TheOpenEnd: Where were you born, where do you live now, and are you close to perfect swimming water?
Tony Rauch: Born: in a hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA (located in central Minnesota).
Grew up: in St. Cloud at the edge of town in a suburban-type development.
Live now: southwest Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. Lived in uptown and south Mpls from 1989 to present, minus 2 ½ years I was in graduate school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA – which was a great experience and very different than St. Cloud or Minneapolis.
Proximity to perfect swimming water: Yes! There are over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, plus rivers, streams, ponds, ditches, drainage ditches, water retention ponds, reservoirs, and swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor), There are several city beaches within biking distance from my house, but sometimes you need to be resourceful and improvise. In an emergency, I suggest a kiddie pool or flooding your basement.
TOE: What is your favorite smell?
TR: Lilacs (but alas, they only seem to bloom for about 2 ½ weeks in May).
There are some blocks lined with lilacs in south Mpls. I used to bike on them on what I referred to as a “good smells tour.”
TOE: Tell us about your education and what you do now (jobs and hobbies).
TR: Education: undergraduate college degree = 2:
-Urban Design (local and urban affairs)
-Graphic Design (basic design)
Graduate School: Masters of Architecture (M-Arc degree)
Teaching: taught a design studio at the University level.
Job: I’m a registered Architect in the state of Minnesota. I work at an Architecture firm and participate on several AIA committees.
Hobbies: creative writing, reading (short stories, biographies, history, sports, music), professional basketball, model railroads, music, scrap metal, rust, midcentury modern stuff, art.
TOE: Tell us about your significant other. How did you meet? What is your favorite thing about him/her? How about your children (if you have children)? How about a dog or cat?
TR: Sig other: I’m single. Sometimes I think that’s unfortunate, sometimes I’m glad about that in that I can do what I please when I please. There’s a comfort in that kind of freedom. I have dreams that I have a girlfriend sometimes though. Those are always nice dreams. But unfortunately it seems I’ve yet to meet the right person at the right time. I get busy with work and projects, so that leaves less time for looking I guess. It does seem sometimes that all the good ones are taken. But I suppose there is hope in that there is something like 44% of adults who are not in serious relationships. When I was younger I figured, what’s the hurry? But now I sometimes wish I had my eye out more, because what if I missed out on someone.
Pet: I have a dog named Gilbert. He likes to bark and go for walks.
TOE: Is ignorance bliss?
TR: Yes, unfortunately. Seems the less you know, the less there is to be bothered by or worry about.
Some people believe that fate, Karma, God, the universe, etc. is running the show and it is a sin to worry about things or the future because there already is a grand plan. I want to believe that, but sometimes it’s hard to have faith in that idea. But worrying about things can get exhausting and probably does no good anyway. For me, if you have a to-do list, then that should set your mind free to wonder on its own because now you have a direction listed.
TOE: How did you get interested in writing?
TR: In grade school my friends and I would write and perform little skits – mostly absurd situations like on Saturday Night Live. That got my writing started.
Another big influence was college when I came across a few unique story collections over various summers when I needed something to do. I saw a book on a table at the library: Anti-story: an anthology of experimental fiction which had imaginative stories by Robert Coover, William Gass, and Donald Barthelme. I also saw Leonard Michaels piece “Murderers” in another anthology: American Short Story Masterpieces. These stories were more like art to me, like collages, which just blew me away. They lacked rules and structure. They set me free of arbitrary restrictions.
I also saw books at classmate’s and friend’s houses, apartments, and dorms – Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Charles Bukowski, and Douglas Adams’s Hitchihiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These works exposed me to short forms that were new, interesting, original, creative, imaginative and easy to digest. These short pieces got my mind churning – anything could be an interesting story. And these books were just lying around on a shelf, on a table, on the floor next to a bed.
I was interested in art, but being a visual artist is expensive and requires room. But writing was like painting, only using words to form images, and required no money or space at all. So it was easier, faster, and less expensive to write than to paint.
TOE: How has your practice evolved over the course of time?
TR: It started with very short pieces, almost just skits or scenes, and built up from that over time. Initial scenes were often combined to form longer stories.
But now I am concerned that I’ve gone as far as I can with short stories. I’ve had four collections published by very reputable, highly selective presses, and have garnered a lot of very favorable reviews. I have three more collections ready for publication. But it is difficult and time consuming to get published and get reviews. I feel it is time to move on to longer work, so in the near future I hope to concentrate on a chapter book/novella which will combine several of my similar short stories into a longer narrative with several episodes.
I’m hoping that a novella will be attractive to larger publishers as I hope to find a larger audience for my writing.
TOE: What do you consider to be your greatest success?
TR: Getting faster and more efficient at writing, networking, and marketing (though I should network more). Speed saves time and increases productivity. Also, with time, my stories have gotten deeper, have more meaning, are more relevant than when I was younger, and have just gotten better over time. But a lot of that can be attributed to time, patience, cumulative knowledge, trial and error, reflection, editing, study, research, investigation, experimentation, practice, and gaining more life experience which then hopefully imbues the stories with more depth, gravitas, and/or meaning.
Getting reviewed by places like MIT, Georgetown Univ, Cambridge, Oxford, Savana College of Art and Design, Raintaxi, etc. gave me a lot of confidence that I was on the right track and my writing time was not wasted. Getting reviewed is my second greatest success.
TOE: Is there anything that your family or friends would be surprised to learn about you?
TR: No. There is nothing more to know. This is all there is.
TOE: What did you find out after finishing What if i got down on my knees? What weren’t you expecting?
TR: Well, it’s been getting frustrating not being able to get the attention of larger presses for my collections, and not getting reviews in large publications, but that’s part of the game for the majority of story writers. Larger presses have more resources and larger audiences, and larger footprints to get the word out.
What if I got down on my knees? was written over a period of twenty years. Some of the stories are older, some newer. They just happened to fit better grouped in this manner. The manuscript had bounced around and had gone out for review on several mid-list level publishers, which is encouraging, but it was also rejected a lot, which is disheartening. But the best press to be on is the one that is most enthusiastic about your work and will give it the most amount of attention. The collection evolved over time – it was bigger and smaller than what it ended up as. So it was never “finished” at a set time, it evolved until a publisher liked it enough to put it out. Not a lot of re-writing, more of moving pieces in and out.
I was hoping a large press or a mid-list one would put it out, because maybe it would then get more attention. But single author story collections are not that attractive to them unless you’re a big name. I’ve heard from some writers who have been on larger presses that they felt ignored or overlooked, and they wish they’d have gone with a smaller press. But I am grateful it is out because it deals with a lot of important life issues, and it’s gotten a lot of nice reviews.
TOE: What tips would you give to an inspiring author?
TR: Read a lot. Write a lot. Edit a lot. Send your work out to literary journals. Sending out will get you to focus and really work hard because it’s your name on it and people will see it. Practice practice practice. Use your life experience and your friend’s in your work to ground it in reality and give it details people can relate to. Give people a reason to read you. Write about interesting and important things in interesting ways. Be original. Be yourself. Work hard at it. Experiment. Have fun with it.
TOE: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
TR: Descriptions and story samples from all my books are available on my website at: https://trauch.wordpress.com/
Also, I have three more story collections ready to go, so please let me know if you know of any publishers who may be interested in them.
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Read Tony Rauch’s What if I got down on my knees?