Rappahannock Review Contributor Spotlight: Interview with
The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: Tell us about the pieces you’re currently working on.
Austin Eichelberger: I’m currently working on a few projects in a few different areas. I always have short fiction and poetry in the works, but I’m working on a fragmented novel right now. I also write and edit graphic novels and comic books for Plumesnake, Inc., a new company where I serve as Vice President, and I founded and am Editor-In-Chief of Tiny Text, a Twitter journal for 140-character memoir and fiction. One of the ways I live a life I can call “a writer’s” is by interacting with my craft as much as I can on as many levels as I can manage, which is one reason why I teach—it keeps me connected to my craft and people who just started practicing it.
RR: Your website shows you’ve produced a significant amount of prose and that you also teach. What are the challenges of working in (as a writer and a teacher) both genres?
AE: One of my biggest challenges as a writer is that sometimes narratives begin to appear as one genre and end up as another, and that transition is often a long way into the process for me. Otherwise, I love both genres, though I produce much more fiction than poetry. As a teacher, I enjoy delving into both poetry and fiction because I’m really doing it for my students and not for myself. Since I have more experience and success with fiction, I tend to have an easier time teaching it and more confidence in discussions, but I still really enjoy introducing classes of all kinds to poetry that I think resonates with themes we’re examining.
RR: Which writers have been most formative for you?
AE: My own writing has many influences, but a few are: Dave Eggers’ overall style (How We Are Hungry is the book that literally made me say, “This is what I want to do”), Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s sense of magic and meaning, Kurt Vonnegut’s plots and structural experimentation, Flannery O’Connor’s everything, the directness and eye for oddity in Augusten Burroughs’s work, Ernest Hemingway’s brevity, the worlds inside Italo Calvino, the lyrical voices of F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck, the way Lorrie Moore can turn a sentence, the unashamed identity expressed by Willa Cather and Jamaica Kincaid, the balance of light and dark in Etgar Keret’s fiction, and David Mitchell’s nuanced hand with textual experimentation and characterization.
RR: Your poem, “He’s a wildflower,” is full of sensual language. Is this a recurring theme in your writing?
AE: Yes, absolutely. I think the surest way to build a world around a reader is through the senses, so it’s how I try to ground all my writing, no matter what I’m portraying. I always strive to immerse my readers as fully as I can, which requires me to connect their bodies to the text through their senses. It’s the difference between saying a breeze was blowing and describing the smell of the air as the breeze passed—they’re just totally different experiences.
RR: How would you say that working as a teacher has influenced your writing style as an author?
AE: Working as a teacher has made me more conscious of stylistic choices and has introduced me to many pieces of literature that have informed what kind of stories I tell. It’s also helped me to really take in a lot of the advice I was given as a student because I hear myself repeating so much of it to my students, and simply helped me become closer to my craft because I work so closely with writing and writers every time I go to work.
Austin Eichelberger’s work in Issue 3.3: