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Erin Frances Fisher

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Flowers, Throw up

I had my first studio throw-up last week with a student. As a long-time bad-with-motion traveller, I’m pretty impervious to vomit; none got on the piano so it really wasn’t a problem.

This week the student was excited to bring me flowers and a card. I feel great.

Harpischord, Chair, Sheila Heti

Being done classes has meant that I have a little more time again, and though I’m looking forward to returning to work on a MFA in the fall, it’s been nice to have the morning free before slogging it out on the computer then teaching. (Always on one keyboard or the other)

A number of my students are playing J.S.Bach’s Inventions, so I cleared off the harpsichord of notes for the novel and more than a few glasses/mugs/plants. It’s just a kit, but more apartment friendly then a piano (as is the tiny pump organ beside it) and I’ve developed a weird affection for it.

I also dragged out “Darwin’s Bastards” collection by Zsuzsi Gartner because Sheila Heti has a story in it and she’s reading and being interviewed by Lee Henderson tomorrow. (Check it out here: Open Space) And yes, that is an overgrowen pitcher plant behind the book.

 

A Few Books

I recently read “The Flame Alphabet” by Ben Marcus. The book looks great, the title is good, and the premise (the language of children has become toxic) got me on a bus in search of it. Additionally, it has Big Names (Chabon, Sfran Foer) on the back pumping the book’s Awesomeness. And there is some awesomeness to the book–there’s a lot of great descriptions and the quality of writing is A+. There’s just…too much of it. And nothing really happens.

There are comprehensive (uncomfortable) reviews already out there, so I won’t go on, but reading “The Flame Alphabet” got me thinking of all the really great books I’ve read lately.

Here (in the order they came to me) are a few:

1. The Sisters Brothers ~ Patrick deWitt

A Western that doesn’t go where you expect it. Dark, funny, and surreal. A book that inspires writing (read: I wish I wrote this)

2. Breath ~ Tim Winton

I’ve admired Tim Winton’s prose since discovering his short stories “The Turning”, and while his stories seem well-knit I haven’t always loved the structure to his novels. This one, though, was fab: a lesson in retrospective.

3. The Golden Mean ~ Annabel Lyon

A novel about Aristotle, this book convinced me to try first person point of view (thank-you, Annabel.)

4. Civilwarland in Bad Decline ~ George Saunders

Bleak, funny, heartful; classic Saunders plus ghosts.

Interview and Novella

A couple days ago Will Johnson emailed and asked if he/PRISM could interview me about my Malahat win and a few of my stories. Will is a UBA Writing MFA student, and went through UVic the same time as me, though we never shared a class. You can find the interview at his site here: Interview with writer Erin (Frances) Fisher or at PRISM here or scroll down and read it here.

In other news, I’ve just finished editing my novella. It doesn’t have a home yet, but because it’s just under 20,000 words I’m hoping I’ll be able to convince some journal or other to adopt it. If not, it probably won’t be seen until I put together a collection of short/long stories. The title is currently under review, but here’s a hint about the subject matter:

And here’s the interview with Will Johnson…

Last year, Victoria writer Erin Fisher won first place in PRISM international’s fiction contest for her story “Bridges”. This year, Fisher repeated that success by taking the top spot in The Malahat Review’s fiction contest. PRISM caught up with Erin recently, to discuss her recent successes and her plans for the future.

PRISM: Your piece “Apiculture” just won The Malahat Review’s Open Season Awards. Congratulations! You’re having quite the year–how does it feel?

ERIN FISHER: Pretty great. It doesn’t change any of the work that must be done, but it provides a boost to energy.

P: Tell us about “Apiculture”. What was your process while writing it, and what were you hoping to accomplish with this story?

EF: “Apiculture” underwent many, many rewrites. I wanted a child narrator who was being built by the events that occur in the story, as well as the depth that is added by the retrospective, but I didn’t want the future time/place/situation of the narrator mattering. I knew the layers and plot of the story before I started writing, but it took a lot of tinkering to get it working properly.

P: Your writing is very experimental/edgy. Why do you feel drawn to non-traditional styles of story-telling?

EF: I’m not sure. I enjoy reading all types of stories, and have tried a less ornamental style of writing, but it came off wrong. Every story (so far) has had a different way of forming in rough draft, but in the end each one comes down to me and it and scissors and a lot of floorspace. Being flexible with structure allows the story’s form to help solve problems. On content: it can be more fun to get to the core of the piece through a little weirdness.

P: Both your prize-winning stories have a strong theme of childhood in them. Is this a coincidence, or is this a theme that you’re interested in continuing to explore?

EF: I’m interested in child narrators because they are in the process of becoming people, and (like I said above) instead of having a wealth of experience behind them, children are being built by the events that occur in the story. Although I have a few drafts of stories without kids, I think that (with or without intent) there will be some aspect of childhood in most of my pieces.

P: You also published a story in Granta this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

EF: Sure. Granta published my piece “Suite in Dark Matter” last November. It was published online alongside issue 117 Horror, which (after the shock of acceptance) surprised/amused me. The story is structured after a baroque keyboard suite, and the main character is a pianist who, while digging through compost at night, discovers an angel. In writing this piece I tried to work the rococo style of a traditional suite into the writing. The choice in using the suite structure came down to the content (lapsed pianist) and the POV switch at the end.

P: How long have you been a writer? When did you start submitting your work to literary journals?

EF: I became attached to writing about five years ago. I went to UVic intending to further study composition (music) and took “Form and Structure of Short Fiction” to compare structural styles. After that, I just kept writing.

P: Who are some Canadian authors you admire?

EF: Annabel Lyon, of course Alice Munro, Miriam Toews, William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome”, and too many more. I just finished reading “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick deWitt–this is one of those books I wish I wrote.

P: I understand you’re currently trying to get into an MFA program for Creative Writing. What else is on the horizon for your writing career? And what are you currently working on?

EF: I’ve been teaching at the Victoria Conservatory of Music for the last six years, and will be continuing on there. I’m planning on doing an MFA either distance or in Victoria, but besides that–just keep writing. In the works: I’ve just finished a novella, and have started the early map of a novel.

Forthcoming Publication–Malahat Review

Excited to announce that my short story “Apiculture” won the fiction category of the Malahat Review’s 2012 Open Season Awards, and will be published in the Spring 2012 issue of the magazine. I wrote this piece in a UVic writing workshop with Steven Price last winter, though the story has gone through multiple overhauls since then.

The judge this year was Padma Viswanathan. Her comments can be found here: (here)

Thumbs Up!

Forthcoming Publication: Granta

Story “Suite in Dark Matter” to be published by Granta online, possibly even this week. Their latest issue is the Horror issue, and from what one of the editors said I wonder if that’s what gave my story an edge…

Granta says: “I’m so glad we’ll be publishing this story. I’ve been a fan of it since I first read it, and it has never stopped creeping me out.”

Excited!

Erin’s Students: Year End Recital

Monday May 30th, 7:00-8:00, Wood Hall in the Victoria Conservatory of Music. 30 awesome performers from the age of 3.5 through 17 have been working hard all year and get to show it. I’m excited, students, as I’m sure you are too! Admission is free, but come early for a seat and to find parking (street parking only!)

John K Samson Comments on “Bridges”

Prism sent a few of John K Samson’s comments to John Threlfall and he passed them on to me:

Judge John K. Samson felt Fisher’s story was “crafted as tightly as an enduring poem, and is full of fuse-like sentences that fizz and explode in unexpected spots. The narrator is pleasingly unclear and unsettling; I’m still not entirely certain who or what it is, though I have some ideas about it I cherish. The slightly opaque parts of it are actually strangely inviting—it is a story that allows the reader to participate and speculate, and there is something playful about it. I guess that makes sense, as it concerns innocence and childhood. I found it remarkably original.”

PRISM international posts 2011 Fiction/Poetry Winners

PRISM says:

This year we received over two-hundred and fifty short stories and over three-hundred and fifty poems! Needless to say, the decisions were difficult and the quality of the work was phenomenal. But after weeks and weeks of deliberation, the editorial board and the editors decided on the final shortlists. The poetry shortlist went to Brad Cran — the poet laureate of Vancouver. And the fiction shortlist went to John K. Samson — musician, fiction enthusiast and publisher.

The winners of 2011 PRISM international poetry and fiction contest are —

Poetry Grand Prize Winner — $1,000
“My Father in his garden, depicted in the woodblock print of the Taishō dynasty” by Pamela Porter

Poetry First Runner-up — $300
“Reincarnation Study 1982″ by Sheryda Warrener

Poetry Second Runner-up — $200
“Pop Quiz” by Scott Ramsay

Fiction Grand Prize Winner — $2,000
“Bridges” by Erin Frances Fisher

Fiction First Runner-up — $200
“Squatters” by Robert James Hicks

Fiction Second Runner-up — $200
“The Ghost” by Mark Jacquemain

Congratulations to all of the winners! Thank you to everyone who entered! And thanks to our judges Brad Cran and John K. Samson! The winning entries and runners-up will be published in the Summer 2011 issue of PRISM (49.4).

ALSO: The New Malahat Review Launches tonight! I’m teaching but it should be a fun thing!