Contributor Interview: Sarah Curry

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Sarah_C

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

I started “The Rickies” when my daughter was 3 weeks old. It was the first time I was away from her. I snuck out to a coffee shop and I needed to be back in 90 minutes to nurse. Instead of feeling guilty or pressured, I just got down to it and wrote–having absolutely no plans or even knowledge of what I was about to write. What came was a younger voice, a so-not mom voice. It wasn’t guarded. It was weird and honest. I’m not sure if I wrote that piece because I needed a space free of spit up; or there’s freedom in sleep deprivation; or or if there’s some truth to birth being a trauma that can awaken the past for you. Heck, maybe I just missed my girlfriends. I’ve been part of a group of 4 best friends twice in my life and there’s a power to it. You don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks. You might as well be your own town.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

Besides the image of the Rickies living in the box of discarded thing under the bed, I really like “caterpillar soup.” Next time, you see a butterfly I want you to clap for it because it has gone through some hard work to get here. Would you eat yourself to transform? And this is no Jonas and the Whale scenario–you’ve got to digest yourself too.

You were a finalist in the Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers, which means that this is one of your first pieces of published work in your genre. How long have you been writing, and what did being a finalist in the competition mean to you?

I’ve been writing since I was little kid and I even went to an arts high school where I got to spend two hours a day writing. I took a couple workshops in college, but I never revised. I just wrote and wrote. I actually didn’t write for a lot of my twenties because I was an immigrant rights advocate and that took a lot of my heart and my mind. But at a certain point, I realized I liked the world better when I was writing. It’s easier to find humanity, absurdity, and beauty in the world when you slow down to put things to the page. I was so fortunate to be able to take 3 years off from the real world to write stories and a novel in VCU’s MFA program. Now that I’m back to working full time, being a finalist just meant I took my full lunch hour and treated myself to a plate of chicken shawarma. But I totally plan on showing my kids my name in print.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

If you’re a writer with very little time, see what writing you can get done with one hour less sleep a day. But make sure to sleep too.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

I coach my four-year old daughter’s soccer team. When I was getting ready to coach, I told her some stories from my glory days and how I was nicknamed Killer and Terminator because I was a very tenacious defender. She lowered her voice and leaned in, “Mama, we better not tell the other kids that.”

Bonus tidbit: I work on sexual violence prevention at a college. Some students I work with recently suggested that they form a group of active bystander women and call them “The Angies.” They have no idea about this story, and something about that felt so full circle.

https://www.sarahmanoncurry.com/

Sarah Curry earned a M.F.A. in fiction from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her fiction has received Honorable Mentions from The Masters Review and the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, and she was a finalist for the Center for Women Writers International Literary Award. She is at work on a novel. She lives in Kentucky with her children and husband, a mathematician.

Contributor Interview: Lisa Horiuchi

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Horiuchi, Lisa

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts. What inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

A friend of mine, also Japanese-American and many generations removed from the home country, joked that she isn’t qualified to write a Japanese story because she doesn’t cook all the requisite food. The joke became a challenge; cultural impulses can run deep, but they’re not always obvious to the eye. The meta angle was a fun way to get inside the story—what if someone carelessly told a writer she needed to “get in touch” with her ethnicity, without having a nuanced idea of what that might mean?

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

I like the lizard at the end. Spoiler alert!

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

I would say to fellow aspirers I have a tendency sometimes to write toward ideas rather than concrete people, real desires. I remind myself to find the heart of the narrative first. Make it beat before you make it bleed.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

We used to go to this sheepherding place in Palmdale, north of L.A. It was wild watching our Aussies take to the job; the classes were more for humans than their dogs. My favorite command is “that’ll do,” made famous by James Cromwell in the movie Babe. In herding language it simply means “the work is done.”

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

I’m working on a longer thing.

 

Lisa Horiuchi is a former business strategist and marketer with twenty years’ experience in a variety of industries including toys, beauty, software, and electric-vehicle technologies. A graduate of UCLA, the UC Irvine Programs in Writing, and the USC Marshall School of Business, her fiction can be found in Conjunctions #68 and Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume Five. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and is currently at work on a novel. You can visit her online at https://lisahoriuchi.com.

 

Judge Spotlight: Laura van den Berg

by Cassidy McCants

We’re happy to announce that this year’s judge for the Nimrod Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction is Laura van den Berg, whose first novel, Find Me, was selected as a “Best Book of 2015” by NPR and was longlisted for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize. Laura will join us in October for our Conference for Readers and Writers, along with poetry judge Jericho Brown, literary agent Mark Gottlieb, mystery writer Deborah Crombie, and memoirist Sasha Martin—and we’ll announce more guests soon.

To celebrate, I’ve just read and reread van den Berg’s There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights, a slim collection of stories published by Origami Zoo Press in 2012. I chose this book because I’m fascinated by the flash fiction form (a flash piece is a story told in no more than 2,000 words, according to The Review Review), but I think this collection would appeal to anyone who seeks out character-based stories. In just thirty-six pages, van den Berg brings us into nine different worlds, each distinctly its own and all inhabited by characters contemplating the meaning of family and struggling to connect with their loved ones—or to cope with the “plaguing dissatisfaction” brought on by the loss of those they’ve loved (“Something Thrilling and Heroic and Strange”).

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In the title story, the manager of a horse stable is unsettled upon discovering someone has been coming into the barn at night. When she tells a police officer she plans to sit in the office and wait for the intruder, he tells her she needs to act responsibly because she’s a mother. Van den Berg’s close third-person narrator follows this interaction with a simple and telling truth: “The thing she hated the most about living in a small town was everyone knowing what you are.” Not who but what. The woman, whose name is not mentioned in the story, obsesses over the safety of her child, but a mother isn’t who she is. This unnerves her the way the intruder does—to calm herself she goes outside every night and beats snow off the rhododendrons in her yard, never really sure if it does “more harm than good,” a worry we come to guess is one of her most persistent preoccupations.

In “Photography,” after her husband’s death, a woman named Lenore gets into the habit of watching her neighbors take photos in their living room. With their windows open, as though they haven’t considered the possibility of someone watching, the husband acts as photographer while the wife poses as a model. Lenore loves watching because she’s always had difficulty making things beautiful: “her paintings never came out right; the petals were always smudged, the water too dark,” writes van den Berg. Lenore comes to learn that the husband intentionally makes the photos look ugly by “turn[ing] his wife’s body into an alien landscape,” and the piece becomes a quiet meditation on the impermanence of all kinds of beauty.

The element of voyeurism struck me in “Photography,” especially as I moved on to the following stories, when I realized I felt somewhat voyeuristic while reading the pieces. The characters in this collection are so expertly developed, so clearly understood by van den Berg—the glimpses into their lives are intimate and strange, and to dive into these stories feels almost like peeking in on the personal lives of my own neighbors. But what saves me from feeling like an ogler is that the people here are undoubtedly van den Berg’s creation. I love that she knows these characters well enough to make me question my boundaries as a reader.

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Van den Berg deals with fine lines like this in each of the stories: in “The Golden Dragon Express,” a woman enjoys a moral upper hand over her cheating husband until she disparages him too much during a game of Monopoly, causing a turning of the tables; in “There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights,” the mother is concerned with how subtle the differences can be between harm and good, between safety and danger, between humans and animals; and in “Photography,” both beauty—however it may be defined—and life last until suddenly they don’t. And with these short pieces van den Berg herself establishes the line between tenderness and sentimentality.

There’s so much more to say about the collection, despite its small size. I can’t wait to speak with Laura in October, to hear her read, to learn more about how to say all that needs to be said within the confines of short-short stories like these.

Author photo by Paul Yoon (American Short Fiction)

Cassidy McCants, an Associate Editor of Nimrod, is an M.F.A. candidate in fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts.