Next month Little Patuxent Review will release its Winter Issue 2019. In this post we ask one of LPR’s fiction readers, Kathryn Wilson, some questions about her experiences as a writer.
Kathryn Wilson is a fourth-generation West Virginian and graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program. Her work has been featured in Fluent, The Appalachian Writers Anthology, and Welter. She lives in Maryland, where she is currently at work on her first short story collection, No More Nowhere.
Q: How is work going on your short story collection, No More Nowhere?
Very slowly. I find that I do a lot of collecting—kind of absorbing—sounds, sights, feelings that become a part of my stories. Then I have a short burst of intense work where I get most of it done. I’ve had to learn that this is the way I work despite it looking like I’m not working most of the time, and that I just need to do what I can to make those short periods of work more fruitful as best I can.
The collection I’m working on is linked flash-fiction pieces divided into three distinct sections: the first is the story of a young girl growing up in a family of snake handlers in southern West Virginia, the second is a revenge story of a woman hunting for her kidnapped sister in a post-apocalyptic ravaged version of the Appalachian mountain range, and the third is still in a very nebulous, abstract place but is steeped in the spirituality and obsession with the occult that enthralls generations of Appalachians.
The first section is a revised version of my graduate thesis, the second is one I’ve been working on for the past year, and the third part remains to be sorted out. Like most writers, I find it hard to carve out time to write with all the daily obligations I face. But I have faith in my process and those little bursts of hard work. The stories you carry inside will always find a way to emerge.
Q: How do you balance your creative writing with you professional editing, which is in legal marketing?
I am fortunate enough to have an hour-long lunch each day, so I spend a lot of that time writing down ideas or observations. Or I use the time to read craft essays. One of the best I’ve read recently is “Place” by Dorothy Allison. Place is extremely important to my work because most of it is set in a re-imagined version of where I grew up, in a holler in West Virginia.
I also always carry a notebook of some kind, and can’t recommend this enough. I remember what my mentor Kellie Wells told me: if you’re a writer, you’re always writing. Whether it’s just sitting and observing people or sketching out a plot in your head, you cannot separate this aspect of yourself from everyday life. Don’t feel guilty when it seems like everything else in your life comes first. Remember this inseparable part of yourself and know it’s there and always will be.
Q: Why did you decide to become a reader for LPR this fall?
Editing is my passion almost as much as writing is, and I try to seek out these opportunities whenever possible. Through pure serendipity I met Lisa Lynn Biggar, the fiction editor, and she offered me a spot on the team. I am so thankful to her for taking me on.
I love being able to see work come in and to delve into it immediately. There are so many beautiful things being sent to us: so many different voices and styles. It’s a powerful feeling to dip into this sea of stories. There is so much out there.
Q: It’s only been a few months, but has being on the selection side of things given you any new insights into what makes a good submission?
For me to love a story and really vouch for it, I have to feel it. In my gut, in my spine, in my heart—it has to affect me in some way. It’s trite, but I can’t think of a better way to say it: I have to be transported completely out of the present and put into the story. To stop hearing the noises around me, stop having thoughts about chores I need to do, to just be completely absorbed in the story and forget everything else. It’s what I first felt as a child, and it’s the feeling I always look for when I’m choosing what goes into the magazine.
Q: Any other final comments for us or advice for writers you’ve learned the hard way?
One piece of advice that meant a lot to me came from another one of my grad school mentors, Jack Driscoll. He said, good writing will always find a home. I firmly believe this. If your heart is in it, if you put in the hard work, if you edit judiciously, your work will find a home. Don’t give up. Learn from your rejections and make it a point to do better next time. And also remember that sometimes a rejection comes down to space: literary magazines have very limited space to work with and the choices we make can be very difficult. Keep doing the good work, and never stop submitting.