In this installment of the Carver Contest Q&A series, we touch base with Susan Finch, the 3rd place prizewinner from 2011. Soon to be an assistant professor at Belmont University, she recently talked with us about helicopters and life after the Carver Contest.
Carve: Can you tell us what inspired “Promises, Promises?”
Susan Finch: “Promises, Promises” is a story that I wrote for Mark Winegardner’s workshop while I was in the Ph.D. program at Florida State University. That semester, I’d also been teaching a class that required students to do research for a short story, and I thought it might be a good challenge for me as well. At the time, my mother’s girlfriend was working as a nurse for Air Evac, an air ambulance provider, and she had recently taken my mother up in the helicopter for a tour of the city. I’m always looking for interesting professions for my characters and I couldn’t think of another story that featured a main character who was an Air Evac nurse. I love thinking about how what my characters do for a living defines them and shapes their worlds. The research I did for that story added a certain texture to the plot that I wouldn’t have been able to provide without it. Actually, when I met Matthew, Carve’s fabulous editor, in Boston at AWP recently, I was delighted to discover he thought I had a lot more experience with helicopters than I actually do. I’ve never even been up in one!
C: Please describe your reaction to “Promises, Promises” being the 3rd place prizewinner for the 2011 Carver contest.
SF: I was thrilled when I found out that I was a prizewinner for Carve! The contest and the magazine are both fantastic. After “Promises, Promises” was published, I was contacted by Irene Goodman’s Agency as well as Nat Sobel’s, and both asked for a synopsis and excerpt of my novel. Ultimately, both of them passed on the manuscript I’m working on, but despite the initial disappointments, it’s always nice to have some outside feedback.
C: Has the contest affected your writing or the direction of your writing career in any way? If so, how?
SF: Hmmm, that’s a tough question. It’s always wonderful to be recognized, and I love the fact that my story is online in a great magazine available for anyone to read. I’m not sure who might come across the story, but I feel lucky that it’s out there on the airwaves.
C: Can you give us an update on your writing since the contest? Any recent or forthcoming publications/projects we should be on the lookout for?
SF: Most recently, I was published in Pembroke Magazine, a great literary magazine out of University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I’ve been working on a manuscript for a novel that I plan to start sending out again this month. But, perhaps, the most exciting change in the last few months is that I’ve just accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at Belmont University. I can’t wait to join the faculty in the fall!
The 14th annual Raymond Carver Contest is now open until May 15th.