Friday 12 October 2018

Interview with Carrie Etter

American writer Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and taught Creative Writing at Bath Spa University since 2004. She has published four collections of poetry: The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Prize, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society, and The Weather in Normal (Seren, 2018), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Winter 2018. Her individual poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Statesman, Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other journals worldwide, and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies as well as numerous journals, and a collection of stories Hometown was published in 2016. Carrie's website is

Interviewed by Lee Wright

LW: What made you want to write?

CE: I started writing poetry and stories regularly from the age of eleven, and I suppose some of the motivations are the same: the pleasure of working with words, of creating stories and poems others can inhabit; the intellectual challenge in grappling with different ideas, forms, etc.; the drive to understand myself and my world better through language ....

LW: Is minimalism important to fiction?

CE: Minimalism is one stylistic approach, and there are many minimalist writers I admire, but I've read much fiction I enjoyed that defies its suggested boundaries. I'm a pluralist when it comes to both fiction and poetry in that I appreciate a wide range of styles.

LW: Raymond Carver once said that the reason he wrote short stories and poetry was because he liked to “Get in, get out. Not linger.” Does that apply to your own work?

CE: I suppose these shorter forms mean I'm not lingering in the way one would in writing a novel, but I have no eagerness to get out! I love the work of a poem or story, the creative challenges of each new work, and always want more time to write. 

LW: What importance do you attach to dialogue in your stories?

CE: I'm fascinated by the way we interact with one another in speech – the things half said, the abrupt confessions, the negotiations, so I tend to use a fair amount of dialogue. I used to love teaching Raymond Carver's slim collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, for the discussions that would arise around the perceptiveness of his dialogue. 

LW: How do you bring your poems and stories to a close?

CE: That really varies with the individual piece. I certainly don't want the endings to try to point the reader toward a definitive meaning. In a story, it's partly about fulfilling the piece's arc, the protagonist's journey in that moment in time, which gives a story a sense of wholeness or completeness. In a poem I suppose I'm usually more instinctively pursuing a motive, an idea, and have a strong sense of when that has been fulfilled. 

LW: You were born in Illinois and later lived in California, before moving to the UK in 2001. Has living in England influenced or changed your writing?

CE: Living in England has definitely affected my writing in numerous ways. One, I read a far higher percentage of British and Commonwealth authors than I did before I moved here – that exposure has been really nourishing, though I should add that I try to keep up with other Anglophone writers as well. Two, the smaller size of the UK gives me a stronger sense of community, a greater sense of engagement and involvement.  

LW: What next?

CE: My next fiction project is to complete a full collection of short stories of varying lengths (and so flash fiction will feature, but there will be longer stories as well) and hope to get started this autumn. Responding to these questions has made me all the more eager to begin!

About the interviewer
Lee Wright was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire in 1980 and has been writing both fiction and non-fiction since 2008. He is taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in 2017.

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