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"It’s a Back Story, Way Back": An Interview with Laurie Blauner

Laurie Blauner is the author of three novels, Infinite Kindness, Somebody, and The Bohemians, all from Black Heron Press, as well as seven books of poetry.  A novella called Instructions for Living was published in 2011 from Main Street Rag.  Her most recent book of poetry, It Looks Worse than I Am, was published in 2014 as the first Open Reading Period selection from What Books Press. A poetry chapbook was published in 2013 from dancing girl press.  She has received a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship as well as Seattle Arts Commission, King County Arts Commission, 4Culture, and Artist Trust grants and awards.  She was a resident at Centrum in Washington state and was in the Jack Straw Writers Program in 2007.  Her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Field, Caketrain, Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, The Collagist, and many other magazines. She is the winner of Leapfrog Press's Fiction Contest; they will be publishing her novel The Solace of Monsters in 2016.  She lives in Seattle, Washington.  Her web site is www.laurieblauner.com.

Her story, "The Unsaid," appeared in Issue Seventy of The Collagist. 

Here, Laurie Blauner talks to interviewer William Hoffacker about family, revision, and writing in multiple genres.

Please tell us about the origins of your story “The Unsaid.” What sparked the initial idea and caused you to start writing the first draft?

Family. Particularly my family. Much of the story is true or, as is often the case with fiction, it tells a deeper truth than the real events. Some of this material was covered in my first novel called Somebody. I wanted to create a similar tale with parallel or intersecting themes but in as concise a form in fiction as possible. And, with the title, I wanted to show what was unsaid between family members, the unborn and the person carrying her in her body, between drinks and the narrator, and everyone else.

To me the richest, most intriguing part of this piece is the middle section, “Before: I,” which describes a moment in time before the narrator’s birth. What inspired you to write this scene and place it outside of chronological order? How did you decide for yourself how much the unborn first-person narrator should know of this moment?

That part set up the mother and narrator’s difficult communication before and after her birth. In that sense it’s a back story, way back, and we often don’t think or remember things chronologically.

What was the revision process like for this story? How significantly did it change from the first draft to the final?

I found my handwritten, original copy of “The Unsaid” and saw that I had revised the story several times, changing words and whittling away sentences but, overall, the story didn’t change a lot. And sometimes that happens, that I don’t need to change much but, especially with my longer work, not often. This was probably because of my familiarity with the subject matter (see first question) and because I write poetry and condense everything (see next question).

You write both fiction and poetry. What lessons have you learned from writing poetry that you have then applied to your prose, or vice versa?

I like to condense everything. Both my poetry and fiction often inform each other in style, story, and themes. A phrase in poetry might find its way into my fiction. My prose is lyrical and dense and my poetry has spread out a bit, becoming more conversational. One lesson I’ve learned is that plot can be quite fluid and changing in the same way poetry can contain so many different elements.

What writing projects are you working on now?

A new book of poems, concentrating on science. And a new novel about a young couple’s stubborn, emotionally indigestible relationship told in short paragraphs.

What have you read recently that you’d like to recommend?

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns from 1959, a realistic yet imaginative short novel with lovely language. And I just started Envy by Yuri Olesha, which is good so far, written in 1927. (I’m a little behind in my reading).

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