Showcased Writer: Vivian Wagner

vivian_wagner_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

“Concealed Carry” from Issue 12

Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Pinch, Zone 3, and McSweeney’s, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music.

When did you find writing? Or, when did it find you?

I began writing on a manual typewriter when I was a teenager in the California mountains, describing pine trees and blue skies, granite and willows, chickens and dogs. I loved the magic of words, the way they both reflected and created the world. Growing up in a sometimes chaotic household, I found refuge in writing. It was a way for me to make sense of things, to order things, to question things, to shape my reality.

What motivated you to write your nonfiction piece, “Concealed Carry”, and submit it to Silk Road?

Since my father’s suicide several years ago, much of my writing has circled around his death, and “Concealed Carry” is part of that work. I was estranged from him for a number of years, but he always read my published writing, and sometimes I’d get emails and letters from him commenting on or reacting to my essays. Now that he’s gone, my writing still feels like a conversation with him. I sent this essay to Silk Road in part because I liked the name of the journal. I’ve always loved the way that the Silk Road, as a historical and mythological entity, breaks down boundaries between notions of “East” and “West.” My father was from Hungary, and I’m fascinated by the way that region is a crossroads between Asia and Europe. Since this is an essay about my father, Silk Road felt like a good home for it.

“Concealed Carry” can be considered a shorter piece of writing. Did you find it difficult or easy to keep the story brief?

I feel most comfortable, lately, with flash nonfiction and lyric essays. I like their momentary nature, the way they allow me to focus on fleeting details. Since I’m still in the midst of grieving for my father, I find it difficult to write long, coherent narratives about him. Maybe someday I’ll be at that point, but for the time being I’m more drawn to writing shorter pieces.

What do you think is the most rewarding part of writing?

Writing every day keeps me sane. When I don’t write, the universe starts to unravel.

Do you consider nonfiction your genre of expertise or do you dabble in other genres as well?

I feel most at home with creative nonfiction, though I’ve become interested recently in the intersections of nonfiction and poetry. Some of my essays, like “Concealed Carry,” have become so short that they might be considered prose poems. I like hybrid genres, and I enjoy experimenting with new forms, new approaches, new ways of seeing the world.