Julia Mascioli’s story “The Box” is part of Issue 74 of the Bellingham Review. Subscribe or purchase a single issue through our Submittable page here.
What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?
This story (“The Box”) is part of a collection of linked stories (another story in the collection, “Good Bread,” has been published in Buffalo Almanack). When I began working on the collection, I was interested in the way perspective can function in linked stories. To me, one of the joys of that format is returning to an event, object, idea, etc., from a different character’s point of view and discovering new information or a new interpretation. “The Box” was the first story in the collection that I wrote, so I was discovering the contents of the box along with Lori and Nita. I wanted the reader to have that experience as well, of speculating alongside the characters. In “The Box,” I also wanted to explore different approaches to adulthood in that strange period post-college, and how a relationship formed in one stage of your life can adapt (or not) to another. Of course, Lori and Nita have other problems, but that was where the story began.
Tell us about your writing life.
I’m in a group of writers who I met in grad school. We meet once a week to workshop each other’s work. We’ve been going strong for two years now. This group has been so beneficial to me, and their insights have shaped a lot of my work (including “The Box”). Thematically, I used to write a lot about characters who were alone (but not necessarily lonely). I think in my recent work this has shifted into the idea of characters who are isolated in their own heads, with their own failure to act or inability to communicate.
Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?
I try to read widely, a lot of authors, styles, and genres. I work for a nonprofit called Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, an educational program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. I spend a lot of time reading poetry by Free Minds members, and their honesty and vulnerability motivates me to dig deeper in my own writing.
What writing advice has stayed with you?
My thesis advisor in grad school told me that art is writing clearly about mixed emotions. I wrote that down on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk.
What is your favorite book?
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, and LaRose by Louise Erdrich (to name a few).
What are you reading right now?
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst
What project(s) are you working on now, or next?
I’m working on my linked story collection, which I haven’t worked out how to describe yet. Alexander Chee says not to describe your work-in-progress so I’ll leave this vague.
Anything else our readers might want to know about you?
I once held a lion cub in my arms.
Where can our readers connect with you online?
You can find me on twitter: @julia_mascioli
JULIA MASCIOLI is the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award from District Lit. Her fiction has appeared in Buffalo Almanack, District Lit, and Orange Quarterly. She co-edited the poetry collection The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison from Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop and Shout Mouse Press. She has an MFA in Fiction from Emerson College, and is a proud member of the Pug Squad.
Featured Image: “Little Blue Box” by Shereen M