Kate Burkhardt, a creative writing major at SOU, is our first featured artist. A fiction writer, poet, and photographer, her work pushes the boundaries in terms of subject matter without sacrificing an ounce in terms of lyricism and depth. See our interview below and check out her stories, poems, and pictures here: Fire in a Barrel (story), AN ODE TO SMOKING AND THE DEATH OF MY JOURNEY WITH IT (poem), my subconscious is overly sentimental fuck you brain (poem), How I Love You Can Be Said (story), drawings, and photos.
What got you started with drawing, fiction writing, and poetry? Let’s hear some Kate Burkhart history.
I got more into it in high school when I developed a brain. I was able to make more complex things. And I’ve always liked keeping journals, since I was like ten, and drawings–I mean like really sh**ty drawings, but, you know [laughs], I’d like to think I’ve gotten better. I’ve always been into creative writing, but when I got here I tried different majors. I tried to be a psychology major as a freshman, because I’ve always liked reading psychology books. Then I tried being an art major, but I couldn’t really see myself, as a future, being an art major–like I didn’t know what I’d do. I just really like being on my own with art. So sometime last year, my sophomore year, I decided on creative writing.
Who do you consider your main influences?
I love Susan Steinberg. Craig [Wright] showed her to me. Lately I’ve been reading mostly short stories. John Updike, Raymond Carver (I love Raymond Carver). I just started reading this collection of true short stories by Chuck Palahniuk called Stranger than Fiction. I love Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote another book called Haunted. It’s like a novel and short stories all at once, because it’s got all these people and their backstories and how they got to this really f**ked up place, and that’s really cool. What’s great about short stories is they’re so small you can appreciate every sentence, all the little pieces. With a novel there’s so much to dedicate to you can’t examine it as closely. As far as authors in general: Chuck Palahniuk, J.D. Salinger, Joyce Carol Oates, Cormac McCarthy, Ariana Reines, Frank O’Hara, Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . . I know as soon as I’m done talking I’ll think, Oh! And this person, and that person! Oh, Kurt Vonnegut. I love him. If you don’t, you’re weird.
In both your fiction and poetry, you deftly handle a lot of sensitive subject matter–sex, drugs, and all things bodily. You find the beauty and the humor in that side of life. Could you talk about how you accomplish this?
With fiction it’s different, because you’re completely fabricating this whole world and these characters that you feel like you know, and they have pieces of you and people that you know in them, and experiences, and they’re so different from anything that you know, but you pull from things that you do know, which can be offensive or inappropriate. But all good writing is gonna offend someone and be kind of inappropriate. People don’t wanna read stories that have no conflict or clashing of different beliefs. With personal poetry writing, I can’t write abstract vague poems about things that don’t have to do with my experiences. I’m very experience-driven, whether or not that involves abstract concepts or language that’s not as straightforward. Everything I write has to do with human relationships and how that connects back to me. I think it’s important to write about that, ‘cause that’s what people live for.
I remember in Intermediate Fiction you came in with a story virtually covered with slashes and brackets and editorial notes. Can you talk about your drafting and editing process?
I just start writing, then move things around, then think of different ways to phrase things after I’ve gotten it all down. I do that until it has a certain kind of rhythm and flow and line breaks are where they should be. Some of its more structured than other pieces.
How has SOU helped you develop as an artist?
Mainly Craig’s classes. Now that I have Kasey [Silem Mohammed] , too, that’s helped. But I love Craig. I’ve taken all of his classes and now I’m like: What am I gonna do? [laughs]
What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
If you like to write you should write. Experiment with different stuff. Just consume things you’re interested in, and by consume I mean read. Like movies, books, poetry, it’s all good. Use the things going on on in your life. Like journal about them, write them down. Whether you wanna write about your own life or a story, try to write as often as you can, even if you don’t know where it’s going. Work hard.