A Micro Interview with Poet and Writer Brandon Cesmat
Cesmat is author of When Pigs Fall in Love & Other Stories, which includes “Playing Peon,” winner of the San Diego Book Award for “Best Short Story.” Cesmat's other books include Light in All Directions and Driven into the Shade. When he isn’t lost among the oaks & boulders of the high desert, Cesmat teaches literature & writing at CSU San Marcos and curates the Cinema Series for the Carlsbad Library. His album of original music Califor-Noir is forthcoming this fall.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
During my undergrad years, I'd moved back to my hometown so I wouldn't lose my girlfriend. We married and had a baby on the way. I'd taken a job for the health insurance in a market at night while I was taking classes at San Diego State during the day. The company that owned the market decided to paint the concrete floor orange. Customers were already walking in and saying things like, "Wow! That's a really orange floor you've got there!" One of the customers was the editor of the local paper across the street. I wrote a satire about the painting of the store's floor, and he published it. The store manager was worried about it making the store look bad. I told him I thought it made the store interesting. I knew while writing it that the topic could be a controversy, but I was unaware of what it would feel like to have people's passions swirling around something I'd written.
Who are your writer/teacher influences?
eSandra Alcosser encouraged me to write fiction, and based on some of the satires I'd written for newspapers, I think the move was a good one. Louise Erdrich's commitment to fictional region has had a huge effect on me. For her to create a spiritual space inside of it goes beyond what Faulkner does.
What do you think the role of the writer is or should be in today's society?
I don't know the answer to this questions. Given today's popular transgressive "fuck-you/fuck-off," a contemporary writer needs more than ever to create an accurate counterargument with no assurance that it will persuade anyone. Even if grand narratives are no longer universal, we still need to publish and communicate across borders.
What are your suggestions for beginners who want to become writers?
Write whatever you can. Take assignments outside your comfort zone and find yourself in those assignments.
If you could meet and chill out with 1 writer, living or dead, who would that be and why?
I would love to go to church or a ceremony or somewhere there was communal singing with Louise Erdrich. She has a music in her writing that I appreciate, and I would like to hear how it manifests itself off the page.