When I caught up with Ben White for this interview, he was playing guitar in the office. His wife got annoyed and told him to “stop making noise.” Like me, he is also a huge fan of sleeping in. HUGE. I appreciate that he puts off the loving embrace of his treasured memory foam mattress to write vast amounts of PicFic tweets.
[ONE] What was the first book/poem/phrase that rocked your world?
Ursula K. Le guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I devoured fantasy books as a kid, but this was an early read for me. Even now, it seems like no one captures different worlds with the same restrained grace.
[TWO] Dr. Who picks you up in the Tardis. Where/when do you go?
We’ll go back in time to visit myself as child, where I will lie to him/myself about what the future is like just to mess with him/me. It’ll be epic. I might also mention some ideas for renewable energy and molecular biology.
[THREE] What was your first published piece and where was it published?
If my high school literary magazine doesn’t count (my best work, no joke), we fast forward to “Small Gestures,” which appeared in Six Sentences this year. One could say I was out of the game for a while, but really, I didn’t even realize the wide world of indie publishing even existed until this year.
[FOUR] Do you think the internet hurts or helps literature?
Helps! Good writing comes in all shapes and sizes and from places you’d never think to look. Sneaking a few pages of Dan Brown’s new novel when you’re pretending to work at the office isn’t fun, but the internet lets us read things (often for free) that we’d never find easily on the bookstore shelves AND lets us fit that reading into times we never otherwise would. You can read PicFic on your phone while in the bathroom. That’s convenient. Just wash your hands.
[FIVE] What about authors?
Also helps (publishers may tell a different story, but I think in the end the writers will survive). For new writers, there are probably more competition and noise than ever before, but at the same time, there’s never been the chance for success through alternative pathways or easier ways to get people to read your work. Without the internet, you wouldn’t have thousands of people writing Novels in NaNoWriMo or editing in online workshops to improve their craft. It gives writers an opportunity to be a part of a real writing community, the kind that people who don’t do MFAs or residency programs or writing classes would otherwise miss out on.
If it weren’t for blogs and twitter and the online writing scene I discovered because of them, my last writing project probably would have been my senior thesis. It was titled “Hair cell regeneration in the lateral line of GFP-Brn3c transgenic zebrafish (Danio rerio),” and it was less than scintillating. I’m never going to be big-time author, so writing for me is fun only insofar as I can share it with people—the internet makes that possible.
[SIX] When the well is dry, how do you fill it?
The sweet nectar of diet Mountain Dew, more and more of it. Or I steal from my own twitter-fiction experiment (@midnightstories) as fodder for longer pieces. OR I steal ideas from people with more talent.
[SEVEN] Favorite writing tool?
Headphones and over eight gigs of free videogame-inspired arrangements from ocremix.org. Every genre, mostly instrumental, always good, and super nostalgia-inspiring (which is perfect). Yep, I said it: videogame music gets the job done.
[EIGHT] Your biggest fans just burst into the room. How many are there and how do you react?
Hard to count; I’m too surprised that people have figured how to travel back in time.
[NINE] Why did you submit to a Twitter-zine?
I’d started writing on Twitter daily in January and loved it for all the form has to offer as a routine, idea-factory, story-repository, and literary distillation practice. Twitterzines were the obvious next step: I started Nanoism with the hope of getting other writers to take micro/nano/pico/whatever seriously and give writing it a try. While I wouldn’t publish myself, submitting to PicFic and the others was impossible to resist. Gotta support the form.
[TEN] In the expansive Literary Galaxy, I am:
A husband who should probably spend more time studying.
Thanks Ben, and sorry for the noise Mrs. White. I can’t help but pick up a guitar to demonstrate my complete lack of mad skillz.