The writer does not write because he or she wants to be published, the writer gets published because he or she is focused on writing. All too often a writer can get caught up in the need to get published, and lose sight of why they started down the path of a writer originally. Publication is secondary to the actual process of writing and should be treated as such. This week's writer, Zachary C. Bush, is only 23, but he fully understands what it means to be a writer, how getting published fits in and why rejection is vital to craft.
Orange Alert (OA): Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Zachary C. Bush (ZCB): Wow, that’s a rather large question to answer! My literary influences seem to fall into a rather wide range. The author’s that I am into are kind of all over the place and my taste has changed a good bit over the years. I consider myself relatively well read for twenty-three. But, I would have to say that my favorite poets are Baudelaire (especially the prose of Paris Spleen), Rimbaud (Season in Hell, Illuminations, and Drunken Boat), most all of Samuel Beckett’s work, Wallace Stevens, García Lorca, Ezra Pound (Cantos), Sharon Olds, C.K. Williams, and a contemporary poet and friend Louis E. Bourgeois.
In regards to prose, I would have to say that my influences are Denis Johnson (Jesus’ Son), Arthur Nersesian (Manhattan Loverboy ,The F*ck Up, Suicide Casanova), William S. Burroughs (everything), Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho and Less Than Zero), Homer (Odyssey), Howard Zinn’s nonfiction works, and William T. Vollmann is one of the greatest writer’s of fiction and nonfiction prose.
OA: "Harvey Jones" is such a powerful story. What was the motivation behind that piece?
ZCB: Well, since I am primarily a poet, and get the most attention and publication over that genre, I am always pleasantly surprised and excited when my fiction gets attention. I write some flash fiction from time to time and most of these stories are much shorter than “Harvey Jones.” I believe I have had four or five pieces out there in places like Word Riot, Thieves Jargon, and Eloquent Stories.
You know, I am really surprised at the feedback I have gotten over “Harvey Jones” from the editor’s at Word Riot and other various readers. People really like the piece! I can’t say that I dislike the story but it is odd because I am not sure if it is one of my best pieces. If you liked it then you might want to check out “Rapture” in the January archive of WR. I am, however, very grateful for the responses that I have gotten in response to “Harvey Jones.” Most of my poetry and prose tends to be highly nonfiction in many ways, but I can assure you in the case of “Harvey Jones” it is not that case. My grandfather was not in the KKK. I never knew him, but heard he was a great man and farmer.
As I was saying at some point, I feel that the best writing has to do with universalizing personal experience in a way where it is not “emotional vomiting,” or diary-like writing, unless, of course, that is your specific purpose. However, in the case of “Harvey Jones,” (which was one of the first fiction pieces that I wrote last summer) it is pretty simple. I wanted to play off the racial issues that existed in the Deep South, and still do in a slightly more subtle way. Really, I wanted to write a very elementary story from the perspective of a young boy, naïve in a lot of ways, who witnesses an event that is emotionally complex to him.
In most of my work (poetry and prose), you might pick up on how simplistic my style of writing is. I do this on purpose! Sure, I know a few literary punches and tricks, and I do slip them into my pieces, but I believe that the best writing is straightforward and edgy to a great extent. From what I have seen, this “straightforward” technique of writing seems to be the hardest way for people to write and succeed with because our minds and egos (as artists) constantly beg of us to overcompensate and try to show off everything we know all at once, but by doing that we tend to write abstract works just for the sake of trying to be abstract. This usually fails the writer in the early stages of his or her career, because they are not sure of their own purpose. Keep it simple and you will be surprised, after many drafts, how much people appreciate your work.
OA: Do you listen to music while you write? Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to while writing and in general?
ZCB: I used to listen to music when I wrote and still do from time to time. I really enjoy the hypnotic rattle of my typewriter keys. I have a 1940’s Royal typewriter and it makes beautiful music when I am productive. I will say that when I do write with music, it tends to fade into the background. This is especially true when I get deeper and deeper into the piece I am working on that day.
That being said, I listen to music throughout the day. I am a bit of an old man when it comes to taste, because I firmly believe there a whole lot of crap, for lack of a better word, being commercialized and played on the radio and TV. I won’t go into that any further because I might come across a bit harsh or prematurely senile.
I listen to bands like Interpol, Sparklehorse, Radiohead, R.E.M., Mercury Rev, Built to Spill, and Ween, I love those guys! Also, if you have never heard the Lost Highway soundtrack--I would highly recommend that album to listen to while writing. I tend to listen to music more when I am submitting my work. I don’t know why, maybe to either pump myself up or calm myself down and assist in straightening-out my racing thoughts.
OA: What book do you own that you treasurer/read more then any other?
ZCB: I treasure all of my books! I am a bit obsessive and compulsive when it comes to searching for and collecting them. I can’t pass a dusty used bookstore without leaving with a handful of books and an empty wallet.
The top three books that I treasure the most, for personal reasons are, History of American Socialisms, a complete collection of George Orwell’s Essays, and an 1882 edition of Poe’s Selected Poetry that I hold together with a thick rubber-band. I think I bought that Poe book for three dollars in the back of an old used-furniture store down here in South Georgia.
I am also a huge fan of my friends/writing peers’ poetry and prose at Georgia Southern University. We have some really fantastic young writers down here in Statesboro! There is great collaboration and healthy competition. The environment keeps me on my toes!
OA: How long did you have to submit your work before you got published? What advice do you have for young writers just starting to submit their work?
ZCB: These are two interesting questions since I am a “young writer!” I will try my best to answer this as best as possible. Well, I consider myself to be inching up the infinitely tall grease-pole of the literary world. I piddled around with some poetry in high school, really shitty poetry I might add but never really became much of a dedicated writer because of personal/health issues until about two years ago. This dedication that I now have for my writing has grown to an incredible level over the past year or so.
I started out blindly submitting bulks of poetry to various journals and I probably got around two hundred rejections in the first six to nine months. Last spring and summer was when I started to get a few small publications. At first, these publications were at the local level and then through my University’s literary journal. Last fall, I began to quickly be recognized in nationally-distributed print and online journals. They started accepting my more recent work left and right. Now it would seem as if my ratio of acceptances to rejections has improved quite a bit, though I still get some rejections. Today I am not so blind or random in where I send my work. These realizations or whatever you might call it comes through getting your work out there and putting your neck on the line. I don’t try to get published just to be published, though it does help cure the blues. What I am trying to say is that I respect the places that publish my work, enjoy the other writers featured, and their editors. If I don’t have that respect for a certain journal then I won’t waste both my time and theirs.
In regards to advice, I feel funny giving any. As I said, I am still finding my way around the literary world. All I can do is share a bit of my experience up until this point.
Here are a few things on my mind: if you consider yourself to be a writer then write everyday, no excuses, make time! Our growth as writers is much more important than how quickly we do or don’t get published; there is plenty of time for that, no matter what your age. We shouldn’t get caught up in the supposed “tiers” of literary journals because a lot of times the small independent presses and literary underground publishes the best writers out there--think of the Beat poets of the late 1940s, 50s, and 60s-- Ginsberg’s Howl was published by City Lights of San Francisco which is an independent press.
We can’t get too discouraged about rejection slips, they’re going to happen from time to time, no matter who you are, and we can’t take it personal because that is the nature of the publishing world. Respected literary journals tend to want to see the best of the best, the best you might have to offer, so we have to keep moving forward no matter what the circumstances may be. There is a home for every piece! I found that the poems and stories that I submitted in the beginning were nowhere near as great as I thought them to be. Hindsight is always 20/20 though. Rejections, in my opinion, have only made me write more frequently and with more veracity and tenacity. My best work tends to come when I can put a chip on my shoulder.
I believe that creating works and doing this at a consistent clip is much more important than the recognition that will come in as our work evolves over time. Again, the recognition is great though! I have found that with writing and publishing (in general) it tends to be a whole lot of high-high’s and low-low’s. Whether we are getting published or rejected frequently--we should never rest on our haunches or pout too long. I am always working on my next piece or revising old ones. If one place doesn’t take my submission then I send it back out to another place. I am pretty ambitious, determined, and bull-headed when it comes to my work.
OA: What's next for Zachary C. Bush (i.e. Publications, readings, etc.)?
ZCB: I am constantly looking and working towards the future, maybe I am weird that way. I don’t really care. A friend of mine just told me to take myself less seriously and lighten up! So, I am working on that concept too, trying to have more fun in all aspects of my life, and of course in regards to my writing. It has really been a year of loss of love and death of friends, and so I am trying to continue to take advantage of every minute that I am alive. But as far as writing goes, I just had a few poems that came out in a late spring ’07 issue of Locust Magazine. I have some more work forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Cerebral Catalyst, and Word Riot. I also would assume that I will have more work to come this fall.
I would like to use this opportunity to mention that my first chapbook of poetry, Outside the Halfway House, is forthcoming in early June of this year. My chap will contain twenty-five poems and is being published, as we speak, by Scintillating Publications of Burlington, VT.
The chap will be sold in a few independent bookstores in Chicago, Statesboro, Oxford, Mississippi, and at the publisher’s website: http://www.freewebs.com/scintillatingpublications/titlesnowavailable.htm
At the moment, I am reading a lot of books and compiling new poetry. Joseph Veronneau (writer, friend, and poetry publisher) and I are working on a co-authored book of flash fiction stories that we should put out through Scintillating Publications sometime early next year (2008). I am also in the process of completing my undergraduate degree and getting ready to move to NYC this winter to live and continue to write. I am starting to look into a few graduate school writing programs in the City as well. My goal is to produce a few more chaps of poetry, and continue to work on a large collection of poems for, hopefully, my first book in a couple of years.
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite kind of coffee, and where is your favorite coffee place?
ZCB: I am a caffeine and nicotine addict! I prefer my coffee black, but I do branch out from time to time and take Vanilla Latte’s with three to four shots of Espresso. My favorite coffee shops are local venues, no matter where I am, because I have a strong displeasure towards large corporations.
OA: What was the last great book you have read?
ZCB: Within the past few weeks, I have really gotten into William T. Vollmann’s work. I am rather blown away by the range of subject matter that he writes about. I just took a week’s long vacation and read 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs, Whores for Gloria, and Europe Central. I am about to start some of Vollmann’s nonfiction works, specifically, Rising Up Rising Down.
Thank you so much for your interest in my work and giving me this opportunity to rant for a while. Now, go out and buy my chapbook this summer!
Zachary C. Bush, 23, is a writer of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and magazine features. He lives in Statesboro, Georgia, while finishing his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing. He has worked as a magazine editor. Over the past nine months his work has appeared in over a dozen literary journals including, VOX, Chronogram, R-KV-R-Y, edifice wrecked, Word Riot, Underground Voices, High Altitude Poetry, Cerebral Catalyst, Mastodon Dentist, Locust, Noneuclidean Café, Strangeroad.com, Eloquent Stories, and Thieves Jargon. He has more work forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Cerebral Catalyst, Word Riot, and R-KV-R-Y. His first chapbook of poetry, Outside the Halfway House, is forthcoming in early June through Scintillating Publications of Burlington, VT. He is working on a co-authored book-length collection of flash fiction with writer and chapbook publisher Joseph Veronneau that should be due out early next year through Scintillating Publications.
For more infomation on Zachary C. Bush visit his myspace page or contact him directly here.