Below is the first in our series of interviews with the contributors to Issue 17. To read Joel’s poem “Dropped” and more just as awesome, click here and buy a copy of Issue 17. Keep checking back; I’ll be posting the interviews as they roll in.
Describe your writing in 25 words or less.
My writing seeks to honestly portray people living along the margins of society, finding patterns among the circumstances and forces that landed them there.
Tell me about your poem “Dropped.”
This is a poem that I worked on for quite some time before it finally took shape, and it is probably the most difficult poem I’ve
ever written. It’s based on an incident many years ago that, upon considerable reflection, came to symbolize my growing
disillusionment with man’s many attempts to create higher powers of varying natures, as dramatic as that sounds.
Who or what inspires you to write?
On one hand, I am inspired to write as a way of communicating with authors whose work I most admire, from Dorothy Allison
to Junot Diaz to Philip Levine. On the other hand, I am driven to continue writing because I have not yet found anyone else
telling the exact stories that I want to tell, and I hope to fill that void.
You’re the fiction editor for Moon City Review. How did you get involved with them? What’s your selection process like?
I started as an assistant editor for Moon City Review as a graduate student at Missouri State University. I loved working on the editing and publishing side, and I invested much time and energy into the journal, so when I graduated I was asked to stay on as Fiction Editor, a position I happily accepted. As an editor, I am most drawn to stories with strong voices, whose keen psychological insight into their own characters’ motivations finds new ways to explore the human condition. Simply put, I look for interesting characters doing interesting things and having interesting things to say about them.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am trying to form a collection out of my longer stories, something in the tradition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio or even Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff, in that all of the stories are united by place and theme. In the meantime, my newer stories find me delving into shorter forms, exploring flash fiction in all its diversity and experimentation.
Otherwise, I am turning more and more of my attention to poetry and nonfiction, finding them increasingly useful for saying the things that I can’t say through my fiction.
Is there a website/blog where we can keep up with your work?
I do not currently maintain a website, but I have recently discovered the value of such a thing, and one is likely to appear in the very near future.
Any advice for your fellow writers?
My main advice, beyond the well-worn suggestions to just write and read as much as possible, is do whatever you can to tap into the amazing community of writers that exists throughout the world. Technology has made it possible for us to share our work in so many ways, and extensive exposure to others’ writing will only broaden and refine your abilities. Get out of your comfort zone, move beyond your immediate influences, and seek new resources and connections that expand your understanding of the writing and publishing worlds.