This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.
Emma Moser graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English at Westfield State University, and is currently an MFA candidate for fiction writing at Southern Connecticut State University. Her multi-genre work has appeared or is forthcoming at over a dozen venues, including Prairie Margins; The 3288 Review; Yellow Chair Review; Right Hand Pointing; Life in 10 Minutes; Thin Air Magazine; Cheat River Review; The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle; Zoomoozophone Review; Thoreau’s Rooster; Sweatpants & Coffee; and Fuck Fiction. She is the creator of the blog Antiquarian Desiderium, and also a contributor at Writers Get Together. Emma’s short story “This is How We Mourn” appeared in our inaugural issue in August 2015.
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3288 Review: How and when did you get started writing? Was there a recognizable moment or event which ignited the creative spark?
Emma Moser: The answer to that question is a little complex, because for many years, writing was the childhood dream I’d buried in the backyard and forgotten. It went from writing absurdities about vampires as a ten-year-old to not touching creative writing for almost a decade. I was always an avid classics reader, so even as a kid my standards for writing were very high; I think I discouraged myself too much. It wasn’t until I was 18 that, suddenly, I started to write again. I’d experienced two family deaths in that same year, which left me painfully disoriented. The day my grandfather died, I remember running upstairs and writing every little memory of him I could think of in a notebook. It took days to complete. As time passed, writing (for whatever reason) remained my outlet for processing that depression, for giving voice to the black, tangled mess inside of me. I guess what I was writing was better than my ten-year-old vampire stories, because my college professors began to tell me, “You really need to keep this up.” So here I am, 22, pursuing writing as a dream again.
3288 Review: Memory plays an important part in your story “This is How We Mourn”, as does the necessity of deep personal experience. In your other works do you explore how the passage of time and new experiences can affect the recollection of past events?
Emma Moser: I’m addicted to using flashbacks. What has always inspired me as a writer is the concept that everyone you meet – everyone, from the obnoxious lady in the grocery line to the quiet kid in class — has a history. Everyone has a past of personal battles and defeats, which continues to influence them in ways we can’t see. As far as how time affects those recollections, I’d say that my characters’ histories tend to become more precious over time – and therefore more powerful. In my work, memories often become motifs that define how a character responds to new situations; and temporal distance from a memory causes him/her to cling to it as solely his/her own. Memory’s effects, then, become entrenched to form a kind of paradigm, and the present moment is a source of tension that irritates or disrupts that paradigm.
3288 Review: You just started your first semester in an MFA program. That is quite an extraordinary commitment to writing! How did you arrive at the decision to pursue a Master’s Degree? And how is it going, one month in?
Emma Moser: Compared to my peers in undergrad, I feel as though I came into creative writing rather late in the game. It really wasn’t until I was a senior (technically) that I decided this was what I needed to be doing; I even delayed graduation another year so I could take more writing courses. For me, getting my Master’s in creative writing was about committing myself to the decision to pursue writing, through both focused study and expanded time to study. So far, I’m loving the program at SCSU. The quality of any writing program is largely dependent on the quality of fellow workshoppers, and I’m fortunate to be in a class of highly talented, diversely intellectual people. Both for the students’ age range and for the dedicated nature of the program, there’s an aura of maturity (for lack of a better word) in this environment, which eliminates a lot of the pettiness you sometimes see in undergrad workshops. I never feel personally judged, nor that anyone is prescribing against my aesthetic vision — things for which I am very grateful.
3288 Review: Assuming you have time to read, what are your current and recent literary influences? How do you feel they affect your own writing?
Emma Moser: Although I’m a fiction writer by trade, I dabble in non-fiction and poetry too, so I try to read a little bit of everything. My favorite fictioneers are Charles Dickens and Flannery O’Connor, hands down. Alternately, I read Mary Oliver almost religiously, along with a variety of poets here and there. I’m drawn mostly to authors who display a sense lyricism in their writing, taking advantage of the musicality of language. Being a reader obsessed with good-sounding prose has certainly elevated my poetic awareness. I’m not a great plot-driven writer, but being exposed to conscientious word-choice has shown me how the subtle rhythms of phrases can highlight the value of mundane moments. I strive very hard to show the dramatic worth of daily life, and moving my characters’ worlds with poeticism has brought me closer to achieving that goal
3288 Review: According to the bio on your website, you were homeschooled. Do you feel that this influenced your writing, either in the creative process or subject matter?
Emma Moser: I would not be the writer or person I am today without my homeschooled background. There’s an unfortunate lack of interest in the arts in many public schools these days, and I think the emphasis on standardized learning often takes away from a sense of personal curiosity. What I loved about being homeschooled was the flexibility to pursue, with a kind of disproportionate dedication, what I was most passionate about — which was reading, in my case. It also gave me the freedom to try and fail and try again at things outside a traditional educational curriculum, like creative writing. I think being allowed to delve as deep into the arts as I wanted instilled a curiosity for contemplation, a pursuit of not just how the world works but why. That kind of constant analysis is still something I carry with me in my creative process: I always need to explore things, people, ideas, and wonder what’s under the surface. Observation is everything in writing, and I don’t think I would have developed that skill as strongly without my educational background.
3288 Review: Can you tell us a little more about your poetry? Do you have preferred subjects or styles?
Emma Moser: I suppose the best word to describe my poetry is observational. I live in a city (a pretty crummy one, too), but I love nature, and my poems are often about finding random moments of natural beauty within the humdrum of suburban life. I guess it shows a longing — maybe even a stubbornness — to connect with the natural world. Give me one tree in the backyard, or a cloud over a highway, and I’ll find a way to make a poem out of it.
3288 Review: What are you working on now? Anything you’re getting ready to release to the world?
Emma Moser: Right now, I’m mostly trying to figure out what my MFA thesis is going to be! However, as I steadily continue to churn out more stories, I’m hoping to eventually create a short story collection that’s a little braver than what I’ve done before, based more closely on familial or psychological tensions I’ve seen in my own life. I’m slowly starting to realize that I’m too moved by what’s immediately around me to avoid talking about it forever.