We're honored to feature Brian Burmeister's "You Remember Hawkeye" in Issue One of Orson's Review. We're also very fortunate for the time Brian took to sit down and chat with us about his journey as a writer.
*The following interview involves Orson's Publishing (OP) and Brian Burmeister (BB).
OP: How did your journey with the written word begin?
BB: I’ve always loved creating stories. As a young child, I would play—often for hours—leading my action figures through absurd adventures of my own imagining. Sometime in elementary school, I remember writing and illustrating a story about mummies coming to life. That gem has been lost to time, but I toyed around with writing off and on after that point. I didn’t really invest in writing until high school, though. At that time, I made attempts at a novel and several screenplays. In college, I funneled all my anxieties and insecurities into poetry. Looking back, I can honestly say that much of the work of that era was quite terrible. But writing those pieces was either fun or cathartic or both. And I think writing needs to be those things.
OP: Is fiction writing your only occupation?
BB: For more than a decade, I’ve been a college educator. I’ve taught creative writing courses, as well as a wide variety of other writing, literature, and communication classes. I really enjoy working with students and seeing them become better writers and speakers. One of my proudest moments was when a student took the Grand Prize in a fiction contest that I had encouraged her to enter.
OP: What about "You Remember Hawkeye" are you most proud?
BB: The narrator’s voice. As much as in any other story that I’ve written, I really felt that within “You Remember Hawkeye” I was able to distance myself from myself and really step into the mind of the narrator. To see the world as he sees it. To talk as he talks.
OP: Tell us about your writing process. Do you approach all pieces of writing in the same way?
BB: I usually start with an idea. Generally something strange (or so my wife tells me). Then, I try to unravel it from there. What led to it? What comes after it? I haven’t completely mastered the art of outlining stories, but I tend to know the major scenes before I sit down to write. I’ll write those, then look for ways to bridge the gaps between them.
OP: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that impacted your writing?
BB: I was committed to becoming a professional basketball player. For a billion reasons, that dream didn’t materialize, but I’ve hung on to some of that competitiveness—I always want to be a better writer, for instance—and my love of the game of basketball has helped propel my involvement in the Sport Literature Association, where I’ve written about such players as Allen Iverson and even had the honor of interviewing two-time NBA World Champion and activist Craig Hodges.
OP: Tell us about the biggest sacrifice you’ve made while pursuing writing.
BB: Definitely sleep. Since I started writing my current novel, I’ve made a deal with myself that I have to write every single day. Every. Single. Day. I have to keep the streak I’ve built alive. And doing so has helped hold me accountable: I have written every day since I began the novel. But life happens. Things come up. And it’s hard to find the time sometimes, which has led to some very late nights.
OP: How many books do you read in a year?
BB: Not enough. I’m a firm believer that the more you read the better you’ll write. But time is in short supply, and in addition to work, I tend to take on multiple writing projects at once, which often short changes how much I’m reading. I wish I could say the number is higher, but for now, I’m finishing only one or two books each month.
OP: Do you attend literary readings? If so, tell us about the best one you’ve ever attended -- what made it so good?
BB: Yes. I’ve seen novelist and DC Comics writer Benjamin Percy several times. He’s fantastic. Just incredibly animated in his delivery, which makes for a truly captivating reading. And on top of it all, his is among the deepest, most memorable voices you’ll ever hear in your life. Everyone should do themselves a favor and listen to Percy’s reading of the children’s classic Goodnight Moon.
OP: What do you want most out of your literary community?
BB: Friendship. Support. I consider myself very fortunate in that I am part of a community that openly and actively celebrates each other’s successes and encourages each other through the tough times. Writing tends to be a solitary endeavor, and I suspect a lot of insanely talented writers have probably given up because they don’t have that support system around them reinforcing the idea that the work we put into the world matters.
OP: Do you believe that an MFA is crucial to success as a writer today?
BB: Absolutely not. Let me immediately follow that up by saying both that I earned an MFA from Iowa State University and that I loved my time in that program. The encouragement I received and the community I was a part of were quite special, and graduate school afforded me the time to really focus on my craft. That being said, I think the biggest part of success for any writer is just to stick with it. Write when you can. Just write, write, write. Don’t give up on it. MFA programs can be great, but by no means do I consider them a necessity for any writer.
OP: What do you cross your fingers for as a writer?
BB: I think one of the greatest challenges is taking the story in your mind and putting it to paper in such a way that somebody else can see that same story. I know every one interprets things differently, but I always have my fingers crossed that the big takeaways I hope for in any story translate to each reader.
OP: Where do you see your journey with the written word going?
BB: I’d love to keep writing novels. Even with the commitments and responsibilities of work and family, I’m hoping from here forward I’ll be able to write a new novel every other year.
Brian Burmeister teaches communication at Iowa State University. He is a regular contributor at Cleaver Magazine, and his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He can be followed on Twitter: @bdburmeister.
Be sure to check out "You Remember Hawkeye" in Issue One of Orson's Review.