Bug Stew: Part 2

We are pleased to present part two of our three-part interview with the wonderful authors of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. Part one may be found here.

Many cooks don’t enjoying eating a meal they’ve prepared; they’re more interested in the process than the product. How do you feel about reading your  stories once they’ve been published?

DK Mok: My favourite parts of the creative process are the concept development, and seeing the finished work going out into the world. It’s the bit in between that’s tricky.

Forrest Aguirre: I admit to being a re-reader of my own stories. But only once. Unless I find a typo, in which case my OCD kicks in and I become a ranting, raving editor all over again.

Amanda C. Davis: I almost never read my stories after they’re published. Maybe I’ll skim them to see if a certain copy edit stuck, or if I can’t remember the name of a character or something, but I don’t sit and read them like a reader, no. But I do eat the meals I make! I like cooking, but eating is the whole point!

Brenta Blevins: I’m always curious to eat what I’ve prepared, so maybe I’m not a serious cook! In terms of reading my published stories, I’m intrigued with the way they “look” when published. I generally read to enjoy how an author can surprise me; it’s hard to surprise myself, although I do sometimes forget what I’d written and occasionally encounter a surprise.

Nathaniel Lee: I hate it. I force myself to listen to podcasts because people have put in hard work to make the audio production, but it’s hard and I have to keep fighting the urge to leave the room and hide under a blanket. If it’s in text, forget it. I’ll skip over it.

Juliet Kemp: Terrified. Until I manage to do it, then I’m surprised.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: If I read them after a long time has passed I often feel critical of them. I am assembling my first collection (due out next year) and there’s some stuff that baffles me. Did I write that? I also worry a lot. I worry I wrote crap. Even right now I’m a finalist for this literary prize thingy and I’m thinking ‘shit, it’s crap.’ It’s just nerves. Of course, I don’t have an agent yet so maybe my whole output *is* crap.

E. Catherine Tobler: I think writers have a unique perspective on the publishing process, as they are inside it. Writers know the story from its earliest scribbles in a notebook or a cocktail napkin. To see those scribbles transformed into a complete story, formatted and illustrated in a magazine… It can be surreal. I don’t often read my stories once they’re in print–perhaps it’s like an actor not watching themselves in a film.

Simon Kewin:
By the time a story is finished, I’ve already read it so many times it’s become boring to me. I feel like I’ve completely sucked it dry and don’t want to read it again for several years. I just have to hope it isn’t boring for anyone else but, honestly, I just can’t tell sometimes.

Steve Barber:
I’m critical of my cooking, and if it sucks, I’ll say so. But if it’s good I won’t lie about it either. I love to eat and I like things my own way. And while sometimes I think that maybe I should have added more garlic, sometimes I think it’s pretty near perfect. My writing is different. I’m never really satisfied. It can always be better. There’s a phrase in my exceptionally short JUE story I’d love to kill and replace with something that would make me look smarter. But sometimes you’ve got to let it go.

Conor Powers-Smith: That’s another cool connection that I never thought about before. I’m not that way with food at all; I cook so I can eat, period. But I understand how real cooks, people who do it as a livelihood and a passion, would feel the opposite. Once I think a story’s done, the last thing in the world I want to do is read it. If forced to eat their own cooking (or “edit” it, if you will), those cooks might find they enjoy certain parts of it, sometimes to a surprising degree, and they might be displeased or slightly embarrassed by others, but one thing they won’t do is make a habit of it. They’ll eat everyone else’s cooking, and love it and try to learn from it and maybe let it change their whole outlook on cooking, but it’s a whole different relationship between themselves and their own work. You’re eating, or you’re cooking; you can’t be on both sides of that.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley: I prepare meals because I love to eat. I can’t imagine not enjoying the results! My reaction to my stories varies wildly. After I finish the first draft (where I feel I’ve “found” the story) I am elated and I want to show the world because they will finally realise how brilliant I am. Then I send it off to someone to read. I always reread it and hate it, suddenly aware at just how awful it is. The sentence structure is awful, the word choices are all wrong, the story arc is banal. This view of the story lasts until the first reader responds. It doesn’t matter whether the reader liked it, to be honest, but I’m finally able to read the story with some sort of balance. Once I’ve revised and submitted the story, I go through the entire love-hate response all over again and then once more when the story is published. I’m not sure I would say I enjoy reading them.

Ada Hoffmann: I don’t really know how I feel about a story until I know how other people feel. Then I have their feelings to agree or disagree with. Of course, I’m more inclined to agree than to disagree, and sometimes I take it overboard. When a story of mine appears in a good market that I can be proud of, and other people appreciate it, then I enjoy re-reading the story and reminding myself of what I accomplished. But once or twice I’ve sold a story to a market that I soured on later, or people have pointed out large problems after the story was already published, and that destroyed my faith in those stories. You could pretty much write “INSECURE” on a sign and tape it to my back, but what artist isn’t?

Steven L. Peck:
I rarely read a story once it’s published. It’s finished at that point and I can only notice things I would like to change and it’s too late! So only after a long time will I revisit a story once it is published.

Samantha Henderson: I hate them. I can’t believe that anyone could write something so clunky. And then I think, this is brilliant! What a privilege to know me! Then I’m very, very embarrassed, like you do when you’re going to the store because the pantry’s down to old bags of bean soup and rice crumbs, and the older kid is rude to a complete stranger who can react the way they’d like because it’s a kid and the baby vomits yellow chunks all over your shoulder. And then I’m kind of OK with it.

If you could recommend one food or beverage pairing to accompany your Journal of Unlikely Entomology story, what would it be, and why?

DK Mok: Hot chips. Any time is a good time to eat hot chips.

Forrest Aguirre:
Expensive dark chocolate and pomegranate juice. Because they’re yummy, and they taste like my story.

Amanda C. Davis: They eat peanut-butter crackers toward the beginning of Drift, but I have to go with a big mug of hot chocolate.

Nathaniel Lee: Black coffee and baked beans. (Campfire food!)

Juliet Kemp: A pint of bitter. Nothing to do with the story, I just really fancy a pint of bitter right now.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia:
White wine. Because you can’t go wrong with that.

E. Catherine Tobler:
Clearly there can be but one answer here, and that answer is cake. Cake goes with everything I do, preferably individually frosted cakes in paper cups!

Conor Powers-Smith: I don’t know what would go well with my story. Definitely a beverage, possibly in the whiskey family, and I might just slap a six-drink minimum on that. Something capable of kicking up some strong emotions, but at the same time almost guaranteeing that those emotions end in frustration and remorse.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley: I recently read about Candied Bacon flavored ice cream – with brown sugar, cinnamon, and bacon. Rock and her people are carnivores and Earth has become unbearably hot so I think that would be perfect!

Ada Hoffmann: My story is about people with centipedes on their skin who live in the sewer. So, really, I would recommend saving the food for later.

Steven L. Peck: I would pair it goat wat (a kind of stew or curry) eaten with injera bread and eaten by hand. One of my favorite Ethiopian dishes.

Check back on Friday for the third and final part of our interview!

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