Adam Schuitema’s short story “Last Year’s Palms” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 3, out now.
How long have you been writing?
There have been some false starts here and there, so it’s a little tough to say. I wrote my share of G.I. Joe and Transformers fan fiction as a fifth-grader. I got serious about writing as a junior and senior in high school but then drifted away from it when I first went to college. After graduating with a degree in elementary education I worked a few years in the world of marketing communications. By then the drive to writing had returned and I headed to graduate school. I’ve been writing consistently ever since, for about the last fourteen years.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
Born and bred. I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life. It hasn’t necessarily been by design all of the time. There have been opportunities to leave, but they were never the best opportunities. I’ve traveled a great deal throughout the States and try to go overseas every year or two. The distance helps—the new perspective—when it comes to writing the Midwest. Hemingway went to Paris to write his Michigan stories. But he never truly returned, and never really wrote about the Midwest again. Which is a shame.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
In some ways it’s difficult to say because it’s been ubiquitous in my life. I will say, however, that when I was in my mid-twenties and started getting serious about my writing I started to embrace where I was from and the landscapes surrounding me. Places that had seemed trite when I was younger and dreaming of escape suddenly seemed like unique and worthy settings for the stories that ended up in my book, Freshwater Boys.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
Part of what seems to have prevented the development of a common Midwestern culture and identity has been confusion as to where the Midwest begins and ends. There are actually many Michiganders who don’t think of themselves as Midwesterners. They define themselves by the Great Lakes, and to many of them the Midwest is more synonymous with the Great Plains. But it may also be that, historically, there hasn’t been a significant cultural or historical necessity to think of ourselves as one people. The South is defined by the Civil War. The West is defined by Manifest Destiny. But one good thing that might come out of the “Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks” that we’re now in is that Midwestern states are most of the hardest hit. More than just geographically, we’re starting to understand our shared struggles. Perhaps, from all of this economic bleakness, will come some cultural and artistic gains. Actually, I think that’s already happening.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I embrace it, though I know I’m a long ways from getting the most out of it. I’m on Twitter (@AdamSchuitema), but am always trying to figure out the best ways to utilize it. I’m on Facebook (“Freshwater Boys”). Both are good tools to promote events and reviews and new publications. Had Freshwater Boys come out just a couple of years earlier, I would have lost out on so many potential contacts that the new technologies afford. Instead, I’ve been able to spread the word to old grad school and literary friends who are scattered across the country, and to connect with writers that I’m just now meeting. These tools help writers to have a presence in the writing world, even during those long droughts between publications.
Toss up: Hemingway’s In Our Time and Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Both Midwestern classics.
Some sort of cheese.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Though I’ve read and taught Hemingway more than any other writer, I doubt we’d get along. I’d be more interested in speaking with his frenemy, Fitzgerald. (I apologize for writing the word “frenemy”…) I think he’d be eloquent and reflective when discussing both writing and the cultural contexts of his work.
Where can we find more information about you?
Facebook: Freshwater Boys