Interview with Matt Stefon

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was before I had any notion of how to write a story. In Third Grade English (early eighties) we were asked to write a one-paragraph story. For some reason I and almost every male student were anxious about this and so tried to write his own story about The Transformers (first wave of popularity). None of them took.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I wish I did. It was likely one of Carl Barks's "Uncle Scrooge" adventures.
What do you read for pleasure?
I actually don't get to do a lot of pleasure reading. Too much non-reading work distracts me from it--and a lot of times from writing. I mainly like good poetry and good short fiction, no matter who wrote them. My favorite author who worked in and merged the two quite successfully is Richard Brautigan.
Who are your favorite authors?
Too many to choose from, but I do love American Renaissance writers such as Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, and Poe, along with many of the lesser-known writers. In the 20th century: Kerouac, Brautigan, Bishop, Stevens, Frost, Muldoon. I admit I need better familiarity with 21st century writers, though I really like Tao Lin's work.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
From my paternal grandfather I gained a deep-seated Northeastern consciousness. That includes not only the Northeastern Pennsylvania where I was born and raised but also the rest of the state, New York City and State (frequent visits there growing up), New Jersey, and all of New England (where I've visited since young and where I've spent more than one-third of my life), and even also Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia--which really aren't "Northeast" (though Northeast Corridor) but are still in close proximity to NEPA--all of this is "home." I feel most comfortable there. How specifically they've influenced my writing I'm not quite sure, but they have been an influence. What Jack Kerouac called "The Great Continent of New England" (everyone should read Dr. Sax, because it's a masterpiece of experimental fiction and of regionalism in the best sense) I guess I'd enlarge to "The Great Northeast." It's in everything I write. Have tried other parts of the country, and I love 'em--but I've gotta be east of Indiana and north of, say Williamsburg to feel settled.
When did you first start writing?
I first tried writing in high school. Thankfully none of that survives. I tried again intermittently throughout college and grad school. But it was just over two years ago, in a crisis point of my life, that I sat down one Sunday morning at Brew'd Awakening Coffeehaus in Lowell, where I was living at the time, at the window, and looked at the scene before me, and said "I'm not moving from this spot until I've written something about that scene. I wrote a poem. It wasn't very good, though parts of it were harvested like organs for much better poems. But it got me really writing for the first time in my life, and I haven't stopped for too long since then. I now have eight poems published in both online and print journals, three e-chapbooks of poetry, two print books in progress, and lots of ideas for more poetry and other genres. I guess it's true that as long as you're still alive, then you still have opportunity to make new things and to change old things--and not just behaviors.
What is your writing process?
I write when I can. I always keep a reporter's notebook. Sometimes I use the iPhone notes function when an idea can't wait even for me to open the notebook. But there isn't always a "process" in the sense of a consistent, coherent order. I will start something and maybe leave it and go on to something else and then come back days, weeks, months, years later. It's nice to say that a work has integrity as a unified whole--and that's usually true--but that unity is the process of much revision and recasting, often driven by doubt, sometimes by aesthetic resonance.
Describe your desk
My desk has been in storage for three years. I mainly use a lap board in my home office. I use desks and tables at coffee houses and libraries, too. Other than that, I just use my knee to balance my 4" x 8" reporter's notebook, which is my favorite notebook type for first writing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It calms my anxiety and gives me a great sense of satisfaction in having channeled creativity into something positive. Far better than sitting around doing nothing but wondering why I'm doing nothing.
What are you working on next?
More poems. Short stories. Have two novel ideas. Trying to get better at video editing and screenwriting.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Mainly in ways that make me wish I were writing. There are only so many lottery tickets you can buy before realization sets in and kicks you in the head. I WOULD like to be able to go back to quality road trips with my wife in search of good coffee shops and fried clams, but that's tough to do at moment.
Published 2016-11-23.
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Books by This Author

The Long Contraction: Twelve Rejected Poems
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 2,440. Language: English. Published: November 11, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Poetry » American poetry
This is a collection of twelve rejected poems. Each has been rejected by journal editors, and each also copes with rejection in its own way. Writing the poems here helped the poet overcome much, and he hopes that reading them, while they are not "inspirational," may help you to overcome much too.