Ariel Courage has served as a volunteer fiction reader for Carve, and we’re thrilled to welcome her in her new role as Blog Editor.
Ariel lives in Brooklyn, where she works as an editor and fact checker. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College. Her fiction can be read in Guernica Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and reading Wikipedia articles about serial killers until she can't sleep.
What kinds of stories are you hoping to see more of on Carve’s blog?
I'd like to see more writerly advice, both about craft and the practical elements of trying to live as a writer or poet or nonfiction essayist or what have you. I want readers to find the blog useful whether they plan to submit or not. Topics that combine helpful advice with literary analysis—taking a closer look at how certain literary devices have been successfully employed in literature, for example—would also be excellent. I'd like to continue the Q&As to provide deeper insight into the writing process broadly and the magazine narrowly. I always find that after I read a gripping story, I want to know more about the writer and their approach. I'd like to spread content to other genres, including nonfiction and poetry. Book reviews. Everything!
Why do you think it’s important for literary journals to have active internet presences and engage in conversations?
The gulf between writers and journals can feel unnecessarily wide even though it's ultimately a symbiotic relationship. Having a public presence is key to spreading information that’s free and accessible to many, which makes journals more inclusive. Obviously having internet access is itself a privilege, but the idea is that the more avenues people have to reach the magazine, the better the chances of hearing voices that maybe wouldn’t otherwise be heard. This is maybe overly ambitious and abstract.
It’s also not a top-down relationship to readers. Part of engaging in dialogue is having the humility to listen, to acknowledge that we are just one voice in a panoply and no one has all the answers or is the absolute arbiter. I think online platforms will help Carve grow and continue to refine its spirit.
Also as sort of the testing ground for publishing and literature, journals also need to be part of an ongoing dialogue about the constantly evolving state of literature, to enrich a conversation that's already in progress. It helps establish the journal as an authority or expert, if only of the kind of voice it's seeking.
What do you love to read? Are there any contemporary writers you particularly admire?
My taste is mutable and disloyal, so this question is hard to answer! I mostly read older works, not so much by design but because that's what winds up being free and accessible at the library or online. I admire works that are subtle yet brutally witty, that are extraordinarily civilized but also willing to throw elbows. Flannery O'Connor is an example, especially "Good Country People.” Uwe Johnson, Joy Williams, and Renata Adler are writers who I reread often; as different as they are, they all write with razor-edged precision. In terms of contemporary writers, I'm woefully behind, but I like Helen DeWitt, Sally Rooney, and Paul Beatty. Also, Twitter poets who I manage to find even though I don’t have Twitter.
When you’re not reading or writing, what do you like to do with your time?
This is embarrassing and will make me sound terrible, but I go to sadistically difficult workout classes. You know, the kind where you do three thousand burpees or hurl 55-pound sandbags on the floor repeatedly like an impotent demiurge while the deafening bass from the terrible club music blast-hums the sweat off you. I suppose it's hard to say I like the classes themselves, but the thoughtless savagery and total endorphin zen afterwards are often welcome respites from the finicky frustrations of writing. I also do normal activities, like cooking for my friends or whining at my boyfriend to rub my sore calves.
How will you bring a consideration of Carve’s “Honest Fiction” to the blog?
I think "Honest Fiction" is all about evoking true and profound emotional responses from the reader, offering impact and insight without gimmicks or cliches. It doesn't need to be confessional, zany, or loud. "Honest" means offering authority, clarity, and unfeigned concern for or interest in the human condition. I hope to make the blog an extension of that ethos by keeping that core mission in mind. I also hope that what we publish—whether it's an inspiring Q&A or tips on basic pratfalls to avoid—will help readers decide what "honest" means for them and how they can best embody it using their own voice.