2015 Contest: An Interview with Fiction Judge Alissa Nutting
UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute hosts a reception and reading by Ph.d student and author Alissa Nutting in the Greenspun Hall Auditorium November 30, 2010 in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services) CLIENT: BLACK MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE
Alissa Nutting is author of the novel Tampa (Ecco 2013), and the short story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (Starcherone/Dzanc 2010). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, Tin House, Bomb, the New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, ELLE magazine, and many other venues. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at John Carroll University.
Interview by JOE LUCIDO
Black Warrior Review: What’s life after Tampa like?
Alissa Nutting: Well, I get interesting fan mail from people in prison? All in all it has been a wild ride, but one sane-making thing for me about being a writer is that no matter what is going on externally in my professional or private lives, a great deal of each day is spent alone in a room writing, so my life always has a certain amount of consistency no matter how wacky my travel schedule or whatever else gets. Call it a defense mechanism, call it sanctuary, call it artistic practice-I need that safe, protected time in my life each day.
BWR: You currently teach at John Carroll University in Ohio. As a native Midwesterner, I’m always curious to know: How has your experience of the Flyover been? In what ways, if any, has it influenced your writing?
AN: I’d really never been to Ohio before living in Cleveland. It’s good people. There’s a great literary scene in Cleveland, so many universities nearby with lots of immensely talented writers and writing students, but there’s also a great amount of privacy and the sense that we’re all at home doing our work. I’ve lived places where there are so many writing events going on and such a bustling scene that I worry–how do I make all of these events/readings and still have time to write? For me at least, living in the midwest, I’ve felt a great sense of pride in the act of labor that maybe I didn’t have before, or wasn’t quite as aware of. Writing is my labor. Thinking about it that way really helps me to automatically devote time and hard work to it in a way that wasn’t as instinctual in other places I’ve lived.
BWR: Similarly, how has teaching influenced your writing?
AN: It likewise helps my writing feel like a routine practice in a great all-encompassing way. I get to write, then go talk about writing, and read and prep writing–it’s a lucky life.
BWR: Hypothetical: You are starting the Alissa Nutting book club. What essentials are you putting on the reading list?
AN: Ah, that would be one long-ass list. Some of my favorites are Lynda Barry, Yiyun Li, Dan Chaon, Uwem Akpan, Djuna Barnes, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Roald Dahl…
BWR: What can readers and fans expect next from you?
AN: It’s a novel and there are dolphins involved.
BWR: When not writing, how do you like to enjoy life?
AN: Ha. That seems like a joke but I guess it isn’t. I’m a parent and I have a very fun daughter. I like to eat things that really are not meant to be eaten. That’s like a hobby to me.
BWR: What qualities will a contest-winning story exhibit? What excites you most about good fiction?
AN: Whenever I read something I love, I feel like it’s showing me a truth that I knew all along but was never fully aware of. Bizarre, realist, it doesn’t matter–there’s something there that makes me nod my head and gets my organs humming and helps me feel wiser than I did before I read it.