Friday, April 17, 2009
Post-Charles Baxter Reading & Conversation at the Bing Theatre, Spokane
Baxter's reading/interview were both so good . . . I mean, I knew he would be good (funny, entertaining, smart as hell, share his new work), but he outdid himself on all counts.
The Top-10 Highlights:
1. He was a failed poet and a failed novelist when he took to the short story with a vengeance.
2. "Stories begin when things start to go wrong. Happiness is boring; not only that, it incites envy in the reader. It's not my business to write about nice people."
3. "It's best to avoid conflict in your day-to-day life, but in fiction? Conflict has its home in fiction." Just make sure that the conflict is unexplainable/unknowable.
4. We all need an Iago (from Othello) in our stories. (He credited this comment to Vonnegut.)
5. "Don't create a narrator who has it all figured out. Don't be too clear about motives--cut the point-making and glibness, up the mystery."
6. Baxter must write (1) in front of a window, (2) without a telephone, (3) on a computer not hooked up to the Internet. Otherwise, he'll check his email every 10 minutes.
7. He's a major daydreamer. If a story has staying power, he'll start to write it down.
8. He suggested writers need to "get down to where your obsessions are" --Theodore Roethke
9. His three failed novels taught him he can't write conceptually; he has to write about folks who live in the midwest, his people.
10. The Soul Thief, from which he read a chapter, is AMAZINGLY good, and I could tell this despite very little sleep, no dinner (except more of them Bite Me crackers, which are starting to lose their allure . . . )
Okay, off to bed. Tomorrow I am stepping out and actually going to a cafe for breakfast. (I can't eat crackers for breakfast, and that's about all I have left).
P.S. Hats off to Sam Ligon for doing a superb job with the interview questions.