What do you hope to achieve while working as the Fiction Contributing Editor with Water~Stone Review (WSR) for v. 26?
My hope is to discover new voices and communities and to encounter writing that surprises me. I remember what it was like to open my first acceptance for a story, and I look forward to delivering that to a writer. I know what it means to work for years on a story. I hope to take great care and respect with each piece.
What do you enjoy exploring with your own fiction writing?
Generally it starts with the sentence. Mining a sentence, following it to see where it takes me. Seeing only half of a scene and wondering what happens after or even before that moment. I am currently working on a collection of all male voices. Through those characters, I wish to be removed from what I know to try and inhabit someone else’s experience.
If you could pull a compelling fictional story apart, what is it made of? How do the parts work together?
The ones that come to mind command your attention, hold a point of view, harness a confidence, and a need that becomes the thread that runs through the piece. The reader leans in; desire or yearning is clear. I have long believed the propulsion in any story is the sum of all the elements humming together.
Then there is the power of the sentence. I favor this quote when I teach flash fiction from The Review of The Review: “Distilling experience into a few pages or, in some cases a few paragraphs, forces writers to pay close attention to every loaded conversation, every cruel action, every tender gesture, and every last syllable in every single word.” Every line at its best works towards a resonance the story seeks to achieve.
If you could explore the life of any fictional character on one particular day, which character would it be, which day, and why?
Funny, I’ve never envied the journeys of my most favorite characters in literature because they suffer tough fates and great hardships.
Who inspires your work? Which journals, books, writers, or artists create that fizzy, exhilarating feel?
Venita Blackburn’s work, Jamel Brinkley’s work, writing to the composer Emile Mosseri, and the collection by Maile Meloy Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It recently renewed my crush and awe of the short story, The Will to Change by bell hooks was just that—an exhilarating read. Her words on masculinity are incisive and prescient now more than ever. Maria, Maria: & Other Stories by Marytza K. Rubio, another great collection that breaks tradition in wonderful ways. As far as visual art, the recent exhibition of Wangechi Mutu work at Storm King Art Center was halting and resonant.
How do you think your work as Associate Publisher at BOMB Magazine will shape your work with Water~Stone Review?
Working at BOMB, the mission is really to honor the artist’s voice. This is something I believe. Celebrating art or admiring art is different than honoring it. That act allows for the work to find a home, for it to truly be its best self. A writer takes a small notion, a wild idea and transforms it. You see this in Water-Stone’s namesake, the alchemist’s tool, this idea of transformation feels embedded in its pages. One hopes after reading an issue a person is altered, changed just a bit in their view of the world. I love WSR’s Folio section where one can discover photographers. The images themselves are always striking and glorious. BOMB of course, is a multidisciplinary space. In many ways, these two publications are in conversation with each other.
LIBBY FLORES’S work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Gagosian Quarterly, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Post Road Magazine, Mc Sweeney’s, Tin House / The Open Bar, The Guardian, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. In 2008 she was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Libby holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College and is the Associate Publisher at BOMB magazine. She is represented by Sarah Bowlin at Aevitas Creative Management. She lives in Brooklyn, but will always be a Texan.