The Writer’s Handful with Clifford Garstang


Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week seven of The Writer’s Handful welcomes Clifford Garstang, whose latest story collection, What the Zhang Boys Know (Press 53), is really, really good. (Read it! Read it!) He’s a busy man, as you can see from his bio below, but not so busy that he doesn’t have time to chat with us for a bit.

Welcome Cliff!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I did write today. Not much, because of other pressing obligations, but I made a little progress on a historical novel I’ve been working on.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I think I wrote stories when I was very young, but I don’t have any real recollection of doing it. The first thing I do remember writing, though, was in high school: a girl who sat behind me in study hall and I wrote a collection of poetry that she had mimeographed so we could share it with other people. I’m very hopeful that there are no surviving copies.Zhang Boys

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading River of Dust, a debut novel by Virginia Pye, coming out next week from Unbridled Books. I’m also reading Quiet by Susan Cain.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

To thine own self be true.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

Ideally, a white-tailed deer: sleek and fast; agile yet meaty; graceful and powerful. In reality, probably a three-toed sloth.


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Clifford Garstang is the author of the prize-winning short story collection In an Uncharted Country (Press 53, 2009) and the novel in stories What the Zhang Boys Know (Press 53, 2012). About his first book, Tim O’Brien, author of The Things they Carried, said, “In an Uncharted Country is an impeccably written, sumptuously imagined, and completely enchanting book of stories. . .” John Casey, author of Spartina, called What the Zhang Boys Know “a wonderful and haunting book.” Garstang’s work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Cream City Review, Los Angeles Review, ShenandoahTampa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere, and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series. He won the 2006 Confluence Fiction Prize and the 2007 GSU Review Fiction Prize and has been awarded fellowships by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Queens University of Charlotte and is the co-founder and editor of Prime Number Magazine. He is also the author of the popular literary blog Perpetual Folly.

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