Apr 23, 2008


There's no real rhythm to these Guthmantics interviews; I just sort of do them all willy-nilly. When I have one, I post it when I have a moment or the inclination to do so. So, I can assure you that my interviewing and posting Nick Ostdick's interview here, mere days before I read with him at The Book Cellar (as part of RAGAD's release party, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago in Lincoln Square, please come), is completely by chance.


Everyone, welcome today's special guest, Nick Ostdick, a fiction writer from Chicago. He is the editor of RAGAD, a literary broadside and online magazine of new writing and author of . His work has been nominated for a StorySouth Million Writers Award and has appeared in the likes of Slow Trains, Pindeldyboz, Word Riot, Letter X, THE2NDHAND, and elsewhere. He also reviews books on a bi-monthly basis for the literary magazine decomP and he is currently working on batches of short stories... please make him welcome.

Guth: Tell us what you write, what you have written and how you do it? (You guys know I like to ask that because I have such ever-changing, funky and specific writing rituals, myself.)

Ostdick: Fiction. That's my game. That's what I do mostly. Some non-fiction too, like book reviews and such, but mostly short stories. That's what I like the best. I think just by their nature there is much more urgency in short fiction than in other forms of writing, which is something I like. Every single word has to matter in a short story, every punctuation, whereas I think you have a little room to fluff things up in the novel, a little room to add some filler here and there.

I also wrote a novel called Sunbeams and Cigarettes, which I self-published in 2005. It's not too horrible, I don't think, and the author pic on the back is one of the better ones I have taken, which makes me smile. The novel is a coming-of-age story--which seems to be a fairly prevalent topic in my writing, especially in my short stories--about a kid who deals with the death of his brother after a car crash. He lives in a small town, which is kind of incestuous (in the social-structure; THIS BOOK DOES NOT CONTAIN INCEST) where everyone is in everyone else's business. After I wrote it, while waiting for it to come out, I wrote two more novels that aren't very good and shall stay buried in my desk drawer. But it's in this waiting space between finishing the book and it coming out that I discovered my love for short fiction; it was with writing the other two books actually. I just become really bored with the novel form, and I think the first rule of writing is to not bore yourself--if you're bored, your readers are going to be bored too. You have to write what you want to read, and I wanted to read short stories, and still do. And so I started taking short fiction quite seriously--before then I just kind of dabbled in it--and since have had stories in such publications as Slow Trains, Pindeldyboz, and Chicago venues like THE2NDHAND--which is cool, but I'm much more proud of the stories themselves than the publications they appeared in.

I also edit RAGAD, a literary broadside and online magazine of short fiction. Our first issue came out in the summer of '06, and we've published writers from across the country as well as local guys like Ben Tanzer, Spencer Dew, Emerson Dameron, and others. We publish quirky fiction--which is one of those words I hate because of how nondescript it is, but still fall back on quite regularly--of 2500 words or less. We just closed submissions, but will reopen soon. Our fifth issue, which carries the story 'Mercy Day' by Peter Anderson, came out in mid January, and our next issue coming out in late April has work from Chicago writer Ben Tanzer. We're always having readings and such to promote ourselves, most of them in Chicago--cough, cough, come out to some of them y'all...they're fun.

In regards as to how I write, there really isn't any structure to it. I don't write everyday--I'll say that up front, which I know kind of violates a lot of rules writers have, but I do write about five times a week, most of the time for periods of two hours plus. I just don't feel that writing everyday is productive, especially when working on something so small and intricate as short fiction. I think time is such an important part of writing, time away from writing, time reading, time out living in the world. I have had many more breakthroughs when I'm stuck on something out in the real world than sitting down at computer everyday and sitting at the blank screen. But the most fundamental and difficult part of writing is actually sitting down to it--I once heard Aimee Bender say that she used to tie herself to a chair in front of a computer with scarf to writer every morning. That's a little extreme, but you get the picture.

Guth: What grand things are next for you? What would you, we're talking dream gigs and adventures here, love to be next for you?

Ostdick: What's next for me? Hmm. A bathroom break and more coffee. But on a little more grand scale, a reading to release RAGAD #6 on April 26th, 7:00 PM, The Book Cellar, Chicago, et al. A great lineup of readers including Tanzer, Jill Summers, Amy Guth, and Jason Jordan, frequent RAGAD contributor and good friend. He's making the trip from Pittsburgh, so everyone COME OUT and make his voyage worth it. After that, I'm reading a story at a conference in May, and then I'm hitting a couple of local reading series in June. And of course, Pilcrow Lit Fest [also in May]. Something not to be missed. Aside from all that, I've quite a few short stories on my plate right now, so those should keep me busy.

Guth: Hey, I'm heading to Pittsburgh in November for a reading. Maybe he'll help me find my way around while I'm there. Anyway, Nick, What Smiths or Morrissey song or lyric sums it up for you right now?

Ostdick: "I grabbed you by the guilded beams/Uh, that's what tradition means
And I doused another venture/With a gesture
That was ... absolutely vile."

From I Started Something. Savory, isn't it?

Guth again. You know what to do! Head over to Good Reads, then to Shelfari and then over to LibraryThing and be his friend. Also, swing by his websites here and here and look at all of the wonderfulness over there, and check back often to see when he'll be where. And, when you hear that he is reading in a place near you, do whatever it takes to go show him some love and hear him read.

Want to be a featured author/writer type for this? Well, just send an email to me and I'll tell you everything you need to know.


Jason Jordan said...

Nice interview. And yes, Amy, I'll help you navigate The Burgh when you're here in November. :p

Nick Ostdick said...

Thanks for the great interview, Amy. T'was fun. I guess I'll be seeing you very soon, yes? Looking forward to it.