Contributor Spotlight: Jody Sperling

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New Branding Photo_copyJody Sperling’s story “English Bulldog” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 7, out now.

How long have you been writing?
Confession: I refused to read, much less write, until the age of ten. I was too busy creating the imaginary world in which I was a ninja and phantoms were my helpless foes. I began reading in earnest at the age of twelve when the Hobbit convinced me that ninjas were a thing of the past. As for writing, I began crafting journals and stories around fourteen, and I’ve been chasing the dream (to have a legitimate reason to call myself a “writer”) since my early twenties.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
My paternal lineage, as far back as my great great grandfather, has lived in the Midwest. Though I grew up on the Denver Frontrange, I moved to Omaha, Nebraska to live with my father’s parents in 2003. I’ve traveled widely over the years, but I can’t get away from this culture, this landscape.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
I would like to believe that generalizations would be an effective way to explain how Omaha has influenced my writing. I’d like to say that Omaha is a portrait of the Midwest, and maybe it is, but I don’t think so.

Each city has its own life, its own history, its own culture. Omaha, as a Midwestern city, is home to hardworking, career-driven, deeply evangelical, and family-centered people. We’re ethnically diverse, and glaringly segregated. South Omaha is home to a concentrated Latino population. North Omaha is densely African American. West Omaha is a fearful suburb where families are reluctant to leave the safety of shopping malls.

In this milieu of culture and ethnic diversity, I see my writing as a reflection of place. I write about the fear of displacement and the mystery of others’ cultures. I am inspired by the fierce, and foreign loyalty of families in this place and try to reconcile what I see in this Midwestern hove with what I knew in my Western upbringing.

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?
Isn’t the Midwest a flat boredom of whackadoo hicks who can’t read and spend summer nights eating sweet corn until their bellies burst? Doesn’t the Midwest hate itself so bad that it had to get drunk on cheap watered down beer like Budweiser and Milwaukee’s Best?

Of course not. But anybody who’s somebody doesn’t want to waste the time to discover this rich land, and few are bold enough to embrace it as the landscape of their dramas, comedies and narratives.

It’s hard not to get trapped in thinking the Midwest is where arts die…until you think about where all the best writer’s come to incubate and earn MFA’s. We’ll have a voice in the coming years, a section in the bookstores, and maybe even a smattering of great breweries where micro-crafted beer is born to accompany the great Mid-American Novel.

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Hmmm…I’m not in favor of social media, but I do post all news of my publications on my Facebook page, because I’ve been informed that if I don’t, I’m less than human and certainly will never succeed as a writer.

Favorite book?
Changes often. Today, The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor

Favorite food?
“Worms Roxanne! Worms!”

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Marilynne Robinson, let’s sit down and have coffee, or tea, or beer. Your choice. I’m buying.

Where can we find more information about you?
I’m on Facebook and post all news on my writing endeavors as they happen. I am the Managing Editor of The Mustard Seed Risk, a new, and hopefully unique, journal of arts.

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