Evelyn Hampton’s first book, Discomfort, was published in 2015 by Ellipsis Press. A chapbook, Madam, is forthcoming from Meekling Press. Her writing has also appeared in BOMB Magazine, Conjunctions, New York Tyrant, The Brooklyn Rail, Birkensnake, and elsewhere. She lives in Oregon.
Evelyn’s story “Heirloom” appears in Issue Six, and you can read it in its entirety here
The Cossack Review: Your short stories often seem akin to essays. Do you see that in your own work?
Evelyn Hampton: Yes, sometimes I do. Sometimes the essay tendency emerges because the narrator speaks that way — methodically, as if laying out an argument or showing how seemingly unrelated phenomena converge. Sometimes I deliberately adopt that kind of voice because I am interested in writing that way. When I first started to be interested in writing, essays and plays were all I wanted to write.
TCR: How did your first book, Discomfort, come to be?
EH: It was a process with very few moments of clarity. I wrote the stories over about five years (2008-2013), and even though I wrote what would become the title story in 2008, and even though I knew soon after writing that story that I wanted to title a book Discomfort, it took me about four more years to write enough stories so that I could understand which stories belonged together under that title. I was surprised by how long it took me to see that many of the stories I was writing were in some way about discomfort.
TCR: You attended Brown University for your MFA–how did your experience there help shape your work?
EH: First I want to acknowledge what a privilege it was to attend the Literary Arts program — or any MFA program. I think being able to do that helped by giving me more time than I otherwise would have had for my writing, and it helped by encouraging me to trust my interests and intuitions — I started to see that these are really all I have to distinguish me from other writers. While I was there I also met a bunch of wonderful people and writers who were and continue to be very generous with their time and attention. The city where Brown is located — Providence, Rhode Island — has shaped my work possibly more than Brown has, in a way that’s hard to explain. Providence has had a big effect on me. I don’t expect to live in a city like Providence ever again, but sometimes I try to live there again through writing.
TCR: Do you meditate?
EH: I do. Almost every day. Last fall I went to a three-month retreat in Massachusetts. It was wonderful, and also really difficult for me.
TCR: What is your next big project?
EH: I’m slowly writing a second novel. I’m also working on a long essay about autoimmunity, marijuana farming, the North Coast of California, YouTube, and domestic terrorism. I think the essay will be finished soon. In another realm of my life, I’m working on Death School, a nonprofit that will offer classes and resources on death and dying. I hope Death School will be able to offer residencies soon to artists and others interested in making death a focus of their work. There’s a website for Death School here, if you don’t mind me including a link.
TCR: What are you reading now?
EH: I’m reading After Henry by Joan Didion, the stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, The Country Life by Rachel Cusk, and I just started reading New Animals by my friend Nick Potter (one of the wonderful writers I met at Brown). White Girls by Hilton Als is waiting for me; so is MFK Fisher’s last novel (I hear it’s not very good, but I love her writing). And I am slowly reading the most recent Upton Tea Imports newsletter — it’s an exceptional newsletter.