We’re excited that you will be with us, sharing your experiences with publishing and tips on writing short stories.
How do you get ideas for your short stories?
CS: Ideas are all around. I pick up something, usually an image, and if it captures my attention, I start rolling it around in my head. Most fizzle, but some start acquiring their own mass. I start seeing people, situations, possibilities. If the notions still appeal to me, I’ll start the writing process.
Do you have a writing routine? Is there a ritual you use to get into a writing flow?
CS: I get up early every morning to give myself an hour to write. It’s quiet—everyone in the house is still asleep—and I find myself able to focus. Then in the evening, after my son has gone to bed, I write again—anywhere from a half hour to an hour. I don’t have a ritual per se, but I usually will end a session with a note to myself—a reminder of where I want to pick up next time.
You had mentioned in an interview I read (can’t remember which one) that you usually have a few writing projects going on at the same time. What is your process in managing them?
CS: That’s true—I usually have a couple projects in motion—a novel, stories, essays. I’ll work on one for a few months, then when that energy wears thin or if I need a bit of perspective, I’ll put it aside and pull out something else. There’s no real rhyme or reason—it’s just whatever is calling me at that time. When I wrap up with a project I’ll box it and write myself a note—where it stands and what I need to address when I return. It may sound a bit scattered, but the process helps keep things fresh.
On your site, you invite people to contact you for signed copies of your books. That’s very generous. Does it ever become overwhelming?
CS: It would be overwhelming if more people asked for them.
How much does your family influence your writing?
CS: They come first. I wouldn’t be happy with myself as a writer if I wasn’t happy with myself as a husband or a father.
In terms of emotional growth, being a member of a family has helped me to see the world in different terms. Much of my essay writing in particular centers around my experiences of parenthood.
For the Write Stuff conference, can you please give us a sneak peak into what you will talk about in your Saturday presentations, “Publishing Through Small Publishing Houses” and “Essential Elements of a Vital Short Story”?
CS: I gave a similar talk about publishing at the conference about three years ago. I had all sorts of plans—but most of the time was dedicated to discussion and fielding audience questions. So I’ll probably give a 20-25 minute talk and then open it up to the floor. I have a lot of experience with both small press book publishing and publishing on the lit journal front—I’ve found a lot of folks want to discuss the process and market—and I’m more than happy to share my experiences.
I love the short story—I’m excited about the presentation on essential elements. I did a three-day presentation at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference a few years back—I’m going to try to take the highlights from that and form it into an hour talk. As a writer, I think I benefit more than my audience by preparing for such a talk—it helps remind me of what I find most important and appealing about the form.
What have you published recently and what can readers expect from you next?
CS: My new essay collection hits this month—I’m hoping to have copies for the conference—but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I have a couple stories coming out in lit journals in the coming months.
For the past six months I’ve been working on a new project. A publisher is putting out a new series of writers writing about their favorite books. It was a different experience—signing a contract and cashing a check before I’d written a word—but it’s been a great ride. That book will be out next March.