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2013 OLF Recipient in Fiction: Samuel Snoek-Brown

Samuel Snoek-Brown is the 2013 recipient of The Walt Morey Fellowship in Fiction
. He teaches writing in Portland, Oregon. He also works as production editor for Jersey Devil Press for Unshod Quills. His fiction has appeared in Ampersand Review, Bartleby Snopes, Fiction Circus, and others. Excerpts from his novel Hagridden appeared in Sententia and will appear in SOL: English Writing in Mexico.

Snoek-Brown was kind enough to answer several of our questions about his creative process and being a fellowship recipient.

 1. What are your sources of inspiration?

Other stories. I mostly mean the stories I overhear people telling in coffee shops, the stories I hear in songs, the stories beyond the frame of a photograph, the stories I think *aren’t* getting told in films. I love interacting with other work like that. It makes me feel like part of a bigger artistic picture.

2. How would you describe your creative process?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to write full-time, which meant I had the opportunity to establish my writing habits, or what a lot of writers call “butt-in-the-chair time.” It isn’t necessarily about routine, but it is about the discipline of the writing. When you have the time to write, writing is what you do—you don’t waste that. Developing that kind of discipline transformed my writing. Now that my work schedule has become less predictable, I have to fit my writing in where I can, but I haven’t forgotten the importance of sitting down and putting in the hours. The important thing is that, when I have the time—and sometimes I have to make the time—I shut everything down, put on some music, and I get to work.

3. What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?

The book that led to this fellowship is set in Louisiana during the Civil War. I grew up visiting family in the region where my novel is set, and I’ve been a fan of all things Civil War since I was ten. But it’s been a long time since I last visited a Civil War battlefield or wandered around the Louisiana bayou. This fellowship is affording me the chance to visit that region, to walk around inside the world of my own fiction. I can’t imagine a more exciting way to finish this novel.

4. What are you currently working on?

Mostly I’m focusing on wrapping up the Civil War novel. But meanwhile, I’ve written most of a first draft of an apocalyptic story cycle, a collection of all these small, intimate lives desperately trying to ride out the end of the world and make their homes inside the chaos.

5. What advice do you have for future applicants?

First, believe in yourself. I took a long time working on my application for the fellowship because I kept second-guessing my work. I am so grateful that I didn’t give in to that second-guessing, and that my wife encouraged me to apply. And secondly, remember that this is a fellowship, in the truest sense of the word, and just applying for it can help you feel a part of Oregon’s rich and supportive literary community. Before you apply, while you’re applying, and definitely after you’ve applied, participate in that community! Go to readings, buy books, and support Literary Arts. It will change your life.

2013 OLF Judge Pinckney Benedict had this to say about Snoek-Brown’s work:

“Hagridden will be a page-turner for sure (in the best possible way: smart and exciting, and satisfying without becoming cloying in the manner of novels that are written to pander to the patience-challenged reader), if the promise of this brilliant excerpt is borne out in the manuscript at full length, which I strongly believe that it will be. These women remind me of the peasant characters from Japanese samurai films who would plunder the warriors who had fled the battlefield or were too wounded to leave it; but they are also utterly grounded in their own highly particular time and place. That’s the hallmark of a powerfully imagined fictional universe: that it is entirely itself, and sufficient to its own purposes, even as it calls to mind other places, other times, other grand narratives. The pages that we have available to us also promise a novel that’s ambitious in its scope (the inclusion of the rougarou material seems to me particularly inspired) and in its understanding of war: its ferocity, its relentlessness, its often exhilarating intensity, and (ultimately) its futility. I am most eager to read the final work!”

Completed applications for the 2014 Oregon Literary Fellowships are due to Literary Arts by Friday, June 28, 2013. Fellowships are awarded to Oregon residents in poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama and young readers literature. Fellowships are also awarded to publishers. Applications and guidelines are available at https://literary-arts.org/oba-home/apply/fellowships, or by contacting Susan Denning at susan@literary-arts.org.