…with Tatiana Ryckman

Ariana:

Where did you get your ideas for the stories included in Twenty-Something?

Tatiana:

I wrote these stories over a four year time span, so the inspiration for each one came from a distinctly different place. For example, “Pie” is an absurd scenario that looks like a lot of my thoughts: irrationally insecure. Tales from Ukraine is actually based on my limited travels there, where I felt I identified with others but never figured out if they identified with me, while the title story came out of a desire to write something that unified these others and synthesized the experience of being this age at this point in history. Maybe even to address being an age where I’m finally thinking about history and chronology with some context, like I’ve finally had enough hangovers to be convinced of my own mortality. I settled on the title Twenty-Something, because it seemed to be the common thread between these disparate pieces: the idea that these are supposed to be some of the best years of my life and I’m just not having that great a time.

Ariana:

Twenty-Something is a collection of flash fiction. Do you feel flash fiction captures the essence of a moment better or worse than a longer story? Why?

Tatiana:

I’m sure it depends whose hands it’s in. A photograph is different from a painting, but I don’t feel qualified to declare one medium more effective than another. In terms of illuminating a moment, flash fiction has a unique ability to get under a reader’s skin in the way a fleeting moment does. In the way that seeing a pile of mashed potatoes can make you think of clouds changing shape over the head of someone you love and feel more meaningful than the object itself. Like poetry, I think one aim of flash is to leave your reader with more than they are initially aware of.

Ariana:

Tetalita was recently published in matchbook. Do you categorize your work as experimental?

Tatiana:

I’m not sure if my work is experimental because I’m not sure where the boundaries of experimentalism lie. I would say I’m willing to experiment, but that’s mostly a willingness to fail. I write a lot of trash in hopes of hitting on something unpredictably resonant. I hope I don’t disregard narrative or grammar, but rather regard them so highly that I trust them to do more than we’re trained to believe in English classes.

Ariana:

What environment do you find you write best in, quiet, soft-lit, music filled, bubble bath?

Tatiana:

Lots of light, as early as humanly possible, and quiet. If I have a bit of coffee I may blast out a pile of pages, but too much and I just stare at the screen sweating and wondering if my health insurance would cover a heart attack.

Ariana:

What would the title of your biography be? Why?

Tatiana:

Ha. Probably Twenty-Something. But maybe, to reference a conversation I had with the poet Ian Bodkin last summer on his podcast, Written in Small Spaces: The Trouble of Existing in a Place.

Ariana:

Just how many licks do you think it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll tootsie pop?

Tatiana:

I’m sure it depends on the mouth.

Ariana:

What do you think are the elements of the best writing out there today?

Tatiana:

Primarily a unique perspective, like that of Lispecter, Calvino, and Barthleme, but also the sort of open or playful approach to language that makes poetry so powerful.

Ariana:

What is your favorite childhood book? Why did you pick this one?

Tatiana:

I didn’t start reading until college, at least, not with any sort of depth or breadth. Catcher in the Rye was the first book that  meant anything to me–my 7th grade teacher gave it to me and told me not to tell anyone where I got it–I immediately read it on repeat, but not much else. It’s an easy choice because it’s what made me aware of writing as a means to transcend the disappointments of our actual, physical existence. That said, I do have an enduring fondness for Pat the Bunny, because it is a dream of mine to just pat the shit out of some bunnies. Forever.

Ariana:

Do you ever write poetry?

Tatiana:

Lydia Davis once said something to the effect of (and I’m quoting loosely): My work is categorized as fiction, and Russell Edson is categorized as poetry, but why the distinction?
That is, I’m not especially concerned with genre. Sometimes I believe I’m writing a poem, and sometimes I believe I’m writing a story, but most of the time I’m just writing one word and then the next.

Ariana:

Why did I ask you these questions?

Tatiana:

To further obfuscate the truth: that these stories were written by a government-funded robot on a mission to erode the minds of our youth.

 

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