Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with JoAnna Wool

JoAnna Wool’s short story “Vacation” appeared in the twentieth-anniversary issue of Lake Affect magazine. Her story “The Babies” will appear in autumn of 2018 in The Boston Review. She studied creative writing at Boston University, has taught writing at several Boston-area colleges and universities, and is currently writing a novel. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Wool’s short story, “The Other Mia,” appeared in LPR’s Summer Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link). She read an excerpt at our issue launch in June (video below).

Q: Because of time constraints, you weren’t able to read your whole short story at our launch. Did the excerpts read differently to you as pieces and out loud?

Not being able to read the whole story was less of an issue for me than the fact that I couldn’t read from the beginning. The opening of the story is very quiet, and also just too long, and it wouldn’t have had any impact at all if I hadn’t read the whole section. So, I read a section from the middle, and although I believe it stood on its own, I ended up suspecting that the audience—engaged and attentive as it was—didn’t appreciate the significance of certain developments. That’s probably inevitable because of the type of story it is; it’s only by reading the story that you’d be able to see clearly how the magical realist doppelganger plot of the story relates to and propels its parallel plot, which centers on how Mia feels about her inability to have children.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for writers who have to give summaries about their work in the context of a reading? I imagine it must be frustrating because you wrote the story as an integrated whole.

My best advice is to read from the beginning! If a summary is absolutely necessary, I think it’s best to focus on your characters and themes at least as much as you do on the plot, so that the audience understands the deeper meaning of the action in the passage that you read. Of course, that only increases the challenge of writing a summary of reasonable length.

Q: We’re honored that you came all the way from Boston for the launch. Why was coming to the launch important to you?

I always welcome the chance to meet other artists. I wanted to meet the contributors and I liked the idea of meeting them in the context of a reading. I did very much enjoy that. On another note, I’d never been to LPR’s part of the country before and I thought it would be an adventure to visit, which it was—not least because of the torrential rainfall on the day of the launch.

Q: What did you think of the other readings? Maybe you could pick out a favorite?

I was impressed by the quality and range of the work included in the issue. The piece that came to my mind first when I read this question, and the piece that jumped out for me at the reading, was Faye McCray’s “Virgin in Harlem.” I think the poem speaks on many levels. In reading the issue, I also found Casey McConahay’s “Emma Watson is More Beautiful than Anyone” really absorbing.

Q: What are you working on now? Can you share a bit about the novel?

The novel I’m working on is called THE STRANGER INSIDE. It’s magical realism, like my story, but more of a contemporary fairy tale. It’s also set in Boston. In it, a mysterious, magical gentleman puts young lovers Jasmine and Alec to the test: if they are to be allowed to live happily ever after, they must help another young couple, Felicia and Schuy, find happiness as well. To help Felicia make decisions that will bring her happiness, Jasmine is sent where she will have the most influence over her—inside her mind—and Alec is sent inside Schuy’s mind to influence him.

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