Contributor Spotlight: Marnie Dresser

megrinningMarnie Dresser’s story “He’s Probably Talking Too Much for this to End Well” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 20, out now.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

Both branches of my family have been in Southern Illinois for more than a hundred years.  I went to graduate school in Montana, but never felt at home there. Even after I’d been there two years, I would still glance in my rearview mirror and think “thunderhead,” when it was mountains I was seeing. I’ve now lived in Wisconsin almost as long as I lived in Southern Illinois.

The Midwest affects my writing in the sense that I think Midwesterners keep a lot of secrets.  We say we’re fine when we’re not and we’re trained not to acknowledge conflicts. Thus, in my head, everyone is walking around with unexpressed rage. Which is interesting.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest? 

I think we have a perfectly manageable sort of beauty all around us.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

The first summer after I’d been living in Montana I flew home and as the plane was landing, I thought “Good God. I grew up in a swamp.” Everything was so green and so lush.

A lot of my fiction happens in late summer when everything’s a dusty dark green and the humidity itself is a character.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

I don’t have writer’s block so much as time lord block—I can’t seem to get everything done I have to get done and also spend as much time as I’d like to writing.  Also, I like William Stafford’s idea—that when you’re blocked, you just have to lower your standards. I’m an ace at that.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished? 

I can’t, really.  There’s a certain level of “stick a fork in it,” but I can almost always see changes I’d like to make when I come back to a piece years later.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work? 

I read and re-read and adore both Alice Munro and Ellen Gilchrist. For Munro, it’s her ability to show the beauty and the uncomfortable underside of the mundane. For Gilchrist it’s all about voice and characters who remind me of Huck Finn in the sense that I would follow them anywhere so long as they kept talking.

What’s next for you?

I’m revising a full-length play by writing flash fiction to tell myself the characters’ back stories.  And I always have about twenty different projects going in multiple genres.

Where can we find more information about you?

I blog at


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