1. What have you been up to since you finished your MFA?
My wife and fellow NMSU MFA alum Tracy Rae Bowling got a job in Iowa
City writing tests. I followed her, tried one job, that one didn’t
work out, and now I am doing another. Nothing glamorous. I’ve been
editing prose for Noemi Press (noemipress.org) and editing my own
magazine, Uncanny Valley (uncannyvalleymag.com), with Tracy, because
we knew we would miss Puerto del Sol too much when we couldn’t work on
it anymore. I’ve been shopping around the novel I wrote at NMSU (no
luck yet, but some close calls) and writing another, which is about
65% finished right now.
2. Are you still writing? When do you write? What are you working on?
I am! Sometimes it feels like I’m writing less than I used to, but I
think if you add up all of my projects it probably comes to more,
actually — it’s just that it’s spread out between those projects. I
haven’t done much short fiction since NMSU (it’s not really what I do
best, and it’s hard to make time when you’re doing a novel) but I have
been playing a game I made up called Exits Are (exitsare.com) with a
lot of writers and random Internet people. The game is a way of
creating a collaborative, improvisational story using the conventions
of text adventures like Zork.
I’ve also been writing that novel I mentioned, which is about two
brothers who become superheroes. It’s a sort of epic, tragic satire in
the mold of Infinite Jest, Watchmen, which is a comic book, and The
Venture Brothers, which is a cartoon I like. The first chapter is
going to be published pretty soon in Booth, the slick new magazine of
my undergraduate alma mater, Butler University. This means I have to
come up with a working title for the book, which is unfortunate,
because I really suck at titles.
As for when I write: most nights after work and dinner and a little
television or Rockband, and on the weekends as much as I can.
3. What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
When I came to NMSU I was just beginning to have some idea what I
actually liked to read and write. I guess that process needs to happen
in its own time but I still sort of resent how long it took me to find
the books and writers that really inspire me. I spent long hours
sifting through boring, awful stuff trying to find a way to care about
it. Then I met some people who knew about a lot of stuff I didn’t and
they (you) really helped me out.
Another thing I learned at NMSU, largely by working on Puerto, was how
to submit my writing. This was something I had been doing since
undergrad, and with a little bit of success, but I was doing it all
wrong. Of course, the emergence and growing dominance of online
submission systems, which coincided with my time in the MFA, has
simplified that process tremendously. But — partly as a result of not
really knowing what I liked to read — I didn’t understand how to
choose the right publishers, I didn’t know how to present my work, and
I didn’t know what was supposed to be appealing about what I did in
the first place. Reading submissions for Puerto really reoriented my
approach to the writing of fiction, too: I learned how not to be
boring. Which is a real challenge for me.
4. What do you want to brag about?
I guess the big news is that my story “Navigators,” which I wrote
during my second year in the MFA, and which was published in Hobart
about the time I graduated, was selected for Best American Short
Stories 2012, which is coming out I think this September. The story is
about a father and son playing a fictional video game, Legend of
Silence, together. The game is based on Metroid and The Legend of
Zelda, with the key difference being that the game’s hero is
diminished by each new item and piece of equipment she finds. My
friend David Wells did some pretty incredible fan art in the style of
an actual NES game (links: