Featured Writer (Issue 17)

Interview with Will Musgrove

Editor’s Pick

Ariana: What punctuation mark best describes each of the pieces in this issue?

Will: This is tough to narrow down. Like people, I feel like stories can usually be described with a slew of different types of punctuation.

For “Streetlight Jesus,” I’d have to say the dreaded em dash. Since they were young, the brothers in the piece have been pranking each other into believing in the fantastical. Of course, these are just pranks, but there seems to be a level of disappointment when they end up not being true—when at the end of the em dash there is just more of the same.

“The Sun Starer” is probably an ellipsis. The protagonist is in denial. He refuses to believe his partner isn’t coming back to him. He omits this fact and the facts which led to the downfall of his relationship.

Ariana: If you were a genie, what’s one wish you simply would refuse to grant and why?

Will: Another tough question. If we’re going by Disney’s Aladdin genie rules, I wouldn’t be allowed to kill anyone, bring anyone back to life, make someone fall in love with someone else, or grant more wishes.

But those feel like gimmies.

I work part-time at the Humane Society and am obsessed with my dog, so anything directly or indirectly harming animals would probably be a no-go wish for genie me.

I want to be one of those Hollywood genies where each wish gets twisted around, causing the wisher to learn something about themselves. Hell, maybe I’d even learn something about granting wishes, too.

Ariana: What is your favorite fiction quote of all time? How has it affected or inspired you as a writer?

Will: I don’t know if I have a favorite all-time fiction quote. If I had to pick something, I’d say the complete works of Amy Hempel, Etgar Keret, and Aimee Bender. Now, you’re probably thinking that’s way longer than a quote, and it is, but I devoured their works. I read their books so fast, one after another, it felt like one long quote. This may be a cop-out answer, but these authors really showed me the power of short-short fiction.

Ariana: Describe your style of writing as a weather forecast.

Will: I sort of have a straightforward style. What type of weather is straightforward? Maybe mild temperatures with a slight breeze. Well, I guess most weather is pretty straightforward if you watch the Weather Channel before you go outside.

I’ve also been told my work reads like a joke setup with a funny or not-so-funny punchline at the end. Laughing at a joke is like being struck by lightning. So, a lightning storm. I can only wish, right?

My writing process, however, is a chaotic, intermittent windstorm. I’m constantly getting up from the keyboard and pacing around for a few minutes before sitting back down and writing some more. I write and revise in little gusts of wind. It’s stop and go, stop and go. I’m sort of an anxious, anxiety-filled person, so getting out of the chair acts as a defensive mechanism against overthinking, especially during those zero drafts. It helps me relieve some of that is-this-any-good tension like someone turning down the pressure on a relief valve.

Ariana: What can you tell us about each of the pieces in this issue? Do they sum up the arc of your work?

Will: It might be hard to sum up anyone’s work in just two small flash pieces. However, like in these stories, a lot of my characters have feelings of incompleteness, of being stuck. I think I tend to gravitate toward these themes because I grew up in poverty and had similar feelings myself. So, writing is sort of a therapeutic exercise for me. I hope that answers your question somewhat.

Ariana: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers looking to get published?

Will: I know this sounds cliché, probably because it is, but you can’t give up and just have to keep submitting knowing the rejections will come.

Rejections suck, but all writers get them, get lots of them. When I first started sending out my work, a “thank you for sending us XXXX, but…” really stung, made me think I should switch creative outlets—maybe stand-up comedy or scrapbooking. However, once I realized everyone and their grandma has gotten a rejection from a literary journal at some point in their life, it made it easier to accept them as just part of being a writer.

Writing is personal, and it can feel like you are personally being rejected. But you’re not, so submit, submit, and submit. Oh, and always make sure to put the right journal’s name in your cover letter.

Ariana: What do you think has most characterized your writing?

Will: Sometimes it feels like I am writing versions of myself from different dimensions in these pieces, like I’m picking at a scab. Writing helps me be better in tune with my emotions. So, I hope, the one thing that would most characterize my work is a sense of rawness, a sense of unfettered feeling.

Ariana: What season would you describe yourself as?

Will: I want to be summer, bright, warm, and optimistic, but I’m probably fall. I struggle with anxiety and am constantly second-guessing myself, a habit I’m working on. A fall day can be seventy-five degrees and sunny. It can also be thirty degrees and snowing. No matter the weather or season, though, I try to find the beauty in the everyday, the beauty in myself and others.

Ariana: Every writer seems to have a dream journal. Do you have a dream journal? If so, what do you love about it?

Will: Is this where I say scissors & spackle? I had a dream recently where I got an acceptance from HAD. In it, I was diving into a pool of skulls like Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold coins. Of course, it was just a dream, and a skull still eludes me. Really, I don’t know if I have a dream journal per se besides the ones all writers want to be in. There are a lot of journals I’ve talked myself out of submitting to due to believing I have no chance of getting in, though. I’m usually drawn to journals with fun, chill vibes.

Ariana: What do you feel are the most important elements of prose writing, tools every great prose writer must utilize?

Will: I’m not sure if I’m qualified to answer this question, but I’ll give it a shot. I don’t think there’s a set toolbox a prose writer has to utilize to be great. It’s about finding your voice and what works for you. The first thing I do is figure out what emotion I want to evoke in the reader and work backward from there. But each writer is different, each writer has to cultivate their own style, which might require switching up the importance of different craft techniques.