Sunday, May 4, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club: Q&A with Ron Parsons, author of 'The Sense of Touch'

RON PARSONS is a writer living in Sioux Falls. Born in Michigan and raised in South Dakota, he was inspired to begin writing fiction in Minneapolis while attending the University of Minnesota. His short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and venues, including The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Storyville App, The Briar Cliff Review, Flyway, and The Onion. His debut collection of stories, THE SENSE OF TOUCH, was released by Aqueous Books in 2013.

Thanks for joining us in the book club today, Ron!  I know you get this
question often but I’d like to start off by asking you why a book of short stories? 

Ron:    When I was attending college in Minneapolis, a friend of mine loaned me copies of two short story collections: “Like Life” by Lorrie Moore and “The Watch” by Rick Bass.  I think I read both books on consecutive nights and they really affected me.  I thought they were just perfect; collections of small, brilliant gems.  I resolved that someday, somehow, I would publish a short story collection of my own.  It took a long time and a lot of good fortune, but eventually I was able to make it happen.

Are all these stories related or have a common goal?

Ron:   The theme of “The Sense of Touch” is the importance of connecting with others and how we are inevitably changed, for better or worse, by those encounters.  The book’s epigraph is from a wonderful Wallace Stevens poem called “It Must Change,” and the cover, designed by my publisher Cynthia Reeser, depicts a butterfly, which is a symbol of transformation.

Of all the stories in the book, which is your favorite?

Ron:   I think the title story will always be my favorite, both because it was one of the first stories in the collection that I conceived and because I worked on it so long, through so many different drafts.  And it was intended to convey a general sense of some of what I was feeling and experiencing at a particularly unique and transitional time of life when I was young, living in uptown Minneapolis, and trying to figure out my place in the world.

What advice would you give to those trying to hone their short story writing skills?

Ron:   Take chances.  Less is almost always more.  The input of other writers and readers is important, but you can’t allow your own voice to become obscured.  Character has to be established in some way in the first few sentences and paragraphs.  Something has to happen and it probably ought to be a surprise. If something isn’t working in a particular story, don’t be afraid to take it out.  But save it in a different file.  You might find a home for it in another story someday.  And finally, persistence is your truest ally and procrastination your greatest foe.

Are any of these stories related to your personal life?

Ron:  None of the specific plots of the stories are, but certainly one’s feelings and experiences are always resources to be drawn upon.

Did it ever occur to you to write a full novel from one of the short stories?

Ron:  Yes. At one point, I thought about expanding “Moonlight Bowling” into a novel.  There are some questions left open at the end that just could not be answered within the form of a short story.  One of the questions that I am asked frequently by readers is whether Virgil will adopt or look after Emery, the young grandson of Henry Lemonte, after Henry is gone, as Henry implored Virgil to do.  Answering that question would lend itself to the substance of a novel.

When do you write the best – morning or night?

Ron:  At night.  I’m definitely not a morning person.

What’s next for you, Ron?  

Ron:  I am continuing to work on short stories to submit to literary views.  It’s the form of writing that connects with me most.  But I am also in the process of trying to develop a novel set, of course, here in the Midwest.

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