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Q and A

Apr 20, 2008; Col. Mustard Asks:

What's your favorite murder weapon? What's your favorite literary death?

Stacey answers:

I like the garrote. Ivan Ilych is my all-time favorite literary death.

Apr 15, 2008; Omega Quattro Asks:

Are you the kind of person who gets obessesd with certain words or phrases? Have you come across any good sentences lately?

Stacey answers:

"It has already been mentioned that the carbohydrates are the obvious and fruitful cause of derangements of digestion that are clinically determined, especially diarrhea and flatulence." -Christian Herter

Apr 09, 2008; Dan Asks:

Better question: When you yourself were getting the early rejections how did you stay optimistic and keep sending the same stories out?.... I didn't mean to imply something snarky or cynical by asking about Cavemen in the Hedges --for some reason I thought that was your first published story. Thanks!

Stacey answers:

Dan, I didn't stay optimistic. I felt forlorn and stupid and embarrassed and unloved. But I also thought the people at the magazines that rejected me were stupid and unlovable and embarrassing, so I sent stories out again in order to spite them and/or to prove that I didn't care what they thought. If publishing stories--or anything in my life--required optimism, then I would be screwed.

Though I think what you're really asking is how you can stay optimistic and persevere when you send your own stories out...and I'm not being very helpful. I have a weird affinity for rejection, failure, and being overlooked--I'm crushed by it but there's also a little voice inside me that says, Oh goody. I like to think this is a girl thing, since girls are often subtly punished when they succeed, but it's probably a me thing. But, given this, I might not be the best person to ask about rejection.

Apr 08, 2008; Dan Asks:

A couple recent questions have popped up about publication. How many rejections did Cavemen in the Hedges get before acceptance. Zero? Two? Fifteen?

Stacey answers:

My agent shopped that around for me, which is nice because I don't have to see the rejections and I only hear vague comments like, "The New Yorker passed." So I'm not really sure how many rejections it got--probably about four.

Apr 07, 2008; Mike Asks:

In your opinion, what type of person makes middle of the night prank phone calls? Thanks.

Stacey answers:

Boys between the ages of 9 and 13, 11 year-old girls, drunks of all ages.

Apr 04, 2008; Wag Asks:

On the subject of music, do you know if Donald Fagen or Walter Becker have read your story "Chirst Their Lord"?

Stacey answers:

Well, I had to send them each a check to use the lyrics to "Hey Nineteen," and though they each have companies, I made the checks out in their names anyway because it was more fun. But I really, really, really, really doubt they read the story.

Apr 01, 2008; Adrian Asks:

Your stories kind of remind me of Liz Phair's songs- the ones from "Exile in Guyville" and "Whip Smart", not the newer albums. Do you listen to music when you write?

Stacey answers:

I like Liz Phair from that era, but I'm almost sure she put that Ph in her name because she thought it was cool...and I'm not sure I approve of messing with the spellings. No, Adrian, I don't listen to music when I work because I find it too distracting. I'm even annoyed by birds and insects. Though sometimes in the winter when it gets dark really early, I play smooth jazz very softly in the next room because it makes me feel less like I'm the last person left on earth.

Mar 31, 2008; Simone Asks:

Help me Stacey! I have to teach a poem or short-short about oppression for this fancy charter school job I'm trying to get. Something I can cover in an hour with a bunch of seventh graders. Any suggestions?

Stacey answers:

Okay, let me think about it. There's always "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. 7th graders would like that, though since the fall of communism it may have lost its edge. I'll see if I can think of some others.

More: "Gimple the Fool" by Isaac Bashevis Singer, one of my favorite stories, but it might be too long if you have to read it in class. I can think of a lot of things but I don't think you want 7th graders reading In the Penal Colony, etc. You might try calling around to used bookstores or even going to thrift stores where they sometimes have old literature anthologies for grade school kids. Mine was called Adventures in Appreciation, as I recall. That might be a good source if you want to flip through a lot of short, age-appropriate material.

Mar 25, 2008; Wag Asks:

Have you ever been driving on the freeway, and you come up behind one of those giant recreational vehicles and you see that folding aluminum chair bungeed to the ladder on the back of the RV? Why do you suppose that is? I mean, have they run out of space inside the giant RV? Is it packed so full of stuff that they don't have room for a lawn chair? Or, could it some kind of "indicator"-- something that tells other empty-nester nomads that they are swingers or something?

Stacey answers:

Yes they are swingers, and yes, I have swung with them.

Mar 16, 2008; Veronica Asks:

Do you think that it's crucial to have an MFA in order to get your writing published? I'm sure it can't hurt to have one, but I know several MFA grads who seem no closer to publication than non-MFA-ers. Your thoughts, please? (And, if you have time, what made you decide to get yours?)

Stacey answers:

As far as I know, an MFA won't help you get your writing published. It can help you get a job teaching writing and that's about it. It's not a very useful degree. The arts are not very practical or promising. Most people (including me) get an MFA as a sort of desperate time-wasting detour between their mid-twenties and late twenties--or even the terror of thirty. Some people also want a little time to practice and think about writing, and to hang out with other people who are doing the same thing to see if you're better than they are. Theoretically, you could even find a good teacher.

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