Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Adam Haslett Interview

Dear Writers --

Our Stories is proud to offer an interview with Adam Haslett
this coming quarter. Since we're all about it being better to receive than just submit we are asking for our readership submit their questions to Adam here on our blog. From there we will cherry pick some of the best questions and use them in the interview.

Ever wonder about how he got his break? How long he's been writing? Whether he believes is writing is akin to electro-shock therapy to the soul or closer to transendental meditation?

Please make sure you tell us your full name and where you're calling home these days.

For now we hope you enjoy the "summer of love" interview and we wish you all the best.

Write well,

Alexis Enrico Santi

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making Time

I’m curious—does anyone out there have the time they need to write?

Before I go much further, let me say that I consider myself fortunate: I have enough to eat, I generally get enough sleep, my bank account has just enough in it that I’m not chewing my nails to the quick, I work hard enough to please my boss, most doctors (okay, a few doctors) would say I get enough exercise, I do enough housework to make my wife happy, I keep up with the news enough to be on top of important issues…yet I never seem to have the time I need to write.

With the demands we’re constantly faced with, how are we to carve out the time and space we need to create? Half an hour here and there doesn’t cut it, for we need mental space—to dream a little before we write, to enter that fecund and numinous inner place where words and sentences are born, and then (at some point, anyway) to reflect on what we’ve written. For some—haikuists?—a mere hour a day may suffice. But how are we to get more? And how to maintain that free time and consistently use it well?

Following three years in Vietnam, where I had all the time I could have hoped for to read, research, and write, I moved to Hawaii. The reasons I came here are complicated and not worth going into, but what most marked this move was the dramatic shift in my writing habits. I went from writing a few hours every day to writing a few hours every week. If you’re a novelist—or trying hard to become one—how on earth can you complete your brilliant opus on such a feeble regimen?

If there were a way to petition for more hours in a day, demanding 25, 26, or even 27 hours wouldn’t do it. I think we’d need 30 hours a day—after all, we also need time to read.

I heard on NPR this week that U.S. workers, on average, are given 14 vacation days a year. Most of us don’t even use all 14 days. Shame on us—or are we all insane? In much of Western Europe, workers get over 35 vacation days and they generally take them all.

People talk about how the publishing industry is in desperate need of change, but what seems of greater consequence is our desperate need to change how we live. Anything less than that is a failure to make writing an important part of who we are as intelligent, sensitive, and creative beings. I feel a hollowness within myself when I don’t write, and as the long workdays pile up—and spill over into the weekends—I feel that hollowness painfully expand.

When I stop to think about it, I know I’ve got it pretty good. And one thing I’ve learned since last August is that people who live in Hawaii can’t expect others to listen to them when they complain. But again, that’s not really what I’m doing here. The point of this is to draw attention to the fact that writing—the beautiful, necessary challenge that it is—is hard enough already without time constraints. And I know that others have it much harder—they have children to rear, multiple jobs to attend to each day of the week (with no vacation time, and probably no health insurance either), a war they’re trying to survive, or terrible health problems to recover from.

So…is it just me? Do I simply lack discipline? Am I just getting old and becoming inefficient? “Stop complaining and just make time,” I’ve been told, often in a surprisingly unsympathetic tone. “If you have to, lock yourself in your bathroom and don’t come out until you’ve written one thousand words. I don’t care if this causes friction in your family—or worse. Just do it.”

To be told that I just have to do it really doesn’t help me. To be told that I should sacrifice more sleep than I’m already doing isn’t a solution, either.

But what pleases me—and lets me know that I may be guilty of blowing hot air, despite any earlier suggestion I might have made to the contrary—is the fact that, even if I can’t manage to find time for myself, there are many people out there who can. The stories that appear on our doorstep at Our Stories testify to the fact that good stories can be written, supportive writing communities can be forged, success can be had. And if these things are true, then it’s also true that anyone can find the time they need to realize their goals as writers. While the phrase “just do it” doesn’t do “it” for me, seeing other people succeed does. I find real inspiration in that.

And if others can do it, I know it’s also possible for me to. Sometimes hard decisions need to be made. But as long as a choice exists, one can always choose to write.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Beginning of my Internship

A wet seat, that’s what greeted me as I sat to wait and meet my “boss” a.k.a. Alexis Santi, the man who started this whole thing and who I happened to discover by chance. Actually, my mom discovered him in the glossy publication that my now alma mater, then current school, publishes and distributes amongst their most coveted donors-parents of students.

My mom had called me, excited with the thought that I could still find meaningful experience in a field connected to my degree only a few short months shy of graduation. Needless to say, I applied for the summer internship and was sure I wouldn’t get it, having missed the deadline by two short days. Instead, I got an e-mail requesting an interview and eventually found myself where I am now, a fiction intern at Our Stories.

So began my research, research into how to expand this somewhat small, online magazine, into the world of printed publications without breaking the bank. With the help of Google and the stumbling past many websites that wanted to take authors for all they’re worth, I finally found something. Actually, a bunch of somethings, that were good enough to send to the “boss” to review.

Having never met me, Alexis thought it would be a good idea to finally get together and go over my findings, and that’s when I found myself in a wet seat, outside of a small, excellent place to indulge in carrot cake with crunchy walnuts and thick cream cheese icing: College Town Bagels. Upon planting my butt in the green plastic chair outside, I jumped right back up, like I had just sat on a hot stove, instantly thinking, this is just great. My ass is all wet and I just got here. It’s like getting a wine stain on your white dress after being at a cocktail party for all of two minutes; it sucks and you think that is all people notice about you. Fortunately for me, I only had to stand long enough to order and then venture over to a dry seat with Alexis.

Our first official meeting, that’s what this was. Within minutes, Alexis began pouring out ideas, asking for my opinion, and joking about everything from the internet world of networking to his theories on poetry. I came into the meeting thinking we were just going to chat and go over my findings and left with a list of things to do.

I didn’t just leave with a list, I left with an array of tasks and things, among them, a dry butt. Alexis and I had been talking for so long that what was once wet, now was dry. We had been talking long enough for me to realize that I could really help this small magazine grow into something strong enough to withstand the obstacles that often cause up and coming publications to become defeated in less than five years. We had been talking long enough for me to fully understand the potential and impact a magazine of this unique nature can have on writers and readers. We had been talking long enough for me to realize that a wet butt was the least of my troubles; I needed to get working.