Tag Archives: Christopher Linforth

The Final Ten Months of the M.F.A.

18 Sep

August:

“So, you’ll be applying for a job, then?” my friend says to me.

I cough up a little beer as I process his words. I’m heading into the last year of my M.F.A., and have a few things to show for it: teaching experience, a handful of connections, a few publications here and there, an annoying sense there’s another thousand folks in the same position as me, researching the same jobs and fellowships.

“Sure, maybe. I don’t know,” I tell him and change the conversation, to something about the glossy beach volleyball pulsing on the TV.

“I thought you wanted to be a professor,” he says, a wry smile appearing on his face.

Draining the last of my Sam Adams, I consider the previous two years: multiple workshops, pedagogy classes, twice serving as Fiction Editor for The Minnesota Review, a journal with deep Marxist roots.

“Something like that,” I confess, “a writer really.”

He emits a skeptical huff and stares blankly into his pint glass. “So, how’s your book going?”

“Yeah, O.K., I guess.”

I’ve spent the summer editing my thesis—a collection of twenty-two stories, ranging in length from a single page to twenty-five—wondering how I’d let slip all those weak verbs (put, took, placed, looked) and nondescript nouns (food, car, tree) get by me. Even though some of the stories have been published, I’ve since detected gaping holes in some of the plots, and been transfixed at a couple of clichéd endings, and then late at night slapped my own forehead due to several “dramatic” conversations. For months, I’ve re-fashioned the stories, and recently I’ve been thinking Hey, this is pretty good. I like this. I’d buy this collection. Snap it up! Some days, though, I fear I’ve just been sticking Band-Aids over the vapid themes and the fudged lyrical sentences. In the next couple of weeks I have to hand in a draft to my advisor. Secretly, I hope she’s going to rip it apart, slap down the botched characterizations, and draw interrobangs next to the wooden dialogue. God knows it needs a reality check.

“Another?” I say to my friend, and try to catch the eye of the barman.

“Sure,” he says, grinning, “and then we can toast to your future success.”

Christopher Linforth is the previous  fiction editor of the minnesota review and a fiction candidate in Virginia Tech’s MFA program. He has work published in Denver Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, and other literary journals.

An Interview with Mike Dockins

24 Apr

Mike Dockins was born in 1972 and grew up in Yonkers, New York. He holds a BS from SUNY Brockport (1999), an MFA from UMass Amherst (2002), and a Ph.D. from Georgia State (2010). His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, Quarterly West, Indiana Review, PANK, and in the 2007 edition of The Best American Poetry. His critically acclaimed first book, Slouching in the Path of a Comet (Sage Hill Press, 2007) is anticipating a third print run. Mike’s also a singer-songwriter. Fame For Zoe, the latest full-length album from his acoustic-pop duo Clop, is available on iTunes.

Interviewed by Christopher Linforth

So, why poetry?

Clichéd as it may be, what most directly inspired me to want to be a writer was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which I read when I was 20. At first, of course, I imitated, and wound up with a pile of useless prose warblings. About five years later, I started really appreciating poetry, thanks to en exposure to Pablo Neruda and also the contemporary poet Gary Soto. Both gave me a sense of the importance of concrete imagery, and of metaphor. But I also tried to keep alive the vivacity of language (even just generally speaking) from Kerouac. At 25 I wrote what I consider to be my first “good” poem, and what was more remarkable (to me) than the poem itself was a brand-new instinct that told me that it was good. After that, I was hooked. Continue reading

An Interview with Jazzy Danziger

17 Apr

Jazzy Danziger’s debut collection, Darkroom, is the winner of the 2012 Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Danziger studied at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns/Poe-Faulkner Fellow in poetry. She currently serves as editor for the Best New Poets anthology.

Interviewed by Christopher Linforth

Continue reading

VIDA and The Minnesota Review

22 Mar

Over the last couple of years VIDA: Women in Literary Arts have been counting the woman/man ratio in literary journal publishing. Expected, or not, the results were worrisome. In many categories, and at most magazines and best of anthologies, women were constantly being marginalized as authors. So, in the spirit of transparency, here are the minnesota review’s figures from three recent issues:

Issue 77:

Creative nonfiction: 1W/0M
Fiction: 0W/2M
Poetry: 2W/9M

Issue 76:

Creative nonfiction: 0W/0M
Fiction: 1W/3M/1 Gender Neutral
Poetry: 7W/5M

Issue 75:

Creative nonfiction: 0W/0M
Fiction: 4W/0M
Poetry: 5W/9M

Drawing conclusions on such a small sample is always tenuous. In addition, the minnesota review has a revolving editorship pooled from the M.F.A. program at Virginia Tech. Therefore, tastes and preferences are constantly changing and are not consistent semester-to-semester. Nevertheless, it does seem, at the moment that we do publish more male poets. Over at the Poetry Foundation, they’ve been discussing this issue and the reasons for the imbalance. If you have any thoughts on the topic, please leave a comment below.

Christopher Linforth is the fiction editor of the minnesota review and a fiction candidate in Virginia Tech’s MFA program. He has work published in Denver Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, and other literary journals.

AWP Recap: Look Me In The Eyes, Not The Nametag!

13 Mar

Near the conference hotel, a lakefront Hilton, in a line for coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts, a young woman stares at my nametag. For what seems like a minute, her eyes are fixated on my name. She thinks: Is he a writer? Somebody I should know? Or want to know? Can he get my story/poem/manifesto published? Can he get me a six-figure book deal? Or point me to someone who is able? I blush and tuck my nametag under my shirt. Sure, I’ve had a few things published in my time, but I’m still a bottom feeder, lowest on the rung: the plaid-wearing M.F.A. student.

The hotel bar is where AWP veterans, publishing bigwigs, established poets and writers congregate on the padded leather couches. These people have made it. You can tell by the absence of a nametag. They’ve been put away. Buried in their tote bag underneath a free pile of swag. Together—in a swirling mass of ten-dollar Budweiser, warm Chardonnay, and half-hidden hip flasks—the “made-its” laugh and hug, tell stories and gossip: Is that Tao Lin in the corner? What hair product does Michael Martone use? What do you mean Poet X won the Ruth Lily?! Don’t you owe me a beer from D.C.?

I vandalize my nametag. At the McSweeney’s booth, using a No. 2 pencil, I write “Tony Morrison” above my name. I tell people: I’m the other Toni Morrison. The one with a Y; the one who didn’t attend Cornell; the one who didn’t write Beloved; the one who didn’t win the Nobel Prize; the one who didn’t teach at Princeton; the one who didn’t get paid less than Snooki; the one who didn’t avoid this conference like the plague. I’m him. Tony. You know, the one stared at by a woman in Dunkin’ Donuts; the one picking up free literary journals; the one talking to hungover editors; the one attending panels; the one hoping for insights into the machinations of the publishing world; the one flailing in the hotel bar; the one trying to marry Sandra Beasley; the one plagued by a Y. A question he’s desperately attempting to answer.

Christopher Linforth is the fiction editor of the minnesota review and a fiction candidate in Virginia Tech’s MFA program. He has work published in Denver Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, and other literary journals.

An Interview with Katie Fallon

23 Feb

Katie Fallon is the author of the nonfiction book Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird (Ruka Press, 2011). Katie’s essays have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including The Bark, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Ecotone, Appalachian Heritage, Now & Then, Isotope, Fourth River, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her essay “Hill of the Sacred Eagles” was a finalist in Terrain.org’s 2011 essay contest. Katie has taught creative writing at West Virginia University and Virginia Tech. Her first word was “bird.” Visit Katie’s website: http://www.katiefallon.com.

How did your journey with writing begin?

My mother read to me while I was in the womb. She was a librarian, and after I was born she filled my crib with books. I guess my writing future was somewhat inevitable after that early inundation. My mother tells me that I’d memorized The Tale of Peter Rabbit before I went to kindergarten, and I remember writing a poem about a bobcat in third grade. When I was twelve I wrote an obituary for my horse, J.P., and a national horse magazine published it.

Despite my childhood love of reading and writing, I began undergraduate school at Penn State as a Wildlife and Fisheries Science major; I figured I could always write, and a college degree in writing would be mostly useless. Of course, I soon switched my major to English, and I eventually pursued an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from West Virginia University. My passion for animals, wildlife, and the outdoors didn’t abate, however, and most of my writing still focuses on these subjects. Continue reading

An Interview with Rachel Ida Buff

9 Feb
Rachel Ida Buff’s essay, “Duluth,” appears in Issue 77 of the minnesota review.
Interviewed by Christopher Linforth
How long was the gestation period of “Duluth”? When did you feel this was a story that needed to be told?

“Duluth” is based on a true story, so it is about a friend I had who really did up and disappear. I wondered about that for a long time before I started to write about it. I wrote a draft of the piece about a decade ago, but I was an assistant professor at the time in a fairly hostile work environment, and I was completely in the closet about what I think of as my “real writing.”  So I only showed it to a few friends and hid it in a file in my computer. Continue reading

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