Welcome to 5 Question Friday where we ask someone connected to Tacoma 5 Questions. Today we have Erin Pringle author of a collection of short stories called “The Whole World At Once”. She is in Tacoma this weekend making an appearance at King’s Books and was nice enough to take the time to join me for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Erin:
1. What is The Whole World At Once?
It’s a collection of strange short stories that trace rural landscapes and the varied experiences of loss and how that affects the way a person moves through the world and their relationship to themselves. For example, in one story, a girl’s sister disappeared from the agricultural fair a year ago, and was later found dead. IN the story, the girl encounters a carnie who has been shot in the chest. Even though he likely had nothing to do with her sister’s murder, she relives the loss of her sister through the encounter. In another story, a boy who served several tours in war returns to raise his kid sister, and starts planting and digging up landmines in the back yard as a way to cope with his life.
2. What is it that attracts you to the Northwest?
I grew up in the Midwest, in a town of 3,000, so all of the stories I’ve imagined taking place on those country roads. In some ways, what attracts me to the Northwest is that it is not marked by the grief I experienced in the Midwest, or that I situate there. My father, best friend, and sister died in the Midwest, and so it’s hard for me to return there physically. Living in the Northwest allows me the physical distance that seems necessary to have an imaginative connection to a place that hurts my heart. I guess the Northwest is kind of like an artist’s studio for me.
3. Can you tell us about your upcoming appearance at King’s Books?
Absolutely! I’ll be at King’s Books this Sunday at 7 PM. I’ll be reading two stories from The Whole World at Once, and then signing books afterward–or just talking with people if they don’t like to have their books signed. 🙂 The bookstore is opening special for the event, so it’s a great chance to relax within a busy Memorial Day weekend and take some space for new thoughts within the solitude that I think a bookstore brings.
4. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have an affinity for Southern, lone women authors, I just realized the other day when I found the collected stories of Eudora Welty and immediately fell in love with her work. I enjoy Flannery O’Connor a great deal, too. Patricia Highsmith. Hemingway. Faulkner. Toni Morrison. I also enjoy playwrights, too, with sharp, stunning language, like Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard. My parents were born in the 1930s, and I think that has something to do with my being drawn to fiction written in that era. Of Midwestern authors, Sherwood Anderson is my favorite, or at least, his stories, Winesburg, Ohio, which is all I’ve read but felt fully understood by. I like authors who see the strange slants of the world and feel compelled to talk about them and find the beauty and awful in the hard routes our lives take–since so much of the world, outside of art, seems bent on covering it up or ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist. The same goes with poets, like Jack Gilbert and Walt Whitman, or visual artists like the painter Jenny Saville or the photographer Matt Black. Artists who try to show both the ugly and the beauty that flashes amidst it somehow.
5. What’s your next project?
I’m working on several. I have the first draft of a novel that I’m letting sit, which deals with a travelling circus and a mother who dies in the same way that my sister did. Then I have a memoir project composed of flashes of language that might be called prose poems. And I’m completing a draft of a new collection of stories that revolve around love and what it is. I’m trying to understand it after so much loss, because it seems like a phenomena that I haven’t understood before, or from my life as it is now, so I’m trying, through fiction.
Thanks to Erin for participating in 5 Question Friday. You can buy Erin’s book at Amazon.com at this link or better yet pick it up over at King’s Books this Sunday and meet her yourself. If you or someone you know would like to join me for a future 5 Question Friday, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jack Cameron