Isiah Fish is this year’s recipient of the 2013 Henry Fiction Award for his short story, “Deciphering Summer.” A sophomore creative writing major from Louisville, Isiah already has an impressive array of accomplishments– including first place in Flo Gault 2011, Goldenrod Poetry Festival 2012, and the Gender and Women’s Writing Contest 2012. His poem, “Lavender’s Valentine” is being published in the upcoming issue of the Albion Review. This semester I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Isiah and while I’m certainly awed by his talent, I’m even more impressed with his easy-going, humble attitude towards everything he’s achieved. We spoke briefly this week about his writing, his story, and what advice he gives on writing. You can read that conversation below, and may also read Isiah’s award-winning story “Deciphering Summer” here.
Rachel: Your writing style is wonderfully and meticulously detailed. Is there a particular writer who inspires you or your writing style?
Isiah: André Aciman and Annie Proulx are two writers who inspire me. Aciman’s novel Call Me by Your Name is my inspiration-prescription, meaning if there’s ever a time when I just can’t write (and it happens all the time) I flip to a random page of the novel and read a paragraph. That paragraph will inspire me to write and that is guaranteed—that’s how good the writing is. Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” has some of the most beautifully detailed passages around and I study the way she effortlessly weaves design into narrative. I connect to the stories, both of which depict and explore relationships between men and have become attached to them because of how flawless both of their styles are. As for my “style,” it changes with every book I get inspired by. After reading Clay’s Way, I wrote in staccato, witty sentences that mimicked the angsty thoughts of my protagonist. After reading Call Me by Your Name my writing became passionate and yearning and as you say, “meticulously detailed.”
Rachel: You’ve certainly received a great amount of recognition at your time at WKU. What advice would you give your peers about writing and submitting?
Isiah: I am certainly not an expert, but I’ll say be like Nike and “just do it.” An editor might hate the piece you love, or love the piece that you consider your worst. It’s all about taste! So put everything in your mouth and sample it. We’re all just squirrels looking for a nut.
Rachel: What’s your favorite part of “Deciphering Summer”?
Isiah: When I reread “Deciphering Summer” there are a few key scenes I favor: the boys’ initial conversation—that tension between them as they discuss their goals. I also like when Preston goes into his long-winded over-analyzing passages, because like him, when dealing with stupid boys (and all of them, except maybe a handful, are stupid, and I’m not bitter, I’m very romantic if you can’t tell, and this isn’t me trying to get a date, I’m simply illustrating how Preston and I are similar with our extended thought trains). I like how so much of the story that’s told, so much of what everything means, exists on a level in which the characters do absolutely nothing but think. It’s a love story about what could’ve been, and the magnitudes of unfulfilled desire.
Congratulations, Isiah. We’re very excited to see where you go from here!