Seth Brady Tucker’s fiction has recently appeared in December, Iowa Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere, and his poetry and fiction have won awards over the years. He runs the Longleaf Writers Conference in Florida and teaches creative writing to engineers at the top-ranked Colorado School of Mines.
Tucker’s short story, “The Court of Tar and Oil,” appeared in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).
Q: I notice you’re from Wyoming. Have you ever been to Worland? My mother’s maiden name is Worland and apparently, we have some sort of family connection to the place.
What I know about Worland: there was a fight nearly every time we played them in basketball. Tough team from a tough town—all elbows and inner-city play way out there in the flat expanse of the desert plains. Their basketball court ended at a wall with a thin pad on it, and you knew you were going to get driven into it at some point in the game.
Q: The image in my mind that I have of Wyoming I got from Gretel Ehrlich’s The Solace of Open Spaces. Have you read that book? How does it correspond to your own experience?
The beauty of Wyoming is wild and terrific in the literal meaning of the word terrific; it is wide open, wind-swept, frightful, but also remarkable for some of the most rugged and lovely terrain on the planet. I was lucky to grow up in the little hamlet town of Lander, next to the Wind River Range, and most of my youth was spent working our ranch or working the mountains with my father, who was a hunting guide in the Winds for many years (and who knows about as much about those mountains as anyone alive). It made being a child tough, but I also have some rare and cherished memories of winding our way up those mountains on horseback. I haven’t read Ehrlich’s work, but Annie Prouix is a transplant to Wyoming and does a fairly good job of writing about life up there, but I have to assume that Ehrlich likely writes about how big and bright the sky is, how far one can see into the distance, the shadows of mountains always just on the horizon, the slow progression of the highways as you make your way to them; it is what I love about Wyoming–this hint of the unknown and wild and dangerous.
Q: I realize the Longleaf Writers Conference is just a week away. What’s the origin story of this conference?
This is our fifth year, and for three of those years Matt Bondurant and I have funded scholarships and fellowships for emerging poets and writers. We started with just Matt and I as faculty, then slowly started to build, bringing in writers like Andre Dubus III, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Antonya Nelson, Rebecca Makkai, David James Poissant, Chris Offutt, Jen Percy, Anton DiSclafani, and many other authors who were awarded financial aid. We are proud of the support we give our attendees, and have helped a number of them go on to publish books. We partner with Ole Miss for a couple scholarships as well, and this year we are bringing Beth Anne Fennelly and Tom Franklin and Jill McCorkle, with the help of our other partner, the Cultural Arts Alliance of South Walton. We built this conference to be small and intimate in a way that the big conferences can be overwhelming and isolating; we want beginners to feel as comfortable there as those with long histories in the workshop or academia; we bring the best writers we can who also happen to be generous and enthusiastic teachers and writers; to sum up: we write hard and beach hard. You should come next year!
Q: Are writers’ conferences something that should be on my radar as a young writer? Should I be going to things like this?
Absolutely—this is the networking of the job of being a writer—the sooner you start, the sooner you get that big break everyone wants and needs. My only regret is not going to these conferences while in grad school.
Q: You specify in your bio that you teach creative writing to engineers. What makes this student body different from any other? Has teaching writing there informed your own work? Are you working on something new right now?
I love the kids at Mines. They work hard, and even though it is a bit of a ‘sales job’ when it comes to making them appreciate the Humanities and Arts, in the end they do begin to see what it is that creative cognition practices can do for their own professions, and the communication skills they learn are in high demand in the engineering field. Not to mention, there are some wonderful writers at Mines as well, and we even have a newly developed minor in Creative Writing. I do get an inordinate amount of genre writing, especially in scifi and fantasy, but I cut my teeth on authors like Ursula K LeGuin and Margaret Atwood and Neal Stephenson, so it is a comfortable discomfort for me.
As far as my work goes: I’m always working on something, even when the semester is crushing me under a boot heel; right now I am in the final edits of my novel, “The Baptisms of Albert Shoe,” and I am anxious to get to work on the next one, which follows a soldier gone AWOL into the barren plains of Wyoming to escape his past, and where he gets embroiled in a fight between oil and wind barons. I have high hopes that I will be sending out a couple of new books into the world soon; I finished a short story collection as well as my third poetry collection about two years ago, and my agent (Alex Glass from Glass Media Management) and I are waiting to try to sell them with the novel. During the semester I mostly do touch-up work, editing and revising, and in the summers my goal is to always produce 150 pages. It sounds like I am hyper-prolific, but I just plug along; my goal day to day is 500 words, and if I get more than that I am extremely happy; after all—if you write five days a week, that is more than a novel a year. Thanks again for taking my piece in LPR!