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Amy Weldon’s story “The Candidate” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 21, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
In 2005, I joined the faculty of Luther College – and a whole new world. It goes beyond being able to say “now I get Garrison Keillor’s jokes” – as a native Alabamian, I was already tuned in to how place shapes imaginations and characters, and being in the upper Midwest has shown me a new slant on how that process happens here. Especially weather – in the South, heat, but here, cold influence more aspects of culture and manners than meet the eye.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
Stories reveal themselves here shyly, but definitively. They are here, just not as obviously, perhaps, as in some other regions of the US or the world. It’s in keeping with a certain particular modesty that is also native to this region, I think.
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?
Experiences in place give us images, those still or moving pictures that lie charged with life in our imaginations for years and can be the spark for our art. Place gives sensory detail, which will bring the image to life for our readers, and it intensifies pressures on characters in ways particular to its social norms or codes. For me, the types of images laid down in my memory during my Alabama farm childhood provide a sort of standard for what it should feel like when I am fully engaged in a fictional world – rich, alive, detailed.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
As mentioned above, I start with images. What is happening here? What’s happening next? I am learning all over again, at age 41, to just write my way slowly into an image, detail by detail, without knowing where it is going, and to let myself be surprised by what I find.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
When I feel like that piece of writing is done with me – it’s gotten what it needed and it has achieved a certain life on its own.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
This changes all the time. I tend to read writers who will challenge and embolden me in particular ways I’m trying to emulate in my own craft and writers who will connect me to places I want to know better. At the moment, that’s Italians – Elsa Morante, Elena Ferrante, Leonardo Sciascia – and narratives of Italian places, like Peter Robb’s great nonfiction book Midnight in Sicily.
What’s next for you?
Just getting the words down, one at a time.
Where can we find more information about you?
Through the Luther College English Department website: english.luther.edu.