Behind the Words: Amanda Stopa

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

AS2 The first time I read Amanda Stopa’s “Jeff” in our submissions manager, I was immediately stopped. Jeff, the main character in a flash fiction piece, felt alive. It wasn’t a character sketch or a well-developed character in a story. Jeff jumped through my screen and showed me his world. Amanda has the power to capture the reader’s attention immediately. Her words draw you in and turn you around until your balance is off, but you don’t want to stop spinning. I recently caught up with her to talk about craft and the writing life.

 

Erin: “Jeff,” coming in at under 700 words, is a flash fiction piece following a twisted character from childhood into adulthood. How did this piece come to you? Is this a character you’ve written about before or did he just introduce himself to you in this story?

Amanda: Jeff came from an assumption made about a neighbor. When I was living in Philadelphia, I was in this tiny studio apartment, and directly above me was this person who would pace at strange hours of the night. Assuming they had the same small studio space that I did, I was always a little nervous about the type of person that would pace like that at 4am. So, Jeff was born. I never actually met the person living above me.

 

There are so many visceral moments in this story: watching a father rub his daughter’s face into a pee-soaked carpet, a brother witnessing his sister’s menstrual cycle, the blood of losing one’s virginity…which came first, these images or the story? How did you put it all together?

The pacing that occurs at the end of the story came first, of course. After that, it was just a fascination with getting to know this character in terms of his fears. I think what we’re afraid of can be strangely seductive. There was also a theme of cleanliness that I wanted to oppose on as many levels as possible- forcing the aggressive, haunting images against the clean smells of mint and bleach.

 

This story has a breathy rhythm to it. You’ve mentioned to me that you’re a runner. Do you ever write in your head while running? To me, the pace of this story seems like a stretch of running, and I’d love to know if your process is influenced by your own exercise.

Running can be very meditative; there’s a creative aspect to that if you just let it happen. That definitely plays into the repetition in “Jeff,” as if it’s a tempo of some sort.

 

You mentioned when we published Issue #2 that you usually publish in poetry, so it was exciting to see your own flash fiction published. Do you write most often in one genre?

I do write mostly poetry. But a writer is only handicapping themselves if they don’t explore other genres and push their abilities a little bit. The way a lot of MFA programs work is that there are explicit Fiction and Poetry tracts, and I didn’t want to come out of my program without a range of experience. The cadence of “Jeff” wouldn’t have been so successful if it wasn’t for my background in poetry, and it wouldn’t have been successful if I hadn’t convinced myself to take a Fiction workshop.

 

What are you studying in your MFA program? Have there been any good take-aways from the program that you’d like to share?

I finished my MFA in August. The biggest takeaway is realizing that getting a teaching job afterwards isn’t the end all be all. Make meaningful connections- go to conferences, stay in touch with the people who have inspired you and above all take care of the people around you. I’m definitely a “jock,” so to have friends in the writing community is incredibly valuable to me.

 

Who or what are you currently reading? Are there any poets, authors, or works you’d recommend to our readership?

I just put down Rachel Richardson’s Copperhead. Beautiful writing and I would absolutely recommend it. I’m also a big fan of short fiction, and heard that “One Story” published a story by B.J. Novak this month. Yes, that B.J. Novak.

 

 

Erin A. Corriveau is an emotional archeologist who graduated from Fairfield University’s MFA program with a concentration in creative nonfiction. Her writing has been published in (em): A Review of Text and Image, Revolution House, Lunch Ticket, Paper Tape, Shoreline Literary Arts Magazine, The Fall River Spirit, and RedFez. She is the co-founder and editor of Spry Literary Journal. Her blog, Reinventing Erin, is her outlet for ruminating on the minutiae of everyday life.

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