In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Keith Lesmeister

by Sep 30, 2019

For twenty two years, Water~Stone Review has been a collaborative passion project of students, faculty, and staff. For our next issue, we are bringing a new team member to the process with hope of expanding our chorus of voices in our pages as well as our reach and readership. 

 In this post we meet Vol. 23 Contributing Fiction Editor, Keith Lesmeister.

What is your earliest memory or experience in which you knew you wanted to be a writer? What brought you to the art form?

I can remember with pinpoint accuracy the moment I wanted to write short stories. It was ten years ago. I was taking a creative writing class—fiction & poetry—and we just finished Michael Cunningham’s story White Angel. Up to that point, I was writing because I wanted to record family stories and history. After White Angel, I wanted to create my own (fictional) stories. 

What writers do you admire? What specific pieces of work do you find yourself continually drawn to for inspiration?

Michael Cunningham, as mentioned. Also, as of late, I’ve been reading and rereading some old work by Rebecca Lee, Jane Smiley, Mary Miller, Maile Meloy, Annie Dillard, and Andrew Porter

Can you give us any insight into what your creative process looks like?

Coffee. Lots of coffee. And fits and starts. I used to be more diligent about a writing routine. Now I write when I can. Sometimes daily. Ideally, it would be daily. 

What is one thing that you know now as an established writer that you wish you had known as a new writer? What’s one thing you wish all new writers who are learning the craft would know?

Once you finish a draft, put it away for a while. Let it sit in the bottom of your desk drawer for a few weeks, maybe a month, and then come back to it. I think distance is critically important to revision. 

What are some trends in literary fiction that you find exciting to read?

I don’t read a lot of literary news re: trends. I wish I had more time to do so. I do read book reviews, but those are nothing new or trendy. 

How do you see your position as contributing fiction editor leaving an imprint on Vol. 23? What will you look for in fiction submissions for Vol. 23?

I’m very much looking forward to continuing the tradition that Sheila has established. I admire her as a writer and teacher, and I’m honored to be part of such a wonderful literary journal based out of a vibrant literary hub—the Twin Cities. In terms of what I’ll be looking for: In honor of the late Daniel Johnston, I’ll be searching for something as searing and vulnerable as the work he produced over his prolific, tortured life. 

Your short story collection WE COULD’VE BEEN HAPPY HERE came out in 2017. What projects or pieces are you working on now?

I’m still writing stories. I love to read them, I love to write them. 

Keith Lesmeister’s latest novel was WE COULD’VE BEEN HAPPY HERE from Midwest Gothic (2017). His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Water~Stone Review, American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, Tin House Open Bar, River Teeth, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and he lives and works in rural Iowa. You can find more about


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