Becky Hagenston’s first collection of stories, A Gram of Mars, won Sarabande Books’ Mary McCarthy Prize; her second collection, Strange Weather, won the Spokane Prize and was published by Press 53. Her stories have appeared in Subtropics, Crazyhorse, The Southern Review, Indiana Review, and many other journals, as well as the O. Henry anthology. She is an Associate Professor of English at Mississippi State University, where she edits the Jabberwock Review.
Last year, Hagenston’s flash fiction piece, “Owls,” was a runner-up in our Fineline Competition, as selected by judge Lindsay Hunter, and appears in issue 35.1.
Quick! Summarize your piece in 10 words or fewer. Extra points if your answer rhymes.
Owl puke = gross fluff.
What if it was other stuff?
What was your reaction upon receiving your MAR acceptance?
I did some jumping up and down. I called my parents and said, “Remember those mouse parts we used to find barfed up on the pavement? I’ve put them to good use.”
Your biggest writing-related regret?
My mother sent me a copy-paper-box full of my journals from sixth grade to college. (“Can I read them?” she asked. “NO,” I said.) I have no idea what’s in them, but there sure are a lot. I used to entertain delusions that I could take my youthful diaries and turn them into Literature, but now I know that just the writing itself is what mattered: observing the world and getting those observations down on paper. I’ve had the box for six months now, and I still can’t bear to look at what my younger self was up to. I feel like maybe I don’t need to know. So while I don’t regret writing these journals at all, I regret not burning them already.
Tell us one strange thing about yourself that does involve writing.
I have a very demanding cat who likes to jump on my keyboard and bite me when he wants to play (which is often), so some of my writing routine involves periodically leaping up from my desk and doing a lap around the house with a piece of string.
Do you have another favorite piece of writing in this MAR issue? If so, name it and tell us why.
This is such an amazing issue that it’s really hard to choose a favorite. But I’ve been intrigued for years by the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their models, so I especially love the poem “Portrait of Rossetti Obsessed” by Kyle McCord. That final image is so lovely and precise, capturing a moment when obsession meets craft: “He whitens the loaves of her fingers, / devotedly laboring / over each imperfect tip.”
Can you show us a photo of you holding your MAR contributor’s copy?
Here’s a location shot! MAR goes to Amsterdam.