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Jason Arment’s piece “VA Mental Health Waiting Room” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2017 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and served with Echo, 2/24, the reserve unit that encompassed Iowa and the surrounding rural hinterland.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
No free passes when it comes to art scenes. If you want community, you have to build it.
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?
I write about Iraq to keep it alive, and about my experiences as a veteran because I don’t know what else to do. While the war in Iraq was still a thing veterans already talked about Afghanistan being the good, or “righteous,” war and Iraq the bad war. Now it’s like there was no war. Maybe it has to do with the birth of ISIS really emphasizing how it was all for naught—even if it was ever for anything real.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
I’m inspired by humanity’s strength to persevere and overcome. My ideal writing environment is alone in a small room with no windows, preferably with a view of the corner. I deal with writers block by reading.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
The work stops feeling alive and becomes something other than. But words can reanimate, so I hesitate to turn my back on any of it.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I’m drawn to John Fante’s work because he believed in literature that thrived no matter what the world’s whims.
What’s next for you?
My memoir is forthcoming from University of Hell Press. Musalaheen, the title, is Arabic for gunslingers. In one of the chapters I ask a child where the musalaheen are, and he points at me—no white saviors in this book.
Where can we find more information about you?
My twitter, @jasonarment, is a great starting place.