Thursday, September 27, 2012

Micro Interview: Chad Simpson

Today's WORDHARVEST micro interview is with Chad Simpson, author of the very soon to be released, Tell Everyone I said Hi, which won the 2012 John Simmons Fiction Award. Enjoy!

Ninth Letter:  How do you prepare for a reading? Any pre-show rituals?

Chad Simpson: I usually practice reading to my cat Disco. While I read, Disco purrs and rubs up against my leg. She mewls. I feel like I’m really making a connection with my audience. Mostly, though, I time myself during theses practice runs, to make sure I’m going to stay within my time constraints, so as not to anger either the audience or the people with whom I’m reading.

As for pre-show rituals, I like bourbon. I mean, in general, I like bourbon. It’s not a ritual or anything but occasionally I’ll have one or two before I give a reading.

9L: When deciding which material to read, do you try to anticipate or take into account how the audience might react to what you read based on the event or venue?

CS: I do, but not much. I write mostly sad stories, which don’t go over as well at readings as, say, funny stories. So, really, there’s not much for me to take into account, since I only have certain things to offer. I do, however, write a lot of stories that aren’t very long, so the biggest thing for me to think about is whether I want to read two or three short stories, or the first half of something longer.

9L: What's one of your favorite moments from a reading, either yours or one you've attended?

CS: This is easy: About six years ago, I went to see Tim O’Brien give a reading at Augustana College. I was a huge fan prior to the reading, which is why my wife Jane and I made the 45-minute drive to see him, and his performance just blew us away. He basically told a story for the first half hour of the reading, like we were all sitting at a bar. He didn’t look down at any notes, didn’t flip through the bookmarked pages of some text. He just talked, and it was mesmerizing. He said smart stuff, funny stuff; he juggled tropes. When he was done, he said that the story he’d just told us was the “real” story of what had become the first chapter of his novel-in-progress. Then, to top things off, he read a short piece he’d published fairly recently, “A Letter To My Son,” which was heartbreaking and honest and just beautiful. I don’t think there was a person in the audience who wasn’t crying. And if there was, that person probably has no soul, and is not worth thinking much about.

WORDHARVEST is this Saturday, September 29 at 4pm at Cowboy Monkey in Champaign, IL. More details about the event can be found here. Check back tomorrow for our next micro interview with Jensen Beach.

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