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inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #0 of 70: Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 27 Mar 03 11:17
    
Kelly Link's collection, "Stranger Things Happen", was a Firecracker
nominee, a Village Voice Favorite Book and a Salon Book of the Year.  Salon
called the collection "...an alchemical mixture of Borges, Raymond Chandler,
and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."  Stories from the collection have won the
Nebula, the James Tiptree Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards.  More recent
stories have appeared in Conjunctions and McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of
Thrilling Tales.

Kelly lives in Northampton, MA, and is currently working on a new collection
of stories. Kelly and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, publish a twice-yearly
zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and were recently selected by Terri
Windling and James Frenkel as the new co-editors (with Ellen Datlow) of the
Year's Best Fantasy and Horror.

Coincidentally, Gavin J. Grant will be interviewing Kelly.  Gavin is the
publisher of Small Beer Press and editor and publisher of Lady Churchill's
Rosebud Wristlet, a twice-yearly small press zine.  Fiction from LCRW has
been reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror; Small Beer Press books
have been chosen as Best of the Year by Salon, Book Magazine, The Village
Voice, Locus, and other magazines.  Originally from Scotland, Gavin moved to
the USA in 1991.  He lives in Northampton, MA, with his wife, Kelly Link,
and is trying to balance freelancing, Small Beer Press, and renovating an
old farmhouse.

Please welcome Kelly and Gavin for an intimate discussion of writing,
editing, publishing, and home improvement!
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #1 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 06:32
    
Thanks for the great intro, Martha!

This might be a little strange, since Kelly is actually sitting across
from me right now, but we will try and keep the interview electronic.

Kelly, here's an easy one to start with. In Martha's introduction she
says you're working on a new collection of short stories, what does
that mean? What are you working on?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #2 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 07:44
    
Thanks, Martha, for putting this together.

Okay, before I answer Gavin's question, maybe I should set the scene.
Gavin and I are both in the same office, in our new house -- the office
is just slightly smaller than our old apartment in Brooklyn was. We
spend all our time in here: we have a sofa in here, and a woodstove,
and a large-ish mini-trampoline, which my brother just sent me. Lots of
temporary brick and board bookshelves, and a table, which I'm typing
at. I can hear Gavin typing away at the desk behind me, and Missy
Elliott is on the stereo.

So. What I'm working on is more short stories. I'm working on a
haunted house story w/ rabbits, and a smaller, looser story that comes
from hearing a selection from a series of interviews on NPR -- what I
remember is the question "And who will be fired from the cannon?" And
the answer was "My brother will be fired from the cannon." So that's my
starting place. Every time I work on the haunted house story, I add a
few more sentences to the cannon story. I've never tried to work on two
stories simultaneously, but for a while it was actuallly three
stories, the third being a story about a convenience store & zombies.
But I've more or less finished that one.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #3 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 07:52
    
The Missy CD was inside another CD box. I figured it was as good a way
as any to wake up.

Ghosts seem to inhabit quite a few of your stories (I'm thinking of
"The Specialist's Hat," "Louise's Ghost," and "Carnation, Lily, Lily,
Rose"). What is it about ghosts that keeps you going back to them? Is
it the thought of dying? Is it things beyond our control? Or...?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #4 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 08:29
    
Hmm.  I haven't thought about this very much. Or rather, I probably
have thought about it, and then forgotten that I've thought about it.

I think one thing, maybe, is that we are all inhabited by our own
ghosts. That is, we are ghosts as much as we're living, walking,
talking, physically present people. We haunt our own bodies, we fail to
communicate with ourselves and with other people.

And of course the other thing is that no one knows what happens when
we die. Hopefully, it's strange and interesting and there are still
libraries.

I've always loved ghost stories best of every kind of possible story. 
I grew up reading those Helen Hoke anthologies of ghost stories, and
Joan Aiken collections, and M. R. James, and Robert Westall. I used to
scare myself to sleep.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #5 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Fri 28 Mar 03 08:43
    
I know you want me to ask about what you're reading. I wasn't going
to, but since this will go on for two weeks and that's a lot of books
in Kelly-time (she reads pretty fast) perhaps asking this question a
couple of times is appropriate. I -- and hopefully other people, too --
will get back to the haunting our own bodies later. So what are you
reading right now? And, of all the books in stacks (a lot of shelving
still to be built...) around the house, why those?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #6 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 09:20
    
I love to be asked what I'm reading. It makes me feel slightly more
virtuous about the fact that I spend too much time reading, and not
enough time doing other things, as if my answers might come in handy.

What I'm reading now :

M. John Harrison's collection, _Things That Never Happen_

the new McSweeney's magazine, The Believer

Edward Ardizzone, _Sketches for Friends_

Jincy Willett, _Jenny and the Jaws of Life_

China Mieville, _The Tain_

Richard Morgan, _Altered Carbon_

Norah Labiner, _Miniatures_

Susan Stinson, _Martha Moody_

The Richard Morgan is fun, but I keep putting it down and forgetting
where exactly I've put it down. _The Tain_ is wonderful, and last night
before I fell asleep I read Harrison's short story "Egnaro," which is
absolutely wonderful. So is his story "The Incalling," which is kind of
Robert Aickman-y. Jincy Willett is wonderful too.

And there's a used bookstore in Northampton where all the books are
only three or four dollars, so I've just bought a hardcover copy of
Jayne Loader's collection _Wild America_, and also_Taylor's Guide to
Heirloom Vegetables_. I want to grow lots and lots of tomatoes this
summer.

And I've just finished reading Kate Atkinson's collection, _Not the
End of the World_ and am filled with admiration for the way in which
she manages to mention "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in almost every
single story -- I guess it's appropriate in a collection with that
title. I've also just read a galley of Kevin Brockmeier's novel, _The
Truth About Celia_, which I loved. His collection, _Things That Fall
From the Sky_ ,came out last year, and I found a copy of it at the
Strand. I don't know where I've put it, though.

We're building bookcases right now, and laying down floor, and
painting various rooms, so most of the stacks of books around the house
are temporary stacks. Books appear and then disappear and then appear
again. They migrate from room to room. I'm not reading things straight
through right now -- I become distracted by the news, and put the
current book down, and wander away. So I guess I should also mention
that I'm reading lots of newspapers online -- Salon, of course, and
also The Guardian and The Independent.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #7 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Fri 28 Mar 03 10:04
    
One more thing, on the subject of ghost stories, while I'm thinking
about them. I think reading fiction is a very ghostly experience.
You're reading about people who don't really exist -- they're
imitations of life -- written about by a person whom you usually don't
know, and who doesn't know you. So it's a very weird kind of
communication, like a seance, only usually without the dramatic
lighting effects and the handholding, and hopefully without the
ectoplasm. I'm not really sure who's the ghost here -- the reader, who
participates in the story without ever being able to physically
manifest themselves in it?  The writer, who has moved on to the next
world? The story itself, and all the characters in it? All different
kinds of ghosts, I think.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #8 of 70: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 28 Mar 03 12:07
    
Ah, nice.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #9 of 70: William H. Dailey (whdailey) Fri 28 Mar 03 15:54
    
Dear Kelly

Please see http://www.cheniere.org

It may seem to be fantasy  but it is real.  The author has some things
to say about the afterlife that may interest you.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #10 of 70: Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 28 Mar 03 17:28
    

        Make sure you don't put the trampoline in your front yard;  
attractive nuisance and all that.
        I really liked =Stranger Things Happen= a lot. [One of the nice
surprises in it was the mention of the "Reverend Walker Skating" picture,
because years ago Mom returned from a vacation stop in Edinburgh with a
print of that as a gift for us, and it's been by the front door since.]
        My question for now is: how much Borges and Chandler have you 
read? Any favorites?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #11 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Sat 29 Mar 03 11:10
    
I love that painting. I found a tie with lots of little Reverend
Walkers skating across it in the gift shop at the National Gallery, and
bought it for Gavin. He's worn it with his kilt a few times, although
the tie is blue and the kilt is red.

I've read a lot of Borges, and some Chandler -- not as much Chandler.
I like the idea of hardboiled better than I ever like hardboiled, but
then again, my tastes will probably evolve into Chandler at some
point...

A few years ago I read Jen Banbury's _Like a Hole in the Head_ which
was like Chandler, but goofier. The details about working in bookstores
were spot-on. 
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #12 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Sat 29 Mar 03 13:36
    
It's hard to get a good tie to go with a bright red kilt. I like
strong colors together, though. Sometimes. When I'm not wearing all
those earth'n'hemp tones.

So, ghosts. Do you think the ghosts of your former (and future?)
selves inhabit or inflect your writing? 
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #13 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Sun 30 Mar 03 06:24
    
Sorry, I don't understand the question.  Maybe after I've eaten
breakfast...
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #14 of 70: Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 30 Mar 03 22:11
    
That's a big breakfast!
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #15 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 06:37
    
You know breakfast on a Sunday.... It becomes brunch -- OT question:
why are the first pancakes or crepes not as good as the rest?

I don't think when we write we're fully based in the present. There
are memories of previous stories we've written and read, ideas we hope
to explore, future events we're curious about (or want to avoid). 

What I was trying to do was use the word "ghost/s" to ask if your
former self/selves and ideas about where you might be in the future
influence your present-day writing?

PS This isn't a yes/no question!
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #16 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:11
    
I'm actually very fond of the first, exploratory crepe or pancake, but
then I also really like the chocolate chip cookies that end up
well-done.

I'm going to have to pass on that question.  I think my answer is yes,
and no, and also, what? 
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #17 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:16
    
Ah well, onto other perhaps easier things. These questions being the
second crepe, as it were, of the batch.

Besides writing, you've been doing a fair amount of editing recently
-- and it only looks to increase in the future. So, a couple of
questions: 

-- are you worried at all that more editing = less writing?  

-- what do you enjoy about editing? Are you a demon copyeditor or it
is the larger view that you enjoy?

-- Now that the anthology you've been editing (Trampoline, July 2003)
is almost done, what has been the difference between editing a zine
(Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet) and a book?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #18 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:48
    
I suspect that I'll always be more of a reader than a writer. As I've
said, this may just be laziness on my part. Writing is odd, slow work
-- I'm trying to get more stories written, and to get out and write
more, but it feels like tickling trout. I don't work very efficiently,
even when I'm having fun. So I don't really worry that I won't get as
much writing done because I'm doing more editing, because I don't
really get all that much writing done anyway.

I like copyediting, and looking at stories on a sentence-by-sentence
level. I like talking to writers about their work.  I have very mixed
feelings about asking for significant rewrites -- most of the time, i
think writers know better than editors what their stories are about,
and how they should be put together. Even line-editing can be a kind of
tampering.

I like figuring out story order -- putting together an anthology has
been a lot like putting together a mix tape for a friend.  The
difference between LCRW and Trampoline is that the production values
are better, and the print run will be slightly higher (2,000 copies vs.
700 copies). If we can break even on Trampoline, then we'll put out
more anthologies of original work.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #19 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:52
    
>and how they should be put together. Even line-editing can be a kind
of tampering.

I know you've taught writing and partake in writing workshops. Do you
approach stories differently if you are the editor than if you are in a
workshop with a writer? 
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #20 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:57
    
Are production values really the only difference? Were your standards
at all different? Did you consider including nonfiction? Did you
consider the wider audience this collection will have?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #21 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Mon 31 Mar 03 09:58
    
And now that we're talking of Trampolines ("A trampoline in every
home!"), why don't you tell us something about it?

Anthologies are interesting beasts. At bookshop readings I love to sit
next to the anthology section (I think my favorite was at Shaman Drum
in Ann Arbor, MI) and look at all the fantastic collections. There is
so much work put into them -- I don't mean that in any way
disingenuously -- and I wonder why people do them for the tiny return
(yes financially, but also respect, response, etc). Your thoughts?
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #22 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 08:41
    
>I know you've taught writing and partake in writing workshops. Do you
approach stories differently if you are the editor than if you are in
a workshop with a writer?

Of course it's different as an editor -- and it's probably another
degree of difference, being an editor who also writes: I'm both more
likely to feel that I know how to really polish someone else's writing,
because I write myself, and also more likely to feel that tampering
with someone's work is risky and invasive, and that the author probably
knows what they want the story to be. 
And then again, as a writer, I have the contradictory and sneaking
suspicion that sometimes the writer has hold of a good stick by the
wrong end, and that a good editor would point this out.

Workshops are another kind of beast. Frequently the work that you're
looking at is a draft, rather than a finished story. The author may be
hoping for drastic suggestions or critiques. And there are all
different kinds of workshops -- sometimes, in peer workshops, it's less
a matter of taking a story apart to see how to make it better, and
more a case of disassembling to see why it works so well.

I went to Clarion, a 6 week genre workshop, in 1995. I taught there
two years ago, and will be teaching there this summer. I'm a graduate
of an MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I
work for an online writing workshop.  I'm a big believer that workshops
are good for writers, although the benefits are not necessarily the
obvious ones. I think you learn more from reading and talking about
other people's stories than you do from getting feedback on your own
work.  It can be hard to take in what the workshop says to you, when
you're still trying to work through the story yourself, and haven't
gotten any critical distance from it.

A good workshop learns how to read each other's work, and doesn't
apply a one-size-fits-all style of critique. You don't want to make
everyone's stories sound the same. Over time, writers in workshops
learn to how to listen to critiques, and figure out who they should pay
attention to. You can actually make even bad advice useful, if you
spend enough time figuring out how and why that advice puts up your
hackles. And the more you read -- the more widely and carefully you
read --  you take all that back to your own writing.

Then again, workshops are horrible for some writers. Hopefully you
figure that out fairly quickly.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #23 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 08:53
    
Back to Trampoline and LCRW:

>Are production values really the only difference? Were your standards
at all different? Did you consider including nonfiction? Did you
consider the wider audience this collection will have?

Sure, the standards were slightly different. The policy for LCRW has
always been that we would take interesting work, even if it had flaws
-- as long as they were interesting flaws. We've also published a fair
number of debut stories. But there have also been stories that we fell
in love with, and couldn't believe we had gotten our hands on. That's
why we started LCRW, because there didn't seem to be a consistent
market for some of the kinds of stories that you and I both love.

There are two stories in forthcoming issues of LCRW that I very badly
wish we could have published in TRAMPOLINE -- one by Jan Lars Jensen,
and the other a story co-written by Philip Raines and Hervey Welles.
But there wasn't space.

As for audience, again, it's like making a mix tape for an imaginary
friend. All the stories in TRAMPOLINE are stories that I wanted to put
into people's hands, and say, read this. You have got to read this.
Conventional wisdom says that short story collections don't sell a lot
of copies, and that original anthologies sell even less. So I don't
know about the audience -- it may very well be imaginary.

And there's no poetry or nonfiction in TRAMPOLINE, which is another
difference between it and LCRW. I didn't really think about including
it. I'd like to publish more poetry.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #24 of 70: Kelly Link (kellylink) Tue 1 Apr 03 09:20
    
>Anthologies are interesting beasts. At bookshop readings I love to
sit next to the anthology section (I think my favorite was at Shaman
Drum in Ann Arbor, MI) and look at all the fantastic collections. There
is so much work put into them -- I don't mean that in any way
disingenuously -- and I wonder why people do them for the tiny return
(yes financially, but also respect, response, etc). Your thoughts?

TRAMPOLINE is the result of _Stranger Things Happen_ selling a certain
amount of copies. Once STH had made enough money, we could finance an
anthology. The goal is always to break even, or do slightly better, so
that we can put the next two books out.

As for the tiny return, very few writers get much money or response to
their work. Editors get even less. But who cares? I can't think of
anything better than getting to write what I want to write, publish
writers that I love, and have a career where I'm supposed to read
everything that I can.

When I was growing up, I had huge crushes on writers like Joan Aiken
and Joyce Ballou Gregorian and Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones and
Saki and Alfred Payson Terhune, etc. I wouldn't ever have written fan
letters to them -- I was shy. I'm sure I must have had a very active
imaginary life, in which I met them and said intelligent things, and
showed them stories that I'd written, and they were absolutely knocked
over by my blazing talent -- but I was also smart enough to know that
this was the most ridiculous kind of wish fulfillment, and real life
didn't work that way.

So it's kind of strange to have met writers whose work I love, and
find out that they've read my work as well. Being a reader is a weird
thing. You have a relationship with the author, because you have read
their work. Frequently that work reflects something life in general, or
about your life -- you feel that they know you, but of course they
don't. So it's odd when you meet writers out in public places -- it can
be like meeting a good friend who has absolutely no memory of your
friendship. I'm still shy around writers, who are friends, who have
written books that I love.

I'm completely off-topic now, but what I was trying to get around to
saying is that I didn't expect my life to work out like this. I knew
that most writers never got published. I knew that even wonderful books
didn't necessarily sell more than a couple of hundred titles. I knew
writers -- esp. short story writers -- didn't make a living at writing
(I don't make my living from writing short stories, by the way -- I
have lots of freelance jobs). I knew that even when editors loved
books, they didn't necessarily get to publish them. But despite knowing
all of this, things have worked out fairly well. I worry about this.
Things are going far too well.
  
inkwell.vue.179 : Kelly Link: "Stranger Things Happen"
permalink #25 of 70: Gavin Grant (gavingrant) Tue 1 Apr 03 10:20
    
So what kind of freelance jobs do you do. And, since we're in the
realms of the fantastic here, what kind of freelance -- or other --
jobs would you like to do?
  

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