A Conversation with Mathieu Cailler + Recap of His AWP ’15 Reading

AWP ’15 Report by Elizabeth Sheets, Interview by the BFLM Founding Editors

Mathieu Cailler is a writer of poetry and prose. His work has been widely featured in numerous national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Epiphany, and The Saturday Evening Post. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, he has been a finalist for the Glimmer Train New Writers Award, the New Rivers Press American Fiction Prize, and the Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. He is also the recipient of a Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction and a Shakespeare Award for Poetry. He is the author of the chapbook, Clotheslines (Red Bird Press) and the short-story collection, Loss Angeles (Short Story America Press).

Our copy editor, Elizabeth Sheets, had a chance to attend Cailler’s reading with Sleet Magazine at AWP 2015. Below you will find a recap of Mathieu’s reading by Beth Sheets and an interview with the Black Fox founding editors.

 

Black Fox Literary Magazine Contributor Update: Mathieu Cailler (from Elizabeth Sheets)

The AWP Conference was in Minneapolis this year, and visitors from around the country were treated to a wide spectrum of Minnesota weather. The four-day conference kicked off with cloudy skies, which unloaded a couple layers of sleet and light snow before giving way to sunshine and blue skies on the last day. It seemed fitting, walking eight city blocks on Thursday night, in a sleet storm, to Icehouse MPLS to hear Black Fox contributor Mathieu Cailler read his work from Sleet Magazine and his new short story collection, Loss Angeles. I snagged the last seat at the bar; it was a full house.

Cailler read from his short story, “Blowing Out the Candles,” which first appeared in Sleet Magazine’s Fall 2011 Issue, and is included in Loss Angeles. Fiction readings are sometimes tricky, but Cailler was poised, his voice never wavering as he drew the audience in with his engaging selection. He closed to an enthusiastic round of applause, and I caught up with him later in the evening to talk about his new book and find out what’s next for him.

Loss Angeles (Short Story America, March 2015), is Cailler’s latest publication, but he’s been working on more short stories, poetry, and even a novel! His next collection of short stories will include the piece Black Fox published in Issue 10, “A Poodle in the Desert,” along with stories that appeared in Green Writers Press’s Greenzine, The Saturday Evening Post, and New Rivers Press America Fiction. His piece, “The Father” (New Rivers Press’s America Fiction Volume 13) is a nominee for a Midwest Book Award.

Congratulations to Mathieu! Black Fox is proud and excited to count him among our many talented contributors. Warm wishes for continued success!

 

 

Interview with Black Fox Founding Editors

BF: Loss Angeles is your debut short story collection. What was the road to publication like?

MC: Thank you for taking the time to interview me, Black Fox friends. I’m a huge fan and am very grate ful. The road to publication was a long drive, scenic and scary. I wrote each story to the best of my ability and then sought publication for each piece. Along the way, I sent “Over the Bridge” (the first story in the collection) to Short Story America (an anthology series that I deeply admired) for their inaugural competition. I was fortunate enough to win the SSA Prize for Short Fiction. Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Editor-in-Chief, friend, and fellow writer, Tim Johnston. It was a natural partnership, and I’m blessed to have found a publishing house that loves short fiction as much as I do.

BF: It has been described that the stories in Loss Angeles focus on “marginalized people paralyzed by loss, poor choices, obsessions, and love.”  How do you draw inspiration for such stories and characters?

MC: I’m not sure to be honest. The brain gives you gifts. All I can say is that ordinary things take my breath away, so I’m constantly fascinated by moments and people that others might find mundane. I love knowing more about society, what makes men and women tick, who they wanted to be when they were kids, if life has been kind to them, and so on…

BF: What draws you to the short story form? 

MC :The immediacy, the way everything counts. By nature I’m a very impatient person, so it fits me well. I like things to move–and to be moved emotionally–in a single sitting.

BF: Do you believe there are specific elements that make a good short story? 

MC: I think about this all the time, and the answer is yes, but there are plenty that don’t follow the conventions. For me, it’s about change. It doesn’t have to be a huge change; it doesn’t even have to be perceived by the main character; but I think a character must evolve or want to evolve in some capacity. I’m currently writing a short story that’s driving me crazy because I have the change occurring in the slightest possible way, but it’s not quite believable because the events leading up to this fragile transformation aren’t strong enough.

BF: Your bio in a recent press release states that you’re a full-time writer. This is pretty much every writer’s dream. How did you make the transition? 

MC: I left teaching so that could pursue writing full-time. That being said, I still have a private practice where I see students for all sorts of academic needs on a daily basis. This allows me the free time in the morning to write.  And the private practice allows me to continue educating students, which I’ve always enjoyed. Teaching also permits me to eat and have a place to live and stuff, so that’s nice.

BF: What is your writing routine like?

MC: I like to write as soon as I get up. Have a cup of coffee, a slice of toast, and head to the desk. I like to be left alone during this time, so I silence my phone and disconnect the Internet. Just me and the blank page, my favorite date.

BF: Do you have any advice to writers aspiring to publication?

MC: Control what you can control. Make sure nothing infringes on your writing time because people won’t understand it. Send things out; don’t be discouraged by rejections. Every writer has enough of them to wallpaper the Taj Mahal.

BF: What’s next for you? Any exciting projects? 

MC: I’m currently wrapping up another collection of short stories and finalizing a collection of poetry. A children’s book is sitting on the desktop, too. And I hope to get cracking on a novel this summer. I wrote a piece last year that was different for me, and when I asked a dear friend, Tim Antonides, the talented author of Rain, to give it a look, he told me I had the beginning of a novel. So I thought I’d dedicate four or five months to it and see where the first draft lands. I don’t know if any of those things are exciting, but they’re all I’ve got.

Thank you again, Black Fox. We writers are lucky to have you!

BF: Our thanks to you, Mathieu!

Dying to read Loss Angeles? The best place to purchase a copy of Loss Angeles is ShortStoryAmerica.com — where one can request a signed copy in the special instructions box upon checkout.

 

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