of all, I'd be really, really relieved. [An excuse for my procrastination--I'm not allowed!] I'd probably want to be involved in politics in some capacity. I'd like to run a senate campaign. I also really love to drive, so I could probably get down with being a chauffeur. As long as I could smoke. 

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Traffuck. [Though, worth it.]

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Eight inches on a good day? God, that's hacky. Um. If you asked what song I can't get out of my head at this moment, I'd tell you it's "Zombie" by the Cranberries. Such an earworm. Every time it's on the radio, I lose my shit. 

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor James Brubaker

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

I once read a review of an issue of Indiana Review, which included one of my stories, that described the issue as perfecting the “poignant bizarre.” I really love that phrase, and think it can apply to a lot of my work, but just since I see all of the moving pieces in what I write, I tend to think of my stories as obsessive explorations of culture and sadness, but that are also kind of funny, sometimes, maybe? It’s hard for me to describe my work because I get in these weird grooves (or skids, depending on who you ask), and I just write into them until I have a book or I run out of steam. I’ve got a small book, called Pilot Season (Sunnyoutside), about television culture, a forthcoming book about music, and a new manuscript, which I just started submitting, that plays with different sci-fi tropes, and which houses the piece that is in The Austin Review #2. Each one started with a flash of excitement then I just kept playing in that initial sandbox until I had what felt like a book, so, I guess that obsessive, playful quality that drove each project is a big part of my overall point of view. I’d like to come up with a better name for it, maybe eclectic experimentation? I don’t know. You know what? Let’s just go with “poignant bizarre.” I really love that phrase.   

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I have an incredibly difficult time picking favorites, but just for the sheer amount of time that I’ve enjoyed their work, I’d have to go with Pynchon, Atwood, Murakami, Vonnegut, and Rushdie. They are the big five I got into in high school and as an undergraduate. Also, Lorri Moore. So that’s six. Also, and I don’t know if we can really classify him as “contemporary” at this point (and I’m so bad with such categorizations, so if we can classify him as such, my apologies), but my absolute favorite is Borges, who has had an immense influence on my work. That said, over the last few years I’ve been reading far more small press books, and work from younger up-and-coming writers (some of whom, I guess, are less up-and-coming, and more fully-arriving at this point), and have been having my mind thoroughly blown by folks like Gabriel Blackwell, Matt Bell, Roxane Gay, Jill Talbot, Tim Horvath, Erin Flanagan, Brandon Hobson, Elizabeth Ellen, Bayard Godsave, and Mike Meginnis. That whole scene is pretty exciting. Look at someone like Meginnis; I’ve barely ready any of his work—a few stories in print and around the web—but one of those stories, “Navigators,” is probably my favorite story of the last five years, or more. So, I don’t know—I guess it’s hard for me to really pick favorites just because we’re in the midst of a really fantastic time for literature because there are so many platforms and avenues that are allowing a ton of fresh and interesting ideas and voices to find an audience. I guess I could take up pages just tossing out a list of writers whose work I love and that I look forward to because there are so, so, so many more, but I’ll wrap it up here. (And already I feel bad as I remember more wonderful authors I didn’t list, but if I kept adding, my answer to this would never end. So if I didn’t name you, I’m sorry!!!!).

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

This is a tough one. Here’s the thing, as much as writing feels like my job, writing isn’t really my “job” in the most traditional sense. The work that I do to pay my bills is teaching. I love teaching. I got into teaching because it works well with writing, and because the academy still, more or less, appreciates and celebrates its writers, and allows pretty consistent windows of time in which to write. I was lucky that once I started teaching, I really loved the challenges and constant learning that comes with it. But as far as writing as a job, I don’t really think of it that way because I do it more out of a love of the thing. I mean, most of us basically write for free. I think, as of now, I’ve been paid actual money for fewer than five of my published stories. And I’m weirdly okay with that, if that makes sense. I mean, I love getting paid for my writing, and I commend places that pay any amount, but I think writers have to make a lot of concessions just to get their work read. That’s not ideal, and I don’t condone not paying writers, but it is what it is.

So back to the question at hand; if, like, some mean-spirited wizard appeared and cast a spell on me that prevented me from ever writing again, I’d probably end up trying to teach high school—which I decided not to do after earning a degree to do just that because I couldn’t see how I could successfully write, teach, and do all of the other things that come with teaching high school, and even if I’d gone on to teach high school, I’d have probably been fired by now for publishing a story with the word “fuck” in it, or something. Now, if the mean-spirited wizard was willing to send me back in time to 1998 while removing my ability to write, I’d probably have stuck with music performance so I could be making very little money being a musician instead of making very little money being a writer. But really, who am I kidding, I’d probably just end up back in retail because once you can’t write anymore, why not work just go back into retail? With the academic job market being what it is right now, I’ll probably end up doing that anyway, but at least I’ll still be able to write. (Addendum: a couple of months after completing this interview, I was offered a job teaching creative writing (with some lit and comp as needed). The fine folks at The Austin Review gave me the chance to add this addendum to avoid any confusion).

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Dan and Eric. That’s weird I know. They’re two friends of mine from high school, one of whom lived in Austin for a bit and moved away, and the other of whom is still there, I think. They are the first thing I think of. After them, I think of SXSW because I’m the worst kind of music nerd. Then I think of the bats. Then I think of Alamo Drafthouse where I’ve always wanted to go, which also makes me think of Badass Digest which is this super-nerdy pop culture blog that is somehow affiliated with the Alamo Drafthouse (though I don’t think they operate out of Austin). Oh, and Austin City Limits. So basically, except for Dan and Eric, I think of all the stuff most people think about when they think about Austin. Now, I’ll also think of The Austin Review and the super-awesome people who run it, who I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging with, a bit, at AWP, but I figured if I just answered with that, I’d come off as some kind of cornball or something.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Though its characters aren’t as iconic as those on The Original Series, or The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine is easily my favorite Star Trek series. Truthfully, nobody should ever ask me about this because I can go on, and on, and on, and on, and on…

Q & A with Issue 2 Cover Artist Jennifer Balkan

We are delighted to present the artist who has generously allowed us to use one of her paintings for the cover of upcoming Issue 2 of The Austin Review: Jennifer Balkan.

Pictured above is the cover, including back (at left), spine (middle), and front (at right). Jennifer's oil painting, entitled "Birds," forms the front cover, and sections of its background have been reproduced and stitched to form the back.

Jennifer is a long-time Austin resident and regularly participates in the popular East Austin Studio Tour. Her unique, beautiful portfolio can be viewed at her website here, along with her biography and information about art classes she leads from her studio. We are grateful for her generosity and proud to work with her.

Q&A

The Austin Review: When and how did you become interested in painting?

Jennifer Balkan: I have drawn all my life and poked around in my grandmother's oil paints as a child but didn't truly become turned on to paint until 2001. I had treated myself to a trip to Europe upon finishing my PhD in sociology. Upon seeing tons of master paintings, which I had seen only in books, I felt a compelling urge to learn how to paint.

TAR: How would you describe your artistic style or point of view?

JB: I consider myself to be an expressive representational painter; that is, I paint recognizable things with loose, thick, colorful strokes. I am always striving for abstraction in that I choose to break up the form into its constituent shapes and allow them to tell the visual story.  

TAR:  Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists, or artists who have influenced you the most?

JB: Lucian Freud, Wayne Thiebaud, Jenny Saville, Ann Gale, Oskar Kokochka, and Chuck Close

TAR: If you couldn't paint for a living, what would you be doing?

JB: I think I would be a neuroscience researcher. My undergraduate degree was in behavioral neuroscience, and I continue to be smitten by understanding how our brain determines our behavior.  

TAR: What is it like being an artist in Austin? Has it changed in the last few years?

JB: Being an artist in Austin is quite lovely. I'm surrounded by so many creative people. Austin has a strong visual arts community. I wish only that we had major museums like in Houston or Fort Worth. I would love to be able to take a lunch break and go see how John Singer Sargent solved a problem. The community has gotten bigger over the years and more attention is being paid to the visual arts by the city.  

TAR: Who are your favorite authors?

JB: I don't know if I have favorite authors, but I certainly have favorite books. Here are five that I can think of:
    1.  The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric Kandel
    2.  Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
    3.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    4.  A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    5.  The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Micheline Aharonian Marcom

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

Its style is strange, I suppose. I'm often seeking the strange and particular in work I do.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

 I seem to be mostly stuck in the land of the dead, but I just started a book by Krasznahorkai, which is wonderful. Cormac McCarthy in my early years, and his early books, was always a good companion. William T. Vollmann. Roberto Calasso--these come to mind at the moment.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Lounge singer. Lots of joy in the moment.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

The University.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

I can't think of that question!

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor Mary Miller

mary on train.jpg

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

Depressed girl in a bad relationship drinks too much and acts sad.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Willy Vlautin, Poe Ballantine, Donna Tartt, Susan Steinberg, Frederick Barthelme, Jean Thompson, Mary Gaitskill, Beth Nugent, Elizabeth Ellen, Hannah Pittard.... 

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

For a long time, I thought I'd go on to get my master's degree in Clinical Psychology (I earned an undergraduate degree in psychology). I guess I'd go back to school and hang up a shingle, but then I'd want to write about it. 

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Topo Chico, Greg and Lucas, Magnolia, Barton Springs, breakfast tacos, the Michener Center for Writers.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Do you have a dog?

No, but I want one bad. I'll probably get one this summer, maybe a chihuahua or a weenie dog.

Q & A with Our Issue 2 Contributor AJ Olsen

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

I read the introduction to Raymond Carver in The Norton Anthology for a class this past week. The introduction credits John Barth with coining Carver's style as "Post-Alcoholic Blue-Collar Minimalist Hyperrealism." That made me chuckle before I realized it's exactly what I've been going for. I was raised blue collar. I value narrators with restraint in their voices, with minds for details. These themes are all at play in the piece you chose. Plus, post-alcoholism sounds like something we should all strive for. Doesn't it? Maybe not, if Austin's economy stands a chance.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Among my go-to living fiction writers are Richard Ford, Tim O'Brien, Cormac McCarthy, Tobias Wolff, Denis Johnson, Tom Franklin, Robert Olen Butler. I could go on. In recent months I've been thumbing through poetry collections from Tracy K. Smith, David Berman, and Catherine Bowman. MFA programs have a way of calling the shots on your reading list, but I squeeze the new stuff in when I can. Last fall I read Claire Vaye Watkins' debut story collection, Battleborn. It's badass. I liked it a lot. As of this interview, I'm drafting chapter one of my first novel and find myself drawing from writers like Daniel Woodrell, Philipp Meyer, and Wiley Cash in these very early pages.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

My wife is my strongest supporter. But, out of fairness to her, I entertain this question often. I would want to work with animals. I prefer animals to people, but I'm too cerebral for veterinary medicine. I'd become a vet tech or a dog trainer and spend my free time thinking of all those stories and poems that, for some unnamed reason, I'm no longer allowed to write.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Our old bungalow on East 16th Street. Neighborhood friends. Breakfast tacos. Lone Star Beer. Psychedelic Folk Rock. Barbecue. Sweat. Coffee shops. Food trucks. Floating around Rosewood Pool on those scorching summer days. Drinking cold beer at night and riding bikes through the east side with those friends I mentioned. My heart swells when I think of Austin, which is often. Leaving has been hard on us.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

If you could pick a song to accompany "Drifting," (the piece in The Austin Review), what would it be?

"Mansion on the Hill," by Bruce Springsteen.

Q & A with Our First Issue Journal Contributor Patrick Madden

patrickmadden.jpg

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

My work is faux-erudite, self-referential, meta-literary, wanderingly mindful, subtly playful, beholden to long tradition, which it honors and subverts, postmoderning together old and new forms, flattening the distinctions between high and low art. On its surface, it is often long and convoluted, functionally non-narrative, twisting through thought, abetted by my betters in quotes, and underneath it reveals deep concerns with the long-standing philosophical questions (death, mutability, timespace, fortune, etc.).

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Brian Doyle, Eduardo Galeano, Amy Leach, Joni Tevis, David Lazar, Chris Arthur, W. G. Sebald, Ian Frazier, Annie Dillard, Kim Dana Kupperman, José Saramago, many more...

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

As long as I'm fantasizing beyond my current abilities, I'd be a volleyball player and maybe a coach. Volleyball was a passion of mine for many years when I was younger and stronger, and I still love the sport, though my schedule and body don't allow me to play as much as I'd like. I also very much enjoy coaching my daughters' city-league teams.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

When I was in college and playing on the Notre Dame volleyball team, we traveled to UT-Austin for the national championship tournament. We rented a van locally and parked each day wherever we could find a spot near the gym. One busy day we left the van in a faculty spot and got a ticket, but decided to ignore it, figuring that UT would do as Notre Dame would do: withhold transcripts until they received payment. But they chased us down, through the rental company and back to South Bend, and thus we were not only out the money, we were in trouble with ND's athletics administrators, but not too much trouble.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Would the world be a better place if everyone read more essays?

Yes, we would all mellow out and more readily see each other's viewpoints. We'd never impose our will on others or insist on our correctness. We'd find beauty everywhere and muse deeply on the great mysteries.


 

 

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor Caitlyn Paley

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

My writing is matter-of-fact, bordering on blunt. The majority of my work builds to the final line, which carries the bulk of the emotional weight. This piece has a gentler ending, but most of the time I want people to feel like they just got punched in the throat. (And I do mean that in the friendliest way possible.)

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I read a lot of poetry. My favorite poets include Denise Duhamel, Rae Armantrout, Fanny Howe, Susan Howe, Claudia Emerson, Anne Carson, Tomas Transtromer, and W.S. Merwin. I also really like the short stories of Etgar Keret, and the book of short stories I recommend to friends is Tongue Party by Sarah Rose Etter.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I think I would design board games. I had a decent amount of luck devising entertaining games for friends when I was my younger, more fun self. The most memorable was called Pill Pyramid, which was not nearly as edgy as it sounds but rather involved trying to score points by hitting a pyramid constructed from samples of Claritin my generous general practitioner gave me.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

My sister moved to Austin the summer I lived in a trailer with my best friend. While I know just about everything about my sister now, I know next to nothing about her experiences in Austin or the surrounding years, and she knows just as much about my life during that time. I was in college, so I orient myself by what happened each vacation. The previous summer, I lived in an on-campus apartment with a coworker who was seemingly normal in all respects except that she Googled animal penises in her spare time. The summer before that I drove cross-country with the same best friend who would later share my affinity for double-wides. I've never asked about my sister's college summers. When I think of Austin, I think about how family members can be strangers for a brief period, how best friends can be like family, and how strange bird penises look.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

What's the most unusual thing that's happened to you in Korea recently?

A grandmother sitting next to me on a bus insisted on giving me a still-warm sweet potato. I think she had a bag full of cooked sweet potatoes for her family, and I must have looked like I could use one. I kind of want to be her when I get old. Sweet potatoes are remarkably portable and retain enough heat to be fairly creepy when you give one to a stranger on a bus.

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor Boomer Pinches

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

In as few words as possible.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Cormac McCarthy, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, Denis Johnson, Marilynne Robinson, David Foster Wallace, Hilary Mantel, Thomas Pynchon, W.G. Sebald, whoever writes Kanye West’s tweets.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Oh, probably a hand job (chuckles, shakes head, dies).

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Richard Linklater’s Slacker came out when I was in middle school. I thought that was what grown-up life would be like. I was, alas, wrong.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

I would prefer not to.

 

 

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor T Kira Madden

T Kira Madden.jpg

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

I think I might probably say, “This writer does not like to stay put, and it’s dizzying.” I have a tendency to move around a lot in my writing—it is difficult for me to drop and linger (especially when I should). If there are several players on stage, and there usually are, I want to know what everyone is up to. I like finding the energy between characters and their transitional pickups. I like everyone’s secrets to be told. On the page, I aim for mania.

On a better day, I might say, “These stories made me laugh, but left me feeling very hopeless and alone,” because, as a writer, finding some humor in the great tragedy of being alive is really what I reach for.   

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

I feel most excited by writers who defy every “rule of writing.” I probably look to Anne Carson and Lynda Barry the most – no one can do anything like them and everybody tries. Susan Steinberg for her relentlessness, Christine Schutt for her heart, Noy Holland’s levitation-worthy sentences. I’ve got a weakness for the way David Hollander can spin a story and no list of the contemporary greats would be complete without Anne-E. Wood.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I would love to design magic tricks for a living. I spend a good deal of time dreaming up the concepts and mechanics of a trick (or breaking down how I believe one has been done), and the only thing I love more than a perfect illusion is figuring it out and then doing it myself.  

Magic is a lot like writing. When done the right way, both appear to be effortless, or as if they’ve just existed in their current form for all of time. But when you love a craft enough, saying Wow from the other side of the curtain or page, that mysterious pop and thrill, it’s no longer enough—one feels they must understand the technicalities, identify each and every string behind it. This does not break the spell but really only enhances it.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

(Because I’ve never been to your great city of Austin, this is what I got):

My first crush’s name was Austin. We both rode horses and competed against one another in the 90’s show circuit. He rode a pony named Tchotchke and beat me in the Florida state finals. I imagined us growing old in matching jodhpurs, opening up a ranch and baling hay, but nothing like that ever happened. I never told Austin that I loved him but I carved his name into the underbelly of my wooden tack box with a rusted up nail. You see, I’ve been heartbroken all my life. Austin was something like the beginning.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

I wish you had asked me to dinner tonight. I’ve got nowhere to go, but I am sometimes good company. 

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor Derrick Brown

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

A modern romance of violent heat, sleeze drag and corn-hole.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Jeffrey McDaniel, Joan Didion, Gregory Sherl, Matthew Zapruder, Zachary Schomburg, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I would run river cruises. I used to own a boat and would take folks out for lit nights at sea. I would also go back to gondoliering.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

The woman in Barton Springs at night that still haunts me, denim shorts, topless blonde and walking, collapsing into the black water. Her back to me and the moon was huge. Everyone howling at 10pm.

5. Ask the question you wish we had asked.

Why do so many writers become teachers and how do you get writers to party harder?

 

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor David Olimpio

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

Ornate sand castles in a hurricane of existential angst.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Martin Amis, Phillip Roth, Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, Mary Gaitskill

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Restaurant owner. I have always loved the restaurant business for its chaos and its fun and its ability to take focus away from myself and the worries of everyday life. 

I would also continue to pursue my other creative interests of photography and music. I believe in diversification. 

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

Friends. Food. Bats. Music. In that order.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Morning. 

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor John Jodzio

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view? 

Magically bizarre, but steeped in the recognizable.  

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

Love me some George Saunders. Also a huge fan of Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Adam Johnson. The last book I read that I really loved was Lindsay Hunter's collection Don't Kiss Me.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

I'd probably get a job piercing babies’ ears at some shitty mall jewelry store. Besides writing, it's the only other thing I'm qualified to do.

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

I drove through Austin once on a road trip with some of my college friends. When we were driving near there my friend Scott gave me a very painful titty twister. Whenever I think of Austin my nipple really hurts.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Q: Did you just pour some Kraken into your Diet Coke to make it through your day?

A: Yes. Yes, I did.

Q & A with Our Journal Contributor Lisa Wells

1. If you were reviewing your own work, how would you describe its style or point of view?

Spunky. Logic-challenged. Lyrical.

2. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?

In nonfiction I’ve been loving Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss, and Mary Ruefle’s collected lectures, Madness Rack & Honey. I am very much looking forward to Demon Camp by Jen Percy.

3. If you were told you couldn't write anymore, what job would you pursue and why?

Writing can be a job? You mean, for money?

4. When you think of Austin, what comes to mind?

I followed a lover to Austin once. Three days after I arrived we had a drunken bike wreck. His ankle busted and my elbow. Both of my front teeth shattered on the concrete. The emergency dentist gave me temporary build-ups that were supposed to last six months. The affair was quit in a few days, but the build-ups lasted six years. Go figure.

5. Answer the question you wish we had asked.

Q.  Which way does your beard point tonight?

A.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hana_Andronikova