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Aimee Parkison: On Writing, Inspiration, and Meaning

Parkisontheinnocentparty_bookstore_resized_ Have you ever wondered what exactly goes on in the minds of your favorite authors? What do they think about, dream about, glean inspiration from? What do they surround themselves with for insight and motivation? In a series of posts on the 2012 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Aimee Parkison (author of BOA's spring 2012 release The Innocent Party), discusses writing, inspiration, and all that goes into producing a book like The Innocent Party. Parkison confesses she gets most of her ideas just before or as she falls asleep. "Strange and beautiful things" are revealed to her at the intersection of consciousness and unconsciousness: "flashes" of people and places, which "stick to each other" and birth dreams and stories. She admits to writing from two minds: the unconscious mind that finds truth in the illogical, disconnected, and paradoxical, and the conscious mind that longs for concrete meaning and logic out of the most abstruse of ideas. Combined, these two minds are what yield her deeply profound and artful short stories. Writing fiction, she says,  is the only way "to gain some sort of control over everything that’s raging out of control." She considers herself a "storyteller, attempting to communicate with the heart as well as with the mind." In addition to getting an inside peek into the mind and inspirations of Parkison, she also gives us pause over some of the underlying themes and meanings in her new stories of The Innocent Party. "This is what my stories are about," says Parkison, "not the 'damage' of living but what damage makes possible in the lives of survivors. In 'Paints and Papers,' an alcoholic artist is attacked; a young boy hits him on the head with a lead pipe. The 'damage' to the artist’s brain allows him to paint the world in new ways. Damage is like that—it changes our lives so that everything we see is suddenly altered." This essay by Parkison is truly a gift to writers and readers. Perhaps best of all, she shares a deeply personal photo of her intimate workspace, surrounded in all directions by books, papers, and -- oh yes -- adorable cats. We're not kidding; see the photo [and the full essay] here! See the results of Parkison's two minds in her new short story collection The Innocent Party. We like to imagine two cats were on her lap as she wrote.

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