Interviewed by Sommer Schafer
Read Bill Teitelbaum’s fiction piece, Tales of the Glenwood Tap
Sommer: In his book, Narrative Design, Madison Smartt Bell writes about two kinds of narrative design: linear and modular. I’ve always found modular stories, as yours is here, to be particularly captivating. What inspired you to write your story in sections like this? And do you think some thing(s) can be better accomplished or conveyed through writing a modular story?
Bill: As a composition, “Tales” is constructed very much the way most tavern encounters are experienced—as isolated incidents within a unitary context. However, a good deal of deliberation went into sequencing the pieces in order to generate the momentum that’s ordinarily provided by strong linear plotting.
As for linear vs. modular or any other modality, my experience is that if you listen closely enough, the story itself will eventually tell you how it needs to be written.
A lot of this story lives in the “negative spaces”—action and dialogue we aren’t privy to is occurring within the white spaces between sections. It works so well. During drafts of this story, did you find yourself actually writing into those white spaces and then deleting? How did you determine what parts of the story to hold within your brain, and what parts to write?
Let’s say instead that the negative space of the story represents the monotonous white noise that comprises most of reality, that background hum and scrum of the familiar and predictable. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, people come up with stuff that absolutely distinguishes them as dimensional human beings.
As for choosing what to leave out, that’s a craft-call like any other. Where do you put the emphasis? Which descriptive details will work hardest for you? Also I have to say a lot depends on the respect you have for your readers and your willingness to trust them. The more information you think they’ll need, the more you’re apt to pile it on.
Do you have a favorite bar, pub, diner, café to hang out in? Do you write there?
My wife and I enjoy a variety of wonderful places to eat, drink and socialize, but no, I don’t write in any of them. Why would I do that? I might miss something.
Do you have any advice for writers on handling rejection?
Actually no, I don’t, since each of us experiences rejection differently. I’m confident, though, that if you’re persistent enough you’ll come up with some responses that work for you. Across time, for example, you may discover that the acceptances you receive are often just as arbitrary as the rejections.
What are you working on these days, and where can we next read some of your work?
Currently I’m shopping a collection of stories about the abruptly single called Are You Seeing Anyone? There’s also a novel I’m eager to finish, and like everyone else, I’ve got several stories out making the rounds. In terms of recent acceptances, The MacGuffin will be including my short memoir, “Last Summer,” in their Spring 2019 issue (Vol. 35.2); a Canadian lit-mag called Augur will be reprinting a story called “Dishling” that I published several years ago; and I’ve also been published recently by the Slag Review, Confrontation, After Hours and Iconoclast. Then there’s Google where I’m the Bill Teitelbaum who isn’t the cartoonist.
Thank you for doing this interview with me, and congratulations!
It’s been my pleasure, Sommer. Thanks for the opportunity.