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Mattie Ganson’s piece “Description of a Burning House” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Winter 2018 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I grew up in a little Chicago suburb, spent a lot of time in Wisconsin as a kid and then went to Beloit College, so my Midwesterness goes pretty deep. I think my aesthetic love for both kitsch and decay comes from having grown up in the Midwest, even though those aren’t uniquely Midwestern things.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
I love the strange, funny and lovely things that turn up every time I take a long drive through the midwest. Two years ago I was driving up to my friend’s cabin in the UP and it had gotten very late and very dark and I looked over and the moon was this enormous silver dollar low in the sky and so I yelled “THE MOON!” and my girlfriend at the time snapped her head around to look and nearly crashed the car. When my mom and I went to go visit my nanie in Missouri there was this Steak & Shake we would always stop at, this lonely, shiny fast food beacon in the middle of nowhere that serves the best fries of all time. One time on the way to the Milwaukee Art Museum I really had to pee but when I pulled off into the rest area there wasn’t a shelter, so I went and peed in the woods and got a bunch of burs in my underwear. I love all the different ways that I’m surprised and charmed by the Midwest while going through it, especially when so many people only think of it as a place to pass through.
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’m really enchanted by the symbolic weight that I put into visiting places or missing places, like graves or old homes or familiar haunts. I’m most interested in what exactly it is that makes places special and what it means for a place to be special, whether that has to do with inherent beauty or subjective memory or senses of ceremony. I like the way that going to places is often a way of being close to something that isn’t about the place itself but what happened there and what that place means to one person or to many people.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
My ideal writing environment would be a disgustingly comfortable chair on a sun drenched balcony 4-5 stories from ground level on a busy – but not congested – street in a part of the world where it’s 70 degrees all year round with 2 large plants to keep me company. Every 3 or 4 hours, someone brings me black tea, strawberries, and egg on toast.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
The only way I can think of to answer this question is “I don’t know!!! Sometimes it feels finished in my Heart!!!” I spend a lot of time editing and sending my work off to friends to look at so after that process I usually reach a point where I’m happy with everything that’s going on and make the executive decision to not fuss with it anymore.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I dearly love Toni Morrison, Ray Bradbury, Maggie Nelson, and James Baldwin because they all write with such a heartbreaking tenderness for the stories they tell and the people in those stories.
What’s next for you?
I’m excited to graduate college this Spring! If you know any publishing houses looking for an adorable and dutiful publishing sprite, send them my way.
Where can we find more information about you?
Follow me on instagram at mattieleighx or feel free to endorse me for the Fiction Writing skill on LinkedIn.