Christian Winn considers himself a western author since his stories take place in California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, what he calls the “new, dirty west,” where characters live on the edge with a gritty, off-beat sensibility.
Winn was born in Eugene, Ore., and grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., and the Seattle area and now resides in Boise (the furthest east he’s lived), where he teaches creative writing at Boise State University. His short story collections include 2014’s “Naked Me” and “What’s Wrong With You Is What’s Wrong With Me,” out this month. His work has also appeared in several literary journals. He began his term as Idaho’s Writer in Residence in 2016.
Winn is visiting Lewiston Saturday for a Writer Craft Talk and reading with other area authors. Inland 360 talked with him about his writing process and style.
360: Why are you drawn to the setting of the West?
Winn: It’s what I know and where I prefer to live. I was going to do a Ph. D in the South, and I visited, but it didn’t feel right or comfortable. I tried, especially when I was a young writer, to write a story in New York City, a place I had never been and it felt wrong; it didn’t come out. So I embrace places that I’ve lived and my own experiences, but I’ve written about towns and areas where I’ve never been and the people there.
360: Why do you focus on writing about everyday people?
Winn: I’ve never written in the genre of fantasy or science fiction. It’s the smaller extraordinary people that I’m drawn to. I’ve had some weird stuff in my fiction, but I try to be hopeful and someone people can relate to. Someone I could know on my block or in my classroom, that’s what influences me.
360: What is the biggest challenge when writing?
Winn: Time is one thing. Being disciplined to do the work and to not feel like you’re failing all the time. There’s a lot of rejection and trying to keep your head above water and chin up and continuing to let yourself find your work interesting when you’re rehashing the same story, people and places.
360: What is the best advice you received, and who gave it to you?
Winn: Several. One from Ron Carlson, he writes fiction and some poetry, and he talked about embracing the ambiguity. You don’t always know where you’re going . . . and not knowing where you’re going is not always a bad thing.
What’s one piece of advice you have for upcoming writers?
Winn: Stick-to-it-ness, act
ually doing the work. A lot of young, inexperienced writers don’t take the time to do the work. There’s a lot of revision, and you have to have that understanding of work and rework. When you read a book or a short story or even a poem, you don’t see the hours, days, weeks, months put into it. Also, reading new books and interesting things.
360: What are some things you’re reading now?
Winn: A few things … I’ve been reading a short story collection, “Delicate Edible Birds,” by Lauren Groff. A book called “A Visit from the Goonsquad,” by Jennifer Egan who is a Pulitzer Prize novelist. It’s a good novel and a good teaching tool. It’s got great structure and style.
360: Are you working on anything now?
Winn: A novel I drafted a couple years ago, “Crocodile,” that takes place in the early ’90s in Seattle with Microsoft coming in and the city shifting, which I’ve had first-hand experience of. I’m one of those writers who has several projects going on at once — not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Writer Craft Talk and reading with area authors Rachel Clark, Paula Coomer, Elizabeth Sloan and Louis Sylvester
WHEN: Writer Craft Talk 1 p.m. and reading 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21
WHERE: Lewiston City Library