CCLaP’s Book Tour for Jason Fisk’s “Salt Creek Anthology” is in process, and I’m honored to be included!
In case you are new to this exciting new work, here is an introduction:
A couple meet in a mental institution, have six kids, and devolve into violent alcoholism. An elderly Polish woman with Alzheimer’s goes insane in front of our eyes. A frazzled empty-nester has her bruiser son move back in, along with a scheming girlfriend planning a surprise pregnancy to get them both back out. And an abusive, overweight, racist monster of a man psychologically lords over them all, a total of twenty-odd characters all living on the same cul-de-sac in the far rural suburbs of Chicago. Welcome to the dark, poetic world of author Jason Fisk, a “micro-story” collection that breaks these families’ adventures down into a series of 75 linguistic nuggets; these are then experimentally hooked together in a non-linear fashion through literal hyperlinks within each story, letting you read them in whichever order you wish. With “Salt Creek Anthology,” tumble down that brooding, enticing rabbithole that Fisk has created on this unassuming street for yourself, and see just how far the nightmare will take you.
What follows is a conversation with Jason Fisk, the author, about his work in general, this book in particular, and various other topics of interest.
ClaritySol: You are a husband and father, you teach, you write. You have a blog and other social media outlets to feed. How do you manage to be enthusiastic about all of it? Do you have any words of advice for those to seek to gain traction on a path similar to yours?
Jason Fisk: Well, with the exception of the upkeep of the blog, and other media outlets, I honestly feel like my enthusiasm is directly connected to the fact that I’m truly passionate about my family, my teaching, and my writing, which makes the balancing of it all a lot of fun for me. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad teaching days, days that I feel like a failure as a parent, and days that it would be so much easier not to write, but I’m always back at it the next day, even when I don’t feel like it. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration; there have been weeklong stretches where I have quit writing all together, due to various reasons, but it usually weasels its way back into my life and routine.
The whole social media thing is relatively new to me too, and by relatively new, I mean less than two years on facebook. Initially, I was resistant to it, but have found it to be a wonderful and necessary resource for the promotion of my writing, which, in the world of the small presses, is sometimes exhausting in and of itsel
ClaritySol: It looks like your paths have been intertwining with CCLaP, Jason Pettus and the other writers there: Ben Tanzer, Mark Brand, Sally Wiegert and the others. How important is that to your process, to share your work with writers and to hear what they’re doing and to work with your publisher in the way that you and Jason do?
Jason Fisk: That’s a tough one to answer. My involvement with other authors has changed over the years. Writing started out as a very solitary thing for me. I’d sit at my desk, write, and send my stuff out into cyberspace and wait for a response. I would not necessarily consider myself much of an extrovert, and there is part of me that struggles with the act of social networking, especially when it feels disingenuous. I have to give credit to Ben Tanzer for opening a lot of doors to the local literary world. He actually put me in touch with Jason Pettus and CCLaP, and introduced me to different authors in the area, Mark and Sally being two of them. The actual act of writing and sharing my writing with other authors is something I’ve just started doing recently.
ClaritySol: I know one of Jason Pettus’ goals is to be responsive to the CCLaP audience – to provide what they want to read, and/or provide what they want to be challenged with.
How do you and your work fit in to those goals? What is your approach to the audience – are they part of your writing, or is your writing more a personal process?
Jason Fisk: When I write, I don’t think about audience. Personally, I believe thinking about an audience while writing sucks the integrity from what I’m writing. It begins to feel watered down. I would always be second guessing myself and wondering how a certain group would react to this or that.
I let Jason Pettus worry about the audience. If you send him something, writing or an idea, that he’s not so into, he’ll let you know, and he’ll gently push you in the direction he’d like to see you go, which is probably where catering to his audience comes into play. I also think he does a nice job of creating, or attracting, an audience that has similar tastes as him. Publishers like Jason not only have to sell their product, they also have to create and generate an interest where there may not initially have been one. Having said all of that, Jason Pettus also has this great philosophy of being hands off while the author writes their first draft. I think this is very respectful of the creative process and of the writer.
ClaritySol: You have an impressive publication history already, which I found here:
It is clear that poetry also has a big place in your writing. Which do you prefer? Do you find certain content is best explored in one format or the other? Are the struggles inherent in each very different, or mostly similar?
Jason Fisk: I started writing poetry in an elective in graduate school, and I absolutely loved finding that little piece of truth (or at least what I thought was truth) and writing about it. Most of my poems have a narrative quality to them, which probably has something to do with my early love of the short story. My relationship with poetry is somewhat contentious though; I really like accessible poetry, and hate pretentious, dense poetry. My real love is the short story, which I find more challenging to write, especially after working so hard to pare a story to its bare essentials for a poem. It’s hard to get into the short story mind set.
ClaritySol: From your blog, here is a description of a book meeting from one of the attendees:
‘What began as a discussion about fictional others quickly turned to ourselves and our own little bits of crazy. We praised Fisk for his ability to hand-pick what is absolutely essential about a story, entertain us with it, and then make us look twice for a glimpse we thought we caught of ourselves – all in two to four paragraphs.’
It sounds to me like you are one of those writers who applies to discipline and the strength of poetry to any other form you engage in as well, would you agree? That you are always a poet, and sometimes you write poetry and sometimes you write in other forms?
Jason Fisk: To me, it’s all about the transaction between the writer and the reader, and I believe the transaction part is very important. My goal is to create an outline of place, time, and movement, and have the reader fill the rest in with their imagination. The reader has then invested part of himself or herself in the story by painting the walls the colors they see, or imagining that particular space is similar to one in his or her house. I believe poetry has been a wonderful tool to roughly sketch out those bits and pieces of a story, and allow the readers to fill in the blanks, which, hopefully, creates a unique reading experience. I think you’re right; I will always be a poet, or at least retain those elements of poetry.
ClaritySol: From your blog, I borrowed this passage of yours:
William Carlos Williams wrote, “No ideas but in things.” While I know that my poetry is nowhere near Williams’ level, it is something I strive to emulate. I love the thought of “No ideas but in things,” and only want to paint what I see (whether it is in my imagination, or in real life). What the reader takes from it is their business.
Is that an accurate capture of your attitude towards this piece as well?
Jason Fisk: Oh, absolutely!
ClaritySol: What’s next? Do you have many additional things that you’re working on right now? Do you have additional pieces percolating that are not even in the writing stage yet? What can we look forward to?
Jason Fisk: I just finished up a small collection of more flash fiction, and am currently in the process of polishing that up. Jason Pettus has also suggested that I take the next year and try my hand at writing a novel, which is what I’m planning on doing, so that’s what’s currently fermenting in my head. We’ll see…
ClaritySol: Anything else you’d like us to know about your work, your plans, your art?
Jason Fisk: No, I feel like we’ve covered quite a bit here. I do want to thank you for taking the time to research and craft such insightful and thoughtful questions. Your time and involvement is very much appreciated.