Welcome to “Contributors’ Corner,” where each week we open the floor to one of our contributors to the journal. This week, we hear from Jessica Alexander, whose story “A Stranger Never Comes to Town” appears in 3.1.
Jessica Alexander’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blip Magazine, Pank, The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, Big Lucks, Denver Quarterly, and Fence, among others. She studies at the University of Utah and is currently an editorial assistant at Western Humanities Review.
Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
I used to live with the poet, Rich Smith. He was always taking some poem apart, explaining how it worked. I don’t write poetry. I don’t even remember these conversations exactly. Yet I know they’ve shaped the way I write stories. I think moments like this continuously intercede when I’m writing fiction, sort of how memory functions for Henri Bergson. He’d say we don’t stop at red lights without our whole history of reading traffic signals interceding. I like to imagine this. Like time slowed down and grew thick. Like in The Matrix.
What are you reading?
In 2009 Les Figues Press put out a translation of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker. I picked up a copy at AWP. I read it on the flight home, and a man, sitting beside me, who tried making conversation, saw the title and stopped trying.
I also picked up a copy of Raphael Dagold’s Bastard Heart. It’s wonderful.
Can you tell us what prompted “A Stranger Never Comes to Town”?
I wanted to write about siblings. Siblings are uncanny. They’re familiar and strange. My siblings and I have a common lexicon. We’re awkwardly entangled in each other’s self-constructions. We contest each other’s fictions. Siblings are deceptively predictable and ultimately unknowable. Instead I wrote this story.
What’s next? What are you working on?
I have a book by Jerome Stern. It’s called Making Shapely Fiction. He classifies story-types: a day in the life, a bear at the door, a stranger comes to town, all these familiar patterns. Lately, I’ve been writing about characters stuck in these story-types. They know they’re stuck, so the problem becomes their pattern. A stranger won’t stop coming to town. A bear at the door prompts marital ambivalence. A couple argues about icebergs over drinks and it’s a metaphor.
Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?
I’ve been watching too much Drag Race lately. I’m rooting for Milk this season.