KR Conversations

Jess Lacher

Jess Lacher teaches and writes at Hunter College. She lives in Brooklyn.  Her story “Remainders” is currently featured on KRO.

KR: Is there a story behind your KR piece(s)?  What was the hardest part about writing it?

JL: I’m an instructor at the Kenyon Review Young Writers program, so I get to spend my summers in Gambier, writing. This is a piece that came out of a writing exercise my class did about monsters. At the time, I was writing a lot of very short stories that came out pretty painlessly.

KR: What internal or external factors have the biggest influence on your creative process?

JL: It’s taking me a really long time to answer this question because I still don’t know what my creative process is. I write every day now, after years of meaning to write every day, and that’s important. I’m in the MFA fiction program at Hunter College, so being in the company of really smart writers all the time has been important. Besides all the smart writers, I’m lucky to have smart friends and family all over the place who are always doing interesting projects in music/theater/film/comedy/whatever. Also, I’m engaged to the most creative person I know, and he’s writing and working on projects all the time.

I think that’s the most important thing for me, just to keep company with people I admire and keep working and trust that the creative process will show up sooner or later.

KR: Nicole Krauss said in a recent Guardian column that “We’re programmed to do the ‘easier’ thing… People no longer have the concentration to finish things; we skim along the surface, and it’s miserable.” Do you see this absence of ambition in the literary audiences of today?  How do modern attention spans affect your writing?

JL: I don’t know if that’s particularly true of today– people have always been pretty good at doing the easier thing and being miserable. I still like to read a good long book. I like especially to finish a good long book, and I assume that’s true of most people who are still into reading. If people are into playing video games because they’ve somehow fried their attention spans, well, I don’t think that’s such a huge crisis. It’s a wide world with a lot of ways to tell stories, and there are still more ambitious books being written than I have time to read.  But Nicole Krauss is definitely, definitely smarter than I am, so she probably knows what she’s talking about.

KR: What have you learned about the writing process in the last five years?

JL: Almost everything I know about writing I’ve learned in the past five years. Being in an MFA program really forced me to get serious about writing. I think I’ve learned discipline, for sure, and how to revise. I am still working on persistence. I started really reading again about five years ago, after a long lazy period, and that’s been important. I spent a week working with Lee K. Abbott this summer and learned so much about craft that my brain started leaking out my ears a little.

KR: When we publish, whether in print or online, we hope we’re making a sustained art–something that endures and continues to be significant.  What role will sustained art have in a future that’s sure to be full of iPads/Pods/Phones and Kindles, hyper-fast computers, and a reality where we can always be online, all of the time?

JL: I will post the answer to this question on my Facebook wall.