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Q and A
What was the year of your first published story? Thanks!
Ah ha! It was 1996, I looked it up. It was the story My Date with Satan in the Greensboro Review. And I'm sure you'll be deeply fascinated to know that this was not my first published piece of creative writing, as the kids call it. I also published a poem in 1993 in the Sonora Review.
Hey Stacey, I had an idea to possibly move some copies of your book. Do you remember that guy in Bisbee who made a book and opened the One Book Book Store down there? You could do that! Just get one of those cheap store fronts of 6th Avenue and go to it. You could have a giant replica of the book in the window and sit in the store in air conditioned comfort and sign people's copies of the books and answer questions and all that. Or would that just seem sad and desperate?
That seems sad and desperate but I like sad and desperate.
Speaking of work, do you have any thoughts on the teaching/writing balance? I know Steven King said that he never wrote less than when he was teaching. Have you taught? Would you teach? Are we adjuncts suckers?
I've taught enough to know that I don't much like teaching. This is because I put a lot of energy into it and then I'm unhappy because my students don't do what I tell them to do, though I do like being called Professor Richter. Yes, you adjuncts are suckers. If you were day manager at McDonald's you'd make more $ and get free food--plus life-fodder for your art. So you should quit and go do that.
Stacey, Do you have a day job? What is it? What was your day job right after you graduated from college? What day job do you recommend for a lost little writer, feverishly clutching her diploma, in a world filled with job opportunities in SALES but none in writing down dreamy-dreams?
I don't have a day job but my family has a business that I'm involved in that basically subsidizes my writing career. Right after I graduated from college I had a series of mind numbing clerical jobs too boring to list. How's about you try to get a job as a newspaper reporter? You don't always need a journalism degree for that and I know of a couple of people who did that right out of college. You might even get to write obituaries for people who aren't dead yet. That's sort of like writing dreamy-dreams.
Cricket is still alive?! And I thought I was old. Has anyone tried eating the walnut? That might help. And I'm sorry, truth hurts. My husband does think you're pretty. Will you post on your website news about any upcoming stories appearing in lit journals? I subscribe to a disgusting number of them.
I'll post a picture of the walnut and you can imagine eating it, Merrik. Yes, I can probably figure out how to post upcoming stories. There will be one in the October issue of Tin House if you want to mark your calendar.
Should we go see Maroon 5? That skinny guy has some appeal though he reminds of that guy I can't stand, Jason whatever. But if you want to go, I promise to jump up and down and scream like a girl.
If he'll stand there with his legs apart and no expression on his face, I'm totally there. But I'm afraid he'll move around and then I won't be able to love him anymore. But I would go just to hear you scream like a girl. And while we're on the subject, it's fun to go to Google images and google "Adam Levine" and "penis."
How ironic is this... many, many moons ago, when you worked at the TW, I, too, earned chump change writing reviews for the Tucson Weekly (I wrote a paltry few book reviews). I often erupt into great, hawking chortles over the fact that fresh out of J-school, I presumed to know a rat's ass about literary criticism, but the TW after-parties were fun and I loved the people and the environment. Anyhooo, that's not what's ironic. More on that later. Many years later, after seeing a review of "My Date With Satan" in the NY Times (when I was working as a science editor for a university--yeah, I know, and with a J-degree!--anyway, when I read the review, I screamed to my husband, who always thought you were pretty, I screamed, "Hey, Pickle, look at this! Do you remember Stacy Richter? From the Tucson Weekly? She has a short-story collection out! And listen to this title!" As a lover of Atwood, Angela Carter, etc., etc., I thought, I'm going to LOVE this. And I did, I did, I did. I knew from reading your movie reviews that you had admirable wit. So I read the stories, chortled and snuffled with utter delight, then continued writing nonfiction. THen, after kids, I took some fiction writing classes, and Voila! We're at the ironic part. During a Gotham Writer's workshop, when one of our advanced fiction instructors asked for examples of really choice opening lines, I used "There are cavemen in the hedges again." That opening line, when I first read it months before, just floored me. Just hooked me in. So I used it as an example. One other student said Hey, I LOVE Stacy Richter! Then, and finally, finally, FINALLY, this is the ironic part: three weeks later, as a reading assignment for our lecture on crafting the most PERFECT sentence, this same story was our reading assignment! And not because I mentioned it weeks before. No, it was already scheduled. So there! I just about jumped up and down on my virtual desktop, imploring the others in my class to pick up your two short-story collections. Anyway, other than playing six degrees of separation, I wanted to ask you, how is lovely Tucson these days? And is Club Congress still there? And Jim...and Mari... Cheers to you and your well-wrought sentences.
Come now, Merrik. Everyone's going to be able to tell that I got plastered and wrote that question myself during the "love" phase of my I-love-myself/I-hate-myself mania. The part about the husband saying I'm pretty is a dead give away. Nice try, my friend.
As for your questions: lovely Tucson is expecting a high temp of 110 tomorrow so it's kind of hardcore. Club Congress is still there, and Al Perry still works the desk. Mari moved to California, and last I heard she was working for Dog World magazine. Jim is good! He has Mari's dog, Cricket, who's gone deaf and has sprouted an intriguing, benign growth in her ear that looks like a black walnut.
What do you think about the pataphor?
I did not know about the pataphor, Wag, I did not know. I just looked it up on Wikipedia, where I read that a pataphor is a metaphor that desires to become literal. I still don't understand it totally and I reckon I won't understand it totally until I smoke some chronic and think about it. Got any?
Hey Stacey, Who's bad?
You, Pituitary, you're bad. You're a bad, nasty little gland.
Dear Stacey, I had a dream where you, me, Lynda Barry and Kelly Link went on a week-long bender which ended with us showing up at Joyce Carol Oates's compound and catching her herd of white persian cats and dying them with Manic Panic. At some point along the way we met Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, and you convinced me to buy a $60 bottle of wine (which I could NOT afford) in order to bed Iggy Pop more out of a sense of duty to rock n' roll than desire...because they're pretty old and crinkly now. But it turned out that Lou and Iggy were actually too old to get it up, and so the dream ended with a slightly shameful, unsatisfied feeling..... Also: why the hell does our culture reward super-depressing, boring art lacking a shred of a sense of humor or the joyous things in life? Do people actually enjoy that stuff? Are they getting something I don't? or do they just have no aesthetic sensibilities of their own and are throwing awards and reviews blindly at stuff that looks vaguely "arty" to them? Why does every oscar-winning film have to start out with children dying in car accidents?
Wow, Junior, what a great dream! I wish I could do those things in real life. I'd relish the cat-dying in particular. Iggy can get it up. I heard him tell Terry Gross on Fresh Air that he kept his physique fit by having a lot of sex.
Don't despair, JB, there's a lot of funny and well-rewarded art. How about George Saunders? Or David Sedaris, who's practically a rock star? But you're right, some people feel more like things are high quality when they're ponderous, especially when it comes to awards. Award-givers want to be sure that they're giving their prize to a book with true and lasting literary merit rather than something ephemeral. Somehow, somewhere in one of the backwaters of human nature, serious matters like tragedies and long winters and war and dead children have become associated with quality and merit for no particular reason. I think of this whenever I'm visiting someone's old, private library. I spent some time at Aaron Copland's house when a friend had a residency there and I was fascinated by his collection of contemporary novels--contemporary for Copland in the fifties. According to the jackets, all of the novels on his shelves were great American works on important themes and issues that would be read by future generations. The funny thing was that I hadn't heard of most of them. Or I had heard of them but didn't know anyone who still read those authors--he had a lot of Pearl S. Buck as I recall. It just shows that serious subject matter and "important" themes are not the only things people crave and remember in literature, and ponderous books have just as much chance as anything else to become, with the passage of time, ephemeral relics of fashion. But if you're on a prize committee, it probably feels a whole lot more normal to give a prize to Pearl S. Buck than to give it to Damon Runyon, to use some 1950's examples.