Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Students are to post reactions (minimum 250 words each) to the assigned listening/reading linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

KELLY LINK Interview:  Kelly Link is the author of the young adult collection Pretty Monsters. She has written two other collections, Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners. Her novellas and short stories have won a variety of awards. Most recently she has won the 2009 Locus Award for best novella for her story "Pretty Monsters". Neil Gaiman called her, "...the best short story writer out there, in any genre." She co-founded Small Beer Press with her husband, Gavin Grant, and edits the zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Click heading to read the interview.

KELLY LINK NPR: Author Kelly Link says her short stories are inspired by what she calls "night time logic." In fiction that strives for realism, she says, everything has a place. Everything makes sense. It's kind of like dream logic, she tells NPR's Audie Cornish, "except that when you wake up from a dream, you think, well, that didn't make sense. Night time logic in stories, you think, I don't understand why that made sense, but I feel there was a kind of emotional truth to it." Click heading to listen to NPR interview.

THE SPECIALIST'S HAT by KELLY LINK : "When you're Dead," Samantha says, "you don't have to brush your teeth." "When you're Dead," Claire says, "you live in a box, and it's always dark, but you're not ever afraid." Claire and Samantha are identical twins. Their combined age is twenty years, four months, and six days. Claire is better at being Dead than Samantha. Click heading to read the rest of the story.


Michael Mintz said...

The idea of Nighttime logic really struck a chord with me, most of the writing I come up with comes from my dreams or thoughts which never really follow regular concepts of reality. The idea that the world is normal for the characters inside the story also something I strive for in my writing even though it becomes extremely difficult due to the fact you just want to show the world you came up with to your audience while keeping the reality that your characters live in that world. You could always get around this with a character that comes from our world to the fantasy world but that in the end feels like I spend half the time on explaining the world then the actual story. Her explanation on she taps into her past trauma and issue, really gave some things to think about. To try to use your past trauma to write haunting stories is extremely interesting to me, since when I write I try to distance the story I create completely from our reality as to make a new universe where in short I could play god. In my own life I watched the trauma of lots of people play out in front of me, but not really experienced anything truly traumatized me in my life. So, the concept of inserting your trauma into a story is something a bit foreign to me. There have been minor things that happened in my life, but nothing horrible or scary. Usually its difficult for me to predict my own reactions to some things since I always believe I would do the worst thing in any of those situations.

Zakiya C said...

The first thing that stood out to me was that Kelly Link said, “I like roller coasters,” twice. I don’t know why, but that drew me in to this interview. She feels very down to earth with every response and extremely honest. The second thing that caught my eye was when she spoke about an author thinking their work is good, but that is a bias opinion, in a sense. That is very true for me and the fact that she said it out loud puts that feeling into perspective. You are putting your creative work out on the line every time you send it to someone and that is hard. It is hard to submit to criticism. However, to be a good author one must listen to the criticisms and learn from them.
Kelly Link said that she didn’t exactly want to learn how to read. She liked the fact that stories were read to her by her parents. I wonder if that influences the way she writes. If she makes words aurally pleasing instead of aesthetically pleasing.
I found it interesting that she has a routine or writing but that she has to change it every two or so years because she gets bored. It seems as though he stories just find their way to her in a sense. I assume that she doesn’t feel an exhausting time frame as some would think a writer would or maybe the opposite. Perhaps she just has a good way of mellowing her feeling of time.

Maggie Lu said...

The language used in The Specialist's Hat is very descriptive. Kelly Link was very particular about the different colors of gray the girls’ eyes were, how their mom was gone for exactly 282 days, how they have been playing the Dead game for exactly 274 days, how the caretaker’s left leg is shorter than his right. I found the story to be very dark. The ending was left to interpretation and it is unknown whether Samantha made it up the chimney or not and what happens with the Specialist next. It is also kind of creepy that Link mentions “this is sort of like the difference between being Dead and being dead. Maybe when Samantha is tired of one, she will try the other.” And whether her mother would have decided to be Dead instead of dead. I also find it a little weird that the father cannot distinguish his own daughters apart, but even the caretaker can. With all of the description and chain of events, it almost felt as if this were more of a novel than a short story.
As it is mentioned in the interview between Kirsten and Kelly, Link’s stories seem to end abruptly. Likewise, in The Specialist’s Hat, Link’s horror story ends in a rush with an ambiguous ending, leaving readers to think about what happens next so that the characters and their actions will linger in readers’ minds. Kelly Link seems very personable – she like dark chocolate, roller coasters, swimming – and she shows that she is as much a regular human as she is an author, which I find admirable.

Rachel Westerbeke said...

Link reveals many interesting aspects of her relationship with writing and her process. It was surprising to me that she was reluctant to learn how to read (which I personally hated as well) and sometimes doesn’t want to write either. Also, I was curious about how she changes her writing routine regularly.
In her interview with NPR, Kelly Link discusses the concept of “night time logic.” Her description of how this kind of logic relates to storytelling illuminates an important concept in writing with an analogy that is easy to relate to. When including concepts in a story that make the setting or the characters unlikely or impossible in real life, it is sometimes difficult to describe the scene in a way that makes the unusual parts seem normal. Relating this to dream logic in which anything can happen and you never question even the most absurd things is part of what makes it easier for readers to immerse themselves in the world of the characters.
In The Specialist’s Hat, Link does a great job of having the characters be comfortable in the peculiar world that they live in. You never feel like the characters aren’t accustomed to the world they live in or that they haven’t always lived in that world. Also, Link uses many exact numbers in her descriptions that aren’t usually necessary. Right when I was wondering why these numbers are significant, Link reveals that Claire and Samantha record important numbers in an address book that belonged to their mom.

Leah Usefara said...

Link is a fun person who makes fun comments. It took all my power to not look up all her horror recommendations on Amazon while reading the interview. Horror is a lot of fun and I would also prefer a movie like Rose Red to Friday the 13th because the terror is usually in the implication and I think most of us are desensitized by gore (apparently not Link) so the gore would generally only lower the scary factor and not enhance it.
I could relate with Link with her sometimes hate for writing. I'm the type of person who enjoys reading to writing and I usually only write when I'm in certain moods to do so. It's very hard to write for me outside of these moods. It's very easy in class because I get into a relaxed mindset with no distractions. It would be nice to steal Link's playlist sometime and see if it works.
When I read Link's interview and one of the questions asked was why she ended so abruptly, I didn't think much of it until I read the short story and thought "wait, that's it?" There was so much build up, the tension came, the climax is happe-the end. I'll think about the implications of the ending in my free time, away from stress at the moment.
The last thing that stood out to me was her usage of "copperheads" in her short story. It reminded me of the homework to find the names of different things in New Jersey and this would be one of those things. People outside of North East US wouldn't know such a thing whenever a local referenced it. However, people from my town in the country would always warn us about the copperheads and black widows, the two deadly critters in the area. If there's a copperhead in the front yard, don't go in the front yard, if there's a copperhead under the rock, don't lift up the rock. If you're in the woods, you can't see the copperhead because it blends in. Anyways, I like how a few of the audience would flinch at her reference of the poisonous snake because of their upbringing and the other half go "what?" and google the name if they were curious enough.

Christopher Yi said...

I loved reading about Kelly Link’s lax and weird interview with Kowaleski. I particularly enjoyed reading about her chaotic writing habits because it makes me feel at ease with my own writing and routine. Also, she mentioned that she liked rollercoasters twice, which was funny to me. She seems very down to earth! One part of the interview that really resonated with me when she described how some writers adhere to certain patterns and formulas but still produce fresh and exciting work and that a good mix of the old and familiar and new and challenging encourages good writing and exploration.She offered some great insight on figuring out the inner workings of writing with the metafictive technique. It was interesting to see how a narrative forms from relating a character to another from a different work of fiction.The idea of night time logic in stories also intrigued me. Often times people can figure out when something does not work in writing or point out mistakes but, for me at least, it is so much harder to figure out why good writing is good and why you like it so much. It leaves me with the idea that things are good because “it just works.” In the second interview, Link mentioned the dissonance readers feel when characters in a book are used to the weird world they live in and I found that to be true in The Specialist’s Hat, it takes a bit of time to figure out how the characters see and interact with their world and I find this to be fun and immersive across all writing.

Katie Steely-Brown said...

The description in the NPR interview of what Kelly Link grew up reading as a child really resonated with me. My dad read me all of Tolkien, too, when I was in preschool— he loves Lord of the Rings and apparently wanted to make sure I grew up to be a nerd like him. My favorite line in the whole interview was when she said, “And then when once I learned to read — I was a little bit slow — I would just go to the library and sort of work my way through the shelves.” I did that too. My earliest memories are of my mother driving me to the town municipal library on Wednesdays in the summer, letting me loose in the children’s and young adult sections to load up a tote bag of fifteen or so books, which I would proceed to steadily read outside lying on my stomach in the grass of our backyard over the course of a long, hot week. The next Wednesday we would do the same thing, and I would get fifteen more books. This continued during the school year, too, but my book maximum was reduced to five or ten books so I could focus on school work. Over the course of my childhood, I read every children’s and young adult book my local town library and the county library a few towns away offered. I loved doing so, and I loved having access to so many books, but I always felt like a bit of a freak doing so. My classmates in elementary and middle school made it clear they hated reading, and found it weird that I read so much, and I always felt like maybe I was the only kid trying to read every book I could get my hands on— until high school, when I met students who also loved to read and write for the first time in my life, and I found out they did the exact same thing as kids. I love hearing that real, published authors did the same thing, because it makes me feel more connected to them as a human. It’s nice to remember that pretty much everyone who loves reading loves reading and that we all shared similar straits as kids.

Melissa Cecchini said...

I didn't know who Kelly Link was going into this assignment, but after reading names like Angela Carter and Holly Black in the interview she struck me as a writer I should know. Holly Black is the author of some of the first YA fiction I've ever read and really fallen in love with. And Angela Carter wrote a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that I had to read for another class and ended up really enjoying. So to see names like that in congruence with Kelly Link made the interviews and story excerpt a more interesting read. She seemed like a very down to earth person, and a writer who didn't try to make herself bigger than she was. She didn't try to puff up her writing habits as tried and true method guaranteed to produce a story in three weeks. They were chaotic and changing, which was comforting to read about.
I really enjoyed reading "The Specialist's Hat". I always like reading in present tense, especially for stories that have horror elements to them. I had to write a podcast project for another class and I decided to do a fiction podcast a la "Welcome to Nightvale" or "Alice Isn't Dead". And I decided to make it a horror podcast, because I've always felt the scariest part of a horror movie is the sound component. And I wrote the whole narrative in first person, the same way Link did this story. It's a break from the norm of past tense storytelling, and it gives the sense of real time events that really amplifies the suspense of a story.

Susan Lee said...

I don't usually hear of short story writers so it was interesting to read an interview about one. I remember reading a lot of short stories during middle school and finding them very time-efficient and interesting. I think short stories are the hardest to write well because of you have the pressure of having to deliver characters and plotlines that are as detailed and arresting as full-length stories without the same amount of time. I was impressed with how she defined "night time logic" I think it is so true how while you're dreaming everything feels so clear and real but when you wake up and try to tell a friend, nothing makes sense. I wonder why she wants to make stories that don't make sense, however. I feel like its idealistic rather than realistic to try to make stories that are as she describes. I think the beauty of fiction lies within a realistic world that has fantasy elements in it. I really respect her overall word choice, however. I loved that she used the phrase 'emotional truth' to describe the element of “night-time logic”. I think its something that makes you think and it is easy to understand where she comes from. Reading the Specialist Hat didn’t disappoint, she really is a very talented writer. It was, however, confusing for me because I thought at one point the babysitter killed the sisters but then since they interacted with the same world right after it didn’t seem as though it was the case. Kelly Link actually was successful in putting night time logic in action in her writing.

Emily Garon said...

When Kelly Link mentioned that a lot of her writing comes from what she calls “night time logic” it made me intrigued by what she meant if I ever came across any similar inspiration in my writing. From how she explains herself, it seems that instead of thinking that a dream she has is odd to have happened, she tries to dive deep into the meaning of the dream from an emotional stance rather than a probable one. While I don’t think I ever wrote anything about a dream I’ve had, I do find myself writing down anything I can think of creatively when I just wake up in the middle of the night because that is often times the point where I can jot down my more out-field ideas without the little voice in my head telling me that it’s silly. I may never actually use the little sticky note of ideas, but every now and then when I do it’s some of my best writing as I try to form this jumbled, wacky idea into a full-out story line that would make it more probable over the course of the narrative. Perhaps it’s when we are most tired that we’re able to mute the criticizing thoughts so that we could take an idea a few steps further.

Another point that Kelly brings up in the interview is that she likes to write where the characters of her story already understand and know about the strange things happening in the story while her readers are left to pick the pieces up to try to figure out what exactly is happening. This is very similar to film and I’d even argue that she would be an excellent screenplay writer as well as novelist. When it comes to cinematography, you want to just throw the viewer into the world without much clue as to what is happening because it is up to their vision and hearing to try to figure out what the world is like while the characters / actors and actresses in the film are all in character to this specific surrounding. It puts less emphasis on the characters themselves and trying to find a need to fill space with dialog, and lets the environment that those characters are in to become more of the centerpiece to the project.

Samantha Glass said...

Although I really hate the genre of horror, I enjoyed reading Kelly Link's interviews and hearing her voice on NPR. It's really cool to hear and read the actual person who writes this stuff. She seems like a pretty normal person, although I didn't like reading "If You're Dead". I appreciated the lack of gore and fast ending, but I prefer books with romance stories (same as Link!) and happy, calm endings. Literature is a happier escape for me.

I hadn't thought of writing horror until last week when I had a really scary cyber dream- which has never happened to me. I dreamt that someone was sending me essays that I had written and that they had access to all of my assignments. Okay, that may seem fine for some people, but I woke up sweating and could not fall back asleep. When Link talked about "Nighttime Logic", it reminded me of my dream. I think I could write a really scary short story about that and use the same style as Link- hinting at the gore and ending quickly.

Lastly I appreciated how candid Link was about being weird in high school and observing everyone else. I think people who observe and take in their surrounding have a better understanding of how people work and are more empathetic -- and generally lead to being better writers.

Richard Urquiza said...

I was pleasantly surprised to read that Kelly Link holds a lot of the similar writing habits that I do. I too have a great fondness for background noise when I write, purely so I do not get too distracted, which happens regardless but it helps. Instrumental music is my most preferred. Jazz or Classical or Video Game OSTs. However, I have to be alone. I am uncomfortable working on anything with others around. No idea what the reason behind it is, but that's just how it is.

Her thoughts on endings are really interesting, and I tend to agree. Endings have to be a little abrupt. They have to leave the reader wondering about something. Of course the story itself should hold well in the reader's after reading, but a good surprising ending can help with that in spades. Over all however, the ending should ideally be when the narrator feels they have finished their purpose in retelling an event. Anything that happens afterwards is of no concern to them. The Specialist's Hat is a great example of this. The Narrator does his job of telling of the night that Samantha, Claire, and the babysitter send together, and the lore surrounding the inhabitants of Eight Chimneys. He gives us details of the past to understand the story's present, and to hell with the future.

I especially love her approuch to read everything. Even type of Literature is beneficial and informative to a writer, even those they might hate. What better way to learn all the techniques and genres that appeal to you and those that don't. This knowledge can have a powerful hand if shifting one's writing, and with is vital. How a person's writes, like a person themselves, have to go through changes, for better or worse.

Colleenie vonVorys-Norton said...

Ok, I really enjoyed this story this week. When I read the first article I thought I was going to have to read more of a horror story. But I really enjoyed reading "The Specialist's Hat" because it took a very domestic thing and made it very creepy. Since I listened to the NPR interview first, I understood her writing technique about having all the characters know what is going on but making the reader slightly confused. I feel like if I did not know that before, I would not have enjoyed it as much. The story was not scary or horror but I got a very creepy vibe from it. That could be because I have babysat twin girls before in a older house so I could visualize it very well but thankfully we did not have to hide from some man entering the house. I'm left with wanting to know about what is going to happen to the girls and the father. I want to know if the father is still alive and if the girls are actually dead. Did the babysitter kill them?
One of the other things I liked about this Kelly Link is that she is a short story writer. Typically, short story writers are not studied and I have not heard about a lot of them. In fact, before today I have never heard of Kelly Link. I think that maybe people do not view short story authors as real writers since they don't write novel length stories.

Ilana Shaiman said...

The Monster Librarian interview with Kelly Link was very interesting. It was cool to read about another writer’s writing process. She said that she likes writing in cafes in the afternoon because it gives her a good level of background noise for writing. I found this interesting because I can see how being in a public space is a good writing environment, since having the ability to tune out the rest of the world and then tune back into it for inspiration is a helpful writing tool.
I also really liked the NPR interview because hearing Link’s voice as she told the story of avoiding to learn how to read as a child so that he parents would keep reading to her was very funny. I think hearing a story of that nature from an author is very empowering because it just goes to show that although writers love reading and writing, they are also human, and they have their own unique stories surround how they came to find their passion.
The Specialist’s Hat was a fascinating story. I really loved how Link kept going back to the twins’ grey eyes as a marker of the differences between them. I also really loved the mysterious element to it, at the end, the reader is left unsure if the person coming to find the girls is the specialist or if it really is the father. I also liked the little details, like the babysitter’s arms with left over shaving cream and toilet paper when the girls made her into a mummy. I especially appreciated the fact that this story was very women-centered and in the girls’ point of view.

Marina Martinez said...

The interview with Kelly Link was very interesting. My favorite part of it was when Kirsten Kowalewski asked Kelly how she channels teen emotions so well into her writing. The way that Kelly tries to access all her emotions and draw on them for writing reminded me of how some actors do the very same thing to create a real performance. I also agreed with Kelly’s point that authors should try to dabble in reading different genres and use this to influence their writing. I think the more experience and knowledge you gain, the stronger your writing will be.

In Kelly’s NPR interview, I liked how she spoke about building these strange worlds where the characters were accustomed to them. I think these are some of the most interesting stories to read. I also liked how she said people should write about the things they are drawn to even if they feel they shouldn’t. This creates more genuine and stimulating work.

In “The Specialist’s Hat”, there were many details that I really liked. For instance, when Mr. Coeslak describes Claire’s eyes and Samantha’s as “grey” versus “gray”. After the story sets up the whole backstory about the woman who snakes grew in, the reader finds out the father met a woman in the woods and the story manages to make me feel uneasy. I liked how the author set this up without saying there was danger and showed emotions instead of telling. I also found the Dead Game very unsettling.

Louise McSorley said...

I didn't start writing seriously until college, and I never knew how much I NEEDED to write. My childhood was, in more ways than not, less than desirable, so everything I wrote (and still write) had a dark edge to it. But writing always needs to be fun for me, regardless of how deep, dark, and personal things get. I can't just write something to get it out and feel better. It doesn't work like that. The NPR interview with Link reminded me of this because she says, "That's one of the things about figuring out what kind of story you want to write, is figuring out the kinds of things you are drawn to, even if you feel you shouldn't be drawn to them." It's all about "figuring things out" for me. Even if I can't find a concrete answer right away, if I'm excited about an idea I have and am ready to write it, then the "meaning" of why I was drawn to it will come out much later.

I was also interested, in the first interview, about how she considered herself an outsider and how this then influenced her process of creating characters. As a teen, she would watch other kids to not only protect herself but also to see "how they do it." It's so right and so well put!

Dan O'Connor said...

Usually short stories don't seem to get a lot of attention which in my opinion is a real shame. I love the short story just as much as a like the novel. Reading the interviews with Kelly Link were interesting not only to be able to hear a writer discussing her craft, but reading about a more focused perspective on the craft of short stories was neat. Reading her story after the two articles was enlightening as I think I gained a better understanding of that "night time logic" which she spoke of. Her story was an enjoyable experience to read, the way in which there was a dream like quality to what was going as the children made their way through the space and time of the mansion was spooky and fun. I think this story worked well with the elements of suspense which we were talking about in class. As a reader I was unsure the whole time what exactly would be the ultimate outcome of for these two little girls. Though the story concluded I was left not fully sure of the outcome but not in a bad way. This was very full story rich with detail and mystery that kept me puzzling through the possibilities.

Sierra Commons said...

"Night time logic", what an interesting concept. I enjoyed getting to hear Link talk about this and then experience it for myself in "The Specialist's Hat". It certainly had the feel of a dreamlike world that followed its own set of logic. The style, constantly changing to explain background and history or with a poem thrown in, adds to the tension and intrigue of the main story while affecting an interesting tone. Personally though, I found the tension and digressions to be more of the "get on with it" variety (queue Holy Grail soundbit).

In class Alex, aka Professor A-Dawg, has brought up making stories get under the reader's skin and stay on their mind even after they are finished reading. In Kelly Link's interview with Kirsten Kowalewski, she said that she hoped her stories would "linger in the reader's mind", especially when they were stories that had ended abruptly. "The Specialist's Hat" ends abruptly and with little explanation, leaving it to the reader to wonder about the reality of the situation. I wonder, where do you draw the line between an ending that simply does not explain itself and an ending that is satisfyingly ambiguous? It may depend entirely on the reader, yes, but I appreciated Link's take, that "the way the story ends depends on what kind of story it is". I may have found the end to "The Specialist's Hat" frustrating and unsatisfying in some ways, but in others it suited the feel of the story just right. Not to mention, it can be fun to be able to discuss ambiguous endings with other readers.

Syeda Khaula Saad said...

I feel more connected to Kelly Link through her interviews than I have with anyone else recently. I appreciate the fact that she hasn’t written in a year or so because it reminds me that although I should constantly be writing, I should not feel self-contempt for any time I’ve “wasted” not writing. And I really enjoy her comment about romance novels. I have always been drawn to romance novels, but I used to believe that it would be tacky to write with the genre of romance because, just as Link said, “it feels like you shouldn’t be writing” it.
What especially interested me about Kelly Link was the different careers/ things that she had/done. I’m in a place where I know I want to do something with writing, but I’m not exactly sure yet. And after our meet-and-greet with Jason Rekulak, I want to look into publishing. This made me feel even more of a connection with Kelly. I love the process of editing, and I do see its effects on my own work. But I think I want to try what she does and turn my brain off to the critical side of my thinking and focus on just getting my thoughts and ideas out first and foremost. And as an English major and also a journalism and media studies major, I find myself always trying to find the balance between the two different types of writing that I want to do. I think Link feels the same way about balancing publishing and writing.

the fool said...

I love listening to Kelly Link talk about her writing. I love reading what Kelly Link writes about her writing. And I love reading what other people write about Kelly Link's writing. I struggle to read Kelly Link's stories. In my life as a reader there are probably four or five books i ever started and didn't finish; Stranger Things Happen is one of those books. It confused me to remember this as I read the librarian interview.

Kelly's perspective on the work of a story and the logic of that world resonate with my appreciation for the weird. The way she talks about writing with access to emotional states from her past strikes me as something to focus on. She uses those memories to build characters which operate the way the old myths use gods/goddesses; as images or beings of a particular emotional quality. I appreciate this way of thinking about writing and feel like I should love the stories that come from that place....But I don't.

I think more in terms of themes than genre in my readings, though I guess I recognize that the two overlap. Certain genres are more apt to express particular themes or emotions. And I seek out bizarre/horror/magical realist writing more than I do New Yorker literary realist wankery.

It's probably the tone; language stops me from reading something. Maybe that's what keeps me from caring for Kelly Link and Neil Gaimen both. I start their stuff and it flows well but I just don't care. I don't care what happens; at all. I think their tone is a little too cute. It just feels so safe. And I don't want to feel safe when I read; I don't want comfort. I want to take a trip that fucks me up.

Michael Moorcock wrote an essay called Epic Pooh, about kid Lit and white/hetero/fascho-capitalist norms embedded in the writing. He goes after Winnie the Pooh/Watership Down/LOTR.. it reminds me of what Harold Bloom said about Harry Potter fodder. Not that I'm putting Kelly Link or Neil Gaimen into that category at all because i think they might take the safe tone and subvert those values...? I'm not well read enough to know, but i hope they do.

Dominique Berger said...

I found Kirsten Kowalewski’s interview with Kelly Link to be engaging as it helped explain who Kelly Link is (I had never heard of her before) and I found all of Link’s responses to be genuinely interesting. Previously, I had never cared much for reading interviews, but I have recently come to enjoy them; they’re a great way of learning about the ways people are different and sometimes I find information that I can use for myself, like how to keep my writing organized or the next movie that I should watch. I particularly liked reading about the environment Link likes to set for herself when she’s writing and how she has to change her routine every year or so; I always feel as though my preferences for how I’m situated when I write change often so I’m always on the lookout for something new to try. I also thought her concept of “night time logic” was intriguing, and when I read “The Specialist’s Hat,” I think I got a good sense of what she meant. “The Specialist’s Hat” was ambiguous, and put me in a floaty, dream-like state as I tried to get a grasp on the things that were normal to the characters; the Dead game, the Specialist, the babysitter whose name they can’t remember. As someone who is easily scared, reading this short story on a windy night with the windows open was a somewhat entertaining move (I jumped at every sound and had to reassure myself that I definitely wouldn’t see a set of orange eyes in the window since I’m on the third floor, even though the library in the story was on the second floor).

Ryan Allen said...

Link says at one point "I can imagine being all of them" of her characters. In my short time writing, this is something I've considered a lot about other writers - about how some are able to so believably get in side the heads of characters from circumstances very different from their own experience. It's something I've had trouble with to an extent. I find myself always writing about things and characters that mirror my own mind/experience to a large degree. As with life, a great way to improve writing is expanding your perspective. It seems like Kelly Link has great deal of that given the spectrum of characters and topics she goes for.

I liked The Specialist's Hat story. It achieves a satisfying balance of being both simple and engaging. The premise is unique, because instead of a standard haunted house story, we get something totally out of the blue - a hat with teeth that will not only bite, but also impersonate the voices of others. I think this is a self contained story, but where it ends is a great jumping off point for a continuation to the story.

It was also nice to see Link discuss her process honestly. I think a lot of aspiring writers have this notion that those who've "made it" have a very rigid, meticulous routine/process, and that a lack of something like that is an indication of inability. But as Link describes, the process of writing is (for nearly everyone) one with peaks, valleys, and the occasional long break. I feel it's important to keep in mind that getting Immediate results is a dangerous and counterproductive expectation to set for oneself.

jaclyn liccone said...

I am a big fan of mystery stories, so Kelly Link’s horrors somewhat interest me because a really good mystery goes down the same tracks a horror story would. First off, I think it is interesting getting to hear the authors voice on NPR. It puts things in perspective for me. In a sense it made her writing become more alive to me. Her “Nighttime Logic” topic that she covered is what stood out to me the most. This logic, she says relates to storytelling and then tags along to dream logic. It’s interesting because I always thought about this and for me, when I do write it’s at night or it’s when I wake up in the morning and I have many thoughts in my head from my dreams. I think dreams are a great way to spark imagination and is what could make the best writing pieces.

I enjoy short stories so reading Link’s work was entertaining to me and I enjoyed it. I was intrigued by The Specialist’s Hat because it struck me as very different than anything I've read before. The repetition of "When you're Dead” seemed so normal throughout the story because Link placed it in the right places to make it flow. Her writing style is unique especially in this story. What she writes is creepy but when reading it you can see some humor behind her words. Im not sure how she does it. She writes horror and it definitely fills the horror genre, but at the same time its not heavy horror because it sometimes gives you a little laugh when you're reading which is strange to me but intriguing at the same time.

Becky Clark said...

Before this assignment, I’ve never heard of Kelly Link. I looked at the interviews before reading the excerpt and was expecting the reading to be creepy. I love horror stories so I was excited to read Link’s work. My expectations were met with The Specialist’s Hat. Right away, Samantha and Claire come off as weird, eerie kids when they talk about Death. I really enjoyed this short story. What made it work for me was the simple language paired with the ambiguity. There was a certain amount of vagueness that when I reread the story, I thought of it in a different way. The first time I read it, I thought the babysitter may have killed Claire and Samantha and at the end their father is looking for them. With my second reading, I thought Claire and Samantha were dead from the beginning because they know so much about what Death is like. If the language was more complicated, I don’t think that I could’ve easily seen the story in different ways.

This short story reminded me a little of Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Both have a creepy haunted house setting and only give enough details so the reader knows what is going on but can think of the story in different ways. Link mentioned that her stories end abruptly because things keep on happening at the end and she wants her readers to think about what happens. This story’s ending is left open and gave me plenty to wonder about, like if the girls were really dead or if they would haunt the house for the rest of time. Overall, Kelly Link seems like an author I would enjoy and I will be reading more of her short stories.

Michelle Chen said...

Something I tend to struggle with when I write is balancing action, particularly dialogue, with description. I often find myself getting caught up in beautiful words or images rather than working to “propel” the story, as we’ve talked about in class. Reading “The Specialist’s Hat” I was struck by how well Link preserves this balance; there are moments that seem to pause and offer almost unnecessary explanations, but they never seem to weigh the story down. Some particular moments:

“Beside each fireplace is a heavy black firedog, and a set of wrought iron pokers shaped like snakes. Claire and Samantha pretend to duel with the snake-pokers before the fireplace in their bedroom on the third floor.”

“Samantha and Claire have gone to camp for three weeks every summer since they were seven…”
“In the moonlight, they [the chimney stacks] look like they are breathing.”

For one of my literature classes, we recently read Barthes’ “An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative,” and while structuralism is a bit outdated, I’ve been mediating on one particular idea:

“The fact remains, however, that a narrative is made up solely of functions: everything, in one way or another, is significant…Even though a detail might appear unequivocally trivial…it would nonetheless end up pointing to its own absurdity or uselessness: everything has a meaning, or nothing has.”

There’s something romantic to me about the notion that everything in narrative is significant; that everything has its place regardless of how strange or banal. Weirdly enough, the idea comes back around in Link’s description of “night time logic:” “In fiction that strives for realism, she says, everything has a place. Everything makes sense.” Moments of description don’t need to drive the plot, but they do need to do something and in Link’s case, they serve to uncover characters or set scenes or simply expand upon the surreality of the story’s world. I think that reading these pieces has made me more aware of the roles that description may play in my own writing, and hope that it will help me to shape my writing with more purpose.

As a side note, A couple of my favorite moments from these pieces:

“When I write, it’s very easy to access all of those emotions again. I’m still the same person. I care much less about what people think of me now, but I still care about what people thought of me then.”

“Editing/publishing work is easier to set aside, but it's also more satisfying than writing, because it's much easier to love someone else's work with all of your heart than it is to love your own.”

“I think there's a kind of useful dissonance, reading a world in which the people in that world are used to that place. And that's because that's true of real life; you often come into situations where everybody already knows what's going on, and you have to sort of piece it together.”

“Mr. Coeslak can tell the twins apart, even if their father can't; Claire's eyes are grey, like a cat's fur, he says, but Samantha's are gray, like the ocean when it has been raining."

Crystal Lam said...

It is fascinating to read an interview with the author before reading their work so we can find out more about their life before getting into their stories. Kelly Link's interview gives us insight into who she is a human being and an author. These interviews help aspiring authors understand that there isn't only one way to write a story. Some people have a process and others like to change things up. Overall, as other students have mentioned, Link is very down to Earth and almost relatable in many ways. When she says she "can imagine being all" of her characters, it brings up my own worries that I will create characters that are too similar to people in my life. As a writer, it is my hope that my work will be read and it can be embarrassing if one of my readers is a friend or colleague that I have based my character upon. At the same time, basing characters off of myself seems very private and personal. I have not yet found a balance between how similar my characters and real people should be.
The Specialist's Hat is a great story that I was quite confused about in the beginning. Relatable in the opening, the babysitter seems normal, watching over two young girls who are fascinated by a game and world of their own creation. Soon, the story becomes more morbid and their world is actually the accepted norm. It is not just something from the girls' imaginations, it is their life and the babysitter also plays a part. I liked how ambiguous the ending was, leaving room for interpretation and keeping with the eerie atmosphere. I didn't understand all the detailed descriptions and thought they would all come together yet could not find the connection. I did like Link's characters and found them to be very real, much like Link herself. While the horror genre is usually not my cup of tea, I believe that I could get into more of these types of short stories.

Sara Hankins said...

Kelly Link feels that everyone has a good ghost story holed up inside them, waiting to get out and be written for the world. Maybe that's why she writes so many spooky tales herself, to make up for the people who are not writing ghost stories. Her description of nighttime logic in her interviews makes the story of Samantha and Claire even more unsettling, as she is telling the story of something we all have thought of or heard of before, somewhere in the depthsbif our memories of nightmares and dreams. To be able to think back to what we dream and all the improbabilities that tantalize our imagination is good, but to make a lasting effect on a reader is better. All it takes is a few extra sentences to take Link's writing from normal to supernatural, and that is something all potential authors can learn from her.

Deirdre Hennessey said...

Kelly Link is a study in embracing your “weirdness” and loving it and turning it into art. She comes through in her interviews as someone who is just authentically herself, and her love of horror and writing and things like roller coasters really translates into emotionally real writing. A lot of other people mentioned her “night time logic” but it really is an amazing way to make an unrealistic story resonate with the audience when its characters or events seem otherwise totally impossible. She said that she loves horror but isn’t good with gore, which I relate to (even though I’m too scared for non-gory horror a lot of the time too). Link is able to make her stories thrilling without having to say that someone was brutally murdered or whatever.

The Specialist’s Hat had such a unique kind of language that I don’t feel like I come across often, but it was sort of the perfect eerie tone for the story. One phrase that stood out to me was when the father says goodbye to the twins and kisses them with “a hasty smack,” which really made me think about how unusual Link’s relationship with storytelling is from what I’m used to reading, but it really was completely appropriate for the tone of how the father acted toward the girls and the overall vibe of the story. Also, the Dead Game sounds like something just the right amount of creepy that kids in real life would really come up with something like that.

Sam A said...

I really enjoyed the part about her writing process. It is similar to how to I write. I'll write a little bit and revise and then write a little more and revise and so on. It can take a while, but it helps curate your sentences more.

I didn't like the except from her book Stranger Things Happen. The writing style was nice and short and told a lot without saying much, however, the style provided no strong place for me to sink my teeth into the story. I felt as if the choppy, matter-of-fact style was interesting, but I wouldn't want to read a whole story like that. I enjoyed how she wrote about things that were less obvious. A girl shaving her arms, but she is young so she cuts herself a lot. Stuff like that can tell more about the character without directly saying it.

I have always liked short stories and I hope that they can become more popular. I think that short stories can be refreshing and challenging. I wonder what sort of room there really is for YA short stories when, in general, YA books tend to be short.

Brian Nowak said...

OOOOOOOOOO baby I see exactly what the interviewer meant when they asked Link about the momentum of her stories at their ends. The Specialist's Hat comes together seamlessly, resisting interpretation from any one light? Is the babysitter the same spirit as the one her father saw in the library? Is the specialist real at all? What does it specialize in? Is that father going to die? Did the father see a woman in the wood, or is he just drunk?
The story did wonderful job of making promises and I appreciated the narrative shift of starting with some Dead game questions, but not explaining the game until later. It gave the twins a very haunting, gothic feel at the start, but then as they become humanized through horses and eyes, they're more normal than para-. I really enjoyed the story.

Also, my Literary theory professor has us doing this assignment where we keep a daily journal, recording our best thoughts. He claims this is only supposed to take fifteen minutes, but I am with Kelly Link on this one. Writing is best done for me when I have two to three hours to sit down and dedicate to writing. That's how I really get into my zone. I find it challenging to shift my way of writing, my process.

After reading the Link interview, I can't help but dwell on the various settings or subjects of her stories.... One thing I want to work on in my own writing is embracing a wider range of protagonists, settings, situations or other objects which can drive a plot if you (I) let them.

Aliyah Green said...

The short story, The Specialist’s Hat, I thought was a little interesting in idea. After reading Kelly’s interviews you can see where her mind is. She has a unique way of thinking and seeing things. She has a creepy style of writing that felt a little haunting to me. In her short story, that is very prevalent. The main characters of the twins, Samantha and Claire, and also the unnamed babysitter are all eerie in nature and very obsessed with death. The language and writing style is as if the story is told from the twins point of view without being first person.

The Specialist’s Hat focuses heavily on the living and the dead and the space in between. Claire and Samantha’s life is surrounded by death after their mother passed away over 260 days prior to the beginning of the story.

One element that confused me is where did the babysitter come from? I spent a lot of the story with questions about the no named babysitter and I feel as though I was only left with more at the conclusion.

Also the conclusion itself was very vague in details. I feel as though her details were designed to keep the reader intrigued and build mystery. For me personally, I did not find myself more intrigued than annoyed at the ambiguity. There were so many questions that I feel were not answered and because of the type of person I am it did not work for me. I like conclusions and that story left too many open ends. What happened when they climbed the chimney? How could the Specialist catch them if they are not really dead? Who is this babysitter? These questions and more left me feeling uneasy and incomplete.

Elaina Yu said...

I think the whole idea of “nighttime logic” because it really describes the hazy and obscure nature of Link’s style, and the whole mood of that kind of writing. It’s strange how syntax-ically, the sentences are often short, simple, and straight-forward. But I think that’s what it makes it so fascinating when coupled with the blurred and otherworldly nature of her story topics – like seeing the silhouette of trees through low hanging mist. The methodical quality of her voice gives almost blunt authority to her plot and details, but since it inherently goes against common logic there is the strange dichotomy of mental confusion and emotional understanding. It’s an almost an intuitive experience because the story resonates on a level that is on what can be compared to a child-like sense that can’t be understood with adult logic. The quantity of her details are also striking that grounds the story, but also makes the reader question what they are reading or seeing.
Another fascinating point is that she writes the beginning almost backwards of what other authors. She said that she likes to write her characters who already know what is going on, but leaves it up to the reader to follow the breadcrumbs. And whether they get there or not, it still leaves the haunting sensation of being so focused on the stones below your feet as you traverse through the dense fog, that when the path ends, you look up and you’re not sure what to make of what you are finding.

Benji Sills said...

I found the way Link described her process fascinating, as well as very relatable. I thought it was interesting that sometimes she doesn't want to write. I also find that even in my favorite forms of artistic expression, sometimes I have to push myself to actually start on a project. I've noticed with my own writing that the daunting idea of actually sitting down and starting to write and the overwhelming possibility sitting in front of me can sometimes be intimidating and make writing seem like work. Once I actually start however and sink into it and find myself deeply engaged, it becomes almost as challenging to stop. It's always reassuring to hear professionals share an honest opinion that you also hold, especially if it's a perspective that you wouldn't expect them to share.
Another interesting concept was Link’s discussion of “night time logic”. Understanding how to ground absurdist elements of a story and make them feel real is an important tool for writers of many genres. Especially with genres like horror where both the characters and reader have to know what’s normal so as to be scared by what isn’t, this becomes a fundemental platform for crafting a successful world. In The Specialist’s Hat, Link succeeds in creating the sense that the characters belong in the world and understand its boundaries.
One of the other things I noticed about the story (and which several other people have pointed out) is her choice of using very specific numbers in her writing. We’ve talked about specificity like this in class and it was interesting to see it employed like this. Since we began discussing specificity in class, I have also started to pick up on it in other works. I have been reading Under the Dome, for example, and notice that Stephen King packs his story full of specific brands or unique descriptions that help to define and fill his world.

Jenny Huang said...

While I am not someone who really enjoys the genre of horror/fantasy, I found Kelly Link’s The Specialist’s Hat a really interesting read; it went along with how Link uses a lot of magical realism in her stories. Claire and Samantha seemed to exist in an odd universe where they were aware of the odd things and took them to be normal – I don’t know that I particularly like the genre of magical realism myself, but I find it interesting how many authors’ can stretch their imagination. I found The Specialist’s Hat to be quite confusing and decided to read a separate review of it (http://weirdfictionreview.com/2015/09/101-weird-writers-37-sex-death-and-the-man-omelet-in-the-specialists-hat/) which helped explain a lot of the symbolism that she put into her story. For most of the story, I felt I had no idea what the snakes were supposed to symbolize, or the Dead game, but the review helped to clarify a lot of themes I had not seen before. It also talked a lot about how horror stories have an element that is unsettling about them, which can come from how the story ends on an ambiguous note, or because the horror aspect is something that is immortal and indivisible.
The interviews with Kelly Link were also interesting – I always like hearing about an author’s process and how they come into their ideas. I also really like the idea that she owns her own small publishing company called Small Beer – being a publisher gives her an opportunity to interact with books at all times but also write her own novels/short stories. Overall, the interviews gave me a different perspective on horror/magical realism and I would be interested in reading more.

P.S. I posted this a long time ago, but I don't know why it never posted...

Aishik Mukherjee said...

Theres a boldness to Kelly Link that, though seemingly common, never ceases to paralyze me. She says explicitly that she “always loved horror,” and then one day is being recognized for her work in the field she grew up loving. This is not unique to her as any art is derived from passion, though the notion seems startling. The confidence of someone to grow up loving a certain genre, fall in love and astonished by the masters of the genre and then to publish and somewhat compete with those idols in said genre. To be so pleased and confident with your work that feel able to send it outwards and join the people who grew you into that genre. Though she does not do this with any arrogance or the implication that she must be in competition. She feels comfortable being renowned amongst her heroes/ heroines, enough to ask the reader“ If you've read any of [her] short stories and liked them, you really ought to go and hunt down copies of collections like”, then mentioning many collections of Joan Aiken’s work. The ability to look at a genre and think you belong up there with your inspirations is remarkable and as immersive as her story read, her interview and the charm displayed seemed more thought- provoking.

ALEX LYU said...

Kelly Link seems like a typical writer at first, experiencing enough rejection and humiliation in her life to spur observation of others. This observation, of course, later becomes an asset, as she's spent a lot of time trying to figure the motives, desires, logic of the people in her life. This then becomes a lifetime habit, and extends past bullying. I relate to her story about trying to figure out the popular kids because I remember as a child, I would wonder what made these mysterious "popular" people so popular. I think doing that made me form a mentality of general curiosity, which then extended to observing everyone else.
I like her defense of genre fiction because I think that too many people want to jump at genre fiction for being "formulaic" without even fully understanding the formula. She displays a level of humility here, and points out a flaw in many arrogant readers in writers.
Her explanation of "nighttime logic" put a fun, memorable label to something I think all writers try. Having a sense of reality while maintaining the surreal can be difficult, and I think keeping that in mind at all times would help prevent stories that just fly off the rails.