At once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare
possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties,
mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.
– John Keats
Featured Author Jamie Quatro: A contributing editor at Oxford American, Quatro’s work has appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. Her stories are anthologized in the O.Henry Prize Stories 2013, The Story and Its Writer, and the 2018 Pushcart Prize Anthology. She holds an MA in English from the College of William and Mary, and an MFA in Fiction from the Bennington College Writing Seminars. She is a Visiting Professor in the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program. Quatro lives with her husband and four children in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Jamie Quatro's debut novel, Fire Sermon, published in 2018, was selected as one of the Top Seven Novels of 2018 by The Economist, named a Book of the Year in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg, LitHub, and Times Literary Supplement. Fire Sermon is also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers title, Indie Next Pick, and a New York Times Editors' Choice.
Quatro's debut collection, I Want To Show You More, was a New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Book of 2013, and was chosen as a favorite book of 2013 by James Wood in The New Yorker. The collection was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Georgia Townsend Fiction Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize.
INTERVIEW WITH JAIME QUATRO by AMY PATTERSON
I met Jaime Quatro on a rainy spring day in Mobile, Alabama. Before her engagement to speak with a creative writing class, we zipped around in a red Mini Cooper, picked up coffee at Satori’s, and watched glassblowing in the hot shop at the University of South Alabama. Later, during discussions about the craft of writing, Quatro put even the shyest of students at ease. Her work is engaging and courageous.
Amy Patterson (AP): If you could choose any setting for this interview where would we be right now and why?
Jaime Quatro (JQ): We’d be sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome. My youngest daughter is studying abroad in Italy this summer, and today she texted me a picture of the steps. Keats died in a two-room apartment there – it’s now a sort of shrine, full of manuscripts and letters and memorabilia from the British Romantic poets. I studied the Romantics in grad school, and had a big thing for Keats.
AP: A fitting choice. At Negative Capability Press, we draw much inspiration from Keats, as well. Most of your stories are set in the South. Can you say something about writing from a region so different from where you grew up?
JQ:When you move to a new place, you often notice things that the locals have stopped noticing. When we moved to Lookout Mountain, I found hospital trenches 500 yards from my house. When I mentioned this to my neighbor, she was like, What trenches? Writing from within a region and culture that isn’t your place of origin can be a gift. You bring a set a fresh eyes to the landscape.
AP: Your newest book, Fire Sermon, uses a hybrid format, which includes letters, emails, and texts. How did you arrive at this choice, and what advantages did you discover about writing this way?
JQ: I can’t really call it a choice. It’s how I heard things as they emerged, you know? But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the novel’s narrator, Maggie, is living through a fragmented situation. Her passions and loyalties are divided between her family, her illicit lover, and God, or at least ways of thinking about God. So the structure of the book might have grown from the narrator’s fractured psychological state.
AP: Are there times when you purposely conflate your personal life with that of the characters in your fiction, and what might this add to the work?
JQ: I use my personal life in my fiction all the time. Landscapes, locations, specific houses, things my children have said, experiences I’ve lived through, conversations, emotional states, situations others have shared with me. (Be careful what you divulge to a writer, ha!) I’ve probably never written anything that isn’t connected, in some way, to my personal life. But some readers don’t understand the translation process. They recognize certain things, and assume there must be a one-to-one correlation throughout.
Here’s an example: I have a friend who owns a beautiful, very small, very expensive lamp. It was designed by a famous mid-century artist. Whenever I stay in her guest room, I look at it with envy and longing. How easy it would be to tuck it into my suitcase! Of course I’d never do such a thing. But a character might. She might impulsively snatch the plug out and wrap the lamp in a t-shirt and stuff it into the bottom of her bag. She might leave a little thank you card and hostess gift on the guest bed, go downstairs and, heart pounding, say goodbye to her friend—in haste, because the Uber is already waiting, she made sure of it. She gets in the car and is on her way to JFK before she realizes what she’s done. And then what? Is she overcome with horror? Is she ambivalent? Does she keep the lamp, give it back, sell it? What story does she tell about where it came from?
If I’d actually stolen my friend’s lamp, I couldn’t write that story.
AP: What a clear example of life as fodder for writing. You write for the Oxford Americanmagazine. How did get your start?
JQ: One of the first things I ever published was an essay called “Barry Hannah’s Pornographic Syntax” in the Oxford American. The editor ended up changing the title to “Dangerous Syntax.” (Southern readers!) That’s how I began to develop a relationship with the magazine. When Roger Hodge took over as EOC, he solicited a short story from me, and I ended up writing several pieces for him. I also guest-edited a special summer fiction issue, which was pure joy. The new EOC, Eliza Borne, is whip-smart and visionary. I’ve loved working with her as well.
AP: Ha! I love that first title. What is your musical background? Have you written any songs?
JQ:I’m a classical pianist, which is great cross-training for writing. When I work at home I’ll wander from page to piano and back again. I’ve never written any songs. Well, other than this clichéd angry song in high school after a boyfriend broke up with me. It was called “Sand in My Hand.” Embarrassingly, I still remember all of the lyrics.
AP: I can feel the angst. How important is it to have humor in your work? Do you find it rising naturally out of the writing?
JQ:I love reading humor and I love writing humor but find it impossible to sit down and say,“Now I shall write humor.” A character has to take me by surprise.
AP: Can you tell us about an amazing place that have you visited because of your writing?
JQ: I’ve done some travel writing for Rhapsody, United Airlines’ first class cabin magazine. Two years ago they sent me to Barcelona to write about stained glass. My daughters came along. The three of us did a full day workshop with a stained glass artisan named Julia, who spoke only Catalan. Our photographer/translator spoke only Spanish. My daughters and I have passing abilities in French, but no Spanish or Catalan. So we learned the highly-technical copperfoil technique via a hybrid of four languages and hand gestures. It was a profoundly beautiful experience.
AP: That is being creative on multiple levels. Would you share a favorite writing prompt or exercise?
JQ: Say I want to write a story in which a car falls off a bridge. I draw a circle and write in the center: “car falls off bridge.” I draw eight lines coming off the circle, like a sun. On each line I write the name of a character involved: driver, passenger, boyfriend of driver, boy on tricycle who witnesses, mother of boy on tricycle, police officer, rescue diver, man fishing. I begin drafting a paragraph from the point of view of each of the eight characters. Who seems to want to tell this story? Whose voice has the most energy and heat? Sometimes the answer is multiple voices.
Even just coming up with eight characters generates ideas. Just now, when I typed “boyfriend of driver,” I wanted to write “who is waiting for her and is about to propose.” And that makes me think the passenger is the driver’s best friend, charged with getting her to the right place at the right time, who has told her friend they’re on the way to get manicures. When I typed “mother of boy on tricycle” I was tempted to fill in, “who doesn’t witness the accident, and thinks her son is making up a story about the car falling, and for years cannot understand her son’s fear of bridges.”
An Archaeology of Days contains new poetry from Vivian Shipley. Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, Vivian Shipley teaches at Southern Connecticut State University where she was named Faculty Scholar in 2000, 2005 and 2008. Her eleventh book, Perennial, was published in 2015 by Negative Capability Press and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and named the Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. The Poet, her tenth book, was published in 2015 by Louisiana Literature Press, Southeastern Louisiana University. All of Your Messages Have Been Erased (Louisiana Literature Press, SLU, 2010) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, won the Sheila Motton Book Prize from the New England Poetry Club, the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and the CT Press Club Award for Best Creative Writing. Her sixth chapbook is Greatest Hits: 1974-2010 (Pudding House Press, Youngstown, Ohio, 2010). She has received the Library of Congress’s Connecticut Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Literary Community and a Connecticut Book Award for Poetry two times. Most recently, she won the 2017-18 Steve Kowit Prize for Poetry for “Cargo” from San Diego Arts & Entertainment Guild. In 2015, she won the Hackney Literary Award for Poetry for “Foxfire.”
See Vivian read from An Archaeology of Days by watching the videos below:
About Annette’s Poems
What is the word I want, I ask myself, to describe the unique quality I find in each of the poems by Annette Allen? What is it that she does in poem after poem that both amazes and satisfies me?
Lying in bed in the dark and the quiet, body at ease, and mind at rest alone with itself, I find myself wanting the simple and true word, a sort of key that unlocks the treasure chest of her achievement, poem after poem.
And I find it.
Each poem is a gathering.
They are gatherings.
[Later, I will think “gatherings like a granary.”]
Each poem embraces complexity, and through memory and abstraction, past and present, through comparison and contrast, through perceiving how each moment is inhabited by complexity—both what it is and what it is not—there is not mere reconciliation but celebration—the celebration of what is.
In what is, Annette Allen gives us both what was, (AND, here’s the miracle:)
and what ever shall be.
Why? And how?
The answer to both questions is the same: in her work, she has unified craft and intuition, intellect and emotion, call and response, and the result is the creation of art. Art that partakes of the eternal.
The mastery of, the achieve of, (as Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in his poem “The Windhover”) the thing I’m calling ART. In poem after poem, her poems, the artifact of the poem rides the air. It holds us miraculously aloft in the moment. It defies the forces that would bring us down and leave us shattered. She shows us how to soar above individual pain and gigantic atrocity.
One may need to read these poems more than once. So what? They stand there, sculptures of the airy word, beautiful and replete with meaning, lighted from within, waiting for thee.
--Sena Jeter Naslund
Author of Ahab’s Wife; Four Spirits;
The Fountain of St. James Court, or Portrait of the Artist
as an Old Woman
100 Word Short Story Contest
Join us in a celebration of short short stories. Top three winning submissions will have their work featured on our website and receive cash prizes: 1st - $100, 2nd - $30, 3rd- $20. Five honorable mentions will also be featured on the website. Submit each 100 word (exact) short short story separately. Include a brief third-person bio in the cover letter portion. Submission fee $3 per story. Limit three submissions. Contest is open until October 31, 2019.
Carlos Dews (1963-), born in Nacogdoches, Texas, holds an M.A. and Ph.D in American Literature (University of Minnesota) and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing (The New School). He is a noted scholar of American novelist Carson McCullers, having written a dissertation on and later edited her autobiography, published as Illumination continue reding...
1st Place - Kate Mildew
Kate Mildew is a writer, youth worker, and drummer based in Toronto. She writes about money, disability, work, illness, rocks, nuclear waste, parenthood and more. Kate has self-published two comic books and half a dozen poetry zines and chapbooks. Recently you can find her writing in the 'Music Men Ruined for Me' collection, issue 8 of Feelings Journal and issue 3 of A Velvet Giant. Kate writes the monthly poetry newsletter Accumulation.
Continue to her poetry and other place holders from the contest..