PicFic launches today on Twitter with a 7-tweet story by J. Boyer. J is a creative writing faculty member at Arizona State University in Tempe. He has numerous publications and awards. His work has also appeared with us in Issue 20 of Shape of a Box. For this interview, we begged his wife to let us interrupt him while he wrote at home–even offered to take the dogs for a walk. No dice. So we pestered him on his iPhone until he emailed back;-)
- What was the first book/poem/phrase that rocked your world?
MY PARENTS BOTH DEFINED THEMSELVES AS READERS, BY WHICH THEY MEANT THEY READ THE NEWSPAPER RATHER THAN TOOK THEIR NEWS FROM TV. THERE WERE NO NOVELS OR BOOKS OF FICTION IN OUR HOUSE, AND PLAYS WERE SOMETHING YOU PUT ON AT SCHOOL IN THE POORLY VENTILLATED AUDITORIUM–GENERALLY “OUR TOWN” OR “AH WILDERNESS”, WHICH I CAN’T HELP ASSOCIATING EVEN NOW WITH MATS ON THE WALL, ROPES TO THE CEILING, AND THE SMELL OF DIRTY FEET. PLAYS WERE SOMETHING WHERE YOU SAT ON THE BLEACHERS. MY FIRST TIME AT A PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE WAS A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, A TOURING PRODUCTION OF “CAMELOT.” I HAVE AN ODDLY VIVID MEMORY OF WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE FROM MY SEAT. THE ACTORS WERE MILES BENEATH ME, SO I ASSUME THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS WHEN MAJOR MUNICIPAL THEATRES, EVER-DEPENDENT UPON STATE FUNDS, PAPERS THE HOUSE WITH SCHOOL KIDS, COMPING ALL AND SUNDRY. I HAVE NO TASTE FOR MUSICALS TODAY. NEVER HAVE. THEIR MAGIC IS TOO MUCH LIKE PHOTOSHOP, TOO PAT, TOO EASY. BUT THE POOR TEACHER WHO BROUGHT US HAD BEEN SLOGGING THROUGH SIR LANCELOT WITH US, DRAGGING US BEHIND HER AS IF BEARING OUR WEIGHT FORWARD THROUGH FORCE AND FORCE ALONE, AND SUDDENLY I WAS WITH HER, SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, READY TO PULL MY OWN WEIGHT. FROM WHERE I SAT–WE MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE TOP BALCONY, I MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE FIRST ROW–I COULD SEE NOT ONLY THE ACTORS BELOW BUT ALL THE RIGGING, THE THROW OF THE LAMPS BEAMING DOWN TOWARD THE STAGE, THE EBB AND FLOW OF DUST THROUGH THEIR CREPUSCULAR GLOW, AND, IF NOT IN THESE PRECISE WORDS, I REMEMBER THINKING, OH, I GET IT, RIGHT, SURE, IT’S A STORY, IT’S MAGIC!
- Dr. Who picks you up in the Tardis. Where/when do you go?
I’D LIKE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN THE YEARS THAT FOLLOW MY DEATH AND I’D LIKE MY LOVED ONES TO BE THE ONES THAT SPEED ME FORWARD. I SUPPOSE I’M A FATALIST: I ASSUME ALL OF OUR LIVES FOLLOW A KIND OF LOOSELY DRAWN ARC. BUT I’M NOT A DETERMINIST. I THINK WE HAVE CHOICES, AND IF I COULD SEE WHAT WAS GOING TO BECOME OF THOSE I LOVE ONCE I’M NO LONGER HERE, I MIGHT FIND SOME WAY WHILE I’M ALIVE TO POINT THINGS FOR THE BETTER.
- What was your first published piece & where was it published?
IT WAS IN MY HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER. IN THE HOPE OF GETTING GIRLS, I TOOK OVER THE ANGRY YOUNG MAN COLUMN AND IT WORKED. MY FIRST COLUMN APPEARED ON A WEDNESDAY, A STAND I TOOK AGAINST LEFTOVERS FOR LUNCH. I NEVER ATE IN THE SCHOOL CAFETERIA, I BROUGHT MY LUNCH IN A BAG. I WAS JUST TRYING TO GET MY FEET WET, AND IT WORKED. I WAS SUDDENLY A WRITER, A SOMEBODY, STANDING UP TO THE FORCES THAT BE, BRAVING THEIR WRATH ON BEHALF OF MANKIND. THAT FRIDAY I HAD A DATE WITH THE CAPTAIN OF THE CHEERLEADERS, JANET BOETTCHER. THE DATE ENDED WITH A KISS ON HER DOORSTEP. THAT WEEKEND I WROTE A COLUMN FOR THE WEEK AHEAD. I TOOK A STAND AGAINST RACISM. AND WAITED.
- Do you think the internet hurts or helps literature?
I DON’T THINK THE INTERNET HURTS OR HELPS, EITHER ONE, NOT IN AND OF ITSELF. THAT’S NOT HOW LITERATURE WORKS. BUT OVER TIME THE INTERNET IS SURE TO OPEN SOME NEW DOORS, AS WELL AS SHUT VERY TIGHT SOME OTHERS. PERSONALLY, I THINK IT’S A VERY EXCITING TIME TO BE WRITING, A LITTLE LIKE BEING ALIVE IN THE 15TH AND 16TH CENTURIES AS THE GUTENBERG ERA WAS FINDING ITS STRIDE. EXCEPT THEY DIDN’T HAVE PARIS HILTON OR iPHONES.
- What about authors?
I WOULD IMAGINE THAT THE FORMS OF THE WRITING THEY ACCOMPLISH MAY–OVER TIME–CHANGE FROM WHAT WE HAVE COME TO EXPECT FROM THE PAGE. BUT, ON BALANCE, WRITERS ARE WRITERS, AND WRITERS ARE WRITERS WHO WRITE WITH AN EYE TOWARD BEING READ. IT WILL BE EASY TO OVERLOOK THIS DURING THE TRANSITION PERIOD. MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO SIT IN MY CLASSES BELIEVE THEY WANT TO WRITE WHEN, IN FACT, THEY HAVE VERY LITTLE PATIENCE FOR–OR INTEREST IN–THE RIGORS OF WRITING ITSELF. WHAT THEY ACTUALLY WANT TO BE IS “PUBLISHERS,” THEY WANT TO SEE THEIR WORK WHOLE AND FINISHED AND POLISHED AND AVAILABLE TO OTHERS. AND IN THAT SENSE, THE INTERNET IS OFFERING THEM ANY NUMBER OF NEW AND IMPORTANT IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITIES TO BE WHO THEY WANT TO BECOME. ON THE OTHER? IN THE END, IT WILL OFFER THEM EVER-MORE EVIDENCE IN YEARS TO COME THAT THEY HAVE FALLEN SHORT OF TELLING THE STORIES THAT MOVED THEM SO AT CONCEPTION, AND, IN THAT SENSE, WHAT IS ACTUALLY BEING INCREASED IS THE CHANCE TO FAIL AND FAIL IN PUBLIC. THAT’S ANY WRITER’S REAL FEAR. THAT FAILURE. THAT’S THE MONSTER WHO LURKS BENEATH ANY WRITER’S BED AT NIGHT. AND I SAY GOD BLESS IT.
- When the well is dry, how do you fill it?
I’M SUSPICIOUS OF “WRITERS BLOCK” OR ITS COUNTLESS VARIATIONS, ITS AVATARS. THE NOTION OF A BLOCK ASSUMES THAT EVERYTHING’S CONSTANTLY A-BREW, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS OPEN THE DUCT, THEN TILT IT ‘TILL IT POURS. IT’S A WAY OF GETTING AROUND JUST HOW MUCH EFFORT HAS TO GO INTO THE PROCESS. I’D PREFER WE CALLED THIS SOMETHING ELSE. I’M NOT PICKY WHAT. ANYTHING. MAYBE “CINDY.”
- Favorite writing tool?
I LIKE HEARING MY DAUGHTER LAUGH. IT GIVES ME REASON TO GO BACK TO WORK, NO MATTER HOW SICK OF IT ALL I MAY BE.
- Your biggest fans just burst into the room. How many are there & how do you react?
I THOUGHT AT FIRST YOU WERE ASKING ME ABOUT MY ENEMIES. MY ENEMIES ARE LEGION, TOO NUMEROUS TO COUNT. MY FANS? WOW. MY BIGGEST FANS DON’T CARE WHETHER I WRITE OR NOT, AND, TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, HAVE NO INTEREST IN HOW MY WORK IS REVIEWED, OR BY WHOM, MUCH LESS TO WHAT END. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “MIDLIST,” HAVE NEVER BEEN INVITED TO A LITERARY COCKTAIL PARTY, AND ARE ALL THE BETTER FOR BEING OVERLOOKED. THE ONLY REAL FANS I’VE EVER HAD ARE MY DOGS. THEY’RE THE ONLY ONES WHO LOVE ME UNQUESTIONINGLY, OR SHOULD–FOR WHAT IMPRESSES THEM MOST IS MY SKILLS WITH A FRISBEE, THAT I KNOW WHERE THE KIBBLE IS, THAT I AM TENDER WITH THEIR EAR MEDICINE. I’M THEIR EVERYTHING. MY WIFE AND MY DAUGHTER LOOK UPON ME WITH A SOMEWHAT MORE BALANCED VIEW. MY REVIEWERS? OFTEN MORE BALANCED STILL.
- Why did you submit to PicFic?
I DON’T SEE HOW ANYONE CAN THINK OF THEMSELVES AS A WRITER WITHOUT SEEING HOW ADVANCES IN CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY ARE MAKING WRITING FOR A READER MORE EXCITING THAN EVER. I MEAN, I’M WRITING ALL THIS ON MY iPhone. I MEAN, I STILL SAY “TYPE” OR “DIAL A PHONE” AND HERE I AM WRITING ON MY iPhone!
- Fill in the blank: In the expansive Literary Galaxy, I am ________.
THAT’S IT. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I AM, JUST AS YOU HAVE IT. GOOD FOR YOU (ABOVE), PICFIC.
J’s story, “Her & Him,” will run one episode at a time through this week. In case you miss a couple tweets, we’ll post the entire story in the Author Archive on our PicFic page beginning 29 March 2009.