I feel like I’ve arrived! A perfect stranger asked to answer The Questions! I don’t know this person AT. ALL! So, shall we get to know him, together?
3. If you could trade places with anyone for a week, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Trading places with the dead for a week strikes me as a losing proposition – cramped quarters, limited facilities, not much chance of conversation. As for living persons, it’s a close contest between Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Hillary Clinton. Tyson gets to divide his time between professional astronomy, a profession I aspired to as a kid, and television stardom, which he uses to educate the public about the latest in his field. Whatever he’s doing this week is probably more fun than what I have planned this week. And who wouldn’t want to be Hillary Clinton? The travel, the diplomacy. It’s a world that I only read about, and it would be a thrill to not only witness it, but be a part of it. (Where is that Foreign Service application?)
(dSavannah note: The travel would be good. But I’d have a hard time with the diplomacy. I have ZERO tact. Ask anyone.)
4. What’s the worst meal you’ve ever eaten and where?
It was at a restaurant called the Oak Tree in Ashland, Oregon. I went there with my parents when I was a teenager, soon after we’d finished watching that day’s plays at the Shakespeare Festival. As soon as we approached the door, I knew we were in trouble. Back then, Oregon restaurants posted a sticker from the health department on their doors. Most restaurants got the “Exceeded” sticker, which completed the sentence “This restaurant has _______ the state health department’s requirements.” The Oak Tree’s sticker said “Met”.
The only other customer in the joint was a man who introduced to the west coast the concept of disheveled. With a piece of bread, he sopped up the most repulsive red gravy I’d ever seen and shoveled it into his maw. In between bites, he’d periodically exclaim, in a voice so gravelly it made Harvey Fierstein sound like Roger Moore, “I love this sauce!”
I asked my Mom if she was sure about this. She said she was starving and we were already here. So we ordered, and soon the greasiest plate of fish and chips ever cooked landed on my table. Conservative estimates indicate that the surface of my food could have been used to lubricate 73% of the world’s drawbridges. In spite of this, each mouthful went down surprisingly hard and stayed long after its welcome had worn out.
That night, there was much pain.
(dSavannah note: A quick google search shows an Oak Tree restaurant is still operating in Ashland. I wonder if it’s the same one? Hmmm….)
13. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’m a night creature. Kafka said it best in a letter to Felice Bauer: “Writing . . . is a sleep deeper than that of death, and just as one would and cannot tear the dead from their graves, so I must not and cannot be torn from my desk at night.”
Whenever possible, I allow Franz Kafka to answer my questions for me.
(dSavannah note: I’ve learned Jim likes to name-drop. Not a criticism, just an observation. :))
15. What inspires you?
I don’t rely a whole lot on inspiration. Waiting for it to strike can serve as a great excuse for procrastination, and I think working artists should never wait. There should always be something to do.
I do have interests, though, like human folly. I get excited when people live by rules that either betray them or fail to apply. I look for situations like that and build my work from there.
The rest is revising.
20. When did you know you wanted to be a writer/artist?
In the middle of my junior year of college.
I’d started out as a physics major, but it wasn’t long before I realized that, while I loved the subject, I didn’t love it enough to compete with those who really could stay up all night working on the boring bits. I then undertook a political science major and stuck that out for a year and some change, but in the end it wasn’t so much the subject matter as the people I found myself dealing with that filled me with ennui.
Around that time I realized that I was spending all my time around theater people and English majors. Even the boring bits, and if you ever been through a tech rehearsal you’ve lived the boring bit of theater, didn’t deter me. And people seemed to think I was reasonably good at it. That’s what led me to change my major and do a mad dash toward finishing a theater degree on time, which was a bitch, but I ground it out, and I graduated with a literary award, a Best Supporting actor award, and my first money from a published short story.
The moral of the story: it’s not enough to do what you love. What counts is your ability to love what you do even when you hate it.
(dSavannah note: Isn’t it funny where we end up? I thought for about a minute that I’d be an accounting major. Which I don’t love at all, and I’m no good with numbers. But there are days when I think they might be preferable to words and the search for the perfect one…)
21. What one place in the whole entire world would you never go, not for love or money?
I don’t know. Conventionally awful places don’t make the cut because even though I have no desire to visit North Korea, Afghanistan, or the Sudan, I’d go there to get someone I cared about out. I’m not especially fond of Las Vegas or Atlantic City because the sight of Wall Street fleecing people who are bad at math out of their retirement money or their kids’ college tuition is too ugly a symbol of contemporary late capitalism for my taste. Still, if someone drove a dump truck full of money up to my house and offered it to me on the condition that I spend a week at Bally’s, I’m not made of stone.
I would have a hard time going back to Tooele, Utah, where I lived for six years as a kid. I do recall a few good times, almost all of them connected either to theater or to hiking in the backcountry; but having escaped there once, I live with this fear that if I ever went back, I’d end up getting stuck there forever. The high school song’s lyric “forever and forever in Tooele” might have something to do with that.
(dSavannah note: Sounds like the start of a horror movie, or Twilight Zone episode.)
24. If you could go back and give your 13-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t take what other people say and do so personally. They’re not out to get you. They’re just jerks.
(dSavannah note: This works for every age, I think. )
24a. What about your 20-year-old self?
Don’t assume that just because you had a brief initial success that you know what you’re doing.
24b. Your 30-year-old self?
Manage your money better. And see if you can move to a cheaper place. Someone will need to pay your debts.
Ask me again in ten years.
(dSavannah note: It’s on my calendar.)
Jim Snowden is an award-winning writer, editor and educator who lives in the Seattle area with his partner, Venice. Jim’s passion is telling stories about people who find the rules they’ve lived by turning against them.
Jim received his MFA from the University of Washington in 2004, where he won the David Guterson award for his work on Dismantle the Sun. He also runs a small press, MMIP Books, which published its first short story collection, Coming Unglued: Six Stories About Things Falling Apart, in May of 2011, available on amazon in paperback or for kindle, and bn.com for nook. Its next collection, Blood Promises, And Other Commitments, will be out in November of 2012.
- His Blog
- Buy his book, Dismantle the Sun, on Amazon in paperback or kindle, bn.com in paperback or for nook, or at Powell’s Books (paperback)