Winter 2018 issue is on sale now!

February 20th, 2018

Winter 2018 issue coverThe Winter 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic is here, featuring new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and photography about or inspired by the Midwest! Start your 2018 reading goal right, and settle in with some of the regions’s finest voices.

With cover art by the incredible Erica Williams, we’re thrilled with how this issue turned out!

Check out the Winter 2018 issue for fiction from Renée Bailey, Rebecca Berg, Kathryn Drew, Carol Dunbar, Hazel Foster, Mattie Ganson, Bruce Johnson, Halee Kirkwood, Chad Koch, Tyler Meese, Carly Anna Miller, Mario Perez, David Shieh, Ian Stoner, & Matt Whelihan.

Plus poetry from Melissa Boston, Collin Callahan, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Greg Emilio, Lisa Favicchia, Ceridwen Hall, Justin Hamm, Gwen Hart, Elizabeth Kerper, Jacob Lindberg, Alysse McCanna, John McCarthy, Ken Meisel, Max Schleicher, M. Drew Williams, & Guinotte Wise.

And nonfiction from Tamara Dean, Melissa Grunow, Bronson Lemer, Nora Seilheimer, Brooke White, & Jason Zeitler.

You’ll also find photography by Dallas Crow, Dawn Eves, Gail Jeidy, & David McCleery.

Shop now for the Winter 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic.

Contributor Spotlight: Melissa Boston

Melissa Boston’s piece “Untitled” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, out tomorrow.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I grew up in Sedalia, Missouri. I attended college at University of Central Missouri and if it could have been possible I would have attended graduate school there. At present, I live in Fayetteville, AR which has some Midwestern culture but, for me, the Midwest will always be home. I actually still have my permanent address and car tagged in Missouri.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

There is a silence and openness that is very distinct to the Midwest. Its imagery is very present and uninterrupted by clutter to where the foliage, sedimentary, and fauna rule the space; it’s something that stays with me, and that makes its way into quite a bit of my writing. This is also why, for me, Midwesterners are so generous and polite: it’s not about them.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

Once I began to travel and live alone in unfamiliar places I found it easier to write even more effectively about what I wanted to write. For example, I lived in Las Cruces, NM for a year and I found it easier to write about Missouri, specifically Warrensburg because I felt so alienated from everything that was familiar, so writing about a place that I spent a lot of my formative years helped me establish my identity as a Missourian writer and Midwesterner.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

Lately my better poems get done on my lunch break at work. My poem in MG was written in the Walmart Home Office café, which is currently my home away from home. It is guaranteed 30 minutes of solid, uninterrupted writing time because, in a corporate setting, lunch is sacred “me-time.” Also, knowing that I only have those 30 minutes forces me to write something, even if it is just one line of decent writing that I play around with at a later time.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

It is really difficult to know when I have finished a piece of writing. I will send a draft to an outside reader when I am really struggling but, for the most part, I will read drafts to a few trusted friends until I feel that the silence is no longer awkward after the last line.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

Like most writers, I’m continually reading, and what I read affects what I write.

But the first poet whose work I really fell in love with was Georg Trakl. I had an excellent instructor at UCM who introduced me to Trakl’s work and it opened doors for me. His work is silent, patient, and austere, something that has allowed me to write more directly and effectively about the Midwestern landscape.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully a full-length manuscript!

Where can we find more information about you?

I don’t have a website but my work appears in Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bird’s Thumb, PMS, These Fragile Lilacs, Driftwood Press, The Fourth River Review, Blue Mesa Review, and Four Ties Lit Review.

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Midwest in Photos: New Years Day, Detroit, MI, 2011

“There comes a time when you’re losing a fight that it just doesn’t make sense to keep on fighting. It’s not that you’re being a quitter, it’s just that you’ve got the sense to know when enough is enough.” – Christopher Paul CurtisBud, Not Buddy.

New Years Day, Detroit, MI, 2011 by Daniel Farnum

Photo by: Daniel Farnum

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A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother Audiobook Available

If you’ve got a long commute, travel plans or just love listening to audiobooks, then we’ve got great news: A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother is now available as an audiobook!

A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother book cover by Anna PrushinskayaThe recording is just under two hours, produced by Blunder Woman Productions. It’s available now on Audible!

Here’s a short synopsis and some of the press if you’re not familiar already:

In A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother, Anna Prushinskaya explores the deep life shifts of pregnancy, birth and motherhood in the United States, a world away from the author’s Soviet homeland. Drawing from inspirations as various as midwife Ina May Gaskin, writer and activist Alice Walker, filmmaker Sophia Kruz and frontierswoman Caroline Henderson, Prushinskaya captures the inherent togetherness of motherhood alongside its accompanying estrangement. She plumbs the deeper waters of compassion, memory and identity, as well as the humorous streams of motherhood as they run up against the daily realities of work and the ever-present eye of social media. How will I return to my life? Prushinskaya asks, and answers by returning us to our own ordinary, extraordinary lives a little softer, a little wiser, and a little less certain of unascertainable things.

“Heartfelt and honest…full of sincerity.” —Ashley Supinski, Hippocampus Magazine

“Prushinskaya’s essays are an intriguing compilation of a woman’s flight through child bearing, told with care, pain, and freshness.” —Surmayi Khatana, The Coil

“An important contribution to the world of women’s stories.” —Cameron Finch, Hunger Mountain

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Interview: Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones author headshot Midwestern Gothic staffer Carrie Dudewicz talked with author Tayari Jones about her book An American Marriage, her identity as a Black American, the timelessness of American conflicts, and more.

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Carrie Dudewicz: What’s your connection to the Midwest?


Tayari Jones: I have a special relationship with Urbana, Illinois. My parents met there at an NAACP meeting on the campus of UIUC. This was in the sixties. Love at first sight, married just a few months later! It’s also where I took my first tenure track job.

CD: Even though your time in the Midwest was relatively short, do you find that the experience of it impacts your writing?

TJ: Now that you mention it, I think so. When I lived in the Midwest — Urbana, Illinois and Iowa City, Iowa, I was constantly struck by the extremes of weather. It gave every day a sort of drama. A good novel should feel like that — a unpredictability waiting just under the surface.

CD: Much of your writing revolves around families. Why is this such a strong theme in your work? What works well when writing about the relationships between family members?

TJ: Well, I am a member of a family. As a matter of fact, I was born into one! But seriously, I think that each of us is brining into the middle of a family saga of some type. I’ve always been fascinated by this. 
When writing about families, the key is to remember that each character has a different role in real life than they occupy in family life. This dual identity should always be a source of tension.

CD: Your recently-released novel, An American Marriage, is about the conviction of an innocent man. In the light of current political events — specifically police brutality against innocent people of color — how important is it that stories like this one are told?

TJ: 
It seems from your question that you already know the answer. I don’t think the real issue here is whether such stories should be told, but the more challenging question is how the story is best told. I tried to approach this story by concentrating on the characters — their personalities, back stories, and idiosyncrasies. I made sure that they were more than their predicaments.

An American Marriage book cover by Tayari Jones

CD: Two of your previous books are set in the 1980s, whereas An American Marriage is set in the present. Why do the events of your latest novel fit into the present better than into the past?

TJ: Actually, the conflicts of the story — love, marriage, prison — these events can fit in any time period. I think the stories are moving into the present as I get older. My characters are almost always my same age — born in 1970 or so. We’re just moving forward.

CD: You’ve lived many places around the country, yet all four of your novels are set in Atlanta, Georgia. Why do you keep returning to Atlanta in your writing?

TJ: Atlanta is the only place that I consider home. I was born there and the dynamics of the urban south provide endless inspiration. After all, it’s an under-explored subject. There’s so much room for a writer to grow.

CD: With the title An American Marriage, are you implying that this story is somehow unique to American people only? Or, why did you choose to specify “American” in the title?


TJ: When the came time came for a final title I did a lot of brainstorming and I threw out An American Marriage as a place to begin and I had no idea we would end with that title. I knew I’d like the vibe of it but honestly it felt like a very big title for my book. The editor liked it a lot, and everyone else did too, but I was apprehensive. I thought that An American Marriage sounded like a book about, say, white people in Connecticut getting a divorce. My editor asked me if I didn’t like the title because I thought it misrepresented the book, or was I, as a black writer, afraid that my ideas, my experience, my world, my culture, wasn’t capital-A American. I feel that for most of my life when I would see the word American, I didn’t think that it was talking to me. I think it was due to my alienation as a black American and in accepting this title I do feel that I am staking a claim for my characters, claiming space for this story. What happens to Celestial and Roy is completely American.

CD: What writers inspired you to write and why? What are some of your favorite books and why?

TJ: The author that has influenced me most is Toni Morrison. I read Song of Solomon at least every year. When I teach it, I’m that crazy English professor reading aloud with tears streaming down my cheeks. I love the way that Morrison takes the experience of average people and raises it to a mythological level. She can make an insurance salesman from Ohio seem like Icarus. But I am also deeply influenced by poets. When I was writing An American Marriage I read a lot of Neruda because of the way that he makes love poetry intersect with politics, never sacrificing one for the other. And I am also influenced a lot by writers of crime fiction. I love the way crime writers know that the point of the story is the story. I have read every word that Patricia Highsmith has written. My favorite of hers is her debut, Strangers On A Train.

CD: What do you wish you had known when you started writing?

TJ: 
I wish I had known that writing is supposed to take a long time.

CD: What’s next for you?

TJ: Another novel, God willing.

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Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Contributor Spotlight: Carly Miller

Carly Miller author headshotCarly Miller’s story “Inside the Smoker” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, coming February 20th.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I was born in Michigan, which is part of the Midwest but sometimes does feel a little different from where I currently live. Michigan has a lot of forests, a lot of lakes and rivers. Now I live in Illinois, which feels to me more like the essence of the Midwest. It has the fields, the huge skies, in some places even remnants of the great prairies. The skies of Illinois really influenced Inside the Smoker—there is a scene where the main character is sitting outside gazing up at the stars. I used to climb onto the roof of one of the buildings at my college, which I’m not sure you’re supposed to do, exactly, and I’d spend a lot of time there, just looking up. When I moved to Illinois there was a lot more sky than in Michigan—the trees tend to block it out—and it was completely startling, unsettling. The Midwest sky is an important part of almost everything I write.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

I’m almost certain this is a very unpopular opinion, but for me the it is the winters. I know that sounds…absurd. But the winters here are so fierce—they’re awe-inspiring. I’ll walk out the door completely draped in coats and scarves to go to a night class in February, and every single time the sheer force of the cold takes my breath away. I think this is a unique disposition; I hate the summers. Midwestern summers are the least compelling aspect of the Midwest.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

Michigan has the great lakes, of course, but also so many inland lakes, and rivers too. I always joke that you can’t drive more than 20 minutes without hitting water. I spent so much time in the water as a kid. In the spring, as soon as the ice melted we would start swimming, so I have pictures of my cousins and I swimming in the lake by my grandmother’s home in March. So I can’t get water out of my head. I almost never write anything that’s void of water; I’m just not interested in that.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

Writing is a lot of work, obviously. I’m a twelve draft person. I can’t write a good first draft to save my life, but I’m okay with that because I’m always changing my mind about how I want a story or a poem to go. So it gives me something to do. And when I just can’t write, I don’t make myself. I go do something else. I feed my brain something different. I’m a psychology student, so I’ll hang out in the lab if I need a break.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

I can’t yet. I normally stop working on a project because I’m obsessing so much it’s making me sick and then someone, one of my friends—bless them—will tell me to stop.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

There are too many. I will say that right now I’m working on a project which is influenced and inspired by Catherine Lacey’s Nobody is Ever Missing and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.

What’s next for you?

Well. Graduate studies? I hope.

Where can we find more information about you?

I have a Facebook page—Carly Anna Miller. I also can be reached through Unify Galesburg’s website.

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Contributor Spotlight: M. Drew Williams

M. Drew Williams author headshotM. Drew Williams’ piece “A Bastard of Transit” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, coming February 20th.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I moved to Omaha, Nebraska a year and a half ago to begin my MFA at Creighton University. Whereas my writing prior to this move was predominantly introspective in its focus, my poems have since become more apt to incorporate more descriptions of things in the external/physical world. Because I had never personally seen or admired a Midwestern landscape before moving to Omaha, I feel as though my new surroundings served as a catalyst to the aforementioned descriptive shift in my poetry.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

As is true for any place, the best aspect of the Midwest is its people. This may seem like a cliché response, but I feel it to be true nonetheless. In the short amount of time that I have been living in the region, I have met numerous people whom have simply been amazing. To me, the people who occupy this portion of the country are genuine, sincere, and incredibly passionate. Here, there seems to be an undeniable sense of togetherness that I have personally never experienced in any other place I have lived.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

I have made it a habit to not explicitly declare the exact locations which my poems either take place in, or pull specific identifiable details from. In doing this, it is not my goal to reject or deny the places from which the inspiration for my poetry was gained. Rather, I hope to provide readers with a more generalized conception of place onto which they may more easily apply personalized place-centric details from their own lives. With this being said, while my own experiences and settings were necessary to a poem’s conception and eventual realization, it is ultimately irrelevant to the reader’s interaction to said poem.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

I consider my process to be one long, drawn-out method of combating writer’s block. First and foremost, I try to read for at least two hours every day: the less time I spend reading, the less likely I am to gain the inspiration needed to write anything of merit. Throughout my workweek, I try my best to jot down a few interconnected lines (or interesting words). By Saturday, I often force myself to write a poem, and even though I am not always successful in my efforts to do so, the effort itself at least gets me one step closer to actually writing a worthwhile poem.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

Usually, I equate the completion of a poem with a kind of hunger: it is finished when I am satisfied and cease to feel a pit in my metaphorical stomach. While this explanation is admittedly vague albeit pretentious, it is the only one I have for now.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

While my answer to this question could be different from one day to another, today I would have to say that may absolute favorites are Cormac McCarthy (fiction) and Mark Strand (poetry). The work provided by both of these writers is imbued with a compelling starkness and realism. Because both of them are able to expertly incorporate minimalism into their craft, I have to commend the clarity of their prose and verse respectively. Honorable mentions to William Faulkner, J.D. Salinger, Hart Crane, John Steinbeck, and Richard Hugo.

What’s next for you?

I have been gradually sending out the manuscript for my second chapbook for publication. Apart from this, I will be graduating with my MFA this May.

Where can we find more information about you?

Find me at my tumblr page which I update sporadically: m-d-williams.tumblr.com

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Midwest in Photos: Lakefront Fog

“Beware, O wanderer, the road is walking too.” – Jim Harrison After Ikkyu & Other Poems.

Lakefront Fog by Michelle Pretorius

Photo by: Michelle Pretorius

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Interview: Danielle Lazarin

Danielle Lazarin author headshotMidwestern Gothic staffer Carrie Dudewicz talked with author Danielle Lazarin about her book Back Talk, the relationships between intimacy and femininity, motherhood, experiencing the Midwest as a New Yorker, and more.

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Carrie Dudewicz: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Danielle Lazarin: I spent most of my advanced schooling years in the Midwest. My undergrad degree (in creative writing) was at Oberlin, in Ohio, and my MFA at the University of Michigan. I remained in Michigan for a few years afterward before moving back east. When I think Midwest, I think walking to a workshop through some amount of snow, in the most pleasantly nostalgic way.

CD: You spent a lot of time in the Midwest, but you’re from and currently live in New York. What are some of the differences you see between these two places? How did/does each place affect your writing differently?

DL: I have affection for much of the Midwest but wouldn’t say I feel at home there. Being an outsider bred curiosity about the kinds of things we take for granted about the places we are from: the landscape, and childhoods, and expectations, the way a day is lived. In Michigan specifically, I lived a more suburban life than I had in cities I’d previously settled in. The lack of population density — that I could be so easily isolated — did not sit well with me, and I felt more disconnected in the Midwest than I’ve felt elsewhere. I suspect, looking back, that those feelings were good for various stories that touched on themes of loneliness and longing for a different kind of life.

When I moved back to New York after 15 years living elsewhere, I was surprised at how deeply I felt connected to earlier versions of myself, as I was encountering a long-lost friend. Some of it was the basic sense of being home, of being comfortable in a way I never was when I lived in the Midwest or California. But some of it was quite literal, as I was retreading of the ground of my teenage life but in a different skin: as a mother and wife, as an adult — which helped me create necessary perspective on those experiences to write about them. I don’t think I could have finished the collection without moving home, or without feeling out of sorts in places like Michigan.

CD: Back Talk is your first published story collection, and it’s getting a lot of advance praise from many prominent writers for its portrayal of realistic women. How did you go about writing stories incorporating women whom readers can love and relate to? Obviously, it’s important that women are portrayed this way, but why do you think it’s so pressing to have a book like this one come out right now?

DL: My work has always been realistic; it’s my default mode. But realism is often messier than what many narratives offer us, particularly when it comes to how women should behave or want, and that is what I wanted to create on the page; women and men who were complex and believable. Plus, I don’t think realistic or true necessarily means lovable — we often love imperfect people.

As for relatable, I do hope some readers see a part of themselves in a character, but even more, I hope they have their own experiences expanded — or simply begin to believe that another experience exists. We have so far to go as a culture in making space for stories that are different from what we’ve seen. This is a small thing literature can do. I hope that the stories in Back Talk might give someone the fuel to write their own experience or the experience of women they know. The work of so many women writers has done that — and is still doing that — for me now.

Back Talk book cover by Danielle Lazarin

CD: In multiple stories of this collection, unexpected relationships arise between people — the seller of an apartment and the potential buyer, a widower and his babysitter. How did you come up with these unique relationships?

DL: In any city, but particularly for one as crowded and fearless as New York, you often bear witness to very private moments whether that is through apartment walls or passing someone in the street. Knowing when to respect that space and when to step into it is something I’m hyper-aware of as a native New Yorker. There’s a lot of story in how a character reacts or changes from those boundaries being loosened and crossed, in particular the empathy that is possible in those moments, between not-exactly strangers. Also, for this collection I thought a lot about the conflation of the feminine with intimacy and care taking — women often don’t ask for the intimacy they are in, and are assumed to be comfortable in it, when of course many of us are not — and so it seems natural that many of the characters in my stories find themselves in deeper than expected.

CD: Each of the stories in this collection revolves around common and/or un-extraordinary events, some of which are portrayed in a slightly different-than-normal light, and as mentioned in the last question, many are based around perhaps accidental, perhaps fleeting relationships. For example, Back Talk is about a hookup at a party between a girl, the narrator, and a boy she barely knows. What made you decide to title your book after the story Back Talk?

DL: The story itself contains a lot of themes that are important to my work: a young woman at a pivotal moment in a conversation with herself, disappointments, a moment of choosing silence or talking back, the consequences of wanting if you’re a woman, questions of power. I wanted, too, to turn that idea of what that phrase means — mouthy, rude, out of line — on its head some.

CD: You’ve said that some of the stories in this collection were written as long as ten years ago. How did it feel compiling a full book of stories? How did you decide which to include? In your opinion, how do the stories from when you were in grad school differ from the ones written more recently?

DL: It feels amazing to gather work that’s been ongoing for a long while, since roughly 2002. At some point I cut a couple of stories that centered on male characters, not simply for this fact, but because I couldn’t make them as strong as the others, and wanted to make room for more women in the collection. The more recent stories were, for the most part, quicker to write because I had simply gotten better at writing, and often knew sooner what I was aiming for in a story, what I wanted to say or how I would say it. I think they’re more direct, less afraid than my earlier stories (though some have been revised to be bolder than I could have been when I drafted them). They also benefit from the life experience I’ve amassed in that time, personal shifts and aging for myself and those around me, that opened me to new experiences less available to me in my mid-twenties, when I was in graduate school.

CD: How do you balance being a mother to two daughters with writing? How does being a mother affect your writing?

DL: Motherhood or writing is the day job, depending on the day. It gets balanced the way anyone with any other gig does it: flexibility, and in my case, lots of timers and reminders to segment my time. Parenthood ignited the sense of time passing (a.k.a. the inevitable march toward death); it reinforced the understanding that no one was waiting for my work. It made me more aggressive with both my subject matter and putting myself out into the world. I’d also say that early days at home with babies made my mind restless in a necessary way, and taught me how to use what time I had in a way that wasn’t possible for me in my pre-child life.

I’ve always written about women and girls and family life — most of the stories about young girlhood were in fact written before I had kids — but experiencing something I’d only imagined definitely heightened my work on the page. I gained a sense of my childhood from the other side, and an introduction to new universes of people and what they cared about and feared and the particular complications of family life. I began to think more carefully about the through lines of those stories. Here I was at playgroups and playgrounds and classrooms, with their attendant rules and expectations and cultures. In these spaces, all these women (and they were mostly women) were carrying the girls they were, how they had been mothered and wanted to mother themselves, what they’d given up and still wanted.

CD: What advice do you have for young writers?

DL: Make friends with other writers, seeking not just your best readers, but people with whom you can be forthcoming about your challenges and triumphs. I could not survive the particular weirdnesses of the writing life without my circle of support cheering me on and commiserating and doling out tough love when necessary, nor without doing this myself for them; it helps to be engaged in conversation with folks who help you see the big picture.

Believe in process over product. Don’t obsess over the number of words you put down or publications. Committing the time to the work is the most you can do, the little thing you can control. There’s no guarantee that you’ll produce what you expect in that time, but getting comfortable with being in that chair in a disciplined way is the best you can do, and it’s enough — whatever amount of time that is. Over time, that collective work will end up in your product, even if you delete a lot of the words.

CD: What’s next for you?

DL: I’m currently working on a novel about motherhood and women’s movements and memory.

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Contributor Spotlight: Halee Kirkwood

Halee Kirkwood author headshotHalee Kirkwood’s story “The Old Main Street Opera House” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, coming February 20th.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I grew up in the Twin Ports area, oscillating between Duluth and Superior for most of my life. I saw Lake Superior almost every day, and having such an incredible body of water serve as my point-of-reference for so long has made me attuned to environment in a way I think is unique to folks who grew up around, well, big things, vast things, a landscape that refuses to be ignored. I’m a direct descendent of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, so the lake plays a large part of my spiritual and ancestral life as well. It’s temperaments are hypnotizing, from placid and glass-smooth to raging swells that can throw boulders. I try to channel this sort of unpredictable energy when considering pacing in writing.

And while beautiful, the area I call home also suffers from the boom-and-bust that is so common in communities whose economies rely on extractive industry—this has made me fascinated with the hubris of industry, and it’s affects on community life, especially on lives not commonly thought of as in extractive industry’s reach, is a major concern of my writing.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

I’m fascinated by the unstable borders between country and city, how you can be in an urban center such as Minneapolis or Chicago, drive a while out of city limits and suddenly find yourself surrounded by farmland. The diversity of landscape and ecology—despite the popular idea that the Midwest is all corn and cows—also fascinates me. Just the other day, I was driving through Gurnee, Illinois, with some friends and on the side of the highway two Sandhill Cranes were violently tossing a snake up into the air and jabbing at it with their long beaks. I couldn’t believe that this animal drama occurred amidst banal, suburban traffic going to and from a large shopping mall! In this way, I think of the Midwest’s landscape as distinctly liminal. Wildness can be found in the ditch of almost any highway.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you‘ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

There was a period of time in my childhood when my father worked security at an oil refinery. My family only had one car, and he had to work at 5:00 am, so me, my brother, and sister had to wake up that early to go with in the car so we wouldn’t be home alone. I have incredibly dream-like memories of entering the oil refinery, the ripe smell of it in the air, all these mysterious lights blinking everywhere, and feeling as though I had trespassed. Having now grown up to be antagonistic toward extractive industry, this feeling of trespass is even more resonant now. There have been several instances of trespass now in my adult life, which I will not name here, but in every case I have trespassed into institutions which have sometimes been antagonistic towards me.

I think of the Midwest is a perfect site of trespass—as someone who is both white and native, my very body is a site of trespass on several levels. This is embedded in my writing. Further, I think that a few significant characteristics of the Midwest (loneliness, alienation, desertion, desperation, empty streets, empty buildings) create the conditions for which trespassing can occur with lesser threat of being caught. This is often the ignition for my fiction writing—where is my character, and why should they not be there?

The inspiration for my story in the Winter 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic, “The Old Main Street Opera House,” came not from my own trespassing experiences but from my partner. She grew up in the upper peninsula of Michigan and as a child, she and her friends would play in the abandoned iron ore mines sprinkled throughout the town. That’s so creepy! And just further proof that the Midwest is full of excitement and real danger.

Discuss your writing process—inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

My writing process involves a lot of staring out of windows and taking showers. I currently work a retail job to support myself throughout the weekend, and I just cannot write on the days I come home from work. I make up for this by spending each day I don’t work writing, or working toward writing, whether that be having new experiences or critically engaging with the world, or just tending to a poem or a short story as though it is a small fire. And a couple days out of the year I wake up at 3:00 am after a dream has really shook me, and I just have to turn it into something—that’s the most unsettling rush I’ve ever felt. I would say that I’m a rush-writer first, and a reviser second—revising is an element of writing that I have to pay the closest attention to, or else I’ll let it fall by the wayside.

I keep a notebook near me whenever I read. If a writer is doing something I admire, I attempt to pin down how exactly they astonished me, and then make a writing prompt for myself based on the techniques I noticed, whether that be on the micro or macro level. I don’t always make it to the prompt immediately, but I know it is there for me to try if I ever do hit writer’s block.

I’ve also consulted my humble Tarot deck for inspiration on plot or theme or character development—there’s a wonderful book out there called The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin that revolutionized the relationship between creativity and intuition for me. Highly recommend!

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

I don’t know if I can necessarily tell when a piece of writing is finished but I can certainly say that I feel intuitively about completion. The only way I can describe it, and this might come off as corny but I don’t mind, is that the piece in question feels like it fits perfectly in your heart.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

This is always a hard question for me (isn’t it for us all!), but I think my favorite author is Louise Erdrich. She has such a large range of work, and she’s still writing! As someone who can’t sustain attention on one project for too long, I admire that immensely. But I think what most draws me to Erdrich’s fiction is how much compassion she offers her characters. I think specifically of Romeo in a newer novel, La Rose. Romeo is detestable at first, but rapidly the reader develops a love for even him, and she does this by seamlessly intertwining concerns of intergenerational and personal trauma. I’m also drawn to how you can read her novels independent of her other work, but if you do choose to read the novels which complement each other it enriches the experience. I think that she demonstrates a brilliant control over character and plot and landscape and, just, ahhh! I’m a huge fangirl.

What’s next for you?

A lot of thinking about my nascent thesis as my time in an MFA program crescendos. That, and revising. Lots of it.

Where can we find more information about you?

I haven’t developed my own website yet, but you can find my other published writing at Strange Horizions, The Eastern Iowa Review, and at Cream City Review.

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