Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cheri Johnson ~ OS staff interview

Cheri Johnson was raised in Lake of the Woods County in northern Minnesota, and has since lived in Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Minneapolis. She studied English and writing at Augsburg College, Hollins University, and the University of Minnesota, and her fiction, poetry, and plays have been published in magazines such
as Phantasmagoria, The Rio Grande Review, Glimmer Train Stories, New South, Cerise Press, The Emprise Review, and Puerto Del Sol. Her reviews on contemporary writers
have been included or are forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Pleiades, and Provincetown Arts, and in summer 2009 her chapbook of poems, Fun & Games, was released by Finishing Line Press.

In 2004-2005, Cheri was a Loft Mentor Series Fellow at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She has won the Glimmer Train Stories Fiction Open, The Dorothy and
Granville Hicks Residency in Literature at Yaddo, a 2005 Bush Artist Fellowship, and a 2007 Loft-McKnight Fellowship. In 2007-2008, she was afellow at the
Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and currently she is in residence there again as a second-year fiction fellow.

Here's a short Q&A we recently had with Cheri. Enjoy!

Q: What, for you as an editor, makes or breaks a submission?

If I can tell right away that a writer is connected to her or his material in a deep and even mysterious way, I'm immediately interested. If I can tell that a writer is not very invested in his or her characters, does not care very deeply what happens to them, I just can't pay attention. I also want to feel that the writer paid attention to the meaning, rhythm, and sound of each sentence, each word, in the same way a good poet does.

Q: Could you tell readers something about your own writing process? When, if ever, is a draft done?

My process varies so much. The key, I've found, is not forcing a process on myself at any particular stage just because it's worked before, or because it "makes sense" that this is what I should be doing now. I do best when I go by instinct. When I feel like working slowly, I work slowly. When I feel like going quickly, I do that. When I feel like working chronologically through a draft, I do so, but when I feel like skipping around … etc. A draft is done when it stops occurring to me how I could change it.

Q: What's next for you and your writing?

I'm working on a very strange project, a novel that I'm having more fun with than I've ever had with anything. At first it was a re-telling of the story of Rosemary's Baby, but set in the northern Minnesota woods. It's still that; but it's also become a kind of mythological interpretation of that story that relies just as heavily on characters and narratives from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Thanks, Cheri!

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