Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Interview With Kodi Scheer

Kodi Scheer's short story, "Hero," appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, Kodi discusses the origins of the story, character psyche, her community work as a Dzanc Prize recipient, and her forthcoming works.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise for this story come from?

Kodi Scheer: Several years ago, I did the ritual backpacking trip to Europe, always wondering how anyone with a disability could navigate. I spent several evenings in the teahouses of Granada, sitting around the hookah and listening to flamenco with the other tourists. But mostly, I was observing people, and Granada was a great place to do that. The two characters arose while I was thinking about physical limitations, the body, and control.

AV: There is wonderful tension in "Hero" between emotional control and physical control. How do the two intersect - and perhaps conflict - for you in this story?

KS: It’s not so much a conflict between emotional and physical control as a misunderstanding on the part of the narrator, who’s been abused both emotionally and physically. She sees a disabled guitarist and, in her mind, empathizes with his condition—she begins making up backstory based on her own history. The narrator seeks to control her emotional anxiety by physically controlling another. For her, the two are much the same. This is the world as interpreted by a very damaged psyche.

AV: I love how this piece thwarts our expectations of seduction - here, instead of fabulous dresses and drinks, the narrator instead is met with a catheter, and a choice of drink or sex as a result. How does this scene, and the story altogether, manage the line between expectation and reality?

KS: Everything we see and know has already been filtered and interpreted and compared with similar memories. In the story, the narrator has already imagined a sort of history for the guitarist, based on her own experiences and pain, before she ever speaks to him. Everyone does this. What’s interesting to me is that moment in time when the fantasy can no longer be maintained by reality. The narrator doesn’t consider the practical difficulties that could arise from having a physical disability. It never occurs to her, so she fails to incorporate this into her fantasy. In the split second that the chasm between fantasy and reality first becomes apparent, she’s left without control. She realizes that yes, she can physically control this other person, but that’s not enough. What she really wants is control over herself, her own past. It’s in this moment that she realizes she’ll never be able to do that. It’s a problem that I think affects all of us, although maybe not so dramatically as the narrator of this story. That constant shifting of our worldview, shaped by our past and filtered by our expectations, when confronted by the minute, divergent details of life.

AV: You were recently awarded the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. Can you talk a little about this achievement, and the community work you've been doing?

KS: Every year, Dzanc Books awards $5,000 to a fiction writer, which funds work on a community service project of the literary persuasion. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to lead writing workshops and tutorials at the University of Michigan Cancer Center for patients, caregivers, and staff. At the moment, I’m working with a cancer survivor to produce a chapbook of her poetry. Overall, it’s been a very challenging and rewarding experience, and I hope to continue such work in the future.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?

KS: I’m polishing a collection of fantastical short stories—actually, “Hero” is one of the few realistic stories in the manuscript—and working on a novel as well. I’m thrilled to report that my story “Gross Anatomy” is forthcoming in the winter issue of The Iowa Review.

Kodi Scheer earned an M.F.A. from the University of Michigan, where she received the 2008 Prize in Creative Writing for her thesis collection of short stories. Recently, she was awarded the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, and Bellevue Literary Review.

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