Stephanie Campisi’s work has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Read her web site to find out more.
Her story The Glass Girl Looks Back appears in the Spring 2008 issue of Shimmer.
Interview with Stephanie Campisi
Where did the idea come from? From memory, the story came from thinking about the one-sidedness that can characterise relationships and interactions, and the inability (or perhaps lack of desire) of people to notice this. The Glass Girl creates her self-worth through the perceptions of others, and because of this you do feel a little bit of pity towards her, but I don’t think that she’s an entirely sympathetic character. Her lack of perceptiveness and her arrogance are the causes of her downfall, and she’s only able to differentiate herself, prove herself through self-destructive means.
You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger? Glass Girl was written in a single sitting, which can be unusual for me, as often I struggle through a piece scene by scene, trying to fit the bits and pieces of it together as though I’m playing a particularly painful game of Tetris. One thing I do seem to find is that, after coming back to a story that I haven’t been able to finish, the reason for this often turns out to be that it actually is already finished, and that I’m trying to append something unnecessary and ill-fitting. Glass Girl is written fairly simply, which is a bit of a departure for me, as often it seems that I try to drown my work with words, so I didn’t find myself hacking away at similes that have stretched for a page, or metaphors that get lost and wander around for ages before making their way back home.
How is this story like your other work? How is it different? In some ways Glass Girl represents a bit of a divergence from my usual fare. Often my work has a detached feel to it, even if I’m writing in first person, and I tend to write in short vignettes that by themselves are unanchored, but together form a loose narrative. I think I rely on the reader to do quite a bit of the work, piecing together seeming unlike, unrelated threads and characters and themes, and Glass Girl is a bit unusual in that it’s a fable in tone, with a fairly simple, linear narrative.
How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale? I think I’d been submitting for a few months before making my first sale, and then I made a few in quick succession. I was in high school when the first few of those sales were made, and some of my fairly well-received work (Why the Balloon Man Floats Away in Fantasy, and Cod Philosophy in Farthing, as well as a few others) were written during that time, too. It’s kind of nice to be able to track my progress through the various magazines, and various standards of writing, in that slowly figuring out my natural style and the audiences that respond best to my work. At the same time, it means that all of my terrible high school angst is on display for the world to see. Joy of joys.
Do you work with a critique or writers group? No, although there many reasons I can think of that people would find them helpful. I think that the main thing would have to be finding a group where people work at a similar place, are at similar levels, and have similar aspirations, otherwise things would start to break down. I always found the groups I was a part of quite sanitising and obsessed with stylistic toe-the-lineness, which became very dull after a while. I do think a large part of it relates to group dynamics and individual personalities. I’m somewhat of a solitary writer who likes to experiment and break stuff, so it’s probably safer for all if I go off on my own and do my own thing.
What authors, if any, have had the most influence on your work? Different authors have influenced different projects, I think. Or rather, having read a given author, I might try something a bit new or a bit different to see whether I can make it work, or whether a given trope or style or so forth is something I might like to incorporate into my own work. I try to read quite widely, so my stories occasionally experience stylistic whiplash, but I imagine that eventually some good should come of it. Even the really bad stuff can be a huge learning experience.
Favorite short story you’ve read recently? I was absolutely blown away by Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm of the Hand Stories, which I can’t praise highly enough.
Do you believe in ghosts or the supernatural? Why? I’m certainly open to it, but admit to a bit of a Scully streak. My boyfriend is a Buddhist who does get a bit nervous about ghosts, and just a few weeks ago dragged me away from his temple grounds before the beginning of the Hungry Ghost Ceremony. . .
Fast food: Yea or Nay? An enormous, horse-like nay from me on this one, as the notion of deep-fried anything terrifies me. Vietnamese rice-paper rolls are about the closest I get to fast food. Although I do have a soft spot for the myriad gelati shops on Lygon Street.
Name one place in your hometown that you love to go to and would recommend to others to visit. I do love walking past the old post office and police station in Flemington, and through the random alleyways that snake through the Melbourne CBD.
Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? I this question might incorrectly assume that the writers in question can afford to pay their electricity bills. . .