Seven Questions

Seven Questions for Marisa Silver

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we talk to Marisa Silver, whose story “Leap” appears in Ecotone’s fifth anniversary issue and was named a distinguished story in The Best American Short Stories 2011. It now has home in our anthology Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade as well.

image

What books are open on your desk right now?

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, by Danilo Kis, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, and about twenty other books not yet read, sort of read, almost all read, read.

Where did the idea for “Leap,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?

A friend told me that her dog had jumped off the edge of a cliff. Chasing a rabbit? A botched suicide attempt? I had to find out.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Continue Reading

Seven Questions for Brad Watson

This week longtime Ecotone contributor Brad Watson answers our Seven Questions and charms us with his distinctive humor and insight. His story “Alamo Plaza,” about a family’s vacation in Gulfport, Mississippi, is one of our favorites to appear in the magazine. It won a PEN/O. Henry and now has a permanent home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

image

What books are open on your desk right now?

Geoff Schmidt’s story collection, Out of Time (my students are reading it); a biography of William James (suggested by your own David Gessner); my wife Nell Hanley’s cento manuscript; Meg Pokrass’s new flash collection, Bird Envy; Jamie Kornegay’s forthcoming novel, Soil; Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. And some others a bit further off to the side. A couple of student theses.

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

I’d have Huck give Tom what-for when he pulls those shenanigans at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, instead of all that roundabout way of torturing Jim to achieve a phony redemption for Tom. A waste of time, and frustrating. Twain was self-publishing then, right? Well, he should have hired and trusted a good editor. Also, maybe a little more hoozah in that bed scene between Ishmael and Queequeg, don’t you think? It’s damn good as it is, but a devil in me wishes he’d pushed it a little further. Maybe just with dialog of some sort.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Continue Reading

Seven Questions for Rebecca Makkai

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we welcome Rebecca Makkai to the blog. Her story “The Way You Hold Your Knife” first appeared in Ecotone and is now also in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

What books are open on your desk right now?

I don’t read at my desk (I sit here enough as it is) so nothing’s open right now except the New Yorker, and only because I was messaging a friend to add to our ongoing conversation about the way the New Yorker is so unflattering in its physical descriptions of its subjects. Seriously, don’t ever give a quote to them or they’ll say you look like an angry rabbit with crooked teeth.

Where did the idea for “The Way You Hold Your Knife,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?

I was still teaching an elementary Montessori class at the time, and two of my students had chosen to do a report on bogs, which quickly turned into a report on bog mummies. Then I remembered a college professor telling a story about her grad school roommate, an archeology student who didn’t want to be buried in a grave but left somewhere unusual so she could give someone “the joy of discovery.” I put those together—along with some scandalous rumors from my undergraduate days—and had the makings of a really strange story.

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

Continue Reading

Seven Questions for Daniel Orozco

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today Daniel Orozco gives us the inside scoop. His story “Only Connect” first appeared in Ecotone’s evolution-themed issue and is now also in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

image

Where did the idea for “Only Connect” in Astoria to Zion come from?

I went to a wedding in Astoria where I knew none of the other guests. Not a single one. I was mingling with strangers, feeling antsy and awkward. So I eventually slipped away and holed up in my motel room, with a view of the Columbia River, and the mist rising off it and all around the Astoria Bridge. I got glum, and inspired—a darn good combination, as it turns out.

What emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

I read a story last year by Manuel Gonzales, “The Miniature Wife,” and it was really good—fabulist, darkly comic, completely and delightfully engaging—and it is now the title story of his recently published collection. I’m pretty excited about getting my hands on that.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Continue Reading

Seven Questions for Brock Clarke

In Seven Questions, the newest series on our blog, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. We hope you’ll enjoy our first post with Ecotone contributor Brock Clarke, whose funny and powerful story “Our Pointy Boots” first appeared in our evolution-themed issue. We loved the story so much that we recently gave it a second home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

We also hope that you’ll share this interview and will continue to follow not only Seven Questions but a few other departments we plan to unveil in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to find out which fictional dog Brad Watson would adopt, as well as why dog-eared book pages make Cary Holladay think of nuns.

image

What books are open on your desk right now? 

Tove Jansson’s The Sculptor’s Daughter, Russ Rymer’s Genie, Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity, Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever.

Where did the idea for your story in Astoria to Zion come from? 

It’s been fun to go back and try to think of what made me start that story. I know I was in Watertown, NY, snooping around, thinking about a novel I was planning on writing that would be, and ended up being, set there. And there’s an enormous military base in town, and I saw some soldiers drilling on the base, so there’s that. And I also recalled a sweatpants wearing lunatic with one pant leg up and one down doing laps around the public square, so there’s that too. And I remember feeling how daunting writing a new novel felt—and how I didn’t really feel like I could do it—but if I could maybe write a story set in the same place, then maybe the novel would feel possible, even if the novel ended up being nothing like the story. When I was thinking about this, I was also thinking, for some reason, about a line in a Barry Hannah story, I don’t remember which one, narrated by a guy who was pledging to put on his cowboy boots (I don’t remember if they were pointy or not) and walk up and down Main Street until someone noticed him. And I liked the image of a bunch of guys doing the same thing in Watertown, and I saw them all as a group, walking around in their pointy boots, and so I decided to let them narrate as a group too, for a while.

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

Continue Reading