Today, as part of a three-day series, we present our findings, from the silly to the sublime: the routines and rituals—or lack of them—of ASF contributors. . .
The Requested Authors Series:
Rachel B. Glazer * Ethan Rutherford * Katie Williams
Katie Williams (“Serials,” Summer/Fall ’08) on ritual:
It’s important to me that I write every day because I want writing to be a central part of my life; however, I try not to be too hard on myself if I miss a day or three. I prefer to write early, before my mind is filled with the noise of the day. And it’s essential that I not check email or read the news before I write, though an hour’s warmup with a well-written book is often good, especially if I’m having a hard time getting going. When the words won’t come, I try to switch something–from computer to paper, from apartment to coffee shop, from words to drawings, from short story to flash fiction–or I take a long, distracted walk around the neighborhood, bumping into lampposts and muttering to myself.”
Katie Williams’s process notes for her ASF story “Serials” after the jump . . .
The seed for ‘Serials’ came from a very sad real-life event: When I was eleven years old, a serial killer murdered the teenage daughter of a family friend. Anxious and a little bit macabre, I was haunted by this murder from age eleven into adulthood; however whenever I tried to write about it, the material felt too sensational.
Then in grad school, I heard a presentation on Dr. Strangelove where a classmate explained that Kubrick had originally tried to write a serious film about nuclear war, but had found the subject so unthinkable that the only way he could engage with it honestly was through satire. I thought the same might apply to my writing about serial murder. (This is not to suggest that “Serials” is anywhere near as brilliant as Dr. Strangelove.)
This approach worked. I wrote “Serials” at MacDowell and Yaddo artist colonies in the summer of 2005. The first draft was written over the course of an afternoon, unusually swift for me. The challenge from the outset was tone: How can something so terrible be funny? I’m still not sure I nailed it. Some readers seem to really hate this story. I read it aloud at Yaddo to a sea of puzzled faces. On the other hand, my seventy-five-year-old father likes “Serials” best out of anything I’ve ever written.
Katie Williams earned her MFA at University of Texas at Austin. Her short story “Serials,” published in American Short Fiction‘s Summer/Fall 2008 issue, will appear in Best American Fantasy 3 and has been optioned for a film. Katie’s first novel, The Space Between Trees, will be published by Chronicle Books in May 2010.
I selected Katie Williams for this feature. If there’s an ASF (or other) author whose rituals you’d like to hear about, comment below. We’ll report back soon.