Contributor Spotlight: Jeff Esterholm

Jeff_EsterholmJeff Esterholm’s story “Mrs. Weir” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 7, out now.

How long have you been writing?
When I was in elementary school I hammered out the first page and a half of a sequel to the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer on an old typewriter. I didn’t want those stories to end after I’d read them. In high school, there were parodies of teenage adventures that would terrorize friends and acquaintances. While in college, I wrote a books column – these
days it would have been a blog, I could write about any book that interested me—for the school paper and also began writing fiction.

What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born and raised at the head of the Great Lakes in Superior, Wisconsin. I’ve only lived in Wisconsin—oh, and about seven years in Minnesota.

How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
The diamond-in-the-rough aspect of my hometown with the bleak, long months of winter and the too short summer months with the so called natural air-conditioning of Lake Superior. That lake in all seasons. Family, extended family.

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?
The push, I think, has been the push out of the Midwest into the wider world. Writers with Midwestern roots are all sort of “out there,” you know? Historically, where do the names come from? Hemingway came out of Illinois, Fitzgerald from Minnesota—let’s not forget the Hibbing-Duluth connection with Dylan–Sherwood Anderson from Ohio. The Midwest. Really, though, John Warner’s piece called “Midwestern Lit: Plain-Spoken” in the Chicago Tribune says it all. That’s the answer to the question. See it at

How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Facebook, no. Twitter, yes. I find it handy and addicting—it goes along with my biblioholism.

Favorite book?
That’s a hard one, but in the past few years, the novel that’s thrilled me was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Other top picks would include The Sun Also Rises, Gravity’s Rainbow, and short story collections. When I was in college, I asked what I should do to really learn how to write a short story and was told to read, read anthologies. I do. I eat them up.

Favorite food?
Cassoulet. Or duck breast with duck sausage, orange-glazed sweet potatoes and cherry sauce. Oh, did I mention that I like duck?

If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Roberto Bolaño. Failing that, could I pick three others? On Tom McGuane’s website, there’s a photograph of McGuane, Jim Harrison, and Richard Ford all jolly, sitting at a table at some confab or other. It would have been swell to sit there and listen to them talk.

Where can we find more information about you?
I can be found on Twitter as @jesterholm, mainly retweets of what interests me—politics, books, reading, writing, and other writers.

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