If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Grace Paley, and for purposes of dinner, conversation, etc., preferably alive. I’d make borscht, a chicken pie, a salad from our garden. My guiding adjectives would be fresh, substantial, unpretentious. I’d look forward most of all to the post-meal stroll, the pleasure of watching her meet the neighbors’ dogs, the kids on trikes, the singular peach tree on Laughlin Road. I’d want to absorb a bit of her faith and humor and strength in this horrible time, as the powers that be draw us closer toward destruction.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Taking a stupid turn into a swamp.
Save, rename, press on.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
When I was 13 and listening to Jackson Browne, I’d hold the album in my hands, study his eyes, his perfect hair. Maybe get back to me on this one.
What books are on your nightstand?
It’s so tempting to make up a lie here. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logicos Philosophicus. No, Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked into Doors. The Best American Short Stories 2019. Cornel West’s Black Prophetic Fire. Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask is in the bathroom.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
Period. That’s all I want to say about it.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Nearly everything. The only books I remember finishing were Of Mice and Men and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
First, the rake, stirrer of partially desiccated oak leaves, memories. Second, the rolling pin, essential for pie making, which in turn is essential for keeping friends who read my early drafts.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Certainly both. When it is going well, when visions and voices are competing for space in my head and space on the page, it offers a surge of energy.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Over-narration, trying to tell the reader what to feel. Speechifying dialogue. All, I think stem from a lack of trust in readers’ intelligence.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yes, often. I read and edit a lot of student writing. Seems every semester I hit a kind of wall – like where do my opinions come from?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Tough one. Strong emotions can be as much a hindrance as a help, I think. One must care. To paraphrase Heidegger, caring precedes experience.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
So many of my friendships are with fellow writers, too many to list, but I’ve put a few in my acknowledgments. How do they help? In a number of ways, but most important – they offer honest responses to my work, and sometimes very creative suggestions.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Separation Anxiety is my third collection of stories. Each is organized by theme, but they have some common elements. Neuroses manifests in work relationships, in families, in romantic encounters. My characters are often in search of identity, stability, courage and love. My stories, as whole, might make a good companion to the DSM-5.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t know that it changed my process. It gave me a boost in confidence. I loved (and still love) doing readings. Perhaps I wrote more 1,000-word pieces with that in mind.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My first book was published through a contest. I suppose that fee, whatever it was, was well worth it.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Heavily descriptive writers like Nabakov, Conrad and Bellow are difficult for me. My mind wanders. But in the right state of mind, I can be enamored with the richness of the prose.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
In high school I read William Carlos Williams’
As the cat
the top of
first the right
then the hind
into the pit of
It seemed like magic the way the words put the picture in my mind, the way I could feel the movement of the cat in the movement of the lines.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick by Peter Handke.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Osprey, aka, river hawk. It circles, it glides, it sees into the depths, and when it strikes there is no hesitation.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two half-baked novels and half a dozen stories.
What does literary success look like to you?
I happen to have a long answer for this one: http://losangelesreview.org/daniel-coshnear-the-balanced-life-of-a-successful-writer/
What’s the best way to market your books?
Strong reviews, readings, lots of readings, online and god willing, in person. Radio appearances. I wish I could say there is a niche audience for this book. Mental health workers. Mental illness sufferers. Members of families. Short story readers. Worriers. Bedwetters. Comedians.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The difficulty arises if I dwell on this idea of “opposite sex.” Are we not each a composite of those we have known? We are a concert of voices; the fiction is this thing we call self.
That said, I know nothing about dress sizes.
What did you edit out of this book?”
A couple of stories that seemed too similar to others. A few quirky short pieces that didn’t pertain to the theme. A mock daytime TV drama. An interactive story that presented a formatting nightmare.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Well, I guess I’m doing it. I work at a group home for homeless, mentally ill folks. And I teach. Both at times draw from the wells of the writer in me. When I was a child, I wanted to be Gale Sayers.
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