Stacy Boe Miller’s piece “I Might as Well Start at the Beginning” 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?
We lived in a tiny Wyoming town when I was a child but had to drive to South Dakota for everything: shopping, fast food, the hospital I was born in. My grandparents lived in Indiana, so a couple of times a year we drove what then took 22-25 hours across the Midwest. I would watch all those fields and towns go by year after year and I spent many wonderful summers in Indiana. I spent my middleschool years in a town fifteen minutes south of Indianapolis. My childhood was made up of time spent in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Indiana. I always felt like I was living on some border of the West and the Midwest. My husband got his PhD from the University of Minnesota, so we spent four wonderful years in student family housing in Minneapolis with our three kids. We loved living in that city.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
This is a complete generalization, but I have always felt the people to be so hardy. It is probably the winters that lead me to feel this way. And the wind. People deserve
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 have been so surprised to find how much I write about the place I grew up. I consider the place I grew up to be more Western than Midwestern. Wyoming is a very western place in a lot of ways. I write about the landscape and culture a lot, even though I haven’t lived there for decades. It really shaped me and shaped my family. I don’t think I would have the perspective on it that I do though if it weren’t for the time we spent in Minneapolis. Forty percent of the population in student family housing was from outside of the US or Canada, so I built real long-term relationships with people from all over the world. I have traveled extensively, but that doesn’t always include hours and hours of listening to peoples’ stories. I don’t think I would write (or live) the way I do had I not gained such a global perspective. I will always be grateful to Minneapolis for that.
Discuss your writing process—inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
Right now I’m entering the third year of an MFA Creative Writing program. During the semester a lot of my writing comes from prompts or assignments. I also have three kids and own a really small business. I sneak in writing whenever I can: after they’re in bed, while they are all asking me questions, while dinner is in the oven, etc. My focus is poetry, and sometimes that feels more manageable because I can think about one poem and hold it all in my head as I do other things. I keep a notebook in my purse all the time, I take notes on my phone, I try to get out on walks or runs so that I can be without the distractions of family. I do not get up and write at the same time every day. I never have, and I probably never will. I’m finally okay with that.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
I never know. And then if I do reach some magical place where I think a piece of writing is done, I know all I have to do is show it to someone, and they will suggest an edit. This goes for both poems and non-fiction. There are moments when I think to myself, I want the world to see this piece in this state. I guess that’s as done as it gets.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
This is the hardest question for me to answer. I spend a lot of time reading women poets, Laura Kasischke, Sharon Olds, Dorianne Laux, Natalie Diaz, Donika Kelly, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Alexandra Teague . . . I could keep going.
What’s next for you?
I will be working on my thesis this year, which will be a book of poems. I’m really excited about this. I have fantastic mentors and a really talented cohort. I am also slowly working on a memoir. The piece you are publishing is what I wrote when I envisioned the first chapter. When you accepted it, I thought to myself, “If someone wants to read the first chapter, maybe they would want to read the whole book!” So thanks! Stay tuned.
Where can we find more information about you?
Working on an author website, eventually, but for now you can find me on Twitter. @stacyboemiller