March 31, 2010

iScribe Interview Series - Likes: Cyberpunk; Dislikes: Tootsie Rolls

Name: Marc Curtin
Major(s): English
Year of Graduation: 2012
Position: Featured writer (Spring 2010); Scribe member

You're one of the few writers who has seen both sides of how the Scribe works. As both a featured writer and a participating member, what are your thoughts on how the Scribe operates?
When I first heard about the Scribe, I assumed it would be some sort of faceless corporation, a group of people meeting behind closed doors , mechanically separating pieces into “in” and “out” piles. After coming to my very first meeting, I realized that that image couldn’t be further from the truth. I feel like the Scribe is unique in that we really care about the people who submit to us. We talk at length about the majority of the submissions we receive, and even if we feel that a particular piece doesn’t work for us, we try to find good things to say about it, or parts that can be saved. If a work needs revision, we give the writer ideas about the direction in which we would like to see his or her work go in order to make it publishable. I’m not going to name names, but there were several pieces this semester that needed two or more revisions before we could definitely say “yes,” and I’m glad that we took the time to work with these writers. As for my own work, I am indebted to my fellow editors for their insightful criticism and attention to detail. To be in the same room while people discuss your work is pretty nerve-wracking, but I chose to do it anyway, and I feel like my work and my understanding was greatly enhanced as a result.

Have you done any submitting outside of the Scribe? Is it something you would consider for the future?

Nope, this spring’s edition of the Scribe will be my first appearance in print. I would definitely consider submitting to journals and magazines and whatnot in the future, though – maybe when I have a little less reading to do.

Now that you've been a member for a semester, what do you hope to see in the group's future, whether it's next semester or a couple of years down the road?

More submissions! And more exposure – lots more. Many URI students haven’t even heard of the Scribe, and that’s sad, because aside from English department contests there are very few outlets for URI writers to gain recognition and get their work out there. The more submissions we get, the bigger future editions of the Scribe will be, and the more seriously we will be taken as a literary publication.

How would you describe your writing process? Do you draw inspiration from specific things, or do ideas pop into your head at random - or is there some other secret method to your madness?

My writing process is, in a word, chaotic. I tend to write in short bursts, usually late at night – much to the dismay of my parents when I was still living at home (apparently not everyone enjoys the clack-clack-clack sound the keyboard makes when you’re typing. Weird, right?). As for inspiration, I keep a notebook of random things people say that I think are interesting, or particular lines or images that I think about when I’m daydreaming (which is often). Sometimes I’ll write a whole story just so I can use one particular line. I guess that means my stories tend to be more image- or dialogue-driven than plot-driven, but hey, I’m happy with that.

What is the most embarrassing/cheesiest thing on your bookshelf?

I guess that’d be the big pink polka-dotted piggybank thing full of tootsie rolls. I don’t even like tootsie rolls. I swear.

Is there one particular writer who you cannot get enough of? What makes this writer so meaningful to you?

I love, love, love William Gibson. The style of his novels is nothing short of poetic, from cover to cover, and his vision of the future is at times scarily prescient. Gibson literally coined the term “cyberspace,” and this metaphor for the flow of data along a global network serves as the basis for similar representations throughout literature and film. To me, to read Gibson is to be on the bleeding edge of where technology meets human life, an experience which is both exciting and scary at the same time.

A crazy super-villain has broken into your house and stolen all of your books! But he's feeling charitable, and will let you take back only three of them. Which three do you choose, and why?

First, I’d save Neuromancer, by my aforementioned buddy Gibson, because it was the book that got me into Gibson and cyberpunk literature in general (and also because reading it saved me from going crazy on an 18 hour flight). Enough about him though, I don’t want to bore you to death.

Next, I’d save The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which is a collection of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, another one of my favorite writers. I’ve always loved Hemingway’s style; he draws you in with a simple dialect, and then WHAM! – you realize the significance and meaning of the story. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” found in the collection, is a perfect example of this, and is one of my favorite short stories. Not that the other ones are too shabby, though. What I love about short stories, and Hemingway’s in particular, is that each of them creates a world of their own, like a novel, but their form forces them to be more impactful. In a sense, you get more “story” per page, and having a collection of short stories is like having several different books.

Finally, I’d save How to Rule the World: A Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Guillame, because leaving a book like that in the hands of a crazy super-villain is downright irresponsible. Besides, I might need it someday – for, um, research. Yeah, that’s it.

Part two - little does the crazy super-villain know, you've actually got your own super-powers. You lock him up and punish him to read three of your least favorite books for all eternity. Which three, and why?

Oh boy, there are so many books I absolutely hate that it’s hard to narrow down. I suppose first on the list would be Gilead, by Marilynn Robinson, which I was assigned to read over the summer before junior year of high school. I barely got through the first three chapters – it was that boring. And I’m the kind of person that likes boring. Heck, when I tell people that I love Hemingway, the most common response is “How could you? He’s so boring!” I even enjoyed seeing The Good Shepherd for christ’s sake. But yeah, it was that bad. And she won a Pulitzer Prize for it. Go figure.

Next on the list is Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. I appreciate the effort, Mr. Achebe, but seriously, there is only so much talk about yams I can take before I have to abandon a book.

Last but certainly not least is William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I may get a lot of flak for this, but really, I just don’t get it. I’ve read it twice, written a couple papers on it, and I like to think that I understand what Faulkner is doing in theory, but it really is not an enjoyable read. Maybe the whole stream-of-consciousness thing just isn’t for me, I don’t know.

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