John Jodzio‘s work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney’s, and One Story. He’s the author of the short story collections, Knockout (Soft Skull Press, Spring 2016), Get In If You Want To Live and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. He lives in Minneapolis.
You have this amazing ability to switch back and forth from flash fiction to short stories and back again. Which did you start writing first and how does your flash fiction writing inform your short stories and vice versa?
I started off writing longer short stories, but over time I’ve realized I like to sometimes shrink a story down into the smallest logical/workable space. It hasn’t ever been that hard for me to toggle between the two forms because I don’t really view them as all that different structurally. No matter how weird my subject matter is, I’ve always been a pretty traditional beginning/middle/end writer. Even in my really short flash pieces that format is there, just with a smaller middle.
When I was an undergrad in my creative writing program, I wasn’t encouraged by any of my professors to be weird. A lot of our readings were of the traditional literary canon. When I stumbled onto Get In If You Want To Live in 2011, I was genuinely delighted by the surrealism of the flash fiction (and the art in the book and the design also was a bonus). What allowed or encouraged you to work in a surrealistic style?
When I was young writer I was a horrible and boring realist, trying to make my readers sob and having all of my characters have these crappy philosophical conversations through a haze of clove cigarettes. In my real life I am a bit of a goofball and so there was this absolute disconnect in what was writing and my actual personality. At some point one of my friends gave me a copy of “Barrel Fever” by David Sedaris and it really opened my eyes. I was like “I can write funny and weird stuff?”
How much of your life do you put in your work?
Probably around zero percent. Occasionally there’s a little portion of a story that uses a setting that’s familiar to me, but I don’t think I’ve ever based a character off someone I know or anything like that. Most of my stories come out of some strange scenario that I’ve thought up which I want to explore. Usually these things haven’t ever happened to anyone in real life, but possibly could.
Which side of history would you like to be on?
I’d like to be on the right side of history, but I often like to put my characters on the wrong side.
The one side of indie publishing no one talks about is the promotion aspect. It’s one of those things that I wish would be talked about (and taught) in creative writing programs. What advice would you have for any first-time authors about promoting their work?
I don’t really have any magic, but I know that it will definitely help their book if these first time authors have already made some good friends in their local literary scene by being a champion of other people’s work and showing up to lit events.
Also, if you have a couple extra bucks and some extra copies of your book to send out to potential reviewers I always put a scratch off lottery ticket inside the book and then follow up with an email saying something like “if you haven’t recycled my book yet you’ll find a scratch off lottery ticket inside that could win you FIVE MILLION DOLLARS”. I have a pretty decent response rate whenever I do this.
From my experience with flash fiction, I discovered that my background as a poet, particularly in writing poems to compete with in poetry slams, helped me make that transition from poetry to flash fiction. What’s your experience, if any, in writing poetry? Bonus points if you are willing to share a poem that you’ve actually written.
Sadly I will get no bonus points here as I haven’t ever written any poetry. I can certainly see how someone could shift from poetry to flash – there definitely seems to be a close relation to the concise language and restrictive nature of poetry – I just don’t know if it would work the other way, from flash to poetry. At least it doesn’t seem like it could work for me.
What are you currently working on?
I am at work on another collection of stories and also a novel. The novel has a lot of drug smuggling and javelins and a pair of scary bald eagles that like to drop stolen hams on people and cars.
What’s Minneapolis’s literary scene like?
It’s kind of a perfect and wonderful storm – we’re rich in writing talent, bookstores, small presses (Coffee House, Milkweed, Graywolf), literary journals, (Paper Darts, Revolver, The Riveter, etc.) and literary orgs (i.e. The Loft Literary Center) and there are a shitload of readers that live here.