“Read a lot of literary journals. Study them. Respect them.”
Coffin Bell: Introduce yourself.
Kim Chinquee: I live in Glenwood, NY, with my boyfriend and our four dogs. I co-direct the writing major at SUNY Buffalo State, where I edit ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal). I’m also senior editor for New World Writing. I’ve published the fiction collections Oh Baby, Pretty, Pistol, Veer, Shot Girls, and forthcoming is C’mon, with Ravenna Press. I’m also currently working on revising my novel, Pirouette.
CB: What got you started writing?
KC: I used to journal a lot, but didn’t really take writing seriously until I went back to college in Wisconsin, after being in the Air Force. I took a creative writing class as an elective and fell in love with it. I ended up majoring in Creative Writing, then went on to graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, then to the University of Illinois—Urbana, Champaign.
CB: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing?
KC: Paying attention to words. Falling in love with a phrase—the way life is rendered in language. Experiencing the world with a writer’s sensibility.
CB: Do you have a designated space for writing? Tell us about it.
KC: I work at my desk at home a lot. The desk was gifted to me by a colleague who I taught with in Michigan—we both left the same year and she didn’t have room for it. It’s a huge wooden desk with deep pockets in the drawers. The desk used to belong to a Hungarian professor that was used his whole career and then until he died. I’ve since had it refurbished. It’s now covered with papers and books and pictures, and it’s in the middle of the main room, which has huge windows on all its sides and since we’re out in the woods, there’s lots of green and wildlife around. The desk is also next to the fireplace, which is nice in the wintertime. But it’s also not so much my “designated” space. Sometimes I seem to write more when I’m traveling: at the airport, or in a hotel room. At a park. I also write a lot from my office on campus, and when I’m in Buffalo, I’ll stop at Caffé Aroma.
CB: Are you a planner or a pantser? Tell us a bit about your writing practices.
KC: I’m a good planner if I give myself a deadline. I tend to have a lot of projects going at once. I work at some aspect of editing nearly every day—whether its reading student work, journal-editing, reading my friends’ stories/books. Reading work from my online writing group, Hot Pants. Also committee and administrative work. Writing my own stuff. Emailing/talking/being in touch with my literary folks and being part of the community is kind of a lifeline to me. I spend most of my days working, alternating between one thing or another. I’m grateful for that.
CB: What advice to new and emerging writers could you give?
KC: Read a lot of literary journals. Study them. Respect them.
CB: Who are your influences?
KC: My teachers: Frederick Barthelme. Steve Barthelme. Mary Robison. Jean Thompson. Richard Powers. My NOON editor Diane Williams. Writers like Lydia Davis. Emerson. Lyn Hejinian. Mary Oliver. Bobbie Ann Mason. William Gass.
CB: Physical books or e-readers?
KC: Physical books, please. I love the art of them. The smell. Holding them in my hands. Though I do resort to e-readers when I travel and/or need quick access. Most of the books I have as e-readers, I also have physically. The e-readers are a nice supplement.
CB: If you could give a PSA to journal editors, what would it be?
KC: Treat your contributors with respect. Protect your aesthetic and your art. Honor your boundaries.
CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.
KC: I’d hate to be buried alive! I’m somewhat claustrophobic. I don’t like caves. I fear places that don’t allow me space. I’m terrified of being abandoned, too.
CB: What draws you to dark fiction?
KC: Darkness in fiction, to me, is reality. When one writes about it successfully and involves readers, it reveals a side of life that many, imo, aren’t willing to look at.
CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?
KC: My piece, “The Cookie Room” was based on real life. The darkness in the piece was something I kept to myself for a while. A darkness that was kept quiet in my workplace until I said something. Writing about it and turning into an art was liberating, and made it less dark for me.
CB: Tell us about your book / publication / web site / promotion.
KC: You can visit me and buy my books online at www.kimchinquee.com. My book Shot Girls includes a lot of stories and shorter flashes I’ve written over the past 18 years, and is available for pre-order on Amazon here. Based on my upbringing as a farm girl in Wisconsin, a medic in the Air Force, a scholar, and writer, and a single mom.
Read Kim Chinquee’s “Cookie Room” in issue 1.1 of Coffin Bell!