Cocaine is the one thing Casey said he hated about the city because all the artist kids do it at parties and nobody talks about anything interesting anymore they all just get high and argue about which designer matters and who's the next big deal and everyone wants to be the next big deal but to be the next big deal you have to pretend like you don't give a shit when it's all you want and all you ever wanted and it's why you came here and why you live on a mattress in Brooklyn with the cracked-out hipsters...
Austin Rory Hackett appeared in the Autumn 2010 Battered Suitcase with his narrative non-fiction piece, "New York City". Austin graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in genetics and is currently a medical student at Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Wild Goose Poetry Review, Falling Star Magazine, and Inscape. He won the 2010 Vera Hinckley Mayhew Essay Contest. Recently, he developed a fascination with pinball machines.
Austin, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
People kept telling me I was a really clever g-chatter. I learned that I loved telling stories in interesting ways. And I loved how certain people found interesting ways to use language to tell me stories. And that was it, from then on I started writing poems and stories just to write.
Why do you write?
I write because it’s one of the only ways I can continuously surprise myself. And I love surprising myself.
Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?
Since I’m just a part-time writer I think I’ve kept it very much how I want it. I write when I want to and don’t write when I don’t want to. So I don’t think I’ve experienced much of what it’s like to “be a writer.”
What do you think makes a good story?
For me, it’s always one of three things that gets me excited about a story: clever language use, interesting pacing/flow, and new perspectives on situations, ideas, or people.
What's your favorite genre to read?
During school it’s all short non-fiction and prose poems. They’re long enough to develop but short enough that I can take in a whole story or idea in one subway ride or in between classes. In the summer is the only time I can tackle collections of longer fiction.
Who is your favorite author or poet?
Essayist – Brian Doyle. He has mastered the run-on sentence, which is my favorite type of sentence, and which is also really a bitch to tame.
Poet – Robert Frost. Mostly for his consistency; he hits you with something impressive time after time after time. I read his entire collected works and was simply amazed.
What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Patrick Madden’s “Divers Weights and Divers Measures,” Brian Doyle’s “Rich Rich Rich Rich,” and probably the haikus of Basho.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
The Gospel of John
Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I just get bored and writing excites me. That’s it. When science gets too heavy I need to either read or create fresh literature.
What does your family think of your writing?
My mom loves everything I’ve written. She sends it out to the whole extended family. But she always says, “oh Austie” in a vaguely chastising tone whenever I write damn, ass, or shit. I don’t think my brothers or dad read anything I write. Or if they have they haven’t mentioned it. They think I’m “the weird one in the family that thinks too much.”
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I’m in medical school so I’m super busy but have a pretty flexible, self-directed schedule. Sometimes I’ll have whole days where all I have to do is study and usually I can only study for a few hours before I get a clever idea and start to write. I can’t be on my computer for too long without at least writing a short poem.
Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I can’t multi-task. If I get on a roll, I’ll just sit in the chair and write for hours straight. If I get up to talk or eat or shower I lose it, so I just keep going until I finish, run out of ideas, or just can’t hold the pee any longer.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding people whose opinions I trust to give me feedback. Most of the people who are willing to read my work don’t have feedback I can really use. They just like it because they like me (or else they wouldn’t be bothering to read my unfinished work). I need to start getting kids that hate to me to read it and point out all my faults. Like I’ll flirt with your girlfriend and then ask you to edit my story.
What are your current projects?
I am obsessed with the heart as a literal physical object. I keep writing prose poems where there is an actual heart that shows up somehow. I like them. A classmate that saw me writing them and asked to read them told me they were “really great” so I guess I’ll keep going. That’s all I can think about when I sit down to write: big red bloody hearts.
What are you planning for future projects?
I work at a homeless health care clinic and I want to write a series of essays about different types of homeless peoples’ barriers to accessing health care, told primarily from their own perspectives. Like what is it like to be a single homeless mother trying to take care of her family’s health and also what is it like to be a cracked-out crazy dude trying to stay alive.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Look at language on the sentence level. Make sure most of your sentences are interesting by themselves. And please be careful with repetition of words and phrases. It’s more powerful than most people notice. Use it wisely.
Where else can we find your work?
I have a collaborative creative writing blog at http://www.nocapswriting.blogspot.com/ anyone can send me anything and I put it up. They’re mostly friends from college, and I put up my own work all the time and link to any publications I’ve had.