In preparation for Glass Mountain’s August reading, I caught up with this month’s readers to talk about jitters of the public reading sort, slam poetry, and Mitt Romney. This month we will hear from Glass Mountain editors Melissa Dziedzic and Scott Chalupa, as well as local poet Marcell Murphy.
Below is the first installment in a three-part series of interviews:
Melissa Dziedzic is the Fiction Editor of Glass Mountain.
GLASS MOUNTAIN: For this reading, you will be sharing a condensed version of a novella that you have been working on. Can you talk a little about the piece and its origins? What prompted you to choose the novella form for this particular work?
MELISSA DZIEDZIC: I originally wrote the piece for a workshop I took last semester with Professor Parsons. The focus of the course was forms of fiction, and for that particular class he chose to focus on longer stories, or novella length narratives. Because one of my ultimate goals is to one day have a story that can endure for the length of a novel, this emphasis on longer works seemed like a crucial step in being able to fully develop a storyline. The original seed of the story came after I read a news article about a woman who was giving birth as performance art. I just couldn’t stop wondering about how her child would feel about that choice in ten or twenty years. The more I wrote about the characters the more there seemed to be to write, so the need to produce a longer work was the perfect opportunity to see where the story could go. I chose to read this particular piece because—at this point at least—it is the story that I have the most faith in.
GM: Presumably, when shortening a larger work, scenes and other details must be omitted. Naturally, this can change the piece in many ways, sometimes even introducing new causeways or concepts. In your experience, what has the editing process been like? As the piece matures, are there any new elements that you’d like to introduce going forward?
MD: In editing this piece, up until deciding that I was going to be reading it for the series, I followed the same process I’ve used in the past—just more drawn out because the draft of the novella I ended up with was at least twice as long as every other work I’ve written and heavily edited. Editing the story specifically for the reading has somewhat influenced the way I’ve chosen the scenes and details I’m going to include. The story as a whole has shifted in a way; to me it is gaining more of a single-sighted focus and less of a multi-faceted build-up, if that makes sense. For me to be able to read it in ten to twelve minutes, the writing must be more concise, but I tend to dwell in moments rather than move through constant action. As I go forward with the longer piece I plan to further develop the entire family unit and their relationships.
GM: You mentioned that this will be your first time participating in a public reading outside the privacy of the classroom. While the experience can vary for everyone, I’d imagine this transition can be jarring for some, requiring “pre-game” rituals or calming mantras. How do you feel going into the reading? Do you have any particular expectations?
MD: I think I definitely find myself leaning more towards the “jarred” end of the spectrum. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, and the fact that I’m also going to be sharing my own work is definitely an added worry. I expect to be very nervous. My voice will tremble; my only hope is that the tremble doesn’t last the entire ten minutes.
GM: I suppose it’s difficult for anyone to name a favorite writer, so I won’t ask that. However, it’s very possible to have favorites. Who are some of yours and why?
MD: Oh, I hate this question. I’m terrible at having favorite writers, but I’m only slightly better at having favorite books. I guess, as most people probably do, I have a few different writers that I look up to for very different reasons. I always have to include Cormac McCarthy, because I’ve read The Road at least four times and any book you actually read that many times is bound to have an effect on you. Also, whenever I’m having trouble just saying what needs to be said—no more, no less—thinking of McCarthy’s writing style can be a big help. I am a big fan of John Green, who most classify as an author of “young adult” fiction. His stories may focus on high schoolers, but they tackle themes that I still find relevant, and he doesn’t dumb down his writing to suit the genre. One of my favorite books though is Père Goriot by Honré de Balzac. There are some passages in that novel that still blow my mind. Those passages are the ones I read when I feel stalled in pretty much any area of my life. You’ve got to love a good bildungsroman, and Père Goriot is an excellent one.
GM: Of course, being adamant about reading and writing certainly helps foster new ideas for fiction pieces—the “practice what you preach” method. Are there any other springs that feed inspiration into your fiction other than these two regiments?
MD: I feel like the best source of inspiration really is just life. Living itself can be crazy and silly. And things that have threads of reality in them of course always end up being the most interesting and relatable.
GM: Aside from these readings, there are many others taking place around town, featuring both local and visiting writers. Are there any in particular that peak your interest?
MD: The line-up for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series this year looks terrific; I’m very excited about Junot Diaz in particular. I was also able—being freshly of legal drinking age—to attend a Poison Pen reading for the first time the other night and really enjoyed myself. Both the atmosphere and the readers were great. I’ve also attended Gulf Coast’s readings at Brazos Bookstore. I like seeing the incoming University of Houston graduate students read because they are where I would like to find myself at some point in my life as a writer.
Once again, prepare yourself for another eventful ménage à trois on August 21. You won’t want to miss it.
Assistant Fiction Editor