Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview with Frank Soos

Writer Frank Soos visited Chester College of New England in early September as part of the Visiting Artist Symposium Lecture Series and the Visiting Writers Series. He took some time to sit down the SO Good to talk about his work.

SO Good: What made you start writing? Why?

Frank Soos: I believed I started writing because I had things I wanted to say that no one would say. I guess where I grew up had an impact. It is not immediately eminent in my work but it is where I started.

SG: Where do you get you inspiration?

FS: I think Chuck Close summed it up best “inspiration is for amateurs, professionals work.” I wait for things to happen. Not all events are complete so they leave room for questions. For instance, Margo’s sister’s purse was stolen but was later found. The guy was caught after using her credit card at McDonalds and a 7-11. I used this moment to write a story about the guy. There was room to speculate, to see what events trigger others. For non-fiction pieces I just pay attention to questions and wonder about things that will not be known in first glance.

SG: Are there any authors/artists that have shaped your work?

FS: Oh yeah, Allison Drove. She is a technical model short fiction writer. Lee Smith, an essayist, grew up not too far from me. I think she does a good job capturing the mountain gold.

SG: What is your biggest accomplishment?

FS: I don’t know. It does mean much to me to win the Flannery O’Connor award but I find it dangerous to dwell on such accomplishments. It can end up getting in the way and actually take away from your work.

SG: Do you think your work has a bigger impact by itself or paired with Margo’s work?

FS: My stuff with Margo by design does profit from the collaboration. I am not sure how strong my stuff is without Margo’s. Margo’s work, on the other hand, can stand by itself. My normal writing does hold up because it has to.

SG: What comes more naturally to you essays or fiction?

FS: I honestly want to say neither but if I have to choose I guess fiction. Fiction is easier for me because it is more controllable hence the attraction. Essays on the other hand need a lot more attention. If left unwatched it can get out of hand.

SG: Do you prefer writing or teaching?

FS: I just retired from teaching. But for me teaching has a here and now gratification. It became hard for me to draw the lines when I was working with creative people. When I was teaching I would never read an incomplete draft of something. I feel it interferes with the author’s work. It causes the author to lose their voice and the piece ends up sounding like two different people. I also think that reading an incomplete draft can discourage the author. When I was teaching I found it difficult to go back to my own work at the end of the day because all of my creative juices were being used on the students. Now that I am retired I do plan on writing more pieces; I don’t think I have given all I can just yet.

SG: Do you have any advice for upcoming writers/artists?

FS: Work is not about talent. Stubbornly stick with your work. I find it encouraging seeing former students succeed and discouraging to see gifted students give up too easily on themselves. I think they need to stop using the rejected letter from the publisher as an excuse to give up. I guess I’m just saying don’t give up.

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