5 Questions with 2016 NANO Prize Winner Charles Rafferty

NANO Fiction: Congratulations on your flash piece (“Medusa”) winning the 2016 NANO Prize! What was your inspiration for writing this story?

Charles Rafferty: I’ve been working on a series of short stories that are essentially “retellings” from history and mythology. Sometimes I try to imagine a well-known character from a different perspective — as I did with Medusa. I hope she comes across as sympathetic, or at least less monstrous than usually depicted. Other times, I try to imagine an old story from a perspective that hasn’t been explored yet. For instance, I’m working on one now about the last man out of the Trojan Horse.

NF: Are there any essential writing rules that you follow?

CR: The main rule is to get off my ass and do it. I have a full life, which means I have a thousand excuses not to write. I have a family, I have a full-time job and a couple of part-time jobs. There’s a TV show or two I like to watch. Any of these could derail my writing life. But I find it’s almost always possible to write every day, no matter how busy the day becomes. There’s always an hour that can be found if you’re willing to sacrifice sleep. Sleep is for suckers. A slow drip eventually fills the bucket.

NF: Who are a few of your favorite flash fiction writers?

CR: Among the living it would be Amy Hempel and Jessica Treat. Among the dead, Raymond Carver — though I recognize not everything he wrote could be characterized as flash.

NF: For Charles Rafferty, what does a perfect day look like?charles rafferty recent

CR: I wake up with a clean kitchen sink. I get my work done. My family is happy when they rise and go to sleep. I find at least a half-hour somewhere to advance a poem or a story. If I have a couple of hours, that means I might be able to draft something. It’s always pleasing to finish something of course, but I’ve learned not to rush things. I have six prose poems right now that are at the 90% done mark. They’ve been that way for weeks, and I imagine it will be weeks until they’re done. Every day, I read them and find something to tweak. When I can go a few days without changing something, I consider the work provisionally complete.

NF: What are you working on right now?

CR: I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the works. I’m working on a collection of short stories — many of which are those “retellings” I mentioned earlier. I’ve got a collection of prose poems coming out with BOA Editions in 2017, and which I’m actively revising. It will be called The Smoke of Horses. I’ve got a collection of aphorisms that I’ve been adding to for years, and which I’d be happy to let go of if I could find a publisher. Unfortunately, there aren’t many presses that specialize in aphorisms. And of course, I have lots of poems and stories that I don’t know what to do with yet. I just let them pile up until they reach some kind of critical mass. They’ll eventually suggest the collection they belong in.

Charles Rafferty's tenth book of poetry is The Unleashable Dog (2014, Steel Toe Books). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, and Prairie Schooner. His stories have been accepted at Sonora Review, Cortland Review, and The Southern Review. His collection of short fiction is Saturday Night at Magellan's (2013, Fomite Press). Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.