Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Michael Credico is an MFA candidate at Cleveland State University, where he is the editor-in-chief of Whiskey Island Magazine. Michael and I were in several classes together in the NEOMFA program, and I always enjoyed reading his short stories, which buoyantly carried me into a poignantly familiar surreality. I also enjoyed his insights on writing in our class discussions. 

ARH: What projects are you working on right now?

MC: In between working on a literary journal called Whiskey Island and live-tweeting baseball, I’m writing a good amount. Toward a collection of short stories, I think. But who knows? Really.   

ARH: When did you start writing, and what changes have you seen? Do you feel part of a local writing community? If so, what’s it like, if not, how important do you feel a writing community is? Do you feel a sense of community with writers you read but don’t know personally? What excites you about the writing of others? How would you describe the literary zeitgeist?

MC: I’ve been writing since I was little. Scribbles here. Scribbles there. I wasn’t one of those kids that wrote endlessly. I still think Little League is more fun than writing. Drew a lot. In high school, I’d write my own words to various song melodies that I enjoyed. That was probably what sparked my interest in the sounds of words and sentences. Other than that, I’ve been writing seriously for about two years. 
I don’t feel like part of any writing community locally. I know they’re out there, but I am generally not comfortable with community-type situations.  
With that said, however, community is important. Absolutely. There should be some sense of competition when it comes to art. Not in the I-am-better-than-you way, but in the that’s-great-now-how-can-I-top-that sorta way. At least that’s how it worked for McCartney, Lennon, and Brian Wilson. 
As far as community with the writers that I love but do not know personally, I relate to guys like WC Fields (who is not merely a comedian, but also a preeminent artist) and JM Coetzee, because I think our aesthetic and personalities are similar.  
I only get excited about the writing of others when the writers are excited about their writing. 
I don’t know what the literary zeitgeist is at the moment. I’ve been reading a lot of bad poetry lately, and the only word I can think of is “playfulness.” My goodness. 

ARH: Who are your favorite writers and influences – and how do those other voices interact with your voice as you write? Do you ever read literally as you are writing, creating a mental back and forth? Do you read certain things while working on certain projects? Or on the other extreme, are there certain things you avoid reading when you write?

MC: I won’t list all my favorites, but the two biggest influences on my writing have been Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant,” which is my favorite short story, and the news. Ninety-percent of what I write can be traced back to a news story or an article in National Geographic. I’m also constantly reading the “List of Unusual Deaths” entry on Wikipedia. 
When I write, it’s usually in silence. Most of my stories form in the shower or during naps or on walks or while reading the news, though, so my actual writing time isn’t my most creative time. I think often and write rarely. I should probably change that at some point. Balance the two a little. But so far this has worked out well for me. 
Also, I cannot read Donald Barthelme or Lewis Carroll when I write or want to write, because I end up imitating the piss out of them, which is a terrible thing to do because imitating ingenuity is self-defeating and boring.

ARH: What is story? Why do human beings make stories?

MC: Stories are curiosities. The what-ifs or whys or remember-whens we all have. It’s probably innate to humans like language, which brings up a question I’ve always had, but never bothered to think about completely: Are stories born out of language? Or is language born out of the need to tell stories? 

ARH: Fictional structure seems to mimic the structure of ritual, which mimics natural cycles of regeneration. A space is created, or a world is entered, the reader becomes the protagonist and experiences ordeals that lead to climax and change. Do you feel that when a reader enters a story, he or she is entering a ritual experience of sorts? How does that work?

MC: This is true, though it isn’t limited to fiction. Spirituality is necessary to art. And I actually think it’s necessary to the sciences as well. The question is, what is spirituality? I think it’s the feeling of being moved, or wanting to be moved. 
As far as rituals: I guess life is a ritual, or cycle. And we realize this, whether looking at it scientifically or not. And life informs art. Life informs life, for that matter, which is a pretentious thing to say, huh? 

ARH: The act of writing involves transitions both difficult and pleasurable: between the right and left brain, generation and revision. The senses are engaged in weaving details of sight and sound, touch, smell and taste and other bodily sensations to mimic experience. The writer also must step back and look at the macro structure, the conflict, the patterns of movement. This mental/emotional shifting can be intense. How do you handle it? Do you have set ways to trigger your way in to a story? Do you have writing rituals?

MC: This question makes me think about sex. And I think I might handle the process of writing the same way I handle sex: Let one thing lead to another and hope for the best. Sometimes it’s special. Sometimes it’s not. The only difference is that when I’m writing, I’m able to edit the sad parts. 
My only writing ritual (not related to sex) is napping. It has always sparked my creative side, and I read somewhere once that Ray Bradbury encouraged napping as part of the creative process, so that lessens the shame a bit.  

ARH: How does sound work in your writing? Do you ever listen to music when you write, if so, what? Do you ‘hear’ the language or voices of the characters as initial inspirations?

MC: I focus a lot on the sound of the sentence. But not in a way that is musical, necessarily. I have a pretty unique way of writing, which I’m proud of, mostly. I guess I just like my sentences to sound a certain way, or at least they come out a certain way and it makes me happy. Sometimes I think my sentences are ugly sounding. So much so that they seem kinda pretty. 
I don’t listen to music when writing. I prefer silence. Or a blowing fan. 
My stories are generally inspired by phrases read in the newspaper, or a sentence I write that makes me smile a little. Sometimes I’ll I latch onto an overheard phrase. I listen to people. Watch them. You never know what you’ll see, or what you’ll discover. Eavesdropping is a great way to break writer’s block. Sometimes you see a person at a gas station or mall and think, Yes. You. I know exactly who you are and what you’ve been doing. It’s now up to me to put it on the page. 
Again: Let one thing lead to another, and the buttons may just unbutton themselves for you. 

ARH: What are your writing plans? What are you excited about?

MC: My writing plans? Lots of nothing-in-particulars. I’m just typing away and seeing what good or bad can come of it, which, if I’m being honest, is actually very exciting.

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