Annie Liontas’ debut novel, LET ME EXPLAIN YOU, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2015. Her story “Two Planes in Love” was selected as runner-up in BOMB Magazine’s 2013 Fiction Prize Contest. Since 2003, Annie has been dedicated to urban education, working with teachers and youth in Newark and Philadelphia. Currently she co-hosts the TireFire Reading Series. She lives with her wife in Philadelphia across the street from the best pizza joint [22:38].
“I worked on it for about three years, but it was during my MFA so in people years, that would have been like five [years].”
“I think all writers… are looking to get blessed or christened. And like, no one really does that.”
On her MFA program…
“Syracuse is wonderful, in that they help support you. You don’t get in there for the contacts. And, you know, nothing is guaranteed. But it was really the relationships that I developed that led to this fortuitous thing.”
On the editing process…
“I found everyone at Scribner to be really in support of the work and not wanting to water it down or change it. It felt like they took the book on because they believed in it and everything they did would only make it better and I should stop being so precious…for me that was such a pleasant experience.”
On the Philadelphia Literary Scene…
“If you’re a writer and you don’t want to be in Brooklyn, then you should probably move to Philly.”
Stephanie Reents is the author of The Kissing List (Hogarth, 2012). Her work has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Best of the West, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Denver Quarterly, among other places, and been noted in Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize. She earned her MFA from University of Arizona and has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, a Stegner Fellowship, and a MacColl Johnson Fellowship for fiction from the Rhode Island Foundation. An Associate Professor of English at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, Stephanie lives in Cranston, RI with her husband and multiple cats.
“I was sifting through the stories on my hard drive–because I didn’t want to start working something new–seeing if there was anything partially finished that I could attempt to finish. I realized that I had been writing a number of stories about young women, without being fully cognizant of it, and it suddenly made sense to me: Why don’t I have a collection of stories about young women figuring out that decade after they graduate from college?”
“It wasn’t a collection of interconnected stories. The connecting of the stories didn’t happen until after the collection had been acquired by the publisher. My editor suggested that I try connecting the stories, which was very psychologically challenging.”
On writing mystical, unreal stories…
“Any writer knows that you have to use your own life for scale… We use the places we know, and we use some of the experiences we’ve had, to create the texture of verisimilitude or believability in a story or novel. So, I definitely draw from experiences I’ve had or places I’ve lived in order to make things feel believable, to give the story the texture of something that’s real, even if it’s obviously not real.” Continue reading →
If you’re wondering what to read this summer, you’ve tuned into the right podcast. We’re excited to have Boris Fishman joining us today to talk about his debut novel, The Replacement Life, out from HarperCollins on June 3rd. It’s a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for the summer, and having recently finished the book myself, I heartily agree with that choice!
Boris was born in Minsk, in the former Soviet Union, in 1979, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. He received a degree in Russian Literature from Princeton University, and an MFA in Fiction from New York University, where he was a New York Times Foundation Fellow. The list of residences and fellowships he’s received includes the New York Foundation of the Arts, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in Northern California. Boris’s journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker,The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, Harper’s, Vogue, The London Review of Books, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, but has also supported his writing by working as a hiking guide, a farm laborer, a market researcher, and the editorial director of a tech start-up. But today he’s here to talk about writing fiction. (29:39)
“You work alone in a room, day in and day out, for three years, and then your agent calls you one day and says that HarperCollins wants to issue a preempt offer for this novel… It’s meant to reflect the enthusiasm of the house for the book. To get any offer at all would have been incredibly affirming after three years of uphill climbing. Years that, I want to point out, were filled with no after no.”
“Even when I was getting said no to… it was still kind of amazing that the answer wasn’t, I don’t think this could sell. The answer was, I need to be on fire about this, and because I’m not, I regretfully have to turn it away… So, even though the answer was no, it’s wonderful to be part of a business where the heart is deciding along with the mind and the wallet.”
“You’re calling me on a very significant day. Just this very morning I finished revising my second novel. So, I will be having a drink later.”
“I’m just about fully secular, however, I feel profoundly Jewish… I grew up in a very secular country. So, where I connect to Jewishness is the literature, the culture, the history, the humor, the language, the inflection, the grammar, the way of speaking.”
“Everyone agrees that money can’t restitute suffering, and yet the slate is expected to be wiped clean after [restitution is made]. One of the amazing things about Germany, at least for me as a Jew, and as the grandson of a survivor, is that this country has continued to remember its responsibility and to commemorate long after it satisfied its monetary obligations, such as they are.”
“I’m the child of immigrants; it would be so awesome if I were interested in something more stable and lucrative than writing fiction. So, even as there’s [one eye on] MFA world, the other eye is swiveling around looking for other opportunities. It’s a blessing that they came along relatively rarely.”
“I’m the one-man MFA-defense army. It’s so fashionable to knock MFAs these days. In my case, it was essential. It provided structure that I didn’t have, deadlines… It made me interested in discipline in a way I hadn’t been previously. I did not start writing every day until I started my MFA. Like a job, every morning, Monday through Friday.”
Who’s Who & Books
Bernard Malamud — An American novelist and short story writer whose “gorgeously mangled syntax” inspired Boris in his writing of The Replacement Life.