LUMINA Journal in Conversation with BASS 2018: Part Six
To read The Best American Short Stories annual anthology is to be exposed to an echo-chamber of contemporary American fiction; stories that span a variety of voices, styles, and forms. This week, LUMINA is in conversation with more of the writers of BASS 2018, so our readers can get to know the minds behind this project. Check out LUMINA’s In Conversation with BASS 2018, part five, here.
JACOB GUAJARDO – What Got Into Us
Jacob Guajardo is a graduate of MFA@FLA at the University of Florida. His fiction has appeared in Passages North, Hobart, Necessary Fiction, The Mondegreen, and elsewhere. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, but was born and raised in St. Louis, Michigan.
LUMINA Journal: When I finished “What Got Into Us,” having experienced both the youth and adulthood of the two main characters, I wanted more. To know more about how their relationship evolved and took different paths. To see the immigrant-in-America story grow. To see the development of the internal family struggle. Do you ever use your short stories as a way to personally workshop ideas/characters/scenarios for longer pieces? And is that something you did with this piece?
Jacob Guajardo: This story was always going to be a short story. I almost always know the difference between a short story and something that could be longer. There’s some indescribable, anagogical quality about short fiction that I feel almost every time I sit down to write. I know some writers will use the short story as a way into the novel, but not I.
LJ: Was writing a coming-of-age/love story for a queer protagonist more difficult than if the characters were straight? To that end, do you feel there is an extra burden on writers who include LGBTQ characters in their writing given that the subject is sometimes taboo in the publishing world?
JG: I don’t quite know how to answer this question. I don’t know if it’s more challenging to write a coming of age/first love story about straight people. I’ve never done it. I know that the coming of age story has its own unique set of problems, as does a love story. I suspect that whether the characters are straight or gay doesn’t matter as much as it matters that the writer makes the reader believe, for however long it takes, that she is reading about real people. Do I think writers who write about LGBTQ characters have a harder time getting things published? Yes. Publishing is racist, and sexist, and homophobic.
LJ: Do you have advice for LGBTQ/immigrant writers, or any writers that wish to write with these perspectives in mind?
JG: My advice to writers is this: You don’t have to change the world, and you don’t have to change anybody’s mind. If you're going to write, do it well.
ESMÈ WEIJUN WANG — What Terrible Thing It Was
Esmé Weijun Wang is the author of the novel The Border of Paradise, which was called a Best Book of 2016 by NPR and one of the 25 Best Novels of 2016 by Electric Literature. She received a 2018 Whiting Award, was named by Granta as one of the “Best of Young American Novelists” in 2017, and is the recipient of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize for her forthcoming essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias. Born in the Midwest to Taiwanese parents, she lives in San Francisco, and can be found at esmewang.com and on Twitter @esmewang.
LUMINA Journal: “What Terrible Thing It Was” weaves personal traumas with the collective trauma of Election Day 2016. What was the process of writing this story in regards to the election?
Esmé Weijun Wang: The election didn't actually enter the story until multiple drafts into the tale of Wendy and her history with the Guo family. As 2017 approached, I found that the collective trauma of Election Day 2016 kept reactivating personal traumas for myself and those close to me. The fictional visit to the ECT clinic existed early on—however, it wasn't until I decided to include the election that the story fell into place.
LJ: You are also a nonfiction writer (we love your essays). Do you always know when you start a piece whether it’s going to become fiction or nonfiction?
EWW: Yes, actually. I've never started something thinking it would be fiction and then converted it to nonfiction, or vice-versa. Each piece begins with a particular intent, a particular form.
LJ: We’re eagerly anticipating your essay collection The Collected Schizophrenias from Graywolf Press. How is that going?
EWW: It's off to the printers! I can no longer touch it at this point, which is terrifying—February 5th seems far away, but [the time], I think, will come and go before I know it. I'm excited and nervous, and I really hope people love the book.
Visit the LUMINA Journal blog tomorrow to learn more about BASS 2018 contributors!
Interviews by LUMINA staff members Chris Rowland and Joanna Bettelheim.