Thursday, January 20, 2011

Author Insides - JM Huscher

JM Huscher is an English teacher and sometimes writer living in Budapest, Hungary. He co-founded the Nebraska Writers Collective, a 501.c that was instrumental in creating new extracurricular programs to support middle and high school language arts students across the state. In 2009 he collaborated with four poets from Berkeley, California, eventually taking top honors in the National Poetry Slam’s group work competition. He has read in 24 states, independently published several books of poetry, and recently began work on an autobiography about immigrating to post-Soviet Eastern Europe with his amily in the early 90s.

JM appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase .






When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing stories when I was in the fourth grade. They were mostly about me discovering that I had the power of flight. My friends used to beg me to put them in the stories, so I’d have to add to the endings with something like “Then Jeff and Josh tried it, and they could fly too.” The stories just got longer and more complicated as I got older. I guess if you’re asking “when,” then the answer is “when I knew I would never be able to fly.”

Why do you write?

It’s impossible to answer this question without sounding like an aloof, pseudo-intellectual jerk, but I’ll try: I think I’d go nuts if I quit writing. It’s the way in which I try to make sense of the world and the people in it. I write because there are still things that I want to understand but don’t.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?

Absolutely not, but that’s a good thing. I always used to imagine writers as terribly isolated people with severe drinking problems. That’s not the case at all—I have lots of friends.

What do you think makes a good story?

Good characters. If I think back to the good books I’ve read, it’s always the characters that stand out. Not the plot. Think about On the Road. Nothing happens in that book. They’re not solving crimes or dismantling bombs or anything. They just wander around and get drunk and stoned, but the book has staying power because it’s full of fascinating characters.

What’s your favorite genre to read?

This changes all the time for me, but I’m definitely on the prowl for books with an interesting narrator. If the back of the book says something like “told from the perspective of a…“, I’m a hundred times more likely to pick it up and take it home.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

My friend Dan Leamen is a writing genius, and I’m fascinated by everything that comes out of his head. He’s still at the beginning of his writing career, and he’s already doing stuff with poetry that shouldn’t even be possible. You can find his work in several magazines, and you can read his poem “Limoncello” is online Brink Magazine.

What books or stories have influenced you the most as a writer?

The Same Sea by Amos Oz just about made my head explode. I think I bought it because it was on one of those “employees recommend” racks. I remember reading it and thinking, I didn’t know you could tell a story that way. John Steinbeck also had a huge impact on me. The way he was able to turn a 400-page story on its head in the last paragraph—I really dug that.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Moby Dick. Hands down. That book changed both what I thought about God and religion as well as what I thought about what writers could talk about without actually coming right out and saying it. I’ve been re-reading it and exchanging emails with my best friend and a former professor about it, and it’s been amazing to see how this old book about whaling has led us into conversations about everything from nationalist political movements to endurance races.

Where do you find the most inspiration?

The radical right and vintage two-stroke scooters. Seriously.

What does your family think of your writing?

I called them to ask, and they all say that they haven’t read much of it. That was a little scary to hear since most of it is about them. I’m interested to hear what they think, but I don’t want to spend too much energy worrying about it. I don’t want my writing to pull any punches. That sounds really awful, doesn’t it?

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I write, but I’m not a professional writer. I work 40 hours a week at a regular job and have to find time outside of that to do writing. When I’m really into a project, I dedicate a little time at the end of the night and then a full day on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s difficult to be a serious writer with only the time that’s left over, but I’ve learned to use all of my time well. I’ve gotten pretty good at outlining a story or enumerating a few revisions in my head while I’m away from the keyboard.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I find it helps if I am wearing brand new socks (the ankle-high ones) and if my pant legs are rolled up. I probably get about 60 percent more work done when my shins are exposed. I also talk to myself. I think giving myself the freedom to be a bit of a crazy person while I’m writing makes the process bearable.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

There is always a reason not to write. The most challenging aspect of writing for me is treating writing like a hobby that I can leave alone for days or weeks at a time. It’s especially difficult if you’re friends with a lot of non-writers, because they might not understand why you’re insisting on sitting alone in your dark apartment on a Thursday night so you can type out hypothetical future legislation regarding time-travel.

What are your current projects?

I just finished writing a full-length manuscript about growing up overseas (“Divided and Conquered,” is part of that book), so the next thing is to launch into that long and painful process of looking for a small press or an agent to get it in print. I’ve also been taking notes for a few short stories. One is about a girl who falls in love with a robot and has to write him love letters in Pascal programming language.

What are you planning for future projects?

I want to have a blog where I post a picture what my hair looks like every single morning. I have the craziest bed head of anyone I’ve ever met. No joke. I have a few non-daily-bed-head-blog ideas floating around, too. None of them involve dinosaurs. A few of them involve riding bicycles. Most of them involve robots. All of them involve shenanigans.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I should be the last one anyone takes advice from. I learn everything by failing at it first. Having said that, almost every writer I’ve ever met is looking for some sort of short cut. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that there aren’t any. You can’t skip reading great writers. If you’re not taking in anything good, nothing good will come out. You can’t just write once a week or once a month and expect great ideas to end up on the page. You can’t avoid the good editors—the ones who will rip your work to pieces. You can’t avoid submitting to presses full of authors who are bigger and better than you. At every turn in the process, you have to choose the steeper path. I don’t believe in talent. I believe in persistence.

Where else can we find your work?

My bed head blog is at dailybedhead.blogspot.com.