Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Craig Morgan Teicher's Short Attention Span

In the 17th in a series of posts on 2010 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Craig Morgan Teicher, author of Cradle Book (BOA Editions), discusses his writing process.

What is your writing process like?
I write often. If I didn't, I think I'd be pretty hard to deal with. Most of the "creative" writing I do (I work as a kind of journalist) is poetry; Cradle Book was a project I got obsessed with for about a year. I love fiction, but started writing poems as a teenager because I realized quickly that I didn't have the attention span or patience to write fiction. The fables in Cradle Book are the closest I think I can get to fiction--they've got characters and little plots, but they also work a lot like poems, turning on phrases. Plus, they're short--the longest one is about 7 pages, which took a lot out of me! So, to write the pieces in Cradle Book, I sat down with a sketchbook--my favorite thing to start writing in--and tried to get from beginning to end of the fable in one sitting. Then there was lots of revising...

At what stage do you start seeking feedback on your work and from whom?
I ask my wife to read most things I write, and I almost always ask her too soon--before I'm ready to hear that I haven't written a masterpiece.

What book made you want to become a writer?
Catcher in the Rye. Or maybe I just wanted to be Holden Caulfield and confused being him with being a writer.

What kind of research, if any, do you do?
For Cradle Book, I read a lot of fables and folk tales, starting with the two books of fables W.S. Merwin published in the 1970s, then I went backward to Aesop and worked my way forward through all kinds of crazy stuff--it's amazing how wonderfully grim these kinds of stories are: bad for bedtime.

What's the longest narrative time period you've ever contained in a short story?
Well, a couple of stories in Cradle Book kinda roll together all of time--there's lots of stuff about Gods and sentient rocks and things like that, so those stories start before time began and end after it ends. That's a pretty long time.