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J.F. Pritchard’s poem “Snuff” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Summer 2018 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I was born in East Liverpool, a city forgotten by most, but remembered by some as once the world’s pottery supplier. I was a baby in an old farm house in Negley, Ohio that burnt down. I lived in a trailer that was sold in a violent divorce. And I moved in with my stepmom and her kids, one of whom recently passed away from tainted heroin. My dad is buried in this soil, my stepmom is buried in this soil, my brother’s ashes are in this soil, and I grow my ideas in this soil.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
I can only speak for myself and my life in NE Ohio, but I’d say how pain manifests itself. Whether it’s addiction, disability, the wear and tear of a 9 to 5, or something entirely unique, I’ve witnessed triumph and failure. Life is pain, after all.
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?
My poem “Snuff” draws directly from a single road at the feet of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a road I visited often—still visit—where I fished, hunted, made friends, crashed bikes, and met my wife.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
I meditate on an idea for days, I let it stew, I flesh it out while falling asleep or strolling around town. When it’s done it’s done, and I write it down, let it rest, revisit it, edit, and repeat. I’ll write at the bike trail, an area of wetlands down a ways, or a graveyard beside my place. When there’s nothing to write, I read and interact with locals for inspiration.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
I first write a thing just to get the feeling/idea down. I let the poem rest, harden. Then when I edit, I bust off the obvious chunks, and I carve until the piece looks best like the feeling/idea. “Snuff” was three years of carving.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
Maj Ragain (poet). Maj was a friend of mine who passed recently. He lived in Kent, Ohio and taught there. We sent each other poetry and talked on the phone, often. His poetry always shows me the hidden side of people and places.
What’s next for you?
Work towards my MFA.