Introducing: Georgie Fehringer, Virtual Writer In Residence:
In partnership with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office, EWF is proud to host Georgie Fehringer for a virtual residency for the month of November. To kick off their residency, we asked Georgie a few questions about her work, the lit scene in Iowa and what they hope to work on during their residency.
Hi Georgie! Tell us a bit about yourself! Who are you, where are you, what do you do, etc.
My name is Georgie Fehringer (They/She) and I am enormously excited to be working with the Emerging Writers Festival as this year’s virtual writer-in-residence! I am writing to you from Iowa City, Iowa, USA where the weather has recently plummeted from a balmy 72 to a freezing 30 (that would be 22c to -1c) literally overnight! Several days ago I was wearing shorts to class and yesterday we had our first snow so November here has definitely started to stake its claim on the city. I am in the process of switching out all my clothes to accommodate the shift (which I was hoping beyond hope would hold off for a little longer), drinking too much black coffee, and chipping away at all my different writing projects.
I am an MFA candidate at the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. My writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Chicago Review of Books, The Rumpus, The Cleveland Review of Books, TIMBER, and The Amistad, among other places. My writing practice focuses on experimental poetic prose and lyric essays. Outside of writing, I try to maintain a wide creative practice. I make paper art, mostly self-portraits and realistic portraits of friends; I also sew, do book design, cook, and bake.
How would you describe your current writing practice?
I have a habit of writing in the third person. I’m very interested in the idea of persona, truth, and the concept of reality. I often think about how when you write about your past, you are writing about a person who is othered from the person you are now. For me, around 5 years ago I changed my name, and so the person I grew up as is not only different from who I am now because of the growth we all experience as humans, but also has a literal different name. She is someone I know intimately but whose actions still seem to mystify me on the daily. When I write about her I try to allow her to be the person she was without placing too much judgment from the present on her.
I prefer to write in stream-of-consciousness whenever I can. I recently have been working on my concept of “Hypnogogic Realism” and have been putting together a little writer’s manifesto around my hypnogogic practice. Here’s a small excerpt of what I have right now:
“I lay awake. My open eyes unseeing in the swampy darkness, eyelids wrenched open, eyeballs crawling from my sockets like dark scurrying beetles. It is one A.M. I am awake. And awash in the sounds and thoughts of writing.”
I am an MFA student at the University of Iowa and as much as I’d like to be able to say the majority of my waking hours are dedicated to my writing, it is the truth that they are mostly overtaken by teaching and grading and planning and emails, by work and play and friends and the never-ending demands to arise with the sun.
I do not rise early, well. Night is when my mind wanders to the places only unlocked in the dark haze and warmth of a down comforter. I call my practice hypnogogic, meaning: the moment before sleep. The time when the brain’s barriers are the least up. It’s the most fruitful split-second-half-hour for me and the hardest to attain not for the swiftness of falling asleep but for the demands made on when and how I must do rise.”
What made you want to apply to the virtual residency and why did you choose EWF for your residency?
The Melbourne virtual writers residency is the first residency I have ever received. I am nearing the end of my MFA and looking toward the future and what my writing community will look like after graduation. I have always been interested in having a more global writing community–it is important to me to have connections with people and places all over the world. There is seldom a better moment than landing in a brand new city and seeing a familiar face there to greet you and show you a window into what life is like elsewhere.
I chose EWF because, well, I am an emerging writer; but I was also very interested that you were looking for someone with an experimental practice. I think experimental art can get such a bad rap, and one of my goals is to try and create accessible and enjoyable experimental art as well as to create ways for others to play with and create their own.
Experimental art is so important to art in general, and even though many people look at it as inaccessible or just plain hard to understand, it doesn’t have to be that way. Interestingly enough it often becomes more accessible as more people have access. So much of art starts off its life as experimental and then over time becomes so engrained we forget people had to take big chances to make it to begin with. A really poignant example is Joan Didion and New Journalism, which was a type of journalism that people thought was so wild and experimental at the time and is now viewed as entirely normative.
Can you give us a bit of a lay of the literary land over there in Iowa? What drew you there as a writer?
Iowa City and the University of Iowa are a little bit mythical as far as MFA programs go. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and my program the Nonfiction Writing Program are just two of the writing programs here. There are so many writers around at every moment when you first arrive it can be a bit overwhelming.
Any type of celebration is always an experience. Imagine being in a room with 100 people who are all writers but gathered together for a reason outside of writing–like, say, a Halloween party. One moment you’re with a bunch of people dancing on the dance floor and the next moment you’re debating literature on the front porch.
The first Halloween party I ever went to in Iowa City ended up making its way into a short story that was published in a relatively widely read lit journal. I remember thinking, Oh wow, everyone here is writing about their experiences all the time and I might end up in some of them. It’s a really unique experience to be able to, at most moments, turn to the person next to you and ask their opinion of the structure of Dictee and get an answer.
You’ve spoken about (Soma)tics, Truth-telling, and experimental writing – how are these things you became interested in exploring, both in your research and your own creative work and how do you incorporate them into your craft?
For undergrad, I went to this weird little public hippie arts school in Olympia, Washington called The Evergreen State College (go Geoducks!), where I had some really incredible professors that were themselves interested in experimental writing. I was able to practice and experiment so much as an undergrad because it was a really experimentally supportive environment. I definitely would not have been exposed to a lot of the art I was–Cubo-futurism, Thalia Feild, Donna Harraway, Waler Benjamin, Détournement and the Situationists–without it. Huge shout out to Miranda Mellis for introducing me to New Narrative and always allowing me to pursue my wild cross-genre experiments as a student. Also professor Amanda Davidson for bringing in so many performative elements to our writing practice–she taught a writing course focused on performance art where she took us to see performance artists and actually had us in the gym one day a week doing movement exercises! Oh, and Professor Steven Hendricks for helping me design so many of my own courses so I could really focus on experimental work, and for being obsessed with Samual Beckett!
My background is really built on experimental writing, and so I feel really lucky at this point in my life to be able to call on so many experimental writers I’ve been exposed to over the years and weave and think with ideas they’ve posed to me as a writer. I really love playing with time and I think a lot of that comes from The Surrealists. Thalia Field also does some really cool things with the physical layouts of her work and that had a major impact on me. Her essay collection, Point and Line, and especially her essay, “Seven Veils,” really opened my brain to the idea that I can use the white space of the page however I want.
Now as a writer I do often incorporate visual elements into my art.
Who are some other writers interested in these things that we should check out?
You should definitely check out Renee Gladman. She is a black queer experimental writer and artist who is always pushing boundaries. Really anything she’s written is worth reading, but especially Newcomer Can’t Swim and The Activist. Also, Susan Steinberg–her novel Machine and her short story collection Spectacle are major favorites. Robert Glück is one of the original writers who created New Narrative; his book Denny Smith is really great.
What are you working on currently and what do you hope to get out of your time as a Virtual Resident with EWF?
I am working on the manifesto I shared a bit of, as well as a craft essay about experimental writing. I’d like for the work I produce in this residency to be a way into experimental writing for people who are interested or have never tried or people who maybe think they could never do work like that. Experiment is all about play, and so I think really everyone has the capability to create experimental art since play is one of the first things we ever learn how to do, and well!
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