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C. R. Resetarits’ story “Sunday Outing” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 22, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I grew up in Springfield, Mo., and St. Louis. I think the topography has always influenced my writing. Rivers, rocks, meadows, woods, the smell of dirt and sun and grass. They are not background. They are foundational. My poetry is certainly centered there but the fiction too. The importance of place.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
That the spaces feel, to me, just right. I’ve lived in the West and it was sometimes too big and I’ve lived in the East and it was sometimes too tight and small. Like momma bear, the center, the way the land rolls out in the Midwest feels just right — comforting and freeing — spatially.
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 impetus for any particular story is always different but some stories are so rooted in place that it’s hard to even summarize them without it. “Sunday Outing” is about a boy’s difficult relationship with his father but his knowledge of the woods around their property ultimately allows him to redefine that relationship. Knowing those woods also gave me my relationship to the story, which, by the way, is my version of a story my dad once told me about his best friend growing up.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
Every morning at my desk (no excuses) or when I’m traveling a quiet coffee shop (although I travel with good headphones just in case). Just sit until you get a little somewhere with something. Bottom line. I’ve begun to see that what feels like a block is often a message like “this is the wrong way into the story” or the wrong story for the moment. Then I go back to my notebooks and try to regroup or start something else.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
Sometimes it feels like magic and it just simply appears. Sometimes it feels like overdressing and I realize the story was over a paragraph back and I pare down. Sometimes the ending is first and it’s just how to get there. I guess it’s like pornography. You know it when you see it. But that’s probably everyone’s answer.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I tend to read around what I’m currently working on, for atmospherics and consistency of tone. So I just finished a short story about my last trip to the West Coast and I was reading Kerouac’s Big Sur and The Subterraneans. Reading is often a solution, for me, when stuck. Been reading a lot of Patrick Modiano lately — he is very anchored in place, by the way, like a street grid at times. And for sustenance and solace, I return to the three that I’ve been reading since my teens: Iris Murdock and Elizabeth Bowen and Maupassant.
What’s next for you?
A story about two kids raised by a tangentially sane older woman — old Vermont commune relic – and their antinomian inclinations in making sense of the world. Reading Verlyn Klinkenborg’s The Rural Life to get my head in place.
Where can we find more information about you?