Contributor Spotlight: Corinne Manning

Manning 3_Shane and MaggieCorinne Manning’s Story, “
The Painting on Bedford Ave.” is featured in Issue 73 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

This story was a gateway to explore a particular experience of twenty-something Brooklyn, at least what I remember feeling at 24. The story that unfolded had characters trying to make sense of success while confronting class, mediocrity, and the recurrent cycles of suffering. This story is from a linked collection called WE HAD NO RULES.

Tell us about your writing life. What’s kept you writing?

Much of my work is consumed with issues of visibility. Rather than creating stories based on the lack I see, I work to continually create from the place of wanting and eros even when it’s painful. In my writing I purposefully dissolve the wall between the reader and the characters. The key to writing the queer and genderqueer self into existence is to access radical vulnerability—of being available to be watched—so I can create a space for the reader that gives them that same opportunity to access the untouched parts of themselves.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

Performance Art and different methods of embodiment deeply inspire me and are necessary for my practice. I got to see a retrospective of Senga Nengudi’s work at The Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and am thinking a lot about the body’s capacity to hold memories and to function as a living memorial, as well as how collaborative performance is about being playful with one another. I want what happens between my characters and I to feel like that depth of play and embodiment. I’m a queer/feminist theory nerd, in particular potentiality (as desire) and futurity. When I’m working I’m thinking about the relationship between assimilation and violence—assimilation in the gay marriage sense as well as in relationship to American white identity/fragility. Movements like ACT UP and the Black Lives Matter movement engage me to radicalize my role as a storyteller and decolonize my use of language. I think I could have answered what influences my writing with three words: embodiment, unlearning, and reimagining.

What is your favorite book (essay, poem, short story)? Who is your favorite writer?

Another Country by James Baldwin. This morning I’m also thinking about The Gentrification of The Mind by Sarah Schulman.

What are you reading right now?

Him Me Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar, The Revolution Starts at Home (a fantastic intersectional text on transformative justice) ed. by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Conflict is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman. Poetry is keeping my heart going right now, like Overpour by Jane Wong and There Should Be Flowers by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza and everything by Anastacia Renee Tolbert.

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel, Potential Monsters, that takes place in New Jersey in the first year after Columbine. This specific brand of fear, uncertainty and scrutiny is funneled through the lens of a queer family: a single parent who is trans, and two children, one of whom, Maggie, writes a story that gets her put on the school’s watch list. I started this book in 2007, rewrote it many times, then took a break from it for four years. I felt like I didn’t have the understanding of myself to write the book and there was still too much fear and hiding in my writing because I was trying to follow a mainstream (white middle class) idea of how stories should be told. After writing the stories that make up the collection that Painting On Bedford Ave. appear in—mostly queer bodies making sense of what rules apply to them— I understood how to unravel previous notions of storytelling and move back to Potential Monsters with deeper desire to be alive and accountable and to show that through my characters.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I’m really good at chopping wood. In fact, I’ve been told by many that I smell like their Grandpa who then muse and clarify that maybe it’s their Grandma: soup and wood smoke.

Where can our readers connect with you online? and occasionally twitter @corinnemanning

CORINNE MANNING is the founding editor of The James Franco Review—a journal dedicated to the work of underrepresented artists through reimagining the publishing process. “The Painting on Bedford Ave.” is part of a linked short story collection WE HAD NO RULES, stories from which have appeared or are forthcoming from Story Quarterly, Vol 1 Brooklyn, Calyx, Moss, and Southern Humanities Review. Corinne’s essays and cultural criticism have been recognized as notable in The Best American Series and can be found on The JFR as well as Literary Hub, The Oxford American, The Nervous Breakdown, Arts & Letters & Lake Effect. Corinne is at work on a novel about a queer family in post-Columbine America and manages the distinction between desire and longing by wearing wigs while chopping wood on a farm in the PNW.