Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, Gulf Coast, NPR, and more. Carmen’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. NPR describes “Her Body and Other Parties” as an abrupt, original, and wild collection of stories, full of outlandish myths that somehow catch at familiar, unspoken truths about being women in the world that more straightforward or realist writing wouldn’t.”
In this episode, we kick it off by discussing Carmen’s earliest memories of a story she wrote as a kid called “The Biggest Turkey Can’t Find The Farm” and you’ll understand why it’s become her famous family story shared at gatherings. We then discuss Carmen’s thoughts about MFA programs and if she thinks they’re necessary for a successful or a stable writing career. We talk about maximizing a productive writing schedule by figuring out a system that works for you, how Carmen organizes her thoughts during her writing process, and why it’s so important to not get fixated on being published to the point where you lose yourself and are unable to provide your best work possible.
Later, we touch on abuse in same sex relationships and how that ties in with her memoir “House in Indiana” releasing in 2019. Carmen also shares how to recognize some warning signs of an abusive relationship. We then wrap up our conversation by talking more about “Her Body and Other Parties” and how her editor played a crucial role in the process. She also shares how to recognize signs of a good editor and how to make yourself visible as a short story writer.
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“Publication is not the end all be all in making good art.”
“I think a part of becoming an artist of any kind, writer in particularly, is figuring what kind of obsessions you have.”
“A good editor is worth their weight in gold.”
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- Listen in on Carmen’s famous family story, “The Biggest Turkey Can’t Find The Farm” (Warning: It’s hilarious!)
- Hear Carmen’s thoughts about MFA programs and if they are necessary for a successful or stable writing career
- Maximizing a productive writing schedule by figuring out a system that works for you
- How Carmen organizes her thoughts during her writing process
- We touch on abuse in same sex relationships and how that ties in with her memoir “House in Indiana” releasing in 2019
- How to recognize warning signs of an abusive relationship
- Signs of a good editor
- Why it’s crucial not to get fixated on being published to the point where you lose yourself and are unable to provide the best work possible
- Why you should never settle and to only work with the right editor and agent
- How to make yourself visible as a short story writer
About “Her Body and Other Parties”
Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction
“[These stories] vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality and the strange.”—Roxane Gay
“In these formally brilliant and emotionally charged tales, Machado gives literal shape to women’s memories and hunger and desire. I couldn’t put it down.”—Karen Russell
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
Learn More About Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize. She is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Guernica, Gulf Coast, NPR, and elsewhere. Her stories have been reprinted in Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and Best Women’s Erotica. Her memoir House in Indiana is forthcoming in 2019 from Graywolf Press.
She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, the Speculative Literature Foundation, the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, the University of Iowa, the Yaddo Corporation, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.
Books & Resources Mentioned in Carmen’s Episode:
Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories by Karen Russell
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang
What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah