Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s piece “Leaving Tracks —after Don Gayton” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 10, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I remember writing as a small child—I still have second grade retelling of Charlotte’s Web where Charlotte plots Wilbur’s bloody demise, since I disliked sentimentality and found the original too sweet—but I eventually only wrote creatively for required school assignments, though I always enjoyed the process. A creative nonfiction course in college inspired me to pursue an MFA, and graduate school was where I began to write seriously. My Ph.D. work has helped me develop a writing routine even further, making writing an active part of my life.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I’m still new to the Midwest, moving to Nebraska from the California coast just over three years ago. I came to pursue a Ph.D., but quickly became intrigued by the landscape, the history, the literature. Although I initially doubted I would grow attached to a place without coastline, I now have a love affair with the sky, and see rhythms and patterns in the weather similar to the tides I used to know.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
The Midwest first appeared in my writing in a series of nonfiction pieces about the weather—the eerie yellow calm before a heavy storm, the screech and then sudden silence of cicadas just before the rain, the everlasting day in summer—and now I’m interested in the geology of the place, the way rock and history mold our living and remembering. Living here has also made me more mindful of place—when I return home to California, I see it differently than I ever did before. I am more interested and compelled by it, more aware of how it shapes my perspective and mood.
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?
Rich, varied Midwestern writing is out there, but readers need to be hungry for it and seek it out. The Midwest asks us to be mindful of place, the way land and legend shape our experience, and this applies to creating and enjoying writing from this place. Before moving to the Nebraska, I would have been hard-pressed to list Midwestern novels, books of poetry, or works of nonfiction, but since arriving, I’ve learned how and where to look, and discovered new writers and books that inspire and haunt me.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Making your writing accessible to readers is key, and social media is a great tool for writers. That being said, I’m a self-confessed Luddite, so these tools are not in my belt.
I couldn’t list a favorite book if I tried, and even listing favorite authors is difficult, so I’ll share the authors I’ve finished in the last few days or am currently reading: Wallace Stegner, Jane Smiley, Mark Doty, Floyd Skloot. I’ve also just picked up a copy of Joy Castro’s latest book, which I’m excited to dive into.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Strong black tea, cream, no sugar. Balcony in Malibu. Joan Didion. 1971.
Where can we find more information about you?
Since I’m so technologically resistant, I don’t have a blog or website, but a Google search will probably turn up other work and information.