The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.
This year, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the University of Iowa Press with a special editon of 5Q Interviews of UI Press authors throughout the years. Happy Birthday UI Press!
Today we are speaking with Anthony Varallo.
Varallo is the author of a novel, The Lines (University of Iowa Press), as well as four short story collections: This Day in History (University of Iowa Press), winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award; Out Loud (University of Pittsburgh Press), winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; Think of Me and I’ll Know (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books); and Everyone Was There (Elixir Press), winner of the Elixir Press Fiction Award. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the College of Charleston (in Charleston, South Carolina) where he serves as Fiction Editor of Crazyhorse.
1. Hi Anthony! Do you have a specific project that you will be working on this year?
I just published my first novel, The Lines, with the University of Iowa Press, and now I’m trying to think of myself as more of a novelist, but sometimes I still feel like writing short stories. So, predictably, I’m split between the two right now: I have a novel-in-progress that keeps refusing my best intentions for it, and I’ve been writing several short-short stories as I try to figure my novel out. Those projects should keep me busy for a while.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
I try to write in the mornings and save revision for the evening. For years, I would write at night—I liked the solitude of it—but that’s changed as I’ve gotten older, and it certainly changed once I had children. I don’t have a set routine, but as long as I have coffee and daylight, I feel like I might accomplish something. I used to set “goals” for myself (I will write 1,000 words today!) but, more often than not, I would fail to reach those goals, then beat myself up for failing to meet my goals, then repeat the process all over again the next day. Lately, I’m perfectly happy with writing for an hour or two, no matter what I produce.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
So many things! The semester is about to begin, so I’m reading or re-reading books I’m eager to teach this semester, like John Williams’s incredible novel, Stoner, and Sabrina Orah Mark’s wonderful story collection, Wild Milk. I’m also the fiction editor of Crazyhorse magazine, so I’m reading hundreds of fiction submissions at the moment. My nightstand is also stacked with books that reach to the top of my lampshade, which is either proof of my love of reading or fairly lousy housekeeping skills, or both.
4. Tell us about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I’m originally from Delaware. For those of you who don’t know, Delaware is a state. I swear. In fact, Delaware is The First State, so, for one brief moment in American history, it was the center of the universe. Then the next day happened and people mostly forgot about Delaware again. Nice things about Delaware? Some really great beaches, no sales tax, and it’s close to other places a bit more exciting than Delaware. Nearly all of my fiction is set in Delaware, though, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.
I currently live in Charleston, South Carolina, where I teach at the College of Charleston. I never thought I would live in the South, but it has been a wonderful place to live, write, work, and raise a family. We live about fifteen minutes from the beach, which means I can pretty much see a dolphin any time I’d like to. I admit that I don’t take advantage of that perk all that often, but still, it’s nice to know it’s there.
5. The UI Press is turning 50 this year! Share with us a bit about your experience and relationship with the press.
I’m super-proud to be with the University of Iowa Press. They published my first short story collection, This Day in History, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, and now they’ve been kind enough to publish my novel, The Lines, as part of the Iowa Review Series in Fiction. They are truly a wonderful group of folks to work with, so smart, professional, and friendly—and they put out amazing book after amazing book. My shelves are lined with UI Press titles; I can’t believe my good fortune to be part of the press’s 50-year history. Next year, I have the honor of participating in a panel, “Iowa Short Fiction Award Series 50th Anniversary Reading,” at the AWP Annual Conference in San Antonio, where I will read with a group of prize-winning Iowa Short Fiction Award Series winners. I don’t know if I will wear black and gold, but you know what, I just might.
Established in 1969, the University of Iowa Press serves scholars, students, and readers throughout the world with works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. As the only university press in the state, Iowa is also dedicated to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the Midwest. The UI Press is a place where first-class writing matters, whether the subject is Whitman or Shakespeare, prairie or poetry, memoirs or fandom. They are committed to the vital role played by small presses as publishers of scholarly and creative works that may not attract commercial attention. For more information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.