Jason Lee Brown’s poems “Chores With My Father” and “Intersection” appear in Midwestern Gothic Issue 3, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I was twenty-four before I believed writing was something I should seriously pursue, which was around the time I surrounded myself with other writers and artists who cared about the same things. For the folks I grew up with, creative writing was not considered a worthy profession to pursue. It wasn’t like folks were putting it down. It just wasn’t considered.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I am a lifetime Illinois resident. I earned a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Eastern Illinois University, where I currently teach writing.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
In every way, even when I don’t want it to. I’m not sure I have a choice. So instead of running from it, I embrace it. I strive to be the writer producing the absolute best fiction and poetry set in or about Illinois and the Midwest. When others think Illinois—specifically central Illinois—I want them to think Jason Lee Brown.
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?
This is a question I have been asked several times and a question I have heard several others answer. I don’t think there is one answer, but I have heard some great and not so great ones. One thing I know for sure is that the quality of writing is here. So, for me, what it comes down to is who cares enough to take the time and effort—for low to no pay—to find projects that support Midwestern writing and writers. I think that’s where the push begins: action by talented Midwest writers and editors.
Though this region is often ignored in discussions about distinctive regional literature, I am trying to change that. My goal—through my writing and editing—is to demonstrate how the quality of fiction from and about the Midwest rivals that of any other region. And apparently you wonderful folks at Midwestern Gothic have the same goals. There are others too, just to name a few: Switchgrass Books, Holy Cow! Press, RockSaw Press, Bottom Dog Press, Midwest Chapbook Series by Green Tower Press, Southern Indiana Review, etc.
When I first tried to find a publisher for New Stories from the Midwest, everyone told me how great of an idea it was. When I got a publisher, everyone told me how great it was that this anthology existed, and that it was long overdue. Now, I tell everyone the same thing. If everyone who has said the anthology is a great idea or glad it now exist buys a copy, then Midwestern literature would instantly rise to the top of regional literature because sales would be through the roof. Also, Midwestern universities and colleges should offer more Midwestern literature courses or regional literature courses that include the Midwest. I think that’s where it ends: supporting Midwest writing. Sometimes sales speak louder than words. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I think you have to do it in some form. Fighting technology in any field of work doesn’t work. So I use social media but not very well. My biggest problem is the time consumption. When I get off FB, I feel like I’ve wasted writing or reading time that I’ll never get back.
Green Eggs and Ham. It began the chain of books that captured my attention and eventually led to Lolita. I often get asked what I look for in writing when editing the anthology. I have two criteria for everything I read. It must be emotionally engaging and entertaining in some way. So give me any writing that does that and I’m happy.
Because I’m an avid amateur baker, I have to go with something I can’t get or reproduce in central Illinois: Japanese cake, chocolate or strawberry. Light moist cake. Fluffy cream icing. Blows away the more sugary American cake.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
My knee jerk reaction is Twain. But I’m happy talking with any writer, accomplished or beginner, especially if we discuss the process of writing, which I am obsessed with. How do other writers get from A to Z, and can I adapt that to make my writing process better, faster?
Where can we find more information about you?
I don’t have a website or blog but I do have FB. Friend me. Or just email if you have any questions. I enjoy communicating with other writers, especially those fond of Midwestern literature. You can also check out the call for New Stories from the Midwest Cover Art Contest and submissions for individual writers: http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Stories-from-the-Midwest/165574933489340