Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview with Pat Carr - Part II

Today in St. Peters, partly sunny, high 70 degrees. Another fine day!

As promised, today I will post part II of my interview with Pat Carr. In addition to being a prolific writer, Carr has also been a teacher. She has taught English at Rice, Tulane, New Orleans, and several other universities. She has received numerous awards and honors, including a writing fellowship to the Foundation LedigRowohlt in Luasanne, Switzerland. She and her husband have retired and live in Elkins, Arkansas.

Here are my interview questions and Pat's answers:

Donna Volkenannt: Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a workshop during which you read your short story, “The Party.” I still get a lump in my throat when I think about the characters in that story. It is such a vivid and moving piece; I think it should be required reading for students from junior high through high school. I’m curious: what has been the reaction from teachers, parents, and students to “The Party”?

Pat Carr: I loved your reaction to "The Party." When I was teaching in college, my colleagues used to ask me to read it to classes to introduce the concept of a short story, and I have had great responses to it from students, teachers, and editors. It's been anthologized more than any of my other stories, and Hillary Clinton wrote me a note after she read it that said, "Reading it was like a fist in the gut."

DV: I can understand Mrs. Clinton's reaction. "The Party" is an amazing story, beautifully told. Here's another question about short stories: With more than 100 short stories published, you must have a favorite. Which is you have a favorite and why?

PC: I'm afraid I have a lot of favorite stories. Besides "The Party" I really like "The Puppet" and "An El Paso Idyll" but my husband's very favorite is also a favorite of mine, "Diary of a Union Soldier."

DV: In your works of fiction which comes first, character or plot?

PC: When I write a story, I usually start with an incident and then pick a character, so I'd have to say that plot comes before character for me.

DV: That's interesting. Now another question on craft. On October 24 you will be giving a workshop at Saturday Writers in St. Peters on "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint." I'm curious about what is most important in writing fiction: vision, voice, or viewpoint?

PC: As for which is more important, vision, voice, or viewpoint, definitely viewpoint. It can make or break a story, and I've seen the most achingly beautiful story ruined by the author choosing the wrong point of view to tell it.

DV: Thank you for your succinct answer and wise advice. It is definitely something to think about before beginning a story. Speaking of advice, what is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

PC: The best writing advice I ever got was probably that of my father who said, "Nobody can be great in more than one field, so you need to decide if you want to write or paint. Since you write more than you paint, I'd choose that if I were you."

DV: That is good advice, and definitely something to think about. As a final question: What are you working on now, and what’s the best way for readers to find out about book signings, workshops, or personal appearances?

PC: I don't currently have a website, so people can find out about readings, signings, etc. by checking with my e-mail, I don't mind answering them (with an e-mail the size of a post-it, of course.)

Thanks again, Pat, for taking the time to answer my questions and share you knowledge and wisdom with my blog visitors. I look forward to learning even more from you during your "Vision, Voice, and Viewpoint" workshop with Saturday Writers on October 24.

If you are in the St. Louis area and would like to attend the Saturday Writers workshop at the St. Peters Community and Arts Center, 1035 St. Peters- Howell Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Pat Carr and Regina Williams, editor of Storyteller Magazine, walk-in registrations will be permitted on a space-available basis. For workshop fees and other details about the event, visit Events page.

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