The Patricia Q. Bidar Interview of April Bradley

Flash Monster April Bradley is a Durham, North Carolina-based writer, sailor, and feminist. Her fiction and essays appear or are forthcoming in CRAFT, CHEAP POPJMWW, New Flash Fiction Review, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others. April’s work has been honored by residency support from Vermont Studio Center and Rivendell Writer’s Colony. She serves as an associate fiction editor at Pidgeonholes and as a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. April is a Pushcart Prize, Best American Essays, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions nominee, and a graduate of Yale Divinity School. April’s website is aprilbradley.com; her Twitter handle is @april_bradley.

Just after Thanksgiving, I sat down to a cozy chat with April. Our conversation ranged from her background as a philosophy scholar, to her beginnings as a short-form fiction writer and flash community member, to her very ambitious latest venture: Ruby Literary and Press.  – Patricia Q. Bidar

[Editor’s note: The day after this interview was conducted, April’s CNF work, Social Time, was nominated for both the Pushcart Prize AND Best American Essays 2021.]

PQB: Talk about your academic background and how you pivoted to literature and writing.

AB: I devoted years to studying philosophy but have always been an avid reader. I admire fine writing but was not someone who yearned to be a writer. I attended Yale Divinity School and studied ethics with Margaret Farley. The most experimental thing I wrote for her was a hybrid, first-person braided narrative with an exegesis of Lamentations. She loved it and encouraged me to write more like it. But I didn’t. I put it away in a folder.

I continued to flirt with creative writing. During the high-risk pregnancy with my daughter, my doctoral program required coursework, so I took an independent study in writing memoir with Lynn Bloom at the University of Connecticut and went into induced labor before finishing the course. I placed that writing in a folder and forgot about it. A few years later, after my divorce from my first spouse, I wrote a little more—a couple of paragraphs. Into a folder it went!

 But all this time I was reading fiction and memoir, deeply, and I began to study craft.

April Bradley, Writer!

In my misguided, laughable wisdom, I thought short stories would be more manageable than a novel. I prized gorgeous prose, work that wouldn’t let the reader go.

In 2012, I became what I call story-hungry, a restlessness for something to read. I couldn’t find anything to read. I attempted to write it myself. That writing turned into my first two published stories and an editing position at Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine. Then I published a little paragraph at Hermeneutic Chaos, from a little bit of writing I had placed in a folder.

I attended workshops, conferences, met many people in the flash writing and publishing world. And, I fell in love with short-form writing. I was reading everything I could find but in particular, Kathy Fish, Anne Carson, Rebecca Lee, Maggie Nelson, Ted Chiang, Amy Hempel, and Leesa Cross-Smith, re-reading Aeschylus, Toni Morrison, David Mitchell, Kate Atkinson, Virginia Woolf, Ron Rash, Calvino, and Zora Neale Hurston. My daughter was older, and I had more free time, more emotional space to devote to writing.

In 2015-2016, over a space of nine months, My mother, grandfather, grandmother, and my former mother-in-law died. Each of these deaths were a shock, and grief and the business of death took their time with me. In the midst of this healing, I married a beautiful-souled person, John Buhrmann. We celebrate our third wedding anniversary in January.

That brings us to now. I had not been writing and publishing as much since the deaths in my family. Much of my energy focuses on my family our kids (three ranging in ages from 23 to 11 years in two different states 1,000 miles apart!), trauma and grief work, the day-to-day of living during Covid, the loss of another parent, of more family members. It’s only recently that I’ve regained lost momentum. It’s been an extraordinary year. It feels fantastic.

Selected Works by April Bradley

RUBY LITERARY AND PRESS

PQB: In the midst of the pandemic, you took some big, high-profile steps.

AB: I did! A year ago in November, I floated an idea online for a literary cookbook that would be more than a cookbook. Kind of like the old community cookbooks that church groups and nonprofits published. But rather than recipes with accompanying text, it will be a literary anthology with artists playing with and interrogating the te form. The response has been big and enthusiastic. I wanted to expand on this and shine a light on the kind of work I have been noticing that contains food and food elements in narratives.

Also, this summer, Hillary Leftwich and I were texting about courses I might teach at Hillary’s Alchemy Author Services. Teaching online would a tremendous step for me, as I have dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder. I decided to lead a workshop on using food elements in creative nonfiction. Food and cooking is a huge thing in my life. I regularly fall asleep over food blogs, and I cook or bake daily. My sister and I text one another recipes as part of our daily chat. It’s part of my love language. It’s my history with my sister, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and now my own daughter. Yet I seldom write about food—I used to starve my characters! The class went marvelously well. The writing that came out of it was nothing less than stunning.

And then there’s Ruby, the literary journal (https://rubylit.com/). Launching a literary journal is a considerable task! There have been many times I panicked and thought, It’s doomed! I can’t do this! (it very well may be doomed). I’m grateful for the experience I gained working at literary magazines over the years. My first experience with a literary magazine was with Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine. They were one of the first places to publish flash and the EIC, Nate Tower, also published flash novellas. He’s been part of Ruby as well, donating his time and Bartleby’s Submittable account to us. My experience with Bartleby taught me much about what’s involved with running a literary magazine, and Nate was an incredible manager. I’ve been with SmokeLong Quarterly now for a little over three years, and with Pidgeonholes about a year and a half. Working with Tara Laskowski Christopher Allen, and Jen Todhunter has been a gift and an unofficial course in prizewinning literary magazine management.

I love the stylistic diversity of Ruby’s staff, and I encourage them to think expansively about what food elements and flash can do. We’re getting exciting work from poets, experimental stuff from writers and chefs, works that include recipes, and nonfiction essays. For me, narrative and character are the heart of writing; food is an enhancing element, a way to expand upon experience. [Ruby’s very first submission period ended November 30, 2021. The next submission window opens March 1 and ends April 30.]

Ruby also is a press, and during much of 2021 I researched the press aspect. For the future, I’m thinking of offshoots, which will include at least one anthology and possibly a podcast. and more workshops from staff. In 2022, I’ll set up the LLC for Ruby. We recently had a spirited conversation about advertisers and corporate sponsors that might tie in with us in our Flash Monsters group. I dearly want to compensate writers and staff for their work.

Ruby’s inaugural edition is slated to be published May 1, 2022.

 

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