Issue 29 Interviews
from its inspiration to its final arrival in the hands of the reader, writing undergoes a lengthy and complex process, and one that is too often overlooked. Each issue, Front Porch sits down with people who are engaged daily with the processes and industries of writing, be it by running community workshops, buying books at a used bookstore, organizing translations, and much more. These interviews seek to examine the many forces that shape literature, and to highlight the perceptive and passionate people to whom we owe the books on our shelves.
Put simply, Elisa Albert is a total badass. Time and again, she grapples with challenging questions such as "Is a life one has sleepwalked through worth mourning?" while making jokes about the munchies, A League of Their Own, and self-help. In her protagonists I have found some of the most fully-realized and complex women I've ever read in fiction; whatever their troubles, their voices are honest and unflinching and unafraid to dive into the muck. The words energetic, raw, and darkly funny come to mind when trying to describe her work, as does (as NPR and others have called her) "the female Philip Roth."
Kelly Luce is often mentioned in the same breath as literary luminaries Aimee Bender and George Saunders. After reading her kickoff collection, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, it’s easy to see why. Luce’s writing delves into fantasy, toys with reality, and mines the magic of the Japanese landscape. With nine out of the ten stories set in Japan, Luce convincingly inhabits many mindsets: an American expatriate imprisoned for bicycle theft, a Japanese woman with a tail, and a grieving sister possessed by the spirit of her dead teenage brother.
Published by heavy-hitting independent press FiveChapters Books, Nina McConigley’s debut story collection, Cowboys and East Indians, won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award. In the Judges’ Citation, McConigley is described as giving readers a Wyoming that is “precisely the way we expect it—in landscape, sky, and animal life—and in ways we don’t. The inhabitants of this surprising, thrilling, and richly textured short story collection are unpredictable, both in their actions and identities.” The stories feature outsiders connected by their relationship to either Wyoming or India and the fascinating intersections of those places and cultures.
I wanted to talk with Meagan Cass not only because we’ve been friends since we studied literature together as undergraduates at Binghamton University, but because she’s lived through such a perfect arc of the MFA experience, even going on to earn a PhD. Her work has been published in prestigious journals, and like many others who aspire to do the same, Meagan has been one of the lucky few who has landed that most elusive of jobs: creative writing professor (currently at the University of Illinois Springfield). Her latest feat is a newly published book, Range of Motion (Helicopter Press, 2014). In this long interview, we really get into it—less about craft and more about life, and what it means to be a writer in the 21st century.