We know you are all curious to learn what happens behind the scenes at SRR and to read more about the people who select the terrific work that goes in our magazine. Jennifer Dean was kind enough to take a break to answer some questions about her writing life and experience at SRR.
Crystal Gibbins: What is one of your favorite pieces from SRR’s inaugural issue? Why?
Jennifer Dean: One of my favorite pieces from the first issue is the pair of flash fiction pieces by Kate LaDew "Thomas Edison's Blue Bird" and "Nikola Telsa's White Pigeon." Part of the appeal is the creative imagining of these two historic figures who have seen a recent surge of interest in popular consciousness but mostly, I like the idea of Telsa and his pigeon. Telsa's depiction is endearing and haunting, and I appreciate, given what we're learning about the two inventors, the juxtaposition of Edison being unable to hear a song-bird and Telsa as being so deeply connected to a pigeon that he mourns for it.
CG: What things do you like to see show up in SRR’s submission queue?
JD: Mostly what I notice about my interests is that I'm looking for examples of expansive but deliberate thinking in writing, whether it be poetry or prose. What that looks like in practice is writing that artfully employ conventional and experimental literary techniques in a conscious and purposeful way to share a message or a perspective. I'm also looking for writing that does these things and still manages to surprise me into an emotional response as a human being and not as a writer appreciating a really good technique.
CG: Who is your favorite writer? Why?
JD: I have a habit of going through binge-phases with certain authors. I'll find a book, read the entire thing in a sitting, and then run to the library or a book store to get the rest of the author's work. Sometimes, it's about finding out about the rest of a story line, but most times its just that reading their writing feels like gulping water after hard labor in the sun. I did that with Billy Collins' work and B.H. Fairchild, but my favorite instance of doing it was after I read Alice Hoffman's The Probable Future a few summers back. I loved it so much I read it twice in a row then spent the rest of the summer hunting down and reading her books. She's a definite favorite. I guess you could describe her style as 'magical realism'; her stories tend to be set in New England and their central characters are almost always women. She has a kind of lyric and symbolic symmetry to her narratives that read as natural and compelling. As a poet I appreciate that especially, and it's probably why almost every summer, whether I mean to or not, I end up eventually re-reading The Probable Future.
CG: Besides SRR submissions, what or who are you reading lately?
JD: Against my better judgment I spend a lot of time reading social commentary blogs like the feminist-minded Jezebel.com and news-y stuff like Slate.com. I recently read Simone DeBeauvoir's The Second Sex. It makes normal conversations a little difficult sometimes. What I read when all of that stuff gets heavy and exhausting is Cracked.com articles about weird science, animals, and how scary Australia is. Then I look at videos of baby animals on Youtube. I packed all my own books but one of the few I kept close at hand (and re-read all the time) is poet Amy Fleury's Beautiful Trouble.
CG: What are you working on right now?
JD: I think as a result of the recent glut of news coverage over things like the kidnapping of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight in Cleveland, the Steubenville Rape Case, Elizabeth Smart, and an absolute avalanche of reports of instances of domestic violence I've begun a cross-genre manuscript on the topic(s) of rape, domestic violence, and sexuality in the United States.
It started as erasure poetry. There were so, so, so many words being written about these events and their cultural relevance, about the victims, about women and men, and then new stories surface and the process starts all over again. I got so emotionally exhausted reading about these things that the only way I could initially respond was by blacking out the worst of it. The practice revealed a lot that required a more expansive response, so now I'm doing exploratory non-fiction writing. It's tough as a subject, but I think part of the urge to do this kind of work comes from the sense that simply documenting or witnessing isn't enough.
CG: Where can we read your own work?