Behind the Words: Carrie Ryan

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

cr2Lyrical bursts leap off the page in Carrie Ryan’s flash fiction, “Babyfeet.” Here, we discuss music, branching out with new characters, and influential writing. 


Laura Bernstein: Between religion, violence, and an unwanted pregnancy, there are quite a few “hot topic” issues in Babyfeet. However, those themes seem to fade in the background, and my main concern is for the speaker’s well-being. How conscious were you about garnering a sense of empathy for the speaker? Was this a speaker you’ve written about before?

Carrie Ryan: This definitely wasn’t a person I wrote about before, but I think my main point of the piece was to focus on the speaker. I never meant for it to be an issues piece, I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in that sort of writing. It’s been a while since the first draft of this, but I remember being more interested in writing about someone who was facing all of these issues, not necessarily writing about someone who made a decision and was explaining her reasoning. The more I write, the more I see that this is what interests me. I’m way more interested in the struggle of decision-making than defending a character’s decision. And maybe that’s where the empathy comes into play. I think it’s easier to have empathy for someone in the decision-making process than for someone who’s defensive about her decision. By mentioning all of the issues the speaker had to face, I think (at least I hope) the reader gets this feeling of how difficult a decision she was trying to make, and that’s where the empathy comes from.

LB: The section breaks seem to serve as both a deep breath between powerful images and a sense of the unraveling speaker. Talk to me about the choice to write a fragmented format.  How did the format evolve as you continued revising this piece? Were the sections ever in a different order?

CR: Richard Siken has been a major influence on my writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Crush and wished I I had wrote it. I’m still a young, beginning writer. I’m still trying to find my voice. The way I ordered the sections was an experiment that seemed to work out in my favor. I originally submitted this piece for a workshop course at school. Many of my classmates and even the professor argued about how the sections should be ordered. But I ended up keeping the order as I originally wrote them. It felt right, that’s my only explanation. Which I suppose this spurs a discussion of an intuitive writing process versus a deliberate writing, but I’m not sure I want to get into that. I’m currently struggling with that idea, whether it’s best to write from a place where there should be careful deliberation of what/how something is said, with lots and lots of editing, or whether it’s best to write from a place of intuition. This is by far my favorite piece I’ve ever written, and it actually came from an intuitive place with very little revision. I guess my struggle as a writer right now is having this feeling that I’m strongest as a writer when I go with the flow, but my academic experience tells me this is the wrong way to write.

LB: How does being a musician inform your writing? How does being a writer inform your music? 

CR: I am very conscious of sound and rhythm when I write, and I think it’s because I have a lot more practice writing music than writing prose or poetry. I find more overlap in my different writing voices when I’m writing prose or poetry, but I’ve yet to find my writer’s voice influencing my musician voice. But, again, maybe this is because I’m uncomfortable with my writer’s voice, and with time I’ll see more of an overlap.

LB: What is one online essay/poem/story you’ve read that you think readers should check out? 

CR: Ira Glass did an interview a while back about storytelling, and he talks about the struggle artists feel when they begin their creative endeavor.

He talks about the struggle of feeling like you have something important to say, but everything you make falls short. I’m not really doing it justice. It really spoke to me as a creative person. Even in my music career, I’ve been having a hard time being creative. Some days I feel so burdened down with wanting to create something new and beautiful and fresh, but I’m so burdened by the want that I can’t create, or I try and I fail. His interview is comforting whenever I feel like this. It helps me know I’m not alone, that every artist goes through this.


LB: First drafts: in pen or typed?

CR: Pen, always. It makes me feel more connected to my work.

Laura Bernstein’s work has been featured in Passages North, The Normal School, and–of course–Spry Literary Journal, among others. She teaches at Penn State Abington.

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