Monday, May 12, 2014

Interview with Steve Bogdaniec

"Find a Way," by Staci Schoenfeld.
Co-ed Bethany Brownholtz selected Steve Bogdaniec's "The Honour of Your Presence" for last week's spotlight piece. This week, she interviews him about his writing style.

Art this week is by Staci Schoenfeld.

BB: You’re recently engaged. Do you view "In Honour of Your Presence" differently now? If so, why?

SB: No, my attitude hasn’t changed. Fortunately, I’m marrying someone who, like me, doesn’t want many of the trappings of a big wedding. I’m sure I will still end up grousing about how much this costs or that costs, but that’s my nature.


BB: I love the title and how it contrasts with the narrator’s true thoughts. Do our unspoken tensions become guests in and of themselves at marriage celebrations?

SB: Probably? I think weddings and funerals bring out the worst in people. Really though, I picked the title when I found out that was how you were supposed to begin formal wedding invitations, even if you don’t actually speak British English, because it’s “fancy.” That says a lot to me about expensive weddings and the people behind them.

BB: The piece takes a more serious/nostalgic turn towards the end (i.e. “I envy you sometimes”, “be honest: weren’t we happier?”, etc.) The reader also gets a glimpse into the narrator’s life. Can you explain this choice?

"Into the Past," by Staci Schoenfeld
SB: Well, this started as a complaint by the couple that they had to invite some horrible distant relative just to make someone else happy, but then I realized that the in-laws officially send out the invitations. That led to the bride’s father as the narrator. From there, I saw the narrator softening about the relative towards the end, almost apologizing to him for involving him in this annoying wedding by hitting him up for a check. That led me to imagine the past between the narrator and the relative, a time when the furthest thing from the narrator’s mind was paying too much for his daughter’s wedding invitations.

BB: I always enjoy your writing for its unpretentious, funny qualities. Why are you drawn to this style?

SB: I reject the notion that literary writing needs to be dour, miserable, and above all else, deadly serious in order to be embraced. Besides not being what interests me personally, there are millions of people out there already writing about broken relationships and painful lives in hushed, melancholy tones. Why write a story about a father complaining about how much his daughter’s wedding costs and having to reach out to relatives that he really doesn’t want to in the same way everyone else would?

BB: What would be your advice to writers trying to mimic your writing style? How does one create work that is both intelligent and unpretentious?

SB: Don’t! It’s mine! Seriously, just try to tell stories differently—I really think it’s the formulas that are the most pretentious. You still have to have a story and characters and tension and all that, but you don’t have to follow the formulas you learned in school or in workshops. And if someone in a workshop tells you that what you’ve written is cool but doesn’t follow their idea of what a story is, latch onto it. You may have something.

BB: What is next for you creatively and professionally?


"Barbed Ascent," by Staci Schoenfeld
SB: I want to keep writing short fiction and a novel or two. Also, I want to keep experimenting with different forms of fiction. Do you think Blood Lotus would publish a story made out of fake Nutrition Facts and ingredients?

Blood Lotus: If it's good. :) Thanks, Steve!

About the artist: Staci R. Schoenfeld is an MFA candidate in poetry at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Managing Poetry Editor at Revolution House. Her photographs have been published in Mountain Record and as the cover image of A.D. Fallon’s book of poems Universe of Discourse (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her poems appear in or are forthcoming from Accents Publishing’s Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology of Very Short Poems, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Nervous Breakdown, The Chaffey Review, diode poetry journal, Bellevue Literary Review, New Plains Review, and Rougarou, among others.

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